The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn

A friend at church gave me this book and asked what I thought. One thing led to another, and I wrote the review that appears below the fold. Disclosure/confession: I didn’t read the whole book word for word. The writer took a long time to say each thing he said, and I got impatient. But I think I’ve portrayed the book honestly.

Jonathan Cahn, The Harbinger, Lake Mary, Fla.: FrontLine, 2011.

“What you are about to read is presented in the form of a story, but what is contained within the story is real” (unnumbered dedication page). Here the author signals his intention to present a prophetic message in a fictional package. The story line goes like this: A writer named Nouriel Kaplan approaches a major media figure to tell her about his contacts with a mysterious prophet. The prophet confronts Kaplan at odd times and delivers his message in pieces. Each time the two meet, the prophet gives Kaplan an ancient seal that somehow illustrates the message that will emerge next time they meet.

The heart of the message: “There exists an ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future. This mystery is behind everything from 9/11 to the collapse of the global economy. God is now sending a prophetic message on which America’s future hangs” (back cover, questions converted to statements for clarity). Cahn sees a pattern in Isaiah 9:10, where Israel’s leaders say,

The bricks have fallen,

But we will rebuild with hewn stone;

The sycamores have been cut down,

But we will plant cedars in their place (p. 46).

In response to the Assyrian invasion of Israel in 732 BC, the nation’s leaders defiantly promised to build back stronger and better. America today moves on the same trajectory ancient Israel did by refusing to see God’s hand in the judgments that have fallen on the nation. A patriotic determination to face down America’s enemies amounts to defying God.

God has sent nine “harbingers,” people or events or objects in the present time that mirror people or events or objects in Israel’s history, including elements from Isaiah 9:10. These include:

The First Harbinger: The Breach (Assyrian invasion = 9/11)

The Second Harbinger: The Terrorist (Assyrians = al Qaeda)

The Third Harbinger: The Fallen Bricks (= Ground Zero)

The Fourth Harbinger: The Tower (= rebuilding Ground Zero)

The Fifth Harbinger: The Gazit Stone (= Freedom Stone at Ground Zero)

The Sixth Harbinger: The Sycamore (= Sycamore of Ground Zero)

The Seventh Harbinger: The Erez Tree (= replanting Sycamore of Ground Zero)

The Eighth Harbinger: The Utterance (= Isa 9:9-10 quoted by Sen. John Edwards)

The Ninth Harbinger:  The Prophecy (= Isa 9:9-10 quoted by Sen. Tom Daschle)

Cahn takes the two Senators’ quoting of the Isaiah passage not just as proof-texting, but as two major political leaders unwittingly identifying themselves with the leaders of ancient Israel in their defiance of God.

And the story continues. After the harbingers comes the economic implosion of 2008, a result of the 9/11 attack. The economic implosion connects to the Old Testament sabbatical year. President Obama’s statement, “We will rebuild,” connects to the defiant words of Isaiah 9:9-10. As King Solomon dedicated the Jerusalem Temple, so President George Washington on his inauguration day knelt in St. Paul’s Chapel to commit the nation to God. And St. Paul’s Chapel lay right at the corner of Ground Zero. “The ground of dedication becomes the ground of calamity . . . the judgment returns to the ground of consecration” (p. 208).

At the end of the book, the reader learns that Nouriel Kaplan’s given name is Baruch, like the scribe of the prophet Jeremiah. The mysterious prophet in this story anoints Kaplan with oil and commissions him to write the story, to stand “as a watchman on the wall” (p. 252) and proclaim God’s message of repentance to America.

I find it hard to evaluate this book. Stripped of its mystical trappings and the teasing delays of each revelation, I find the bare message of the book unexceptionable. America’s troubles of the early 21st century may indeed represent warnings from God. A fine line exists between optimistic statements from our national leaders and a godless refusal to see things from an eternal perspective. But I have no prophetic gift. I do not know if Jonathan Cahn claims such a gift, but even if not, he has noticed a valid coincidence between some post-9/11 rhetoric and the language of the Bible.

And Cahn has done us this service: He has reminded his readers that God controls nations, and his ways are inscrutable. The call to repentance is never out of place.

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2 Responses to “The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn”

  1. Steven Johnson Says:

    Good thoughts thanks Carl

  2. Paul McCuistion Says:

    You are correct on the read. Novels have a tendency to slowly build “imagery” as one of my students reported. I told them, “I don’t need to know he wore a tweed jacket!” Additionally, he is repetitive.

    That said, his concept and basic content is intriguing. He does a good job giving the historical facts to back up the national “response” to the prophecy. I checked them out and he is spot on from what I found. However, I fear that he, as so many, are working under a false perception that American as a (so-called) Christian nation is equivalent to Israel. While, as Cahn points out, the nation did begin with a theistic foundation, this hardly is the basis for calling us Christian. Additionally, Israel is reflected in the church. Paul told the Corinthians after giving an illustration from the desert wanderings, “these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction” (New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update, 1 Co 10:11). The “our” is the church. The prophetic warnings are for the church who has not been the “salt and light” it should have been. Why, because we have become involved in things political (Oops! Sorry Carl, only a mention of the “P” word) and social instead of “speaking together” (homologia; same words) words that honor Jesus as the coronated King; whose law should be the law of the land (as it was in the early days of American history).

    Culbertson does an excellent job finding and listing 120 Old Testament verses on missions (http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/biblical.htm). If this was Israel’s ministry, living under a covenant of stone (2 Cor. 3:3), how much greater is our ministry of the Spirit

    So, if we can apply the prophetic message to the church, expecting judgment to begin there (1 Peter 4:17), then we may anticipate that God will be dealing (through the nations as he did with Israel) with the church for not honoring our covenant.

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