horn (Hebrew and Aramaic qeren; keras; for the "ram's horn" (yobhel) of Jos 6:1-27 see MUSIC, and for the "inkhorn" of Eze 9:1-11 (qeceth) see separate article):
(1) Qeren and keras represent the English "horn" exactly, whether on the animal (Ge 22:13), or used for musical purposes (Jos 6:5; 1Ch 25:5), or for containing a liquid (1Sa 16:1,13; 1Ki 1:39), but in Eze 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 (Ex 27:2; 38:2; compare Eze 43:15) and the incense altar (Ex 30:2; 37:25-26; compare Re 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) (Ex 30:10; Le 4:7,18,25,30,34; 16:18; compare Eze 43:20), and according to Le 8:15; 9:9, the first official sacrifices began by anointing them. Consequently cutting off the horns effectually desecrated the altar (Am 3:14), while "sin graven on them" (Jer 17:1) took all efficacy from the sacrifice. On the other hand they offered the highest sanctuary (1Ki 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 (Ps 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 Da 8:7, etc.) to denote aggressive strength. So Zedekiah ben Chenaanah illustrates the predicted defeat of the enemies by pushing with iron horns (1Ki 22:11; 2Ch 18:10), while "horns of the wildox" (De 33:17; Ps 22:21; 92:10, the King James Version "unicorn") represent the magnitude of power, and in Zec 1:18-21 "horns" stand for power in general. In Hab 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" (1Sa 2:1,10; Ps 75:4, etc.) is to clothe with strength, and to "cut off the horn" (not to be explained by Am 3:14) is to rob of power (Ps 75:10; Jer 48:25). Hence, the "horn of salvation" in 2Sa 22:3; Ps 18:2; Lu 1:69 is a means of active defense and not a place of sanctuary as in 1Ki 1:50. When, in Da 7:7-24; 8:3,8-9,20-21; Re 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 Re 5:6; 12:3 denote the completeness of the malevolent or righteous power. In Re 13:11, however, the two horns point only to the external imitation of the harmless lamb, the "horns" being mere stubs.
Burton Scott Easton