In the Hebrew Scriptures the word shemitah (shmee-tah) appears twice; once in Deuteronomy 15:1 and once in Deuteronomy 15:2. It literally means “release” (ESV). And these two verses begin a section in Deuteronomy dealing with Mosaic Covenant Laws regulating proper observance of the Sabbatical Year (15:1-18). The Sabbatical year was the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Mosaic Covenant that structured community life in the Promised Land of Israel. According then to Deuteronomy 15:2, the concept of release in this context is release in the sense of remission or cancellation of monetary or physical property debt. The other required aspect of the Sabbatical Year was a year-long cessation of all organized farming of the Land (Lev. 25:3-4).
There is no biblical support whatsoever for the idea that God would require any other nation to observe the Sabbatical year or that He would impose a Sabbatical-type judgment according to a seven-year cycle on any other nation. This means that the foundational premise of Jonathan Cahn’s book The Mystery of the Shemitah that God has brought warnings and judgment against the United States according to a seven-year cycle going back many decades is biblically flawed from the outset. And, as the author of the following recommended review points out; “…none of the overwhelming number of assertions and fact-claims throughout the book concerning economic trends, financial statistics and historical events are documented whatsoever” http://standupforthetruth.com/2014/09/book-review-mystery-shemitah/.
As a minister of the gospel seeking to inform the church at large of the missiological and eschatological significance of the Scripture’s inherent Jewish frame of reference, I find Cahn’s irresponsible eisegesis in The Mystery of the Shemitah offensive. I also suspect that its highly marketable scenario may actually divert people’s attention away from the church’s task and responsibility of Jewish evangelism (cf. Rom. 1:16; 11:11). Plus, the fact that his book is currently the #1 Best Seller in Amazon’s “Christian Prophecy” category speaks volumes about the woeful lack of doctrinal discernment and grasp of even the most rudimentary principles of biblical hermeneutics rampant in contemporary evangelicalism.
The truth is, in a North American context, in order for a work on bible prophecy to have mass appeal its central thesis has to somehow involve the U.S. because our natural tendency is to assume that it’s all about US! Nevertheless, in the big and genuine prophetic picture of things, Cahn’s popularity is just the latest in a long line of marketing flashes in the pan. And after its buzz has lost its steam, it will be discarded on the trash heap of the other unfounded, sensationalistic, and financially lucrative speculations that have come before it. I’m not advocating a minimalist approach to eschatology. I’m simply saying we shouldn’t extrapolate beyond the intended meaning of the inspired prophetic biblical text.
Bottom line, we don’t have to unravel so-called mysteries to know what’s coming around the bend. In His inerrant Word, God has already given us the beginning, middle, and end of the story. And truly that’s more than enough for all things pertaining to life and godliness (cf. 2 Peter 1:3).