Review by Donna Lee Schillinger
If the Mayan calendar piqued your interest, you might be interested in this meatier mystery, which is also far more likely. Conspiracy theorists, doomsdayers and prophecy aficionados will be able to sink their teeth into The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that Holds the Secret to America’s Future. Author Jonathan Cahn is a messianic Jew, which for some hard-to-articulate reason seems to add credibility to his fictitious expository of the non-fictitious premise that an ancient prophecy in the book of Isaiah is being fulfilled for a second time, this time in the United States of America.
Written as a soft science-fiction mystery along the lines of National Treasure (with less action), Cahn’s writing style is so repetitive that I wondered several times if my cat was playing a dirty trick on me and moving my bookmark back a few pages. I concluded that Cahn must live with a senile grandparent for whom he has to repeat things often. Either that or the publisher gave him an ultimatum, “Add 50 more pages by tomorrow!” The book could have easily been half its size with all plot points intact.
The book is based on a series of concurrences between the prophecy in Isaiah 9:10 and the events of 9/11 and aftermath. (See one already, 9:10, 9/11? Also, Cahn recently confirmed that in the One-Year Bible, from 1985 through 2001, Isa. 9:10 was in the reading for September 11.) Cahn reveals the concurrences as nine harbingers, each in a symbolic seal, which the main character has to figure out with the help of an unnamed angel in a trench coat. But get bogged down in plot—Cahn only wrote it that way because he rightly knew more people would read a story than a straight analysis. I read eagerly awaited the tipping point where Cahn’s argument would give me goose bumps. Half-way through the book, I was still thinking this sounded more like that time when a family member tried to convince me we were related to England’s Prince John. The acrobatics and contrivances… just… too… much!
Let me add that I am not a skeptic and I believe the entire premise is within the realm of possibility. And yet there was only one concurrence which, upon reading, caused my eyes to widen, nostrils to flare and eyebrows to rise. Turns out that George Washington, after delivering the first presidential address to Congress on April 30, 1789, led the legislators in a foot-procession to a little stone church to consecrate this nation to God. The very spot where that little stone church sat is, today, Ground Zero. (Cue theme from Twilight.)
There are others too… many others. (OK, kill the music.)
Could some Biblical prophecy pertain to the United States? Certainly; but it seems more likely that applying Biblical prophecy to our country and our times is just another form of rampant nationalism and ethnocentrism. The United States has the makings of a great nation, but the jury is still out on whether we will earn that status in the annals of history. After all, 230 years isn’t much of a track record in the big picture. Look at the Mayan and Aztec empires, both of which lasted at least twice as long as we have – nobody’s pegging them for a role in Biblical prophecy. Too geographically small, you say? What about the Mongol Empire which stretched from present-day Vietnam to Hungary? They had it going on, but now, with a few hundred years of perspective, who gives them much thought? Even if we get “great civilization” status some day, that doesn’t mean God has a special role for our country in His plan. We need to take into account the underlying assumptions of self-importance in Cahn’s premise, without discounting it altogether on that basis.
Sadly, end times prophecy attracts a lot of kooks, and this book has been touted by them all! But don’t let that dissuade you from giving it a contemplative look.
The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery that holds the Secret to America’s Future by Jonathan Cahn. ©2011 272pp. $16.99 (but sells for less on Amazon.com)