The Harbinger

The Harbinger is a 2012 best-selling Christian novel by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, a Messianic Jew. It suggests that the 9/11 terrorism attack was a divine warning to America.

Jonathan Cahn’s book is written in the form of a novel although the claim presented, is that what is contained within the story is real. The sub-title immediately grabs one’s attention as ‘The ancient mystery that holds the secret of America’s future’. Since it has sold in excess of 1.8 million copies and received such wide acclaim, it is necessary to examine how Cahn arrived at this conclusion. The main reason it has sold so prolifically is probably because it seeks to provide meaning to the events surrounding 9/11.

As the story unfolds, there is a series of dialogues between a mysterious prophet who usually employs rhetoric or answers most questions by asking other questions and a journalist who is given clues to find the next seal in relation to the nine harbingers relating to the unveiling of an ancient mystery.

To cut a long story short, in ‘The Harbinger’, Isaiah 9:10 is the key to understanding all of the mysteries and connects them all together. This verse follows the famous prophecy we frequently hear read particularly around Christmas time concerning the government of the promised Son (Isaiah 9:1-7). However the subject of Isaiah 9:8-21 is judgment on Israel. Isaiah 9:10 according to Cahn’s version reads as follows.

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.”

Cahn relates this verse to 9/11 and the events that followed and interprets the first harbinger, 9/11 as ‘The Breach’. The other eight harbingers include ‘The Terrorist’, ‘The Fallen Bricks’, ‘The Tower’, ‘The Gazit Stone’, ‘The Sycamore’, ‘The Erez Tree’, ‘The Utterance’ and ‘The Prophecy’. He compares America with Israel and maintains that the hedge of protection surrounding America has been removed.

He also attempts to explain how he sees America as ‘patterned after Israel’.

America is America. And Israel is Israel. The one doesn’t replace the other. But America’s founders established the new commonwealth after the pattern of ancient Israel. They dedicated it to God and saw it as a covenant with Him.”

So was it in covenant with God?”

The Scriptures reveal only one nation with which God entered into covenant with Him.”

Israel…but America was patterned after Israel.”


And they saw themselves in covenant with God.”

Yes.” (The Harbinger p. 19)

Cahn views the falling of the bricks and the rebuilding with hewn stone as the tragedy of 9/11 and the subsequent response to it. He cites speeches by prominent representatives and newspaper headlines that quoted the whole or part of this verse. He also relates the sycamores have been cut down, but we will plant cedars in their place as the ‘Tree of Hope’ at Ground Zero and its replacement. The message is essentially a warning to America.

So the premises have been laid out and certain questions need to be answered.

Firstly, was the breach and hedge of protection of America breached specifically at 9/11 and is there evidence to substantiate the claim that there is or was a hedge of protection around America?

Secondly, is there reasonable evidence to assert the view that this passage relates to America today or does it require eisegesis, an unsound hermeneutical principle (in laymen’s terms reading into the text)?

Thirdly, in what way did the founders of America, dedicate the nation to Israel?

Fourthly, is it reasonable to connect the sycamores and cedar trees of Isaiah 9:10 with the tree of hope and its replacement?

Fifthly, to what extent could America be considered as patterned after ancient Israel and if there is application what could that be?

Firstly, was the breach and hedge of protection of America breached specifically at 9/11 and is there evidence to substantiate the claim that there is or was a hedge of protection around America?

This is an incredibly precise claim and there is no indication from Isaiah 9:10 or within that passage anything that suggests it is prophesying concerning America. Yes there are similarities in this verse compared with what happened at 9/11, but that doesn’t mean one is predicated by the other. Supposing that Cahn’s assertion is correct and that these events are signs, then how are we to make sense of other terrible events that have occurred in America’s history such as the Civil War, The Wall Street Crash, Pearl Harbour or Vietnam?

The extent to which it could be argued that there was or is a hedge of protection around America and why or why not, may prove difficult to evidence either way. However as we look at the text and its context closely and investigate how the founders of America ‘dedicated the nation to God’ and whether America can be meaningfully compared as being patterned on Israel, this will help in determining whether Cahn’s claims are accurate.

Secondly, is there reasonable evidence to assert the view that this passage relates to America today or does it require eisegesis, an unsound hermeneutical principle (in laymen’s terms reading into the text)?

With the exception of a few instances, Cahn centres the entire book around the interpretation of one verse, Isaiah 9:10. This is in some respects similar to ‘The Prayer of Jabez’ by Bruce Wilkinson who wrote his bestseller from a couple of verses. This is not a sound method of studying Scripture since if it is read in isolation and the immediate context and how it fits in with the rest of the Bible isn’t fully considered, then inevitably one or two verses could be used to justify or pertain to almost anything.

Whilst Cahn correctly understands that the primary meaning concerns Israel and recognizes from Isaiah 10:5 that Assyria was used by God as a chastening agent; to relate the events of and following 9/11 to Isaiah 9:10, requires reading the events into the text instead of allowing the Scripture to speak for itself. Furthermore, if we were to consistently apply this approach the outcome would be highly tenuous where one seeks to find a hidden or secret meaning behind everything. This inevitably may result with the mistaken notion of others presenting their views asserting, “Well this is what it means to me”, rather than actually exegeting the text correctly.

Thirdly, in what way did the founders of America, dedicate the nation to Israel?

In Chapter 19, Nouriel the Journalist recollects his dream concerning King Solomon and George Washington again linking Israel with America.

So King Solomon was speaking to the crowd… and saying what?”

I couldn’t tell or understand. But after he finished speaking, he turned back towards the Temple, knelt down, covered his head with the golden robe, and lifted his hands to the sky. He was praying. He was leading the people in prayer. And as they prayed, I was walking through their midst…through crowds…towards the platform where the king was kneeling. I approached him. He was now just a few feet away from me. But I could only see him from the back since he was turned in the opposite direction. He stood up, still facing the Temple and with the golden robe still covering his head. And then he turned round, I saw his face…and it wasn’t him.”

What do you mean it wasn’t him?” She asked.

It wasn’t King Solomon anymore,” he answered.

Then who was it?”

It was Washington.”

Washington…as in the president?”

Washington,” said Nouriel, “as in George”. (The Harbinger p.193)

As the discussion with the prophet follows, Nouriel connects George Washington placing his hand on the Bible and taking the oath of the presidency and America’s inauguration with Israel’s dedication under Solomon.

He was placing his hand on a Bible” said the prophet, “to swear. He was taking the oath of the presidency. It was the inauguration, April 30th, 1789, the beginning of America as a constituted nation-the foundation, 212 years before 9/11.”

The inauguration of George Washington on the Temple Mount?”

In your dream the two events were joined together-Israel’s dedication and America’s inauguration, the one superimposed the other.” (The Harbinger, 200)

It is strange that Cahn would try to link Solomon with Washington and compare the respective dedication of Israel with the inauguration of America. It is no secret that George Washington was a Freemason and Freemasons are free to swear on the holy book of their choice, which begs the question concerning the oath that Washington swore. Also, Freemasons are careful with the terms they use for God, so as not to cause offence to their members who represent various religions.

Freemasons embrace all men who believe in God. Its membership includes Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Muslims, Parsees and others. The use of descriptions such as the Great Architect prevents disharmony. The Great Architect is not a specific Masonic god or an attempt to combine all gods into one. Thus, men of differing religions pray together without offence being given to any of them.’

It is astounding that Cahn goes one further and actually quotes exerts of Washington’s Inaugural Address of 1789, which uses unorthodox references to God, which sound more familiar to that of a Masonic Lodge than a Christian inauguration.

No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency.”(The Harbinger, p201 bold emphasis added)

And again, note the ambivalent reference mentioned below.

It would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people in the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes.” (The Harbinger, p. 201 bold emphasis added)

A transcription of the whole address (which is just over seven paragraphs in length can be viewed here . Also note the reference in the second paragraph akin to the ‘Great Architect’… ‘ In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own; nor those of my fellow-citizens at large, less than either.’(bold emphasis added)

Lastly, Cahn quotes another dubious quote from Washington at the same address. ‘The propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself ordained.’ (The Harbinger p.213) and explains that the propitious smiles of Heaven mean God’s blessing and favour and the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained as God’s unchanging standards of morality, what’s right and wrong.

Fourthly, is it reasonable to connect the sycamores and cedar trees of Isaiah 9:10 with the tree of hope and its replacement?

There are interesting similarities between the desire to rebuild and the trees mentioned in Isaiah 9:10 and the ‘Tree of Hope’ at Ground Zero in New York. Israel would be chastened by Assyria but would remain defiant and would restore the bricks with more expensive and impressive materials and the sycamore trees would be replaced by stronger and grander cedar trees. Nonetheless it seems here that Cahn is trying to force the connection between the passage and the events surrounding 9/11.

Cahn mentions the single sycamore tree that was replaced by ‘The Tree of Hope’. Again the replacement tree is one tree, not plural as in Isaiah 9:10, (although the tree is arguably symbolic) and is actually a Norway Spruce, which is similar to a cedar tree but is stretching the link too far to fit the passage.

The focus of Isaiah 9:8-10:4 is punishment, not a series of warnings. In fact the phrase ‘For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is outstretched out still’ is mentioned four times in Isaiah 9:12, 17, 21, 10:4 and confirms exactly that. Isaiah 9:10 is a rebellious and arrogant outburst from Israel in response to their judgement, so in addition to imposing events from 9/11 to fit the passage, the interpretation of warnings as opposed to judgements is confused here.

Fifthly, to what extent could America be considered as patterned after ancient Israel and if there is application what could that be?

I deliberately used the term ‘patterned after ancient Israel’ rather than ‘covenanted with God’ since this is at the heart of the controversy. Although Cahn is extremely careful not to state categorically that America is in covenant with God, the way that the book is presented and some of the statements given come perilously close to it.

Israel was unique among nations in that it was conceived and dedicated at its foundation for the purposes of God.”


But there was another-a civilization also conceived and dedicated to the will of God from its conception…America. In fact, those who laid its foundations…” (The Harbinger, p.19)

Cahn continues and explains that the Scriptures reveal only one nation (Israel), which God entered into covenant. Nevertheless America was patterned after Israel and they saw themselves in covenant with God and that if America followed the ways of God, they would become the most blessed, prosperous and powerful civilization on earth.

We must draw a distinction here. Israel was a Theocracy, America is not. Israel became covenanted with God whilst America never did. America might have seen themselves in covenant with God, but this doesn’t mean that God was in covenant with America. Therefore whilst there may be certain applications between Israel and America and the need to repent generally speaking, great care and consideration of the context must be taken to draw comparisons with regard to specific warning and judgement. According to Cahn America was dedicated to the will of God from its conception, though as I have demonstrated already, this is highly questionable in view of the masonic influence upon the founding fathers.

In Chapter 20, Cahn insists that America needs to return to God to avoid judgement. He then goes on to outline the second part of the message concerning again how Solomon and Washington were joined together. To do this he appeals to 2 Chronicles 7:14 which was God’s response to Solomon after he has dedicated the temple to God. Unfortunately this is often one of the misquoted verses in Scripture and to say that this word is appointed for America is a miss-application.

If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.’

The problem here is that Israel was a Theocracy and in covenant with God whilst America never has been. Moreover the verses that precede it “Then the Lord appeared to Solomon at night, and said to him: I have heard your prayer, and have chosen this place for Myself as a house of sacrifice. When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the land to devour the land or send pestilence among My people,” and the verse directly after “Now My eyes will be open and My ears attentive to prayer made in this place.” demonstrate that these verses correlate with Israel which was an agriculturally dependent community whose livelihood would have be devastated by drought or pestilence and God was promising that He would be attentive to prayer in this place-the temple.

This doesn’t however mean that these verses in God’s response to Solomon contain no application for today. The central message of the Harbinger is the need for America to repent and turn to God and that is certainly a good thing. America as Cahn maintains does need to repent from its apathy and its growing tolerance for immorality and intolerance for the pure.

In short, being humble, praying, seeking God’s face and repenting are necessary for forgiveness. Since Israel is a unique and chosen nation (Deut. 7:6-8), it cannot be presumed that if believers meet the conditions in 2 Chronicles 7:14, that their land will be healed.

Final Thoughts

Cahn’s motives for writing appear to be honourable and we shouldn’t oversee the call to wake up from spiritual apathy, repent and seek God’s truth. The means by which the message is presented nonetheless is obscure since it is written as a story, though what is contained within is apparently real. His insights regarding the nine harbingers have not been acquired by sound principles of grammatical-historical exegesis but by reading events from the lens of mainly one verse Isaiah 9:10, and that has used that as a ‘pattern’ or ‘template’ for 9/11 and selected events that have followed thereafter. In context, Isaiah 9:10 is contained within a series of judgements that God proclaimed towards Israel, though Cahn is trying to apply that one verse to form the basis of warnings for America.

Undoubtedly discussion will continue as to whether Cahn is saying or is conveying the meaning that America is in covenant with God. Though that may not have been spelt out, he draws many similarities between the two nations and goes out of his way to compare the dedication of the temple under Solomon with the presidential address of George Washington on his inauguration day on April 30th 1789. There is sadly a great oversight here since Washington was a Freemason and if one reads his inauguration speech, which is even quoted in part in The Harbinger (the speech is not long and can be read in about five minutes and the references to ‘God’ clearly have masonic undertones.

Continuing on the theme of Solomon and George Washington, Cahn doesn’t help matters by quoting 2 Chronicles 7:14 as the word that is appointed for America now. This is a common miss-application of scripture prevalent today and if one reads the two verses that precede it and the verse following it, is clear that this passage has primary application specifically to the prayers made in the temple concerning the healing of the nation of Israel regarding the drought, locusts and pestilence that occurred in the physical land of Israel. Having said that the need to be humble, to pray, to seek God’s face and to repent, are as equally important today as they were in Solomon’s time.


Jonathan Cahn The Harbinger (Front Line Charisma Media, Florida; 2012)

Freemasonry Your Questions Answered, Frequently Asked Questions

Washington’s Inaugural Address of 1789 A Transcription National Archives and Records Administration