The Harbinger – a review, sort of.

I just finished reading the hugely popular, best-selling book – The Harbinger – by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn.  I will keep my comments exceedingly few, since others have already done much more thorough reviews than I am willing to spend the time on given the nature of the book. Two that I might recommend are Tim Challies’ short review HERE, and David James’ in-depth review HERE.

In short, following a long (seemingly never ending) line of attempts to make the United States of America a subject of Biblical prophecy,  The Harbinger is more an exercise in super-vivid imagination than anything even approximating genuine scholarship. It is quite simply as fictional as anything ever penned by Isaac Asimov, Dan Brown or Rod Serling.

The entire book is based upon a single false premise – that somehow, the text of a few lines of prophecy in Isaiah 9:10, apply to the U.S. of A. And to state it as clearly as I can, there is NO exegetical reason whatsoever from the Bible itself to make this Israel/U.S.A. connection – none, nada, zilch, zero NOTHING! It does not exist.

Sadly, Cahn’s connections in arriving at his conclusions are identical to the method used by the ancients to construct the Zodiac. Given enough dots on a page (or stars in the sky) you can draw as many imaginary figures as you want. And in terms of Bible interpretation – this is precisely what was done here. It is a fabrication out of whole cloth. A figment of the imagination.

At best, it is a B-movie script with Biblical texts taken out of context. Mildly entertaining. At worst, (by barely mentioning Jesus or the Gospel, and then only oddly) it calls for a generic return to deism in order to preserve American prosperity.

My best advice in regard to it? don’t waste either your time or your money on it.

The only thing it is a possible harbinger of, is an increase in poor Christian literature.

5 thoughts on “The Harbinger – a review, sort of.

  1. Hello…interesting take….extreme, but you’re a voice I listen to, so I will re-think.
    My first thought…is it SO erroneous to think what was applicable to Israel…..could not possibly be applied to another. Don’t we “insert” all the time?
    Do you consider the trees, the hewn stone….nothing but insignificant coincidences?
    …always grateful for your thoughts.

  2. Hey Sarge – good to hear from you. I knew being so short might come across a little more strident than I would like, but I also didn’t want to soft-soap too much. And since the others had been more complete, I hooped folks would check those reviews out.

    To clarify some, one of the principle rules of sound interpretation, is that we take into account who is writing, and who are they writing to, and what about? We cannot know in what way something might apply to us, until we are clear on what it must have meant to those it was addressed to. And in this case that is extremely important. While I will not deny that there are common principles which might emerge which can be applied to others, the author here stretches that beyond credibility. So for instance, when Isaiah 9:9 – reads:
    “The Lord has sent a word against Jacob, and it will fall on Israel;” I know for certain that the words following immediately are not meant for some guy in the jungles of Guatemala. Nor are they a prophecy about the United States – this is a word to, about and against “Jacob” – Israel.

    Can we and should we listen in? Sure. And we can take the principles (such as it is not wise to refuse God’s chastisement and harden our hearts against it), but it is quite another to try and read our details into it so as to make it about us. The specific word for that in theology is “eisegesis” as opposed to “exegesis”. Exegesis is digging out what is actually there. Eisegesis is pouring or reading something into to it that isn’t there. And this (in my opinion) is what Cahn does in spades.

    The second issue is his wordplay framework. Peter S. Ruckman is famous for this – so let me give you an extreme example. In Ruckman’s commentary on Revelation he claims that the word “catholic” is a compound word made up of cat-holics. As that is so and as Catholic clergy dress in all black (like black cats) they must be involved in black magic and incorporating black cats.

    Move to Cahn. He makes much of the e,rez tree (cedar) and the sycamores in vs. 10. Then tying that all to ground zero. The problems here alone show the tortured means he needs to arrive at his “fulfillments”. First off, the “sycamore” in vs. 10, is a variety that cannot grow in our climate – frost kills it. The “sycamore” in the US is actually a type of maple tree, and not even remotely the same as the one in vs. 10. The only thing they have in common is an English translation. So for instance, someone reading a Chinese Bible could never arrive at this hidden interpretation because it is completely dependent upon a particular English usage. The same is true for the cedar. Two different kinds of trees, simply sharing a common name in English, but not functioning in other languages. And prophecy is not supposed to be of private interpretation – making it peculiar to myself outside of its given context. So we take Hebrew and Greek words and play with their English counterparts to come up with a key to hidden prophecy which can only apply to English speaking Christians? Are we really going to take such an ethnocentric approach to Scripture? This same error was a massive problem back in the years of the rise of the British Empire and it exploded then as this will now.

    Notice too that he points to only 1 sycamore and 1 cedar where the text speaks of both in the plural. Why can we ignore that detail while standing so adamantly on the other. Where are the sycamoreS and the cedarS? We just conveniently overlook that to make our point.

    The “breach” of the 1st seal – how doe we know that’s 9/11? Why isn’t it Pearl Harbor? Why not the British attacks on Sackett’s Harbor?

    Isn’t it interesting that in the book, these are all warnings to help prevent God’s judgment, when Romans 1 tells us that the prevalence of homosexuality IS a sign we are already under judgment?

    Recently, while preaching through Daniel, I snatched a bit from Comedy Central that illustrates Cahn’s word games to a tee. And then I found a Biblical Code website and stretched it further.

    Who is the anitchrist? Revelation says his mark is 666.

    Given that Barney is a CUTE PURPLE DINOSAUR, let’s dig deeper. In Latin, there is no letter U – they have only V instead. That gives us CVTE PVRPLE DINOSAVR.

    Now if we extract all of the Roman numerals from this phrase we get:
    C V V L D I V
    If we then assign each of these numerals its numeric equivalent we get:
    C = 100
    V = 5
    V = 5
    L = 50
    D = 500
    I – 1
    V = 5

    Add them up and what do you get? 666! Barney MUST be the antichrist! It COULDN’T be a coincidence.

    We can pay games like this all day. I’ve got one scheme that shows that 666 spells our Henry Kissinger, Newt Gingrich, Adolph Hitler and the same scheme also shows how Jesus, Messiah, and Gospel each add up to 444. So then by all means 444-4444 must mean William Mattar is God’s man!

    We could compound this over all of Cahn’s “harbingers”.

    It just won’t work. Sorry I rambled so long.

    Hope that helps some.

  3. Pastor…Hello. ….we cross paths because about 8-9 years back you were a guest speaker at Emory Brown’s Refreshing Springs in Buffalo. You conveyed a portrait of Heaven, as a man who’s faith revealed to him that it is SO humbling to just try and consider. I said to myself, from about 7 or 8 rows back….”I like this guy.” Over the years I have frequently listened on your site and read your posts.

    Anyway, I did read the book and my choice to do so had more to do with a familiarity with Jonathan Cahn than it did with a NY Times Bestseller list. He strikes me as having that ethnic gift of a very keen intellect. I have heard a fair amount of his teachings and he is always insightful…..and surely believes in Yeshua.

    Anyway, I want to take a moment to thank you for providing what you did. Your response to my comment is appreciated because of your time and concern. I will be reading, and re-reading over the next couple days, as I have believed (NOT hook, line and sinker) that Mr. Cahn is on to something.

    …surely I will pass along a very brief summary of my thoughts just to let you know the influence yours will have on me.

    Again, thank you so much for your consideration of my response.

    Tim Galvin Buffalo, NY (srgntnewkirk@aol)

  4. Hello back Tim. I remember you, and always appreciate your checking in. I too have listened to Jonathan Cahn on and off over the years – and I certainly have nothing to say negatively regarding him personally. I take issue with the book and how the subject matter was approached there – but have heard him preach the Gospel clearly and handle the Bible well on many an occasion. When it comes to this, I guess he and I would disagree heartily. But its a “family” squabble eh?


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