How many of you can remember last year’s coronation of King Charles III? How many of you can remember the sound of the trumpets, from the balcony of Westminster Abbey, loudly blasting out the fanfare that heralded the news of the new monarch?

Whatever you think of the British Royal Family, I think it’s fair to say, for that particular moment in history, it was global news. Many people, in many nations, heard the headline that the UK had a new king – and the trumpeters had a crucial part to play in broadcasting that announcement.

Trumpets, bugles, and other similar instruments have been used for centuries, in every corner of the globe, to herald important dignitaries, mark significant occasions, relay battle orders, and even call people to prayer.

But did you know that ‘trumpets’ date back to the days of the Bible? Not necessarily in the form with which we are familiar nowadays, but nonetheless scattered throughout the Bible.


The Hebrew word for ‘trumpet’ is ‘shofar’. Shofars were (and still are) made from ram’s horns, and they are used on important occasions. For example:

  • They announce the arrival of kings and other dignitaries.
  • They precede public declarations.
  • They call people to assemble.
  • They are an alarm call for war.
  • They signify a command to march.
  • They are used to intimidate enemies during battle.
  • They can even bring down impenetrable city walls! (See Joshua 6:20)

This means the sound the shofar makes, when blown as a trumpet, always has a purpose.

But last week, in my Bible readings, I reached a story in Exodus 19, where I stumbled across an unusual trumpet, which I had never noticed before, and I wondered why it was there …  

The passage is set shortly after God has supernaturally released his people from slavery and suffering in the land of Egypt.

He has parted the Red Sea, enabling them to escape the Egyptians and walk across on dry ground, with a wall of water on each side. He has given them guidance about which way to go, providing them with a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day, to steer their journey through the desert. He has miraculously gifted them with food and water, every single day, since their escape.

He has just secured them victory in a significant battle, and he will soon be giving them the Ten Commandments. But in between – at this point in the story – they have set up camp, in the wilderness, not far from the base of Mount Sinai.

Moses, the leader of God’s people, is acting as a mediator. He keeps going up the mountain to meet and speak with God, coming down the mountain to report to the people what God is saying, returning back up again, and so on.

During this back and forth, God tells Moses that he is about to appear to his people in a spectacular way – and that they need to get ready, if they are to come into his holy presence.

The people obey, by preparing and purifying themselves.

Then, three days later, something incredible happens …


There is thunder and lightning, and a thick cloud covers the mountain. But there is also – and this is the bit that I had never noticed before –a very loud trumpet blast”. (Exodus 19:16)

God descends on the mountain in fire, covering it with billowing smoke and, as if that’s not enough, there is also an earthquake. “The whole mountain trembled violently,” we are told. (Exodus 19:18)

But then and this is the other bit I had never noticed beforethe sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder”. (Exodus 19:19)

In the midst of all this, Moses brings the people out of the camp to the base of the mountain, and immerses them in an incredible sensory experience. It’s there that they can feel the earth shaking beneath their feet – and see, smell, hear (and virtually taste) the fire that covers the mountain.

And it’s there that Moses speaks with God – and God answers in an audible voice! Everyone can hear what he has to say!  


Think about this for a moment

Thunder. Lightning. Cloud. Fire. Smoke. A violent earthquake.

These things, although terrifying, are all natural phenomenon. (I can say this, as someone who narrowly escaped the two significant earthquakes that took place in Nepal during April and May 2015!)

But what’s layered on top of these natural phenomenon is the sound of a trumpet growing louder and louder …  

It’s a sound that’s coming from the mountain, not the camp. It’s a sound that’s being generated by heaven, not humans. It’s a supernatural sound, not a natural one.

Is it any wonder that, “Everyone in the camp trembled”? (Exodus 19:16)

The supernatural sound of that particular shofar, on that particular day, was proclaiming the holy presence of God, the King above all Kings. It was calling the people to assemble, ready to hear God’s voice and receive his word.

And their response was awe and reverence; they trembled with fear of the Lord.

Will we do the same? Will we respond with awe and reverence when God ushers us into his holy presence, ready to hear his voice and receive his word? Will we recognise who it is who is speaking with us, and tremble with fear of the Lord?


How about you? How do you feel when you hear a trumpet, bugle or other similar instrument, especially if they are playing a fanfare to herald the arrival of someone significant?

Or perhaps you have heard a heavenly trumpet, or another supernatural sound from heaven? If so, what was it like, and how did you respond?

Also, what suggestions do you have for how we can get ourselves ready to hear God’s voice and receive his word? What could we do to cultivate more awe and reverence for God’s holy presence?

As ever, constructive comments are welcome below!

(Please note: This is my ‘thought for the month’ reflection for February. (You can find all my ‘thought for the month’ reflections here.)

Photo from Adamah.



  1. There have been reports of heavenly trumpet sounds being heard in the skies across several countries in recent years. Some people say it sounds like a sonic boom. Others say it sounds like a shofar!

    • Joanna Watson Reply

      How amazing! Maybe God is still issuing heavenly sounds, just as he did in Moses’ time?

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