Abarim Publications' online Biblical Greek Dictionary
The curious noun σαλπιγξ (salpigx) describes a trumpet, or more specifically a war-trumpet, which is the quintessential instrument for calling people together. This means that the colloquial phrase "blowing the trumpet" did not so much have to do with mere noise-making but rather with rallying and mustering the troops, in whatever way and by whatever signal. Said otherwise: the act of blowing the trumpet was mostly part of a larger family of signals that would get people to drop what they were doing and gather together behind a common endeavor (related to flag-waving and word-spreading), and not so much of the family of music making (not so much related to harp-strumming and song-humming; but see Revelation 18:22).
In other words: the idiom "blowing the trumpet" means tooting the horn, ringing the bell, beating the drum, shaking the tree, poking the nest, rallying the troops, rounding up the forces. In our modern times, people are gathered by Twitter feeds and influencers, and the command to "blow the trumpet" would not translate into literally blowing a physical trumpet on a street corner somewhere because nobody would understand that as a call to muster.
By New Testament times, trumpets would have been made of metal — see χαλκος (chalkos), copper — but in antiquity they were made from ram's horns. The noun κερασ (keras), horn, relates to the Hebrew verb קרן (qaran), to have horns or to radiate. This explains why medieval artists depicted Moses as having horns, since his face radiated when he came off the mountain (Exodus 34:29-35). It may also help to explain why Jesus began to luminesce on the mountain (Matthew 17:2), namely also to serve as a kind of visible equivalent of a trumpet: to draw all men to himself (John 12:32); see our article on πυρ (pur), fire.
It's unclear where our word comes from; particularly the suffix is clearly not Greek (although it occurs in several other words). And since the Greek alphabet derives from the Hebrew one (see our article on Hellas for more on this), it stands to suggest that it came with a hardy helping of ideas to jump-start the Greek wisdom tradition by a transplant of Hebrew terms. And sure enough, the verb שלף (shalap) means to draw out (a foot from a sandal, a sword from its sheath, grass from a roof top). This would make a trumpet literally a caller-outer.
The Hebrew word for trumpet is חצצרה (hasosra), which relates to a cluster of words that all relate to the first visual manifestations of a gathering or emergence of some sort: חציר (hasir) means grass and חציר (hasir) means leek. Noun חצר (haser) denotes a hamlet or rudimentary federation or settlements (not dense enough to be dubbed a village), and noun חצר (haser) describes the outer court surrounding some central building.
All this suggests that the familiar seven trumpets of Revelation 8:2 don't actually describe metal tubes that make the air vibrate, but rather seven consecutive stages of information technology: from spoken language to script to telephone to the Internet: anything that calls people together (also see the name Quran).
Our noun is used 11 times, see full concordance, and from it derive:
- The verb σαλπιζω (salpizo), meaning to sound the trumpet, to announce or proclaim, particularly to get people up and at 'em. This verb was also used to describe how roosters announce the day. It's used 12 times, see full concordance, and from it in turn comes:
- The noun σαλπιστης (salpistes), trumpeter, caller-outer (Revelation 18:22 only).