The shofar trumpet mentioned in the Bible was made from a ram’s horn. It was blown by the priests of God for various purposes. Like today’s siren, which makes a loud, attention-getting sound, the blast of the shofar also demanded people’s attention. Those who heeded could say (pardon the pun), “Shofar, so good!” and be saved from serious injury or death.
However, if people heard the warning but failed to take heed, they would suffer the consequences.
In some communities today, a siren is still sounded simply to announce twelve o’clock—high noon. But primarily, sirens are considered critical public safety components, sounding warnings of tornados, tsunamis, or other dangers, telling citizens to take shelter and be spared injury or death. These warning sounds, whether piercing shofar blasts or deafening sirens, are for our good, that we may respond in a proper way.
I’ve seen news reports of a siren failing to give warning of an approaching tornado. In such cases, those who are appointed to sound the alarm are examined. If they were derelict in their duty and failed to sound the alarm when they should have, they are held accountable for any resulting destruction, injury, and death.
However, even when alarms sound, people sometimes foolishly fail to heed the warning. Then they are accountable for the results, having ignored the warning they were given.
Shofars and similar instruments have been used as signals for millennia. The walls of ancient Jericho fell at the sound of the shofar and the shout of the people (Joshua 6:20), and Gideon made strategic use of shofars in defeating the vast army of Midian with only 300 solders (Judges 7:19–25). When God gave the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai, the sound of shofars was heard ringing out from the cloud on the mountain (Exodus 19:16; 20:18).
One vital use of the shofar was to enable a city’s watchmen, stationed at guard outposts, to sound the alarm and warn the people of approaching invaders so that armies could be quickly mustered for defense and battle.
The book of the prophet Ezekiel tells of his divine commission to be a watchman for the rebellious House of Israel (Ezekiel 2:3; 33:7), to sound the shofar alarm for Israel to either repent of sinful behaviors or suffer the punishment of captivity. But Israel had already been taken into captivity by Babylon about 150 years before Ezekiel’s prophecy. God doesn’t make mistakes, so we must conclude that this warning was for the future—and indeed, it is. His warnings are for the modern Israelite peoples of today, including the United States and the British-descended nations.
Ezekiel 33 describes the vital function of the watchman, as well as his grave responsibility. If the watchman—those who understand these prophecies—should fail to sound the warning, the blood of those that perish will be on the watchman’s head. But if he does sound the shofar and Israel ignores it, then they will suffer the consequences of war and captivity.
There is a warning to be given. Who will sound the shofar? And who will heed its call?