Harbingers of Misinterpretation, Part 4

In addition to his attempt to prove a connection between ancient Israel and the United States, Jonathan Cahn describes 9 signs, which he calls “harbingers,” that point to the impending judgment of God:

  1. The Breach – 9/11 signifies that God has lifted his hedge of protection from America.
  2. The Terrorist – Modern-day terrorists are the symbolic descendants of the ancient Assyrians.
  3. Fallen Bricks – The most visible element of judgment is the fallen bricks of the Twin Towers in NYC.
  4. The Tower – Rather than repent, the nation defied God by rebuilding on the same site as before.
  5. Gazit Stone – A quarried stone was brought to Ground Zero, symbolizing the nation’s defiance.
  6. Sycamore – St. Paul’s Chapel was the only nearby building not damaged on 9/11 because it was protected by a sycamore tree that was uprooted in the blast.
  7. Erez Tree – A Norway spruce replaced the sycamore at St. Paul’s just as the Israelites replaced their felled sycamores with cedars.
  8. The Utterance – A vow of defiance was spoken by Senator John Edwards at a memorial for 9/11.
  9. The Prophecy – The same vow of defiance was given as a prophecy by Senator Tom Daschle when he quoted Isaiah 9:10 at the Capitol on September 12, 2001.

Several problems arise when one considers the harbingers themselves.

The Breach, for example, is only meaningful if there is actually a prophetic connection between the USA and ancient Israel. What makes Cahn think that there ever was a so-called hedge of protection around America? And if there was, why was 9/11 the indicator that it had been removed and not the attack on Pearl Harbor? Or the US Civil War? Or the burning of Washington D.C. by the British in 1814?

The Terrorist can only be explained by appealing to several dubious parallels between the 9/11 hijackers and the ancient Assyrians, whom Cahn says are symbolic ancestors of modern-day terrorists. For instance, the Assyrians were from the Middle East, just like the 9/11 attackers, and they spoke Akkadian, a dead language whose nearest modern equivalent is Arabic. When Israel was attacked, they were drawn into a war with Assyria, and when America was attacked we were drawn into a war with Iraq. While these parallels themselves may be less than factual, they certainly offer no compelling evidence of a connection between the ancient Assyrians and the Islamic terrorists who have been waging jihad against the US since the early 1970’s.

The Tower is one of the most contrived “signs” of them all (which is saying quite a bit). In order to find a tower in Isaiah 9:10, Cahn must switch to the Septuagint (LXX), the Greek translation of the Hebrew OT. lxxIn it, the wording is changed from The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with hewn stones…” to “The bricks are fallen down…let us build for ourselves a tower.” Not only is this a very manipulative way to use the Scriptures, the rest of the verse contradicts another one of Cahn’s harbingers.

In the Septuagint it says, “The bricks are fallen down, but come, let us hew stones, and cut down sycamores and cedars, and let us build for ourselves a tower.” If Cahn wants to use the Septuagint to defend The Tower, then he destroys The Erez Tree, for the LXX indicates that the sycamores and cedars are not destroyed as a form of judgment but as a part of the defiance of Israel against God. And furthermore, both the sycamores and cedars are cut down, while the sign of the erez tree is of a replacement for the sycamore. Cahn can’t have it both ways. Either he uses the Septuagint exclusively and denies the 7th harbinger, or he uses other OT translations and any reference of a tower disappears. Of course, he needs the tower in Isaiah 9:10 to make a connection to the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center.

While he is certainly quite imaginative in concocting this story, Cahn relies not on divine prophecy but on the all-too-human ability to see patterns and connections where none actually exist, and he has developed quite a following among people who are desperate to know what the future holds and dissatisfied with what Scripture actually reveals. In an appearance on a television program called Jewish Voice Today, Cahn offered this conclusion, “I believe first, a great shaking is going to come to this nation, and whether it happens on these dates or not, it’s going to happen. A great shaking and it’ll effect the economy, finance, our systems – all things. A shaking. And the thing is that, I believe it has to happen at this point, not out of, not out of wrath but out of mercy, because, if nothing happens to America, if America continues on its course, there is no hope. So the thing is that, that, I believe God is in mercy shaking America. That we will return. I believe though, that there can be revival in the midst of it.”

As I said before, Cahn is right that America needs to repent and seek the Lord, but his “prophetic word” is vague enough to make even a carnival psychic proud. Whatever happens in 2015 you can bet that Cahn will claim it as a fulfillment of all that he has predicted, and if there is no “shaking,” then he will deflect any criticism by saying that God has simply been merciful to us. He might even write another story about it.

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