Hawaii is still reeling from wildfires that broke out earlier this month, killing at least 115 in Lahaina on the island of Maui. More than 17,000 acres were burned and over 2,200 buildings destroyed, with damages totaling nearly six billion dollars. There are still at least 388 people reported missing in what has been listed as the deadliest US wildfire in more than a century.
Officials are saying that the fire began when high winds brought down power poles, slapping electrified wires to the dry grass below. A drought in the region provided plenty of kindling, and the fire spread quickly due to the strong winds up to 65 mph generated by Hurricane Dora, which passed 500 miles to the south of Maui.
Blame is focused on the electric company as many of the utility’s 60,000 mostly wooden power poles built to an obsolete 1960s standard were leaning and near the end of their projected lifespan. At least 30 poles toppled, many bearing electric lines that were uninsulated. Hawaiian Electric also faced criticism for not shutting off the power amid high wind warnings and keeping it on even as dozens of poles began to topple. Hawaiian Electric is facing lawsuits, including one from Maui County, that seek to hold it responsible.
The local government is also being blamed as Maui County emergency officials declined to use an extensive network of emergency sirens to alert Lahaina’s residents to flee. Hawaii has the world’s largest integrated outdoor siren warning system, with over 80 sirens on Maui alone meant to be used in cases of natural disasters. But in monthly tests held two weeks before the fires, sirens failed three times in three counties. Power and cellular outages for residents further stymied communication efforts.
Many roads were closed by police due to fires and downed power lines. In some areas, residents were told to shelter in place. Others fled to the ocean with mixed success. Survivors later recalled getting trapped in a traffic jam and realizing they needed to go into the water when cars around them either caught fire or exploded. The disaster resembles a 2018 wildfire in Paradise, California, where 84 people died in devastating wildfires. In the aftermath, Pacific Gas & Electric pled guilty to one felony count of unlawfully starting a fire and paid a fine of $3.5 million in what many felt was a pitiful judgment.
Natural disasters of epic proportions are certainly described in the Bible, and the Hawaii wildfires are no exception, as hinted at by the Prophet Isaiah:
He makes the winds His messengers, fiery flames His servants. Psalms 104:4
Yeranen Yaakov, a Jewish Biblical blogger, notes that the Gematria (Hebrew numerology) of this verse (עֹשֶׂ֣ה מַלְאָכָ֣יו רוּח֑וֹת מְ֝שָׁרְתָ֗יו אֵ֣שׁ לֹהֵֽט׃) is 2,403. He noted that this is precisely equal to the sentence “שרפת להיינה במאווי בהוואי בארה”ב ביום כ”א מנחם אב התשפ”ג” (The fire in Lahaina in Maui in Hawaii in the USA on the 21st day of the month of Menachem Av [in the year] 5763.”
Similarly, California received a triple hit last week when Tropical Storm Hilary unleashed torrential record rains and flooding across Southern California, and a 5.1 magnitude earthquake struck near Ojai — all during what has historically been the state’s wildfire season. Southern California suffered flash floods, mudslides, thunderstorms, strong winds, and power outages. The internet dubbed the event a “hurriquake”.
Yeranen Yaakov also noted that this terrifying series of events was described in another verse which seems to give the order of events: storm then fire, “even though there is agreement that this verse is referring to the downfall of Ashur”.
She shall be remembered of the lord of Hosts With roaring, and shaking, and deafening noise, Storm, and tempest, and blaze of consuming Fire. Isaiah 29:6
Another interesting Biblical connection was made by Joel Klenck, a Senior Lecturer of Archaeology and Cultural Heritage for the Centre of Samoan Studies at the National University of Samoa, in his book, The United States in Biblical Prophecy. In his book, Klenck relates the Biblical reference to the “coastlands”. While this clearly refers to the Mediterranean Coast of Israel, Klenck notes that this also is used to refer to other coastal regions such as Tarshish and Sheba (Psalms 72:10, Isaiah 66:19). Isaiah 11:11 notes Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and the coastlands. The twenty-fifth chapter of Jeremiah mentions a list of nations that are involved in a global war and includes the coastlands.
Klenck then notes a verse in Isaiah:
I will set a sign among them, and send from them survivors to the nations: to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud—that draw the bow—to Tubal, Javan, and the distant coasts, that have never heard My fame nor beheld My glory. They shall declare My glory among these nations. Isaiah 66:19
Klenck suggests that describing these coastlands as “distant” implies that they are further from Israel than any previously mentioned location.
“Measured from Israel, the longitude that corresponds to the reverse side of the globe (away from Israel) extends through Alaska,” Klenck wrote. “Furthermore, taking the longitude and latitude on the reverse side of the globe away from Israel ends in a point between Alaska, Hawaii, and the western coast of the United States. To restate, the prophetic coastlands at the ‘ends of the earth’ represent an area that runs through and between the United States.”
“This longitude touches no other country besides the United States of America,” Klenck noted.
He adds that In Isaiah 24:16, 41:5, and 42:10, these “coastlands” are described as being on “the wings of the earth” (הארץ מכנף) or “ends of the earth” (הארץ קצות).
Yeranen Yaakov also described the disasters in Hawaii and California as being on ‘the wings of the earth”.
“Yellowknife, in Canada’s Northwest Territories, is probably the northernmost decent-sized city in Canada,” he added. “ The entire city is being evacuated right now due to a large fire. This can also be considered a corner of the earth due to its far-northern location.”
“Also, in the Canary Islands, the island of Tenerife has an out-of-control fire. Thousands are being evacuated right now. This too can be deemed a corner of the earth as it is near the westernmost part of the Eastern Hemisphere.”
Indeed, the Book of Job contains a reference to God focusing His anger on the “ends of the earth” before the Final Redemption.
So that it seizes the corners of the earth And shakes the wicked out of it? Job 38:13
Rabbi Yosef Berger emphasized that part of the process of the return of the Jews to the land of Israel is a “global awakening”.
“This is not a judgment on the individuals who are suffering,” Rabbi Berger emphasized. “This is part of a global awakening. Corona was a global plague that spread out to every corner of the earth, touching everyone. God is calling out before the birthday of the world on Rosh Hashanah that it is time for all to acknowledge His presence in the world; great and small, righteous and evil, from the furthest corners, all nations as one.”