But the word is used also metaphorically to denote the projecting corners of the altar of burnt offerings ( Exodus 27:2 ) and of incense ( 30:2 ). The horns of the altar of burnt offerings were to be smeared with the blood of the slain bullock ( 29:12 ; Leviticus 4:7-18 ). The criminal, when his crime was accidental, found an asylum by laying hold of the horns of the altar ( 1 Kings 1:50 ; 2:28 ).
The word also denotes the peak or summit of a hill ( Isaiah 5:1 , where the word "hill" is the rendering of the same Hebrew word).
This word is used metaphorically also for strength ( Deuteronomy 33:17 ) and honour ( Job 16:15 ; Lamentations 2:3 ). Horns are emblems of power, dominion, glory, and fierceness, as they are the chief means of attack and defence with the animals endowed with them ( Daniel 8:5 Daniel 8:9 ; 1 Samuel 2:1 ; 1 Samuel 16:1 1 Samuel 16:13 ; 1 Kings 1:39 ; 22:11 ; Joshua 6:4 Joshua 6:5 ; Psalms 75:5 Psalms 75:10 ; 132:17 ; Luke 1:69 , etc.). The expression "horn of salvation," applied to Christ, means a salvation of strength, or a strong Saviour ( Luke 1:69 ). To have the horn "exalted" denotes prosperity and triumph ( Psalms 89:17 Psalms 89:24 ). To "lift up" the horn is to act proudly ( Zechariah 1:21 ).
The word "horn" is often used metaphorically to signify strength and honor, because horns are the chief weapons and ornaments of the animals which possess them; hence they are also used as a type of victory. Of strength the horn of the unicorn was the most frequent representative, ( 33:17 ) etc., but not always; comp. ( 1 Kings 22:11 ) where probably horns of iron, worn defiantly and symbolically on the head, are intended. Among the Druses upon Mount Lebanon the married women wear silver horns on their heads. In the sense of honor, the word horn stands for the abstract "my horn," ( Job 16:16 ) "all the horn of Israel," ( 1 Samuel 2:3 ) and so for the supreme authority. It also stands for the concrete , whence it comes to mean king, kingdom. ( Daniel 8:2 ) etc.; Zech 1:18 Out of either or both of these last two metaphors sprang the idea of representing gods with horns.
(1) Qeren and keras represent the English "horn" exactly, whether on the animal (Genesis 22:13), or used for musical purposes (Joshua 6:5; 1 Chronicles 25:5), or for containing a liquid (1 Samuel 16:1,13; 1 Kings 1:39), but in Ezekiel 27:15 the horns of ivory are of course tusks and the "horns" of ebony are small (pointed?) logs. Consequently most of the usages require no explanation.
(2) Both the altar of burnt offering (Exodus 27:2; 38:2; compare Ezekiel 43:15) and the incense altar (Exodus 30:2; 37:25,26; compare Revelation 9:13) had "horns," which are explained to be projections "of one piece with" the wooden framework and covered with the brass (or gold) that covered the altar. They formed the most sacred part of the altar and were anointed with the blood of the most solemn sacrifices (only) (Exodus 30:10; Leviticus 4:7,18,25,30,34; 16:18; compare Ezekiel 43:20), and according to Leviticus 8:15; 9:9, the first official sacrifices began by anointing them. Consequently cutting off the horns effectually desecrated the altar (Amos 3:14), while "sin graven on them" (Jeremiah 17:1) took all efficacy from the sacrifice. On the other hand they offered the highest sanctuary (1 Kings 1:50,51; 2:28). Of their symbolism nothing whatever is said, and the eventual origin is quite obscure. "Remnants of a bull-cult" and "miniature sacred towers" have been suggested, but are wholly uncertain. A more likely origin is from an old custom of draping the altar with skins of sacrificed animals (RS, 436). That, however, the "horns" were mere conveniences for binding the sacrificial animals (Psalms 118:27, a custom referred to nowhere else in the Old Testament), is most unlikely.
(3) The common figurative use of "horn" is taken from the image of battling animals (literal use in Daniel 8:7, etc.) to denote aggressive strength. So Zedekiah ben Chenaanah illustrates the predicted defeat of the enemies by pushing with iron horns (1 Kings 22:11; 2 Chronicles 18:10), while "horns of the wildox" (Deuteronomy 33:17; Psalms 22:21; 92:10, the King James Version "unicorn") represent the magnitude of power, and in Zechariah 1:18-21 "horns" stand for power in general. In Habakkuk 3:4 the "horns coming out of his hand" denote the potency of Yahweh's gesture (the Revised Version (British and American) "rays" may be smoother, but is weak). So to "exalt the horn" (1 Samuel 2:1,10; Psalms 75:4, etc.) is to clothe with strength, and to "cut off the horn" (not to be explained by Amos 3:14) is to rob of power (Psalms 75:10; Jeremiah 48:25). Hence, the "horn of salvation" in 2 Samuel 22:3; Psalms 18:2; Luke 1:69 is a means of active defense and not a place of sanctuary as in 1 Kings 1:50. When, in Daniel 7:7-24; 8:3,8,9,20,21; Revelation 13:1; 17:3,7,12,16, many horns are given to the same animal, they figure successive nations or rulers. But the seven horns in Revelation 5:6; 12:3 denote the completeness of the malevolent or righteous power. In Revelation 13:11, however, the two horns point only to the external imitation of the harmless lamb, the "horns" being mere stubs.
Burton Scott Easton
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