Book Plunge: The Harbinger

Is there a secret prophecy for America hidden in the Bible? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Jonathan Cahn’s book “The Harbinger” has been at the center of a lot of controversy, much like anything related to end times material is. Unfortunately, too much of it is highly sensationalistic, which is why some of Cahn’s greatest critics, such as David James, even come from the futurist camp. While I am an orthodox Preterist, I do think people from all eschatological persuasions should seek to avoid a work like the Harbinger.

So let’s dive in. It’s written as a work of fiction, but that is a loose term because fiction usually has some sort of story. The Harbinger does not really have one. Instead, it is a long conversation describing events that happen in the life of the main character as he enters into conversations with a “prophet.” We are not given any reason really why we should trust this prophet other than he seems to appear at various places and speaks in esoteric language and knows the main characters name. (Not much of an accomplishment in the age of the internet)

A little warning. This book is highly recommended if you struggle with insomnia. It is a human tranquilizer that can knock you out quick and I could hardly wait to get done with it. It tries to present what it believes is true as a story much like the Da Vinci Code did, but while the Da Vinci Code had terribly hideous history in it, it at least had an actual story.

The main character is a reporter named Nouriel who apparently is so dumb in needing to have everything spelled out for him that the staff of the Daily Planet, who can’t figure out that Clark Kent in their midst is Superman when all he does is take off his glasses, look like brilliant geniuses by comparison. It’s a wonder any publishing entity ever hired this guy to be a reporter.

The reader will also find constant repetition. As Nouriel relates his story to the lady he’s sharing it with in the story, you get the idea repeatedly of “No way!” “Really?!” “Wow!” Again, the book is a tranquilizer. Take it if you want to sleep at night. Could be the best night’s sleep you ever have.

But now, let’s get to the so-called content.

Apparently, there is a hidden prophecy to America in the Bible. Where is it? It’s in Isaiah 9:8-10

“8 The Lord sends a message against Jacob,
And it falls on Israel.
9 And all the people know it,
That is, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria,
Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart:
10 “The bricks have fallen down,
But we will rebuild with smooth stones;
The sycamores have been cut down,
But we will replace them with cedars.”

You see it. Right?

I don’t either.

But Cahn is convinced that it is there!

So let’s start at the beginning. First off, this passage is addressed to Jacob. That means Israel. It does not say anything about America. It is strange that those who insist that we take a text “literally” always want to ignore the parts that are not literal whenever it suits the theory. The rules are always changing in this style. It is one reason I hold to a Preterist hermeneutic. I find it much more consistent.

So what was the beginning of this message anyway? It was that America needs to repent. No Christian should disagree with Cahn on this point. America does need to repent. Could we be judged by God? Absolutely. Have we been? I am not going to go so far to say that. I am not a prophet and consider it dangerous and foolish to speak as one. I prefer the words of a real prophet. That would be Jesus in Luke 13 and say we should all repent unless we perish.

The warning that we were given was 9/11. Cahn finds much symbolism here, but let’s compare and see how “literal” his interpretation is. For instance, I went here and I found no mention of bricks being used in the WTC. I have found some sources say brick terracotta was used, but we know the building was for the most part built of steel. Is there a plan to rebuild and make a new tower? Yes, but despite what the prophecy says, it is not to be done with smooth stones.

Cahn finds this all important because Israel was in a covenant nation and he says that America has broken covenant with God. How so? Well we saw ourselves as the new Israel when we established America and believed God had a purpose for establishing America.

Let’s grant all of that. That does not equate us being in a covenant any more than Alexander the Great using Greece to unite the world to prepare the way for Christianity meant that Greece was in a covenant relationship with YHWH. By this standard, if a Mormon temple is dedicated to God, then that must mean that God is in a covenant relationship with the Mormons as well.

Cahn also sees this as a vow that we have broken to God and violated our covenant so he dropped the hedge of protection around us. I kept wondering throughout this then why does Cahn have this Americentrism? Does he think other nations have not tried to please YHWH in the past? Does he think most of Europe has just been filled with atheists and pagans throughout its history? What about nations that are Christian and do suffer? Is this a warning for them? Why think America has this hedge of protection? Especially since we have had past events of greater magnitude such as the War of 1812, the Civil War, and while not of greater magnitude I’d necessarily say but of great magnitude, the bombing of Pearl Harbor?

Cahn also sees Al-Qaeda as the descendants of Assyria, who he says are the original terrorists and just like Assyria performed acts of terrorism on Israel, so Al-Qaeda today is performing acts of terrorism on America. We are in the same situation. Of course, we don’t have Assyrians coming through and building siege ramps and ripping open pregnant women and such but hey, details. Who needs them?

Cahn then gets us to the sycamores. Apparently when the WTC towers fell, a sycamore was knocked down. This sycamore was then replaced with a cedar. Well there you have it. The sycamores have fallen and we will rebuild them with cedars.

Never mind that this is one tree that fell. Never mind that the text has it in the plural for Israel and never mind that there was a totally different purpose for the building. Even the prophet in the Harbinger says there is nothing wrong with wanting to rebuild, but that America was doing so with pride.

Now of course, I do not deny that we have much pride and too many of us did not use a good opportunity to call our nation to further repentance when the towers fell. While suffering is not a sign that God is punishing us, it never hurts to examine ourselves and see how we are living.

Cahn also stresses the idea of a vow. He tells us that several politicians were in fact quoting this passage of Scripture after 9/11 and using it to say that we would rebuild. What does this tell us? It tells us that politicians are terrible at exegesis. (This isn’t a shock. Most of us are still waiting to find out what it is that they are good at.)

Most likely scenario? Someone did a search on something like Biblegateway.com and looked up the word “rebuild” and found the first reference they thought applied and decided to go with that. Then like a meme on the internet, when one person says it, everyone else starts copying it.

Yet every time that someone says we will rebuild, the prophet takes that as if it was a vow made to God that we will be held accountable for. The original prophecy itself does not describe itself as a vow. (Keep in mind the rule. The prophecy is literal when it fits the theory. Where it does not fit, you can throw in whatever you need to make it fit. If you have to change the meaning of what a vow is, then change the meaning! We have a scenario that the facts must fit!)

The prophet also tells us that our economic judgment taking place 7 years afterwards is a result of this judgment and ties it in to Sabbath festivals, because, you know, America can always be expected to be judged by Sabbath festivals. It’s at this point that I see more and more difference. Israel had actual prophets coming and telling them about specific events and warning them. We do not. Of course, Cahn could be wanting to see himself as a prophet. If so, God have mercy on him because there is a strict punishment for if a prophet gets a prophecy wrong.

It’s hard to think of all of this as a judgment on America when no one would have thought anything so bizarre as picking a random text out of Isaiah and going through it and only it and making your whole view out of that text. While America does need to repent, something I agree totally with Cahn on, there are much better usages of prophecy, such as pointing to the coming of Christ the first time and defending His resurrection. If only Christians were as interested in defending that and learning about that as they were about end-times hysteria and blood moons!

Of course, if a Christian is interested in eschatology and having a strong position on the end times, that is just fine, but if you know your version of the end times forwards and backwards and can chart out the book of Revelation perfectly, but have no clue how to defend the resurrection of Jesus or to tell what the impact of it is, there is something wrong with your thinking.

In the end, books like the Harbinger will only serve to further embarrass Christians as people who buy into sensationalism with an Americentric outlook and draw us away from the areas of study that matter most to us, such as the historical Jesus, His resurrection, and the Kingdom of God. It fits more into our mindset that we are super important and the Bible is just all about us and written to us in our time and place and is to be read like a modern document. It’s a shame that those who love Scripture are so excited about this book.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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3 Responses to “Book Plunge: The Harbinger”

  1. williamfrancisbrown Says:

    “…..This book is highly recommended if you struggle with insomnia.”

    That was hilarious.

  2. labreuer Says:

    If I really struggled, I could get Isaiah 9:8-10 to say that we’re attempting to rebuild society and identity on naturalistic foundations instead of spiritual foundations. :-p

  3. Deeper Waters Podcast 11/1/2014: David James | Deeper Waters Says:

    […] went and got the book myself and wrote a review of it. After that, I decided to look online to see if anyone else had written a review and might […]

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