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Title: The Mystery of the Shemitah


Author: Jonathan Cahn

ISBN No.: 978-1-62998-193-2

Publishing Date: September 2014

Availability in London: Creation Bookstore and the Mustard Seed.

Reviewed by: David James Executive Director, The Alliance for Biblical Integrity


Christian Life in London's BOOK MARK™ has become a very popular segment of the monthly e-publication and we are pleased to be able to provide our readers with reviews of Christian books written by respected critics.

Recently we received the request for a review of the best seller: The Mystery of the Shemitah
 by Jonathan Cahn. The Mystery of the Shemitah is the follow up book to The Harbinger, the highly debated novel published in 2012.

The Review by David James

The Harbinger by Jonathan Cahn became the #1 Christian book of 2012, set publishing records, reached publishing milestones and propelled the author to a very high-profile position on the national and even international stage.

Because The Harbinger was riddled with biblical errors, theological flaws and historical misrepresentations, what started out as a 2-3 page book review, quickly turned into a book-length response and led to The Berean Call publishing my first book, The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction?

On September 2, 2014, Jonathan Cahn's third book, The Mystery of the Shemitah was released to book retailers and was already ranked very high at its debut just on pre-orders alone. As can be seen from the current rankings on Amazon.com, it is clear that The Mystery of the Shemitah needed to be carefully examined to determine if the errors in The Harbinger have been corrected or perpetuated in this new volume.

Although I have already done five interviews discussing this book, the article below is the first evaluation in writing to appear on the ABI website. I trust that you will take time to carefully consider my concerns and that you will feel free to contact me with your thoughts, either positive or negative. (If you have trouble posting a comment, please send me an email to let me know.)

And finally, my purpose for evaluating and critiquing The Mystery of the Shemitah is two-fold:

First, because so many people were influenced by The Harbinger and because this new book is already a best-seller, the Body of Christ needs to see that there is another side of the story that might not be completely obvious to some. And even for those who might sense something isn't quite right, many won’t really work through the sometimes slow and often laborious task of carefully checking to make sure everything is correct.

Second, just as one of my goals in writing The Harbinger: Fact or Fiction? was to model the process of discernment, the same is true of this article. First and foremost, discernment involves checking everything against the Word of God to make sure all of the arguments, theories and claims are biblically sound. And then, beyond the biblical side of things, discernment also frequently involves evaluating the logic of arguments, the veracity of assertions from a historical perspective, and even the proper use of statistics which can be framed such that the true picture is obscured and hidden from the reader, even if unintentionally.

SUMMARY
The Mystery of the Shemitah, which went to its second printing the day it was released, builds on the concepts and theories Jonathan Cahn first presented in The Harbinger, particularly those in the chapter also titled "The Mystery of the Shemitah." The author’s theory is that God has visited warnings and / or judgment against the United States according to a seven-year cycle going back many decades. Although this reviewer agrees that America is deserving of God's judgment and a call to repentance is definitely in order, the foundational premise of this book is biblically flawed from the outset. The Shemitah (Jewish Sabbath year) was an obligation given specifically and exclusively to the nation of Israel, and there is no biblical support for the idea that God would either require any other nation to observe the Shemitah year or that He would impose a Shemitah-type judgment according to a seven-year cycle on any nation, including Israel itself. Beyond this, the Shemitah, being a Sabbath and an integral part of the Law of Moses, was completely fulfilled in Christ and is no longer in operation (even it actually did affect other nations prior to the Cross).

Furthermore, none of the overwhelming number of assertions and fact-claims throughout the book concerning economic trends, financial statistics and historical events are documented whatsoever, raising the question of the source of the author’s information, the accuracy of that information, and why this most basic and necessary aspect of any research-based non-fiction book is completely missing. The burden of proof for such assertions and claims should never be on the reader if an author is to be taken seriously. In addition, the integrity of any publisher is rightly called into question when an author doesn’t cite his sources.

The bottom line is that, unfortunately, the significant problems that plague The Harbinger have possibly been exceeded in this book and so should give pause to anyone who takes the Word of God seriously.

BACKGROUND
In the Law of Moses, God required that His chosen people, the Children of Israel, cease from their work on the seventh day of each week (the Sabbath). In addition to the Sabbath day, the Lord also instructed Israel to observe every seventh year as a Sabbath, as well. During the Sabbath year, the Israelites were to allow the land to rest from planting and harvesting and to allow whatever came up on its own to be picked by the poor among them. (Exodus 23:10-12; Leviticus 25:1-7) And just as God had provided a double-portion of manna on the 6th day of each week while the Israelites were in the wilderness so they would not have to work on the Sabbath, the Lord actually tripled the harvest in the sixth year to carry them through to the harvest in the first year of the new seven-year cycle.

Not only was it an agrarian cycle, but it was an economic one, as well. On the last day of the Sabbath year, lenders were required to forgive or "release" (the meaning of "Shemitah") borrowers from the obligation of repaying their debts. (Deuteronomy 15:1) Over time, the last day of the Sabbath year and the year itself came to be known as the "Shemitah" (pronounced sh'mi'-tah). Although one would naturally suppose that such a system would wreck an economy and the lives of those who possessed enough to be lenders rather than borrowers, once again keeping the Lord's command in this matter would be a source of blessing rather than hardship:

...for the Lord will greatly bless you in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance—only if you carefully obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe with care all these commandments which I command you today. For the Lord your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you. (Deuteronomy 15:4a-6)

Among other serious sins, the Israelites disobeyed the Lord’s command not to take foreign wives who came from nations where idolatry and the worship of false gods was practiced (Deuteronomy 7:1-5). As a result, the idolatrous practices and pagan worship of those nations became an integral part of Israel's own religious practices. Consequently, the worship of the one true God was largely abandoned and the Law of Moses was largely ignored. By the end of the sixth century B.C., Israel had failed to observe a total of seventy Sabbath / Shemitah years.

In judgment against Israel's pervasive and persistent sin, God used the Babylonian empire to execute judgment upon the southern kingdom of Judah beginning in 606 B.C., just as He had used the Assyrians over a century earlier against the northern kingdom of Israel. In addition to ultimately leveling Jerusalem and destroying the temple, the Babylonians carried away large numbers of Israelites into captivity—a captivity that lasted for 70 years—one year for each Sabbath year that the nation had failed to observe the Shemitah. Thus, because of this God-imposed Shemitah with the Israelites being in captivity in Babylon, the Promised Land “rested” for the same number of years that the Israelites had failed to allow the land to rest as the Lord had commanded (2 Chronicles 36:20-21).

EVALUATION
The fundamental premise of The Mystery of the Shemitah is that not only did God require the nation of Israel to observe the Shemitah / Sabbath year, but that there is also a mystery connected to the Shemitah such that there is a seven-year cycle woven into the very fabric of history and the order of the universe—a cycle that can and does affect other nations and even the entire world. According to Jonathan Cahn, this mystery manifests itself through various calamities, including natural disasters, wars, and financial crises that tend to occur according to this seven-year cycle on the Hebrew calendar when God is trying to get the attention of a nation and warn her of impending judgment.

Based on his unbiblical view of the United States in God's program, Cahn argues that the Lord continues to follow the same seven-year cycle in His dealings with America that He established for ancient Israel in the Law of Moses. And just as God imposed a "Shemitah" upon the nation of Israel as a judgment, forcing the land to rest for seventy years, likewise He has been visiting calamities upon this country as warning of impending judgment through stock market crashes, economic crises and various other cataclysmic events—all because of the mystery of the Shemitah.

Throughout the book, the author goes to great lengths in an attempt to demonstrate that this has been going on for at least a century. And as he did in The Harbinger, Jonathan Cahn contends that the most recent cluster of devastating events began with the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001 on the World Trade Center towers, the Pentagon, and United Airlines flight #93 (which he collectively refers to as "the first shaking").

Furthermore, Cahn claims that the mystery of the Shemitah has been working in conjunction with what he calls the "Isaiah 9:10 Effect" and has manifested itself as a "second shaking" with the precipitous fall of the stock market on the last day of the Shemitah year in both 2001 and 2008, according to the modern Hebrew calendar.

However, before one gets too excited or becomes convinced that "Cahn has done it again" (as some have put it), a number of things need to be considered. Unfortunately, there are so many significant issues in this new book that rival or surpass the problems in The Harbinger, it seems that The Mystery of the Shemitah may be an even more fragile house of cards than Cahn’s first book.

Reviewer: David James Executive Director, ABI
Dave's undergraduate degree is in engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and his masters is in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary.

He also holds a diploma in Biblical Studies from the Word of Life Bible Institute. He served with Word of Life Fellowship for 21 years, with 16 of those years as the Founding Director of the Word of Life Bible Institute in Hungary.

As the Executive Director for ABI, Dave is responsible for ministry development, teaching, research and writing, as well as the technical aspects of developing and maintaining the ABI website.

Dave continues to teach and preach in many venues including in Word of Life Bible Institutes around the world, as an adjunct professor for Grace College in the Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, as a conference speaker and is also available for pulpit supply. djames@biblicalintegrity.org