WorldNetDaily editor Joseph Farah has a new enthusiasm – a book entitled Harbinger, by Jonathan Cahn of the Jerusalem Center-Beth Israel Congregation in Wayne, N.J. Cahn has found examples of a couple of (Democratic) politicians using a Bible verse out of context, in a way that Farah believes (or purports to believe) is of wider spiritual significance:
“…I am persuaded God is trying to tell America something and Rabbi Cahn has found the key to unlocking the message.”
The misused text is Isaiah 9:10:
“The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change them into cedars.”
These words were first uttered by leaders in Israel and in response to a limited strike by Assyria on the lands of Zebulun and Naphtali – an attack the prophet makes clear is actually part of a limited judgment by God against apostasy. It wasn’t meant to destroy the nation, but to awaken it, according to most commentaries.
But, says Cahn, Israel didn’t take the cue. Instead, the response from the people in Isaiah 9:10 is one of defiance. The brick buildings were toppled, but they vowed to build bigger and better. The little sycamore trees may have been uprooted, but they vowed to plant bigger and better cedars in their place.
In the wake of 9/11, the verse was quoted by Tom Daschle, and three years later by Senator Jonathan Edwards:
“Like Daschle, Edwards thinks he’s invoking inspirational and comforting words from the Bible, but he’s actually inviting judgment on America,” says Cahn. “He’s repeating the vow that provoked God to bring calamity on ancient Israel.”
WND helpfully provides footage of both quotes, overlaid some with brooding Philip Glass music for extra sinister effect.
Of course, quote-mining the Bible in a way that does violence to authorial intent and context is a commonplace vice (indeed, Farah is himself a frequent offender), although it’s depressing to see such a howler from supposedly well-educated public figures. One could make a sensible point about the shallowness and self-serving nature of what passes for a good deal of public religion. However, Farah and Cahn tell us that it’s more than that, as they read occult significance into a couple of details around the redevelopment of Ground Zero:
There was actually a very famous sycamore tree felled in the attack on the World Trade Center. It was replaced by trees in the same genus as the cedar. There have been many plans made to rebuild the twin towers bigger and better and a large “hewn stone” was actually quarried out of the Adirondack Mountains in New York and brought to Ground Zero as a cornerstone.
The new trees at the site are pines are rather cedars, and it’s unclear how they “replace” the famous sycamore that stood near St Paul’s Chapel, but apparently we can dispense with literalism when it suits.
UPDATE: WND has now knocked out a second article on the subject. The article clarifies that the apocalyptic tree is a conifer planted in St Paul’s Churchyard as a “Tree of Hope” in 2003, and that the Hebrew word erez, usually translated as “cedar”, is also used to mean the pine tree. It’s still moronic, though: the Biblical verse refers to trees in the plural, yet Cahn can’t make his mind up whether the “Tree of Hope” in particular or the pine trees in the general vicinity are of eschatological significance.
Perhaps its also worth spelling out a more general point: Isaiah 9:10 and its adjacent verses are an interpretation of the destruction of the ancient northern kingdom of Israel. The author is not interested in a terrorist attack happening thousands of years later on a distant land mass he had no inkling even existed.
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