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The subject of how God guides His people in their wilderness journey continues with this presentation of the use of the silver signal trumpets. God wants Israel to be reassured that their covenant sovereign ruler is manifesting His favorable presence in both times of worship (and special feasts) as well as in times of mobilization (and when under special attack by enemies).

Wenham: The trumpets are described by Josephus and pictured on the arch of Titus in Rome. They were straight pipes, a little less than 18 in. (45cm) long with a flared opening at the end. They could be blown in various ways to give different signals. What distinguished blowing and sounding an alarm is uncertain. But if we follow Jewish tradition, long blasts were used to assemble people to Moses, to the tent of meeting and for worship (3–4, 10). Short staccato were used in battle and to order the camps to move off. Each time an alarm was sounded a group of tribes moved off. At the first alarm the tribes to the east of the tabernacle moved off, at the second alarm those on the south, at subsequent blasts those on the west and north (5–6; cf. 2:1–31). It is significant that, as in ancient Egypt, the trumpets were used in war and to summon people to worship. Like the arrangement of the camp with the tabernacle at the middle, and the ordering of the tribes in battle formation, the silver trumpets declare that Israel is the army of the King of kings preparing for a holy war of conquest.

Duguid: The sound of the priestly trumpets was not simply a rallying cry to bring the people of God together either. The sound of the trumpets also brought them to the Lord’s remembrance (10:10). As well as being a call for the people to come together and act as one, it was a cry to God to come and act on their behalf. Whenever the Israelites faced their enemies, they could sound the trumpet and know that God would remember them and come to their aid (10:9). Whenever the people brought their offerings at the great festivals, the priests could sound the trumpet and know that God would hear from Heaven and pay attention to their offerings (10:10). Their sins would be forgiven, and their acts of worship would be received and accepted. So the trumpets not only called the people together to renew their obedience but reminded them and assured them of God’s continuing presence and favor toward them. It is not coincidental that these themes of presence and obedience are the same themes that we saw highlighted at the end of Numbers 9.

The note about the continuing function of the trumpets thus says something profound and enduring about the nature of the journey on which Israel was embarking: the wandering people of God were about to begin a pilgrimage that would revolve around the twin themes of warfare and worship. That pilgrimage would continue even after they had entered the land. What is more, God’s presence and their obedience were absolutely necessary if these tasks were to be carried out successfully.


“The LORD spoke further to Moses, saying,”

A. (:2a) 2 Silver Trumpets Commissioned

“Make yourself two trumpets of silver, of hammered work you shall make them;”

David Thompson: Now a silver trumpet would be different than a ram’s horn. It would send a louder and more piercing signal. It was straight and would be able of playing more notes. The sound would be clear and could be heard by many. The dimensions of the trumpet are not given, but there was a trumpet found in King Tut’s tomb that was about two feet long and tapered from about 3 ½ inches at the bell end to about ½ inch at the mouthpiece. It is similar to the trumpet used at the Kentucky Derby. At the Kentucky Derby, a trumpet can easily be heard by well over 150,000 people.

B. (:2b) 2 Main Purposes = Worship and Mobilization

1. For Worship — Summoning the Congregation

“and you shall use them for summoning the congregation”

2. For Mobilization — Mobilizing the Camps

“and for having the camps set out.”

C.H.M.: The sound of the trumpet was familiar to every circumcised ear. It was the communication of the mind of God, in a form distinct and simple enough to be understood by every member of the congregation, however distant he might be from the source whence the testimony emanated. God took care that each one in that vast assembly, however far away, should hear the silvery tones of the trumpet of testimony. .

All had to wait upon the divine testimony, and walk in the light thereof the very moment it was given. To move without the testimony would be to move in the dark; to refuse to move, when the testimony was given, would be to remain in the dark.


A. (:3-4) Regarding Summoning

1. (:3) All the Congregation – Blowing Both Trumpets

“And when both are blown, all the congregation shall gather themselves to you at the doorway of the tent of meeting.”

2. (:4) Just the Leaders – Blowing Only One Trumpet

“Yet if only one is blown, then the leaders, the heads of the divisions of Israel, shall assemble before you.”

Brown: There was an occasion when only one of the trumpets was to be used: when the leaders—the heads of the clans of Israel—were to assemble (4). This huge community could travel effectively only if it acknowledged the importance of designated leadership. Certain tasks were specifically allocated to chosen individuals, and that proper sense of order and responsibility must be recognized by everyone. For example, these trumpets were made by chosen craftsmen and used only by the sons of Aaron, the priests (8).

Nobody can read this introductory section of the book without appreciating the crucial importance of good leadership (1:4–46; 3:1–4; 3:5–4:49; 10:14–27). These orderly plans for the community were soon challenged by disgruntled Israelites who rejected the authority of Moses and his colleagues; some significant partners disgraced their calling, becoming envious of God’s unique leader (12:1–16; 16:1–3). Dismissing the plea of gifted leaders such as Caleb and Joshua, the grumbling people wanted to choose someone else to take them back to Egypt, even preparing to stone Moses, Aaron, Caleb and Joshua (14:1–10).

B. (:5-6) Regarding Mobilizing

1. (:5) Camps on the East Side – Blowing First Alarm

“But when you blow an alarm,

the camps that are pitched on the east side shall set out.”

MacArthur: The exact difference between the blowing for the gathering at the tabernacle and for the march is not known. Jewish tradition said the convocation sound was a long steady blast, while the advance signal was a succession of 3 shorter ones.

Ashley: The exact difference between the two is not known; it may have been a difference in tone, duration, or both.

2. (:6) Camps on the South Side – Blowing Second Alarm

“And when you blow an alarm the second time, the camps that are pitched on the south side shall set out; an alarm is to be blown for them to set out.”

No mention is made of the western or northern tribes, but we may assume that they as well had their own signals.

C. (:7) No Alarm Sounded When Calling the Assembly

“When convening the assembly, however,

you shall blow without sounding an alarm.”


A. Restriction Commanded

“The priestly sons of Aaron, moreover, shall blow the trumpets;”

B. Restriction Perpetuated

“and this shall be for you a perpetual statute throughout your generations.”

Ashley: The exact difference between the two is not known; it may have been a difference in tone, duration, or both.


A. (:9) Fighting — Going to War Against Invading Enemies

1. When to Blow the Trumpets

“And when you go to war in your land against the adversary who attacks you, then you shall sound an alarm with the trumpets,”

2. Why to Blow the Trumpets

“that you may be remembered before the LORD your God,

and be saved from your enemies.”

Ronald Allen: By blowing the trumpets before the battle, Israel confidently could expect God’s active presence in the battle scene. The blowing of these trumpets prepared the people for the presence of God.

B. (:10) Feasting – Celebrating Appointed Feasts and New Moon Festivals

1. When to Blow the Trumpets

“Also in the day of your gladness and in your appointed feasts, and on the first days of your months, you shall blow the trumpets over your burnt offerings, and over the sacrifices of your peace offerings;”

Eugene Merrill: This use of the trumpets was not so much to announce these various festivals as to invoke and celebrate the presence of God among His people on those special occasions. They would each be a memorial for the people before God, a kind of reminder of His guidance and blessing in the past, particularly in the wilderness.

2. Why to Blow the Trumpets

“and they shall be as a reminder of you before your God.

I am the LORD your God.”

Brown: The divine declaration that closes the book’s first main section inspired the travelers’ confidence: I am the LORD your God (10). Its familiar words had introduced their covenant obligations and had been repeated throughout Leviticus. This unique assertion recalled his power, described his uniqueness, and reiterated his promise. As they left Sinai, this reassuring affirmation was a call to remember his faithfulness, reflect his character and trust his word.

Dennis Cole: In the context of battle, the trumpets served as a prayer by which the covenant relationship between God and Israel was invoked, and thus they reminded soldiers that God remembers and delivers his people. The covenant themes of remembrance, deliverance, and blessing provide continuity with other portions of the Pentateuch. These themes appear from Noah (Gen 8:1; 9:1–17), to Abraham (Gen 19:29), to Rachel (Gen 30:22), to the Israelites in Egypt (Exod 2:24), and even into the realm of exile (Lev 26:40–45). The connection between festival rejoicing and battling against one’s enemies echoes the words of the covenant reiteration in Exod 34:22–24.

The concluding phrase of the Sinai cycles, “I am Yahweh your God,” sets forth in profoundly plain terms the sovereignty of God over the nation. As Harrison notes, “He is the supreme Lord and ruler of His people Israel. The nation is the visible expression of His existence, personality, and saving power. Without Him they are meaningless, but they have been chosen specifically out of His abundant love to be a witness to the surrounding nations because of their constitution as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Exod 19:6).”