Philo: Two Meanings of Rosh Hashanna
James Scott Trimm
The Feast of Rosh HaShanna is known in the Torah as the Feast of Trumpets:
23 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
24 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, In the seventh month, in the first day of the month, shall ye have a sabbath, a memorial of blowing of trumpets, an holy convocation.
25 Ye shall do no servile work therein: but ye shall offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD.
(Lev. 23:23-24 KJV)
1 And in the seventh month, on the first day of the month, ye shall have an holy convocation; ye shall do no servile work: it is a day of blowing the trumpets unto you.
(Num. 29:1 KJV)
The First Century Jewish writer Philo of Alexandria wrote of this Feast saying that the symbolism of this feast has two important messages to teach us, one for the Assembly of Israel and one for the nations of the world:
XXXI. (188) Immediately after comes the festival of the sacred moon; in which it is the custom to play the trumpet in the temple at the same moment that the sacrifices are offered. From which practice this is called the true feast of trumpets, and there are two reasons for it, one peculiar to the nation, and the other common to all mankind.
(Special Laws 2 188)
Philo tells us that the symbolism is for the Assembly of Israel:
Peculiar to the nation, as being a commemoration of that most marvellous, wonderful, and miraculous event that took place when the holy oracles of the law were given; (189) for then the voice of a trumpet sounded from heaven, which it is natural to suppose reached to the very extremities of the universe, so that so wondrous a sound attracted all who were present, making them consider, as it is probable, that such mighty events were signs betokening some great things to be accomplished. (190) And what more great or more beneficial thing could come to men than laws affecting the whole race?
(Special Laws 2 189-190a)
According to Philo the Feast of Trumpets is a memorial to the giving of the Torah on Mount SInai, as we read in the Torah
And it came to pass on the third day in the morning, that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mount, and the voice of the trumpet exceeding loud; so that all the people that was in the camp trembled.
(Exodus 19:6 KJV)
Philo tells us that there is another message which this feast teaches us, a message for all mankind:
And what was common to all mankind was this: the trumpet is the instrument of war, sounding both when commanding the charge and the retreat. ... There is also another kind of war, ordained of God, when nature is at variance with itself, its different parts attacking one another. (191) And by both these kinds of war the things on earth are injured. They are injured by the enemies, by the cutting down of trees, and by conflagrations; and also by natural injuries, such as droughts, heavy rains, lightning from heaven, snow and cold; the usual harmony of the seasons of the year being transformed into a want of all concord. (192) On this account it is that the law has given this festival the name of a warlike instrument, in order to show the proper gratitude to God as the giver of peace, who has abolished all seditions in cities, and in all parts of the universe, and has produced plenty and prosperity, not allowing a single spark that could tend to the destruction of the crops to be kindled into flame.
(Special Laws 2 190b-192)
Here Philo is telling us that the Feast of Trumpets is also a type of the final trumpet that signals the beginning of the Messianic Kingdom in which there will be world peace and an end to natural disasters.
The Nazarenes wrote of this same symbolism saying:
And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Messiah; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of Elohim: and the dead in Messiah shall rise first:Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed,
52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.
53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.
54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?
29 Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
When this final trumpet is blown, the Messiah will usher in an era of world peace. Not only will there be an end to war, but but an ends to natural disasters as well.
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