The word, “horn” is referred to many times in the Bible and most of the time the meaning is very clear. However, in the past there have been a few misinterpretations of the word, especially when originating from Hebrew.
One good example is in the Latin Vulgate translation of Exodus 34, verses 29, 30 and 35. Those passages tell of Moses descending from Mt. Sinai carrying two tablets inscribed with the Law. In the Latin Vulgate, St. Jerome described Moses this way:
"And when Moses came down from the Mount Sinai, he held the two tables of the testimony, and he knew not that his face was horned from the conversation of the Lord.”
After spending time in the presence of God, the face of Moses reflected the glory of God and that was the intention of the word “horn” which also means “to shine, radiate or glow”.
Michelangelo’s famous sculpture of Moses depicts the misunderstanding of the Hebrew word for horn. Note the two horns on the head of Moses in the photo above. The photo on the right is probably more correct in describing how Moses looked after spending many days in the presence of God.
Not a mistranslation, but still a mystery to many is the phrase, “horn of salvation”. The phrase is used three times in the King James Version of scripture.
1. 2 Samuel 22:3, “The God of my rock; in him will I trust: he is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my Savior; thou savest me from violence.”
2. Psalm 18:2, “The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.”
3. Luke 1:69, “And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;”
In order to understand where “horn of salvation” originated we must go back to the time of Abraham and Isaac. You can read it for yourself in Genesis 22:1-14.
In that story, God commanded Abraham to take his son Isaac, and sacrifice him on a mountain. Abraham and Isaac got to the mountain, climbed to the top, and made an altar. As Abraham was about to put the knife to Isaac, an angel of the Lord stopped him from killing his son. Verses 13-14 says, “Abraham looked up and saw a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. So he took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering in place of his son. Abraham named the place Yahweh-Yireh (which means “the LORD will provide”).
Here in the story of Abraham and Isaac we see that God provided a substitute for the death of Isaac. It was a ram, caught by its horns in a bush. In other words, the bush held the horn of Isaac’s salvation from death long enough for Abraham to retrieve it.
Likewise, God, before the foundations of the world were laid, has provided a horn of salvation for all of us through the life, death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ.