Horns are very significant and symbolic in Scripture and are mentioned over 100 times. Zacharias, John the Baptist’s father, referred to Christ as the “horn of salvation” in his inspired benediction (Lk. 1:69). This is a name or title that God the Father shares with God the Son—“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer . . . My shield and the horn of my salvation” (Psalm 18:2, NKJV). Let’s explore what this analogy means.
Horns were used as containers in Bible times. A hollowed-out, animal horn could be used like a canteen or flask to hold liquids such as water, wine, or oil. Jesus, as the horn of our salvation, contains the water of life, the wine of the Spirit, and the anointing oil to pour into our lives. Horns were often used to dispense anointing oil for priests, prophets, and kings. God told Samuel to fill his horn with oil and to anoint David the new king over Israel (1 Sam. 16:1, 13). Later, Zadok the priest anointed Solomon king over Israel in this same fashion (1 Kgs. 1:39). Perhaps the Psalmist had this in mind when he penned, “But my horn You have exalted like a wild ox; I have been anointed with fresh oil” (Ps. 92:10).
David alluded to this practice in his famous shepherd Psalm—“You anoint my head with oil” (Ps. 23:5). Shepherds anointed sheep’s heads for two main reasons: 1. to prevent sunburn or sunstroke (as a simple sunscreen) 2. to prevent disease-causing parasites (as a primitive pesticide). The Greek word Christ and the Hebrew word Messiah both mean “the anointed One.” So, Jesus, the horn of our salvation, contains the anointing power of the Holy Spirit which He pours into our lives as needed to help us thrive in life and ministry (Ac. 10:38). The anointing helps prevent spiritual burnout in the heat of tribulation and repels spiritual parasites which try to hinder and harm us.
Horns were frequently used as trumpets in Bible times. A musical instrument was created by cutting off the tip of the horn and blowing through it. The curved horns of rams or oxen served this purpose well. These horns, called shofars in Hebrew, were blown for several reasons:
• To call Israel together for a general assembly or to worship: Like church or school bells, the horn blast meant something was about to happen or it was time to travel and move camp (Num. 10:1-3). Trumpets indicated God’s visitation on Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:18-19) and announced sabbath days, feast days, or holy days were beginning. Horns were blown during the offering of burnt sacrifices as a memorial to the Lord (Num. 10:10). The year of Jubilee was also announced with the blowing of trumpets or ram’s horns (Lev. 25:9). In fact, Jubilee comes from a Hebrew word meaning the blast of a horn.
Christ, as the horn of our salvation, calls us to worship and prayer, motivates us to move forward, and inspires us to seek after God and spiritual things. He puts the desire in our hearts to draw close to God and to pursue His will (Phil. 2:13). As wind blows through a horn to make musical sounds so His breath flowing through us creates worship that echoes back to Him.
- To alert or warn people of danger: Like alerts on our smartphones, watchmen on the walls of ancient cities blew horns to alarm inhabitants that an enemy was approaching, or some other danger was threatening. The prophet Joel used this analogy, “Blow the trumpet in Zion, and sound an alarm in My holy mountain! Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble; for the day of the Lord is coming” (Jl. 2:1). In the Book of Revelation, trumpets are sounded to indicate the judgment of God is being released on earth (Rev. 8:2, 6). As the horn of our salvation, Christ warns us, sends us alerts, makes us feel uneasy at times, and puts a check in our spirit when something is not right. Be sensitive to His alarm in your spirit.
- To rally troops for battle: A different sound on the horns indicated it was time to charge after the enemy (Num. 10:9). “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him” (Jdgs. 6:34). When the Israelites marched around Jericho, the priests blew trumpets and, as they shouted, God smashed the massive walls like toothpicks! Even so, Christ, our great High Priest, issues a clarion call for us to fight the good fight of faith against demonic forces and to conquer evil in His name (Rom. 12:21, Eph. 6:12).
- To celebrate good news: The coronation of a new king was announced with horns along with other celebrations (2 Kgs. 9:13). A victorious trumpet will announce the Second Coming of Christ, the King of Kings (1 Th. 4:16). As one author suggests, “Gabriel’s Gonna Toot and We’re Gonna Scoot!”
Both the Brazen Altar and the Altar of Incense in Moses’ Tabernacle and in Solomon’s Temple had horns on the four corners. Slain animals were tied to the horns of the altar so they wouldn’t wiggle off during sacrifice—“Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar” (Ps. 118:27). Christ keeps us consecrated as a living sacrifice on the altar (Rom. 12:1). Just as an animal’s power is released through its horns, so our spiritual power comes through prayer at the proverbial horns of the altar. The Altar of Incense was the tallest piece of furniture in the Tabernacle and its horns were sprinkled with blood indicating that Christ is our atonement, and that prayer and worship are our highest callings (Ex. 30:10, Ps. 141:2, Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4). The horns of the altar were also a place of refuge or asylum. Both Adonijah and Joab were temporarily spared from execution when they clung to them (1 Kgs. 1:50-53; 2:28). This speaks of how Christ is our refuge in whom we find safety and sanctuary (Pr. 18:10).
Horns are symbolic of strength and power. Animals with horns or antlers use them for defense. If attacked, they use their horns to protect themselves from predators. Horns speak of the spiritual power to resist and conquer an enemy. Horns represent the dominion of kings, nations, and empires in the prophecies of Daniel (Dan. 7:24). As the horn of our salvation, Christ, our King, is our strength, our defender, and the source of our power and authority to defeat the devil (Lk. 10:19, Jam. 4:7). Horns are not just used for defense; horns are also weapons to use on offense. We don’t just react to what the enemy does against us; we can go on the attack in Jesus’ name and reclaim what is rightfully ours (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
In summary, Christ is a dispenser of the anointing oil who calls us to worship and warns us of danger. He is the source and the sound of our victory. He is our defender and the spiritual weapon who fights and wins our battles. He is our sovereign Savior who delivers us from the penalty, power, and presence of sin and grants us eternal life. No wonder He is called “the horn of our salvation.”