The trumpet is the most frequently referenced instrument in the Bible, by far. But what was the trumpet used for in Bible times? The answer can be found in this post, as we explore the use of trumpet music for people of the Old Testament. Trumpets are mentioned in over ninety verses in the Old Testament alone, so there are definitely some patterns that we can see from all these passages.

Purposes of the trumpet in the Old Testament - summary

As I read through these various Bible verses about trumpets, I found there were several uses for trumpets that were specifically mentioned. Among these were the following:

  • To assemble a large group of people
  • To give direction to a large group of people
  • To alert people to coming danger or judgment
  • Used along with other instruments and singers to celebrate holy days and sacred events
  • As a battle signal
  • To make an announcement or proclamation
  • As a regular part of worship ceremonies
  • To praise God
  • As God's signal to humanity

Passages that talk about the trumpet - verse listing and summaries

Here is a listing of all the references to trumpets that I could find in the Old Testament, and a brief summary of the context of each:

  • Exodus 19:13, 16, 19, 20:18 -- God sounds a trumpet as a signal to the nation of Israel, as He prepared to give them His commandments on Mt. Sinai (for a more detailed look at these verses, see my previous article here)
  • Leviticus 23:24, Numbers 29:1 -- trumpets sounded to remind the Israelites of their holy day of convocation
  • Leviticus 25:9 -- trumpets sounded to signify the year of jubile every 50 years
  • Numbers 10:1-10 -- God instructs Moses to make silver trumpets to call for assemblies of the people, for journeying signals, and as battle signals
  • Numbers 31:6 -- trumpets used as signals in a battle with the Midianites
  • Joshua 6:4-9, 13, 16, 20 -- the priests blow trumpets during the battle of Jericho
  • Judges 3:27 -- the judge Ehud assembles warriors with a trumpet signal
  • Judges 6:34 -- Gideon assembles the people with a trumpet
  • Judges 7:8, 16, 18-20, 22 -- Gideon and the Israelites carry out a clever battle strategy involving trumpets, lanterns, and pitchers
  • I Samuel 13:3 -- Saul makes an announcement of Jonathan's victory by using trumpets
  • II Samuel 2:28 -- Joab signals an end to the battle with Abner
  • II Samuel 6:5,15 / I Chronicles 13:8, 15:24,28 -- David uses trumpets in the celebration surrounding the return of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem
  • II Samuel 15:10 -- Absalom announces his intent to reign
  • II Samuel 18:16 -- Joab stops the people from pursuing battle with Absalom
  • II Samuel 20:1 -- Sheba assembles the people in a revolt against David
  • II Samuel 20:22 -- After Sheba is dead, Joab signals that the battle is over
  • I Kings 1:34,39,41 -- Solomon's reign announced
  • II Kings 9:13 -- Jehu's reign announced
  • II Kings 11:14 / II Chronicles 23:13 -- Joash's reign announced and celebrated
  • I Chronicles 16:6,42 -- trumpets are to be a part of the regularly recurring service before the Ark of the Covenant
  • I Chronicles 25:5 -- David organizes the Levite musicians (including trumpet players)
  • II Chronicles 5:12-13, 7:6 -- Solomon brings the Ark into the new temple and dedicates the temple
  • II Chronicles 13:12,14 -- during the reign of Abijah, the priests sound trumpets in battle and God delivers Judah from attack
  • II Chronicles 15:14 -- Asa holds ceremonies after his reforms in Judah
  • II Chronicles 20:28 -- Jehoshaphat rejoices after God's victory over the Ammonites and Moabites
  • II Chronicles 29:26-28 -- sacrifices are made at the renewing of the temple under Hezekiah
  • Ezra 3:10 -- music at the temple renewed after the return from exile
  • Nehemiah 4:18,20 -- trumpets prepared as an alarm against imminent attack
  • Nehemiah 12:35-36,41 -- the wall of Jerusalem dedicated
  • Job 39:24-25 -- as God questions Job, there is a reference to trumpets used in battle
  • Psalm 47:5 -- God goes out with the sound of the trumpet
  • Psalm 81:3 -- the trumpet to be played on the solemn feast day at the appointed time
  • Psalm 98:6, 150:3 -- the trumpet played in praise to the Lord
  • Isaiah 18:3 -- trumpets make an announcement in God's denunciation of Ethiopia
  • Isaiah 27:13 -- trumpet sounds mark the gathering of Israel in the Kingdom
  • Isaiah 58:1 -- the trumpet used as a comparison; Isaiah is told to lift up his voice like a trumpet
  • Jeremiah 4:5, 6:1 -- the trumpet used to assemble Israel in the face of impending attack
  • Jeremiah 4:19,21 -- Jeremiah is distraught at the sound of the trumpet because it means coming judgment on his people
  • Jeremiah 6:17, Ezekiel 33:3-6 -- the true prophet is pictured as a watchman with a trumpet of warning
  • Jeremiah 42:14 -- the trumpet sound is equated with the war that Judah was trying to avoid
  • Jeremiah 51:27 -- a trumpet call used to assemble nations to fight against Babylon
  • Ezekiel 7:14 -- the unanswered trumpet call shows that Israel is not prepared for the coming judgment
  • Daniel 3:5,7,10,15 -- the cornet and sackbut (in conjuction with other instruments) were used as a signal to worship Nebuchadnezzar's idol
  • Hosea 5:8, 8:1 -- a trumpet signals God's coming judgment on Israel
  • Joel 2:1 -- a trumpet gives the alarm of God's coming judgment
  • Joel 2:15 -- admonition for Israel to assemble with a trumpet sound and repent of their sin
  • Amos 2:2 -- trumpet signifies the war that would come to Moab
  • Amos 3:6 -- the trumpet signal used as an example of something that requires response
  • Zephaniah 1:16 -- trumpet signifies distress and alarm in the land
  • Zechariah 9:14 -- God blows the trumpet, signifying His future victory with the nation of Israel over the Greek Maccabees in the second century B.C.

Wow -- if you made it through the reading of that whole list, you deserve some kind of award. If you also looked up and read each of the corresponding verses, you are a true scholar. This Bible study was very enlightening to me. The trumpet is a common theme in the Bible; and by studying these themes we can draw parallels and compare Scripture with Scripture. I hope you have benefited, as I have, from this look at the most frequently mentioned instrument in the Bible. Stay tuned for a (much shorter) summary of trumpet verses in the New Testament!

Have you seen the other posts in this series? Read them here:

Music in the Bible #1
Music in the Bible #2
Music in the Bible #3
Music in the Bible #4

If you'd like to add anything to this post, please feel free to leave your comments. Thanks!

Rick McDonnell at Harmony Passion
Rick McDonnell is a vocalist, voice teacher, and the head blogger at Harmony Passion. Rick enjoys family time, barbershop quartets, singing at church and community events, personal finance, technology, P90X workouts, and studying and teaching the Bible as the youth director at his church. Rick and his wife Bethany use the knowledge gained by earning college degrees in music to teach voice and piano students in their home studio and in music studios in nearby Thomasville, GA.


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