In the May-June 2013 issue of our Lamplighter magazine we featured Jonathan Cahn on the cover. We did so not because of his book, The Harbinger, but because of the phenomenal sermon that he delivered in January of that year at the Presidential Inaugural Breakfast. In that sermon he presented one of the most powerful indictments of the sins of America I have ever heard. And he clearly warned that our nation is begging for the wrath of God. He concluded his remarks by calling the nation to repentance before God delivers us from judgment to destruction (listen to that sermon).
This warning to America had also been the theme of Cahn’s book, The Harbinger. But this crucial theme seemed to get lost in all the controversy that the book stirred up among Bible prophecy experts. Incredibly, instead of focusing on his theme and praising God for it, most of them attacked the book for “applying to the United States a prophecy that was intended for Israel” — namely Isaiah 9:10. This criticism ignored the fact that Isaiah 9:10 is not a prophecy. It is a descriptive verse that tells how the nation of Israel responded to a remedial judgment of God in defiance rather than repentance, just as we did after the 9/11 attacks. It was a perfectly justifiable use of the verse.
They also attacked the book because they claimed that Cahn had stated that America had a special covenant relationship with God, like biblical Israel. But Cahn had never said that. What he did say is that the founders of this nation felt that God had called the nation into being for a special purpose — namely, to spread the Gospel around the world. And yes, they believed they had a special covenant relationship with God. That is an historical fact.
There were many other trivial attacks on the book that amounted to nothing. It became clear to me that Satan did not want anyone to pay attention to the book’s powerful call for national repentance. So he motivated malicious attacks on the author and the book in order to divert attention from the message.
Now comes a new book from Jonathan Cahn called The Mystery of the Shemitah. The sensational sub-title of the book declares: The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future! I assume that line was written by an overzealous advertising executive.
The Shemitah (pronounced Shmi-tah in Hebrew) is the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah for the Land of Israel, and it is still observed in contemporary Judaism. In Leviticus 25:1-7 the Jewish people were commanded by God to allow their land to rest every seventh year. The land was to be given a Sabbath rest, and there was to be no sowing or reaping during that year. Further, God promised them that if they would be obedient to this law, He would bless them in the sixth year with an abundant crop sufficient for three years (Leviticus 25:20-21). It was their violation of this law that led to the Babylonian captivity of the Jews. They were assigned one year of captivity for each of the 70 Shemitahs they had neglected to observe (2 Chronicles 36:21).
In his new book, Cahn tries valiantly to apply this law to the United States, arguing that because of our rebellion against God, He has been placing remedial judgments on our nation at the beginning and ending of each seven year cycle of the Shemitah, mainly in the form of fluctuations of the stock market.
I am sorry to say that I think Cahn is way off base with this thesis, and I recently told him so when he visited our headquarters and we recorded two television programs with him.
It is one thing to apply an Old Testament spiritual principle to our nation, such as the one in 2 Chronicles 7:14, or to apply a descriptive passage, such as the one in Isaiah 9:10 — but it is something else entirely to apply an Old Testament command given exclusively to the Jewish people and exclusively for their land. The law of the Shemitah simply has no application to a Gentile nation in the 21st Century.
Further, this is a command that was part of the Law of Moses, which was a covenant between God and Israel exclusively, and which was invalidated by the institution of the New Covenant at the death of Jesus. As the Apostle Paul put it, the New Covenant “has made the first obsolete” (Hebrews 8:13).
Another major problem with Cahn’s thesis is that, as I told him personally, it is based on the Hebrew calendar “which is a total mess.” In the July-August 2000 issue of our magazine we published an in-depth article about the Jewish calendar. The calculation of the years of the Jewish calendar, according to the Talmud, was done in the 2nd Century A.D. by Rabbi R. Yose. As you will see in my article about the Jewish calendar, his calculations are off by more than 250 years! So, for example, instead of this being the year 5775, it should be about 6025 to 6030.
How does this affect Cahn’s thesis about the Shemitah? The calendar is such a mess that no one can say for sure when it is a Jubilee Year, much less what is the year of a Shemitah. Cahn claimed to me that the Shemitah years have been recorded since the time of Christ. Maybe so, but the Bible makes it clear that the Shemitah applies only when Israel is in the land (Deuteronomy 31:10–13), and Israel was out of the land for over 1,800 years until the re-establishment of the state in May of 1948. Since the re-establishment of the state occurred in the years of 1947-1948, the first Shemitah would be 1954-1955, which makes a shambles of Cahn’s calculations.
But there is even a problem with this calculation. That’s because the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Ovadiah Yosef (1920 – 2013), took the position that the biblical obligation of the Shemitah holds only when a majority of the Jewish people is living in the biblical Land of Israel. That requirement is yet to be fulfilled in two ways. First, the Jewish population of Israel is slightly more than 6 million, which is not half the Jewish population of the world (13.3 million). And the Jews have not yet regained the land of biblical times.
I think this new book by Cahn is most unfortunate. There is no need to resort to the theatrics of “mysteries” to prove that America is in rebellion against God and is courting the judgment of God. All we need to do is read 2 Chronicles 36:15-16:
15) The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them [the Jewish people] again and again by His messengers, because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place;
16) but they continually mocked the messengers of God, despised His words and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against His people, until there was no remedy.