Monday, October 20, 2014

A Book Review of The Mystery of the Shemitah

Dr. David R. ReaganBy

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.

The Harbinger

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 Mystery of the Shemitah

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.

Jonathan Cahn on Christ in Prophecy

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.

14 comments:

Billy said...

STORY ON FOX NEWS

"Two Christian ministers who own an Idaho wedding chapel were told they had to either perform same-sex weddings or face jail time and up to a $1,000 fine, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in federal court."

Just curious...would YOU (anyone who cares to comment) be willing to go to jail over your beliefs if you felt the circumstances warrranted it?

I'd have to say yes, there is a line that could be crossed that could make me stand up even if it meant jail. I would guess there is a line for all of us whether jail, prison, torture or death be the punishment, that most all Christians would be willing to take a stand for our faith.

I pray to God we never have to make that choice and for all our Christian brothers/sisters that either face the choice or have had to make it. May God be with them.

Sean Osborne said...

Dr. Reagan,

I have a multi-part observation with respect to the alleged problem of the calculation I've made of the first modern Shemitah occurring in 1954-55.

My observation is:

1.) The late Rabbi Ovadiah Yosef's rendered religious opinion does not trump the commandment of God as given to Israel by Moses in perpetuity.

2.) When this commandment was given on the occasion of Moses' 120th birthday (Deuteronomy 31:1-2) to the sons of Levi, Israel had not yet taken possession of the covenant land (Deuteronomy 31:21), and, in fact, all Israel has never been in or has never gained sovereign possession of the entirety of the promised covenant land (i.e. all of Lebanon and the land as far as the River Euphrates) because "all Israel" has never been observant of the Lord's Covenant Commandments. A portion or in part or a remnant thereof, yes, but never all of Israel. Nevertheless, the HaShemitah commandment and its reading every seventh year did occur on the appointed day of the Feast of Tabernacles before the assembled observant people of Israel.

3.) The LORD God's commandment did not specify a majority must be living in the land, rather it was conditioned to the God-fearing and observant of the Lord's Covenant who are living in the land crossed from the Jordan and taken as a possession.

I would also say Deuteronomy 31-33 makes clear the 'all Israel' being referenced is the same 'all Israel' as discussed by Paul in Romans 11 that will be saved; a remnant, a part thereof.

In Christ,
Sean

Nathan Jones said...

Good points, Sean, some of which Rabbi Cahn argued for on "Christ in Prophecy." We'll know if he's correct come September 2015.

Sean Osborne said...

Nathan,

Indeed, and in either case, the amount of time remaining is very, very short, but hopefully not so short that I cannot enjoy concluding my 61st orbit on 18 September next year - unless the Harpazo occurs first! :)

In Christ,
Sean

Bonnie said...

Anyone with half a brain can look at what's going on in America and realize it's destined for the wrath of God.

The problem with Mr.Cahn's book the Harbinger is if it is read purely as a novel, it has value but, he makes it immediately clear "what is contained within the story is real" (p.7). In other words, Cahn believes that God pronounced exacting judgement on America, and that judgement is found in Scripture, specifically Isaiah 9:10,11.

Cahn determines that this text in Isaiah contains a mysterious prophecy directed not to ancinet Israel but to modern America.

At this point the author massages Scripture, American history, and current events in an attempt to prove that God's judgement on the United States has been hiding in these verses but has now been unlocked by the careful investigation of Cahn.

Once someone decides they can cherry pick verses at will, change the meaning of these verses to fit one's theories, and use random hermeneutical methods, anything can be proven.

Very few people will recognize what Cahn has done.

David James has carefully, graciously and thoroughly analyzed the claims found in the Harbinger and found many of them lacking

"biblical support and historical accuracy"

in his book The Harbinger Fact or Fiction.

God's people are being led astry by false teachings and improper hermeneutical approaches.

Anonymous said...

While I do agree that the law of the Shemitah wasn't written to a gentile nation, God can use whatever method he wants to judge a Gentile nation, including wiping away financial accounts that just happens to be in the year or day of the Shemitah. I don't think its a coincidence that stock market collapses of 2001 and 2008 both fell on Elul 29 and fell 7% in both years and 777 points in 2008. God's fingerprints are written all over it. Also, Cahn will admit nobody knows when the Jubilee is and doesn't set dates but we should be watchful in 2016 since very signifant things happened to the Jewish people in 1917 and 1967. Whether we are experiencing judgment from God in the form of the shemitah, I hope we all can agree that God is calling us to repentance.

Steve said...

David, I think your article is accurate and kind. You did not attack Rabbi Cahn. I assume he is a sincere believer. But the points you made seem incontrovertible--the dates for the sabbatical year and Jubilee are uncertain and the Mosaic commandment applies to Israel only. Of course, Christ may indeed come in 2015, or today!

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Bonnie said...

Dear Steve,

You're exactly right!

That God expects or will impose a Shemitah upon any nation other than Israel has no scriptural basis. Neither do the Scriptures provide any indication that the Shemitah is some sort of universal principle that operates throughout or even at various times in history.

friscoman49 said...

Especially in the last 6 years their have been many changes in the way America worship the Lord God. The times they are a changing! Federal Judges approving same sex marriage, business forces to do business with things that go against their faith, Pot being sold across States for the revenue and with this all under the approving eyes of the current President and Attorney General. As far as Rabbi Cahn comments and prophecy concerning dates, times, places in the coming ages We as firm believers in the Gospel given to us Gentiles and even during Christ ministry here while on Earth forget it. No ONE knows when, where, how, so leave it along and pray for the Lord not to Tarry!

Anonymous said...

If Rabbi Cahn did not claim a covenant relationship in the first book. Why continue it in the second? One hardly needs to stretch scripture for judgement on America. Maybe the rabbi didn't make the covenant claim but it seems heavily implied at the least. His theme may be 100% correct but that doesn't give him a pass on hermeneutics. Thank you for the candid evaluation of the second book.

oscar thomas said...

The Mystery of the Shemitah is basically a book about the Biblical Sabbath and Now, since this is intended to be a balanced book review I would like to give a Christian Books here. thanks

Anonymous said...

Repentance must follow arrogance, pride, and self importance. Repent, doctor, or like the SCOTUS, you will fall.

Indiana Health Insurance said...

This book is fascinating; a truly remarkable work. Thank The Lord Jesus Christ for using Rabbi Jonathan Cahn to reveal these truths. One can only help to pray for America and hope that she will take heed, for her sake and for the sake of the world. Who will take the lead in this world if not America? God forbid that an enemy of the Western Hemisphere should take that position! Lord hear us, forgive us!