Hearing the sounds of the shofar is an important part of the Rosh HaShanah (Jewish New Year) experience. According to tradition shofar blasts awaken our souls and help us focus on the task of reflection and repentance. But in addition to being a symbol of Rosh HaShanah, in ancient Israel the shofar was an instrument used to coordinate military engagements.
Perhaps the most famous biblical reference to the shofar appears in the Book of Joshua, where shofarot (plural of shofar) are used as part of a plan to capture the city of Jericho. God commands Joshua and his army to march around the city seven times with the priest blowing shofarot (rams horns). Upon their last circuit of the city a long shofar blast is sounded and the walls of Jericho fall (Joshua 6:2-5).
In the Book of Judges, another warrior named Gideon uses the blasts of the shofar to intimidate the enemy. God chooses Gideon to condemn idol worship and to free the Israelites from oppression at the hands of the Midianites. Gideon gathers an army, but God instructs him to dismiss all but 300 of his soldiers lest the enemy believe an Israelite victory was due to their numbers and not the hand of God. Then in the dead of night, Gideon and his men sneak up on the Midianites. At the appointed time they smash clay jars, hold flaming torches aloft and sound shofarot. The Midianites are so intimidated by the sounds that when Gideon's men shout "A sword for the Lord and Gideon!" the enemy camp disbands and the Israelites claim victory (Judges 7).
To learn more about the shofar and its history, check out: What is a Shofar?
Image: Gideon and his soldiers / Artist unknown