Program Description: Tom welcomes his guest David James of the Alliance for Biblical Integrity as they discuss Jonathan Cahn's latest book The Mystery of the Shemitah.
Gary: Welcome to Search the Scriptures 24/7, a radio ministry of The Berean Call featuring T.A. McMahon. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for joining us. In today’s program, Tom welcomes Dave James, author of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? Now, along with his guest, here’s TBC executive director Tom McMahon.
Tom: Thanks, Gary. Today we’re going to be discussing an extremely popular book that’s related to another very popular multimillion-dollar selling book that we addressed last year. It’s titled The Mystery of Shemitah authored by Jonathan Cahn. Now, his other related book, which was atop the New York Times Best Sellers list, is The Harbinger published by Charisma Publishers. Our guest who will give us his thoughts on the book is Dave James, and he’s the author of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? which took issue with Jonathan Cahn’s bestseller.
Dave: Thanks, Tom! Always good to be with you.
Tom: Yeah! Dave, let’s start with a summary of The Harbinger and what you took issue with.
Dave: Well, The Harbinger – just the word “harbinger,” a lot of people don’t even know what that is. The word harbinger means an omen or a sign…
Dave: …and the underlying premise of The Harbinger is that in Isaiah:9:10 there are nine identifiable harbingers or signs or omens that happened – or things that happened in ancient Israel. Isaiah:9:10 is directed toward the northern kingdom of ancient Israel, God warning them that judgment was coming, and that to them it would come through the Assyrians.
Tom: Dave, I just want you to underscore the point. You said, “…God warning them that judgment is coming.” You see, this was not a warning to repent or to turn around, this was a judgment that God was – He’s declaring a judgment to come, right?
Dave: Right. They had gone too far, and so He was preparing to send the Assyrian army in to execute His judgment.
Tom: Right. So again, I’m jumping a little ahead, but I want our listeners to understand that, because when you get to the point of the supposed parallel between 9/11 and God’s judgment against the northern kingdom of Israel, there’s no warning to repent in Isaiah:9:10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17… you know, on and on, right?
Dave: Right, right. The judgment is at hand.
Dave: Absolutely. Well, so to continue then, Jonathan Cahn believes that he has found nine of these signs in Isaiah:9:10 – which I would take issue whether there’s actually nine there, and whether they’re even signs at all…
Dave: …but beyond that, he believes that those things that happen to ancient Israel have been replaying on American soil, beginning with the terrorist attacks of 9/11 when the planes went into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon and crashed, and the fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania, and he was saying that this was God’s warning. And then he enumerates nine different things that he believed that ancient Israel suffered, or happened in ancient Israel, and said exactly those same things have been happening in America. So his entire book is built upon that premise, and his goal – his stated goal – is to, in light of that, get Americans to repent and turn back to God, the One whom they have abandoned that was once dedicated to God and now America’s turned her back. And so this is a warning shot, a shot across the bow, if you will, to America.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now, Dave, I don’t know anybody – Bible-believing Christian or otherwise – who doesn’t recognize that America needs to repent. [Laughs] I mean, look, you know the way we’re going; it should be obvious to everybody, where obviously as a nation that, you know, we don’t have a covenant with God, but we are – we have been for the most part a Christian nation, and we’re getting so far away from that. I mean, even the church within America has issues or serious problems along that line. So the purpose of your book, and because we published it – that’s why I’m speaking on behalf of the publisher – was to consider something that supposedly used the Bible, used the Scriptures, [and] used prophecy to more than imply that America needs to repent – we agree with that, but you cannot abuse the Scripture. You can’t distort the Scriptures to make your case. It’s a matter of the end justifies the means, and in this case what you’ve been writing about, what you’re saying, and what we agree with is that the means are fallacious – they’re in serious error. So you can’t be a Berean – you cannot judge these things by the Scriptures if you just buy what Jonathan Cahn has written [and] what he has to say without checking it out.
Dave: Look, that’s right. You know, an illustration just occurred to me as you were talking: it’s not a lot different than saying somebody who’s living in sin is eating an apple and he chokes on it, and then somebody goes to Genesis 3 and says, “Because on the day that you eat of this fruit, you will surely die,” somebody tries to say, “Okay, this was a warning to that person.” It’s really not any different than that.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Dave, so that’s our concern, your concern with The Harbinger. But now we have his new book The Mystery of Shemitah. Well, first of all, you gave us a good definition of harbinger – what about Shemitah? What’s that all about?
Dave: Well, the Hebrew word Shemitah actually means “release,” and so what happened is just as in the law God set aside the seventh day of the week as the day of rest, He also set aside the seventh year as a year of rest for the land, so there was not to be any planting or harvesting during the seventh year. And in preparation for that, it was actually a year of blessing, because in the sixth year He caused the land to produce three times what it normally would so that it would carry them through the seventh year and then on into the eighth year until the harvest came. So another thing that happened was that at the last day of that seventh year, debtors were to be released from the debts that they owed to their creditors, whoever they had borrowed from was to wipe the slate clean, and so they were released. That’s where the word Shemitah comes from: they were released from their debt. And so that began to be applied to that day, and then applied to the whole year, that seventh year. So when we talk about Shemitah, we’re actually talking about the Sabbath year, one year every seven years when the land would rest and debts would be wiped clean.
Tom: Mm-hmm. And then to take it just a step further, after 49 years of that there would be a jubilee year, which is related to this law that God had laid out for Israel. So now all of that… Dave, God has a covenant with Israel, so this is part of his covenant: laying out the laws for them, which they were to obey and follow. What happened when they did not follow those laws?
Dave: Well, whenever they didn’t follow those laws, then there would ultimately be judgment either sooner or later, and as it turns out concerning ancient Israel, the biggest problem was that in ancient Israel and what brought judgment was the fact that they had turned from the God of Israel to worship idols. That happened because they married foreign wives from pagan nations, and they brought the idol worship into Israel. And as a result, Israel abandoned observing the law, and they abandoned observing the seventh or Sabbath year, the Shemitah year…
Dave: …and they did that for 70 cycles for 490 years. So what happened was that God ultimately took them into captivity into Babylon, forcing the land to be fallow, or to not produce anything, for those 70 years that Israel had missed. So it was a long-term judgment that God imposed upon Israel.
Tom: Now, Dave, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but you addressed this in The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? and I believe it was chapter 14 – didn’t you deal with Shemitah in that entire chapter?
Dave: Well, yeah, I did. There is a corresponding chapter in The Harbinger called The Mystery of the Shemitah, so the title of the new book is the same as one of the titles in The Harbinger. And a lot of times, people – when they think about The Harbinger, they think about those nine harbingers and the terrorist attacks of 9/11, but that’s really only about half or two-thirds of the book, and that’s called the “first shaking.” The second half of the book, of The Harbinger, has to do with the financial collapses in 2001 and 2008 that he says are tied to this seven-year cycle that was imposed upon Israel. So once again, he’s taking something that was exclusively and uniquely given to Israel and he says that God is now judging America according to that seven-year cycle.
Tom: Now, let’s go back to a point that you brought up in the book – and he, Jonathan Cahn, continues to affirm this in lots of different ways – and that is that America has – or let’s say God has a covenant with America. Does God have a covenant with America?
Dave: Well, no, He doesn’t. And what we have found over the past couple of years as we have dealt with this and the people who have criticized us is that everyone says that, “Well, Jonathan Cahn has not said that America has a covenant the way ancient Israel did.” But what happens is that in the beginning of The Harbinger, the whole foundation for the entire book is built on the idea that the founding fathers, even going back to the Puritans and pilgrims, that their intention was to establish a new Israel. Now, he would say that they weren’t necessarily right, but this was the intention. And so his argument is that America is only the second nation in history that was dedicated to God from its foundation. And another thing that is said is that God may not have accepted it as a covenant, but the founders wanted to make a covenant with God and saw it as that way, and so he builds his entire premise upon that. You’ve got all kinds of problems with that. If you just look at the founding of the country, Free Masonry is built into the very fabric, and that’s paganism that’s built into the very fabric of the beginning of the country. You can go to Washington D.C. and see it all over the place. In the dome of the capitol building, you have what’s called the Apotheosis of George Washington, which is him actually being deified as he’s received into heaven. So there are all kinds of problems with trying to lay that as a foundation.
Tom: Yeah, and in particular let’s go back to the Puritans, the pilgrims, they – I don’t care what they thought [laughs], because the basis for calling this the “new Israel” was replacement theology – that is, that Israel, you know, rejected Christ, therefore all things are supposedly related to Israel now relate to the church. So that’s erroneous from the get-go, that there is no replacement theology except in the minds of those who take the reformed position… Well, there are many others who buy into that. The Roman Catholic Church, for example, it’s all replacement theology that Israel may be a land there, but it certainly has no biblical significance and so on, except that Israel, the new Israel, is the church.
Now, let’s take it a step further…
Dave: Well, think about this just for a moment: you know, again, despite all of the objections to the contrary saying that he’s never comparing or never saying that America is a new Israel, even in his new book, The Mystery of the Shemitah, chapter 7, this is the title – I’m looking at it right now: “Fourth Key: The Secret Israel.” And then his second section is called “The Israel of the New World.” So, you know, being a Jewish believer, the argument is how could a Jewish believer actually be a replacement theologian? Well, it’s not classic replacement theology, but there’s something going on there in his thinking that is elevating America to a place that is if not a replacement – I’m starting to call it parallel theology rather than replacement theology.
Tom: Mm-hmm. The other example that you gave of George Washington which he likes to emphasize – and that is because George Washington was our first president, and because he in his inauguration (which takes place in New York), even though he’s in Masonic garb and he places his hand on a Masonic Bible, the parade even in New York was Masonic affair. You can see these in the paintings – you mentioned Washington D.C.
So what am I getting at here? The point is that you can’t select these things and say, “These are of God,” or as he tries to say, “Well, although they were mistaken, God still accepted this.” And this fits into America having a parallel or – let’s call it a covenant with…you know, God has a covenant with America. Maybe not the same as Israel, but it’s enough at least for Jonathan Cahn to build on. But it’s erroneous from the get-go. It’s like saying the Mormon church, because they have their own theology, their own ideas, their own issues with regard to America, that somehow just because – although they were wrong – just because they moved in the direction of God that it’s legitimate. No! No, it’s not legitimate, and it really perverts [and] distorts the Scriptures, and I want to keep going back to that, Dave, because that’s what your book is about. It has to do with hermeneutics. It has to do with somebody interprets the Scripture, and as soon as you massage that around, as soon as you corrupt that, you’re out of business in terms of truth, in terms of what God has said, and then you’re going to be in trouble.
Dave: Well, you know, there’s actually even sort of a parallel in the Scriptures – you know, and going back to Scriptures, you talk about even the prayer that George Washington did in which he committed the nation to God; because it’s wrapped in Masonic garb, he’s not really praying to the God of the Bible.
Dave: You know, what occurred to me was it’s no different than what happened back in the wilderness with Israel when Aaron fashioned a golden calf, and remember what he said? He said, “This is the god who took us out of Egypt.” And later it’s even referred to as Yahweh, and it doesn’t matter what you call that golden calf; it doesn’t matter if you think that you’re worshipping the God of the heavens, the God of Israel; you’re actually not, and that’s what has happened at the founding of the country.
Tom: Right. So now we have – just to recap just a little bit – now we have the law that was given to Israel, and now it’s applied to the United States: this is the law of Shemitah. And again, how somebody would buy that, that America is under the effects, at least, or the influence of a law that God gave to Israel – to me, I don’t get it. I don’t know how you…he’s written a whole book about it.
But let’s go to your issues with The Mystery of Shemitah. He gives facts; he gives dates. Most of the readers are spellbound, even in The Harbinger – what did we call it? We call it, “Well, here’s the ‘wow’ issue.” But nobody checked out…I mean, you did, but very few, especially those who have bought into his book and what it’s about. Many have said, “Wow! Look at this, and look at that!” Well, is it really a “wow” issue?
Dave: Well, you know, this is from the perspective of someone who does research and who grades papers at the graduate level for students who do things without documentation. This is one of my great concerns. You know, in The Harbinger, okay, you can sort of hide behind the idea that it’s fiction, even though he said it’s 90 percent fact…
Dave: …and he says lots of things there, and he documents a little, but very, very little. But when you get to The Mystery of the Shemitah, this is a non-fiction book, and as you said, it lists dozens – it literally bombards the reader with facts and figures and statistics, and the fact is there is not a single documentation, not a footnote, that relates to any of those facts and figures. To be honest, I have a hard time understanding why a publisher would let somebody do that, because, I mean, it causes problems for them, too.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Well, give us some examples.
Dave: Sure. For example, he talks about stock market crashes happening on certain days by certain numbers of points…
Dave: …and he goes through these various cycles. His book is filled with graphs of the ups ad downs, and he marks all these dates and everything connected with this trying to show a seven-year cycle. But then he doesn’t document where he got this information. So actually, as a researcher, I’ve been going back to try and find out where he did get the information, and what I’ve found is it seems to be from sources that even colleges and universities don’t accept in their papers that they get from students.
Dave: So – and again, I think because he’s established himself in the minds of many to be in authority, that he’s able to bombard you with all of these things. And like you said, who is going to go through and check any of this out? Very, very few people. And so it’s just accepted as gospel truth.
Tom: Yeah. Now, you know, I did – certainly you’ve done research, but I have a friend who’s in investment counseling, and you know, without biasing him in any way, I just ran – I selected facts, the dates, and so on – particularly the facts of percentages, the facts of statements he made to, you know, the Dow Jones, all of that – and the guy got back to me and said, “I don’t know where he got these things but first of all, they’re not exact. Some of them are in the ballpark.” But let’s talk about that for a second, Dave: if this is the “wow” factor, the wow factor meaning that God explicitly set a particular number to demonstrate that this was God and nobody else, do those facts – do those numbers really match up to something according to what he says?
Dave: Well, knowing me, you’re probably going to enjoy this: yesterday I found a website that has the return for every month back to 1950, and so I transferred those numbers, typed every one into a spread sheet, and I’m looking at these numbers and the rise and fall, and interestingly, what you find is that there has been a tremendous amount of cherry picking going on.
Tom: Now, what…now, some people may not understand that.
Dave: Meaning that there’s a selective use of the facts. You find certain facts that support your theory, and you ignore other facts. And when I typed all those numbers out into a table, I began seeing that it is not the picture that is being painted in the book. There’s another place I found that has a graph that graphs the rise and fall of the American economy and the stock market, and you would get the impression from The Mystery of the Shemitah that God has been exercising this huge, tremendous judgment on America every seven years. But when you look at this graph, the topside of the graph, which shows the growth, is just incredibly large, and then the ones where it drops below are just miniscule in comparison.
Dave: So you have this distortion, and another thing I found was his graphs are distorted by scale. I found another chart that actually graphs the SRP-500 which he uses, and then I laid his graph over it, and you can see that it’s distorted proportionately to just convey an idea of the magnitude that just is not there in reality.
Tom: Mm-hmm. Now first, maybe some of our listeners who are totally into The Harbinger and now Mystery of Shemitah, they said, “Oh, why are you nitpicking? What are you doing with this?” Folks, listen, if this supposedly has the stamp of God on it, the details – like he uses the numbers 777.7 – I challenge anybody to find that anywhere that you might find 776.58, or 778 point something, and you say, “Well, see, that’s close enough.” No, it’s not close enough; if this has the stamp of God on it, God doesn’t play games with numbers and so on. So my point is – our point is, right Dave? – that people who are like, “Wow, look at that! That’s the hand of God!” No, it’s not! That’s not the way God works.
Dave: Well, you know, another thing that struck me is the fudge factor that he has built into this to create the wow factor. So what he’s done is he’ll say the Shemitah, which falls on Elul 29, it’s the last day of the year; the next month is Tishri, and so his contention is that the stock market collapsed in 2001 on Elul 29, which it did, and in 2008, but that’s two. But then he goes back 40, 50, 60 years, and then he builds in a fudge factor so if anything happened within a month or two of that afterward, or he talks about the buildup, then you can have a month or two ahead of that, or even more. So you’ve got this thing – this target that’s floating all over the place and does not represent the hallmark of God’s precise intervention.
Tom: My guest, folks, is Dave James. He’s the author of The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? And we’re addressing Jonathan Cahn’s new book The Mystery of Shemitah. We’re out of time right now, Dave, for this session, but we’re going to pick up with this, the Lord willing, in our next session. Thanks, Dave, for being with us.
Dave: Thanks, Tom. Always good to be with you.
Gary: You’ve been listening to Search the Scriptures 24/7 with T.A. McMahon, a radio ministry of The Berean Call. Dave James’ book The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? is available from The Berean Call. We offer a wide variety of resources to help you in your study of God’s Word. For a complete list of materials and a free subscription to our monthly newsletter, contact us at PO Box 7019 Bend, Oregon 97708. Call us at 800-937-6638, or visit our website at thebereancall.org. I’m Gary Carmichael. Thanks for tuning in, and we hope you can be here again next week. Until then, we encourage you to Search the Scriptures 24/7.