Another 9/11 is now in our rearview mirror. When I watch the documentaries each September 11 and recall the horrific details of that infamous day, I am vividly reminded of what happened 16 years ago. Makes me think of the warning required on a vehicle’s passenger side window—“objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”
Most Americans vow to “never forget.” I think this is a good thing, lest we become overly confident that this sort of thing won’t happen again.
In 2015, I read the best-selling book “The Harbinger” by Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, which puts forth the premise that many things which happened on 9/11 symbolize and predict (as harbingers do) that another terrorist attack could be forthcoming. Many fascinating correlations between ancient Israel and modern America were brought up, with regard to terrorism.
One connection was that after the terrorist attack, U.S. government leaders used a Scripture—Isaiah 9:10—to encourage and inspire Americans. At first glance, this Scripture seems to bring hope: “They said, ‘We will replace the broken bricks of our ruins with finished stone, and replant the felled sycamore trees with cedars.’” U.S. Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle quoted the verse on September 12, 2001, as he presented a joint resolution expressing the consensus of the Senate and the House of Representatives to condemn the terrorist attack. He called it a passage from the Bible that “speaks to all of us at times like this.”
Vice-Presidential candidate Senator John Edwards quoted the same thing in Washington, D.C., at a special commemoration of the third anniversary of 9/11 in 2004. He introduced it by saying, “Today, on this day of remembrance and mourning, we have the Lord’s word to get us through.”
What neither of them realized was that this Scripture was not designed to bring hope…..but rather, judgment on the arrogant and defiant nation of Israel. I wanted to ask both of them, “Uh, fellows, didn’t you read the two verses before that one to get the discouraging context of it? Out of over 30,000 verses—many of which truly inspire hope—you picked this doomsday one?!”
However, the parallels between that Scripture and what happened on 9/11 are stunning. Israel’s formerly safe, powerful nation had been breached by terrorists—the Assyrians, who made terror a science, regularly skinning their enemies alive and nailing up the skins for public display. Their language was Akkadian whose closest modern equivalent is Arabic. Remind you anything?
When Israel’s brick structures lay in ruins (you’ve seen the pictures of Ground Zero after the 9/11 attack), the nation rallied in defiance to say, “We’ll rebuild, and this time we’ll use finished stone!” The Hebrew word for “finished” in that verse is “hewn, chiseled, cut, quarried, smooth.” They were proclaiming that this time they would use an even stronger building material.
There is nothing wrong with rebuilding with stronger material. The problem was that Israel’s statement reeked of defiance when God had clearly told them the attack had come because of their refusal to humble themselves to walk in His Godly old paths.
On July 4, 2004, a 20,000-ton chiseled stone—hewn out of the Adirondack Mountains in New York—was placed as a cornerstone for the rebuilding at Ground Zero. NY Governor Pataki said, “Today, we, the heirs of that revolutionary spirit of defiance, lay this cornerstone.” That word “defiance” surely sticks out to me.
Have you seen that Freedom Stone lately? No, neither have I. It was removed two years after it was placed and went to rest in some stone-yard.
What did Israel say next in Isaiah 9:10? That they would replace the fallen sycamore trees with cedars—again, taking the attitude that they would rebuild stronger after the terrorist attack. Sycamores were common trees of little value for building that grew in the lowlands, producing coarse wood.
Cedars, on the other hand, were strong trees that grew tall on the mountainsides—valued building material. The Hebrew word translated as “cedars” actually simply means a cone-bearing evergreen tree with the botanical classification of pinaceae—such as a pine, cedar, spruce, fir, etc.
On 9/11, when debris went flying as the Twin Towers collapsed, a very special tree was uprooted and became a symbol of 9/11 because it was credited with saving a church from destruction. When other buildings all around the World Trade Center area were destroyed, St. Paul’s Chapel was protected by a large English sycamore that took the blow instead.
Yes, it was a different type of sycamore tree from those in Israel, but the name was the same. And guess what the powers-that-be decided to plant in its place? Yep, a a cone-bearing evergreen tree with the botanical classification of pinaceae—in this case, a Norway Spruce.
Seen that tree lately? No, neither have I. Despite huge efforts to save it, it died and was removed.
In the Septuagint—the very old Greek translation of the Scriptures—Israel is quoted in Isaiah 9:10 as saying, “The bricks are fallen down…but come…let us build for ourselves a tower”—with the implication that they would build bigger and stronger than ever. What did America decide to build in the wake of 9/11? A tower. U.S. leaders proclaimed repeatedly that they wanted to make the Freedom Tower the tallest building in the world, but settled for making it simply the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.
The ruins, the chiseled stone, the tower, the sycamore, the cedar…..Did the people who orchestrated these amazing parallels do it on purpose—to align with exactly what happened in Isaiah 9:10? No. It “just happened.”
Or did it?
Truth is indeed stranger than fiction. The end of this story is that when Israel ignored the Almighty’s warnings in Isaiah 9 of coming judgment if they didn’t repent of their defiant, arrogant ungodliness, the Assyrians attacked yet again and this time decimated the country.
Cahn’s premise is that these parallels between what happened to Israel with the Assyrians and what happened to America on 9/11 could be harbingers of yet another attack on the U.S. if we take the route of defiance as opposed to repentance. Is he right?
Time will tell.
I pray it’s not like looking in the rearview mirror without realizing that what you thought was far away and past may be closer than you think. I—the perpetual wearer of rose-colored glasses—am not a doomsday prophet, but realism calls for me to remove said glasses periodically.
And realism says that those who don’t take history into account are doomed to repeat it. My heart’s cry is that we learn from the past and move peacefully into our future.
Leslie Bray Brewer can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her blog is at http://timesofrefreshingontheoldpaths.wordpress.com.