The Harbinger (novel)

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The Harbinger is a 2012 best-selling[1] Christian novel by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, a Messianic Jew. It suggests that the 9/11 terrorism attack was a divine warning to the United States.[2][3]

Cahn ties the 9/11 attacks to a section of Isaiah 9, which describes God vowing to destroy ancient Israel for persistent disobedience towards Him and ignoring the warnings He has sent them. One such warning was a military attack on Israel which caused physical damage to the land. Verses 9 and 10 record that instead of recognizing God's warning and repenting of its sins, Israel defiantly vowed to rebuild using stronger materials and planting stronger trees.[2]

"The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel. And all the people shall know, even Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars. Therefore the Lord shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together; The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still." (Isaiah 9:8-12, King James Version).



The author says that The Harbinger is a fictional story which is nevertheless concerned with a real-life connection: a prophecy about ancient Israel that was eventually fulfilled in the eighth century BC when Israel was destroyed, and certain events and facts related to the 9/11 terror attacks against the U.S. in 2001. Cahn calls these events and facts "harbingers," and argues that they show a connection between ancient Israel's destruction and a possible coming destruction of the present-day United States. He also says that ancient Israel received a warning before being destroyed, and that the 9/11 harbingers form a similar warning from God to America.[4]

“Before God judges a nation, He sends warning,” Cahn has said. “But America, like Israel, has not responded with repentance, but with defiance.”[4]

Background in Biblical history[edit]

In c. 732 BC, the Assyrian king, Tiglath-Pileser III sacked Damascus and the Kingdom of Israel , annexing Aramea[5] and territory of the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh in Gilead. Israel continued to exist within the reduced territory as an independent kingdom subject to Assyria until around 725-720 BC, when it was again invaded by Assyria and the rest of the population deported. From this time, no trace exists of the Kingdom of Israel and its population are commonly referred to as Ten Lost Tribes.

The nine harbingers[edit]

The book draws parallels between the Kingdom of Israel and modern day America. The author argues that America was founded similar to ancient Israel and the Founding Fathers envisioned a country based on the rules of God and a Light Unto the Nations. The author lists a series of warnings or harbingers that were given to ancient Israel before its final destruction by the Assyrians and makes a parallel between each and the events of 9/11.

A summary of Harbingers mentioned in the book follows:[2]

  1. The Breach: The author argues that the United States just like ancient Israel has breached the covenant it made with God at the time of its foundation. Thus the hedge of God's protection around America was lifted on 9/11 similar to the way the hedge of protection around ancient Israel was lifted.
  2. The Terrorist: The author argues that similar to the way that the kingdom of Israel was attacked by Assyrians, The United States was attacked by Al-Qaeda. The Assyrians were a Semitic people, children of the Middle East. So too were the terrorists of 9/11.
  3. Fallen Bricks: The most visible signs of the attack on ancient Israel were that of the fallen buildings and the ruin heaps of fallen bricks. In 9/11 the most visible site of the attack was also the fallen bricks of the fallen buildings.
  4. The Tower: The harbinger symbolizes the fact that after the Assyrian attack, the kingdom of Israel did not repent from its sins but vowed to rebuild its buildings with its own power. Similarly the author argues that United States also did not repent from its sins after the warning and continued its path, vowing to rebuild on Ground Zero with its own power.
  5. Gazit Stone: The Israelites carve out quarried stone from mountain rock and bring it back to the ground of destruction where clay bricks once stood. Three years after 9/11, a 20-ton quarried rock meant to serve as the cornerstone of the new building was brought to Ground Zero. A ceremony took place over the rock, called the "Freedom Stone,"[6] in which New York Governor George Pataki pronounced: "Today, we, the heirs of that revolutionary spirit of defiance, lay this cornerstone and unmistakably signal to the world the unwavering strength of this nation, and our resolve to fight for freedom.”[7] Eventually, the stone was permanently removed from Ground Zero after security concerns prompted some redesigning at the site. It now sits in the yard of a stone manufacturing plant on Long Island.[2][6]
  6. Sycamore: In Isaiah 9:10, the nation of Israel declares that its sycamore trees have been destroyed by the Assyrians during the attack but they would replace them with cedar trees. After the collapse of the buildings during the 9/11 attacks, a shock wave was created that damaged most buildings around the area. Only one building was not harmed which was St. Paul's Chapel, which was protected by a sycamore tree that is believed to have captured the blast.[8][9] Cahn points out that St. Paul's Chapel was also the place that the government of the United States prayed on the day of the first inauguration of George Washington on April 30, 1789. The sycamore is known today as the 9/11 Sycamore and a memorial was built for it.
  7. Erez Tree: In Isaiah 9:10, the nation of Israel vows to replace the damaged sycamores with cedars, which are stronger. Two years after the events of 9/11, on November 29, 2003, an actual tree was planted in the place of the original sycamore in front of St. Paul's Chapel. This tree was a 21-foot spruce tree and was called the Tree of Hope. The tree itself no longer exists, as it died and was dug up and destroyed and not replaced.[10]
  8. The Utterance: Or “the vow” of defiance. For there to be a parallel with ancient Israel with this harbinger, Cahn says a national leader would have to speak the defiant vow to rebuild in the nation's capital, which he argues that U.S. Senator John Edwards did during a 9/11 memorial on September 11, 2004, when he quoted Isaiah 9:10.[11]
  9. The Prophecy: Another parallel with ancient Israel, according to Cahn, is that a national leader must utter the Isaiah 9:10 vow as a prophecy, before such events as the replacing of the tree and the bringing of the cornerstone rock to Ground Zero. Cahn says this occurred one day after the events of 9/11, when America issued its official response to the terrorism attacks. Senator Tom Daschle, who was the Senate Majority Leader at the time and in charge of the official response, spoke before the Congress. At the end of his speech he quoted Isaiah 9:10.
The shockwave of the falling buildings destroyed a sycamore tree which was standing in front of the St. Paul's Chapel for more than a century. Artist Steve Tobin used its roots as the base for a bronze sculpture memorial.

Nothing--nothing--can replace the losses that have been suffered. I know there is only the smallest measure of inspiration that can be taken from this devastation. But there is a passage in the Bible from Isaiah that I think speaks to all of us at times such as this:The bricks have fallen down, but we will rebuild with dressed stone; the fig trees have been felled, but we will replace them with cedars.That is what we will do. We will rebuild and we will recover. The people of America will stand strong together because the people of America have always stood together. And those of us privileged to serve this great Nation will stand with you. - Senate majority leader Tom Daschle[12]

Cahn says that the warnings of God came two times to ancient Israel before the third time when the nation was destroyed.

The Shemitah[edit]

Cahn also argues that the financial collapses of the Dow Jones Industrial Average on September 17, 2001, and September 29, 2008 (List of largest daily changes in the Dow Jones Industrial Average: Largest point changes) were also prophetic warnings. He says that both happened on the same date of the Hebrew calendar, the 29th of Elul, and relates them to the Shmita, a Sabbath year observed every seven years in Judaism, in which the land isn't cultivated and debts are cancelled. Cahn argues that a third strike might be the collapse of the American power which lies in the nation's economy.

The Mystery of the Shemitah[edit]

Cahn has also written an allegedly non-fiction book related to The Harbinger on the shemita topic, called The Mystery of the Shemitah, which was published in September 2014 by Frontline. In this book, Cahn makes a case that understanding the seven-year pattern is essential for understanding the prophecies of the Bible and links the Great Depression and other American economic collapses to the shemita, as well as the country's rise, and possible eventual fall, as prophesied in The Harbinger.[13]

Critical response[edit]

American television and radio host Glenn Beck called it "an incredible story", saying that the author's use of novel format was at present the only way to have a serious conversation about God for modern Americans.[14]

American radio host and Denver, Colorado Pastor Bob Enyart interviewed Jonathan Cahn about his book, 'The Harbinger.' And while Enyart was appreciative of Cahn's efforts to warn America about its rebellion against God, Enyart explained to Cahn (and has shown to be correct), that what Cahn predicted was not a harbinger of things to come and advises pastors against making such outlandish claims that hurt the testimony of Christians as they seek to call the nation to repentance. [15]


  1. ^ "March 2013 Christian Bestsellers: Adult, Children's and Young Adult, Bibles". Publishers Weekly. Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d "Jonathan Cahn: The Harbinger". Christian Broadcasting Network. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
  3. ^ "New York Times best sellers, paperback trade fiction". The New York Times. Retrieved October 14, 2012.
  4. ^ a b Jothen, Tiffany. "'The Harbinger': Is God Warning America?". Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Retrieved June 21, 2014.
  5. ^ Lester L. Grabbe, Ancient Israel: What Do We Know and How Do We Know It? (New York: T&T Clark, 2007): 134
  6. ^ a b Feiden, Douglas (2014-08-27). "Freedom Stone Is Far From Ground Zero". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 2015-07-09.
  7. ^ "New York lays cornerstone for Freedom Tower - Jul 4, 2004". Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  8. ^ "Uprooted in the Attacks, Now Planted in Bronze". The New York Times. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  9. ^ "Episcopal News Service Archives". Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  10. ^ "Lighting Ground Zero's Tree of Hope | Trinity Church". 2003-11-26. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  11. ^ "John Edwards: Remarks to the Congressional Black Caucus Prayer Breakfast". Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  12. ^ "Tom Daschle Isa 910 | Video". 2012-10-12. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  13. ^ "The Mystery of the Shemitah Revealed". 2014-09-30. Retrieved 2015-04-30.
  14. ^ "Glenn reviews 'The Harbinger'". Retrieved 22 January 2014.
  15. ^

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