A wind instrument consisting of a mouthpiece, a long metal tube, and a funnel-shaped end.
In the wilderness, before Israel had broken camp for the first time, Jehovah commanded Moses to make “two trumpets of silver . . . of hammered work.” (Nu 10:2) Although no further description of these instruments is given, coins circulated at the time of the Maccabees and a relief on the Arch of Titus picture the trumpets as being from about 45 to 90 cm (1.5 to 3 ft) in length, straight, ending in a bell. Josephus states that what Moses made was a kind of clarion with “a narrow tube, slightly thicker than a flute, with a mouthpiece wide enough to admit the breath and a bell-shaped extremity such as trumpets have.” (Jewish Antiquities, III, 291 [xii, 6]) At the inauguration of Solomon’s temple, 120 trumpets were played.
Three signals are described, employing two methods of playing: (1) Blowing both trumpets called the whole assembly of Israel to the tent of meeting; (2) blowing one trumpet would summon only the chieftains who were heads over thousands; and (3) blowing fluctuating blasts signaled the breaking up of camp.
Jehovah further directed that in times of war the trumpets should sound “a war call.” (Nu 10:9) This was done thereafter by the priest accompanying the army. (Nu 31:6) Abijah of Judah, when seeking to avert war with Jeroboam of Israel, pointed to these “trumpets for sounding the battle alarm” as a divine assurance of Judah’s victory in warfare. When Jeroboam stubbornly persisted in his aggression, his forces were defeated by a Judean army that had been greatly encouraged by the priests’ “loudly sounding the trumpets.”
Trumpets were included among the musical instruments in the temple. (2Ch 5:11-13) The trumpeters were sons of Aaron, the priests. (Nu 10:8; 2Ch 29:26; Ezr 3:10; Ne 12:40, 41) Every account where the trumpet (Heb., chatso·tserahʹ) is mentioned without the priests being clearly identified as the players is an event of national importance when the presence of the priests would be expected. It is therefore reasonable to suppose that they were the ones playing the trumpets. (2Ch 15:14; 20:28; 23:13; compare 1Ch 15:24 with vs 28.) There is a possibility, though, that a variety of trumpets existed, and some of these may have been possessed by nonpriests.
Jesus told his hearers not to “blow a trumpet” (Gr., sal·piʹzo, related to salʹpigx, meaning “trumpet”) to attract attention to one’s acts of charity in imitation of hypocrites. (Mt 6:2) It is generally suggested that the trumpeting is here figurative, Jesus warning against ostentatiousness in making gifts of mercy.