Horn of Plenty and Salvation

At the end of the year when the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas are celebrated here in the United States, many single folks and families will do as my wife does. She goes to a cabinet, removes, and sets on the dining room table an object that is especially meaningful at this season. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines this object to be ‘a curved, hollow goat’s horn or similarly-shaped receptacle (such as a horn-shaped basket) that is sometimes overflowing with flowers but especially with fruit and vegetables (such as gourds, ears of corn, apples, and grapes)’.1 It is used as a decorative motif emblematic of abundance. It is also referred to as the ‘horn of plenty’ or ‘cornucopia’. It typifies God’s ability to provide generous care and supply of our need for food and to see beauty in nature.

It is not only in the physical realm that God has manifested abundance to believers in all places and during all times - think regarding His spiritual blessings that He has bequeathed to us. He is abundant in mercy, Num. 14. 18, kindness, Neh. 9. 17, justice, Job 37. 23, truth, Ps. 86. 15, redemption, 130. 7, pardon, Isa. 55. 7, loving kindness, Jonah 4. 2, along with an eternal and abundant life, John 10. 10.

The Lord is full of grace and truth, John 1. 14, rich in His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, Rom. 2. 4, grace, Eph. 1. 7, and mercy, 2. 4. Let us not forget to privately and publicly express thanks to God for truly being the ‘horn of plenty’ in our lives.

Let us also consider the horn apart from what it contains. It is a symbol of strength. It is referred to three times in scripture as the horn of [my] salvation - by which one not only defends himself but also subdues his enemies. Clarke writes in his Old Testament Commentary, ‘We have often seen that horn signifies power, might, and dominion’.2

Note that for the rhinoceros a single horn of great strength is found on the head near the end of the nose. Equipped with such a horn as described, this animal can push, scatter, and destroy its enemies, as well as protect itself. In addition, the horn is frequently used in scripture, and likewise elsewhere, to represent a ‘strong group’. Take, for example, the mention of the two tribes in the northern part of Israel, namely, Ephraim and Manasseh. These tribes are emblematic of Joseph and named after his two sons. Referring to them, Moses writes, ‘His glory is like a firstborn bull, and his horns like the horns of the wild ox; together with them he shall push the peoples [Canaanites] to the ends of the earth; they are the ten thousands of Ephraim, and they are the thousands of Manasseh’, Deut. 33. 17 NKJV (emphasis added).

2 Samuel chapter 22 verse 3 records what King David said, ‘The God of my strength, in whom I will trust; my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge’ NKJV. Also in Psalm 18 verse 2, David is speaking again, ‘The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold’ ESV. Jehovah proved exactly that to the former shepherd boy, David, and on a number of occasions, as he spent many years fleeing from the clutches of Saul who was insanely jealous of him.

Moreover, it is possible that this phrase under consideration was symbolized in the altar which sat in front of the Jewish tabernacle/temple. On each of the four corners of this large object, there was projecting what was called a horn. They were dabbed with blood to purify them and to make them ready to provide atonement for sin, Lev. 8. 15; 4. 6. That portion of the altar also became known as the place of refuge and sanctuary for a fugitive, 1 Kgs. 1. 50. To these horns, a Jewish person could flee and grab hold of one of them for safety when in danger. An illustration of this is found in 1 Kings chapter 2 verse 28, ‘Then news came to Joab [King David’s former military general], for Joab had defected to Adonijah [David’s former advisor who had previously transferred his allegiance to Absalom], though he [Joab] had not defected to Absalom. [Being in fear of his life] Joab fled to the tabernacle of the Lord, and took hold of the horns of the altar’ NKJV.

Finally, note John the Baptist’s future father, Zacharias. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, he prophesied not regarding a son named ‘John’, who would soon be delivered by his wife Elisabeth, but rather concerning the upcoming birth of John’s cousin, later named ‘Jesus’. He said, ‘Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us’, Luke 1. 68-71 NKJV.

By Him and in Him, God ‘visits and redeems His people’. The word ‘salvation’, connected here with the word ‘horn’, indicates that the strength of this mighty redeemer is abundantly able to save.



The Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, 2022.


Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-sword resource.


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