Truly a Prophet like Moses –Deuteronomy 18:15-22
The context of this prophecy is referred to in verse 16 and 17. Moses had been given the Ten Commandments on tablets of stone and the heads of the tribes and elders requested that Moses mediate between themselves and God, because they were afraid of God’s presence when they heard the voice from the midst of the darkness and the mountain burned with fire (Deut. 5:23-27). God determined they had spoken rightly and later in this passage promised to raise another Prophet like Moses.
In addition, the preceding verses designate clear instructions concerning the avoidance of wicked customs relating to false religious practises that were not appointed for them. Instruction is then given in verses 15-22 to ‘hear’ the Prophet like Moses and how to discern whether a prophet was in fact speaking a word in His name.
It is important to recognise that the Prophet would be from their midst (geographical region) and from their brethren (Israelite). This immediately precludes the view that the Prophet could be a non-Israelite prophet.
Jewish Commentary on a Prophet like Moses
Some Jewish commentaries state that this text relates to the ‘office of a prophet’ or to Joshua and the other prophets, but not to Messiah. If we take the context of the passage as a whole we are certainly given clear guidelines for determining a genuine from a false prophet and these verses apply to both of those former points. Nevertheless Deuteronomy 34:9-10 greatly affirms Moses inauguration of Joshua though distinguishes Moses from Joshua and other prophets ‘But since then there has not been arisen a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face (Deut. 34:10).’ Numbers 12:6-8 is another passage differentiating Moses from the other prophets and speaking with him only face to face. Therefore these verses are also applicable to a specific prophet like Moses as the plain sense of the text designates.
In Maimonides thirteen articles of faith, two concern the prophecy of Moses as the chief of the prophets and that the same law in our possession was the one given to Moses (7, 8) and another one mentions the willingness to wait for the coming of the Messiah (12)[i]. Maimonides (Rambam) stated “from Moses to Moses there was none like Moses” though Michael Brown affirms that in the true spirit of the Tanakh (Old Testament), “from Moses to the Messiah, there was none like Moses”.[ii]
Interestingly Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon (RALBAG) interpreted Deuteronomy 18:15-22 with reference to the Messiah and even connected that passage with Isaiah 52:13.
‘A Prophet from the midst of thee.’ In fact the Messiah is such a prophet as stated in the Midrash of the verse, ‘Behold My Servant shall prosper (Isaiah 52:13). Moses by the miracles by which he wrought, brought a single nation to the worship of God, but the Messiah will draw all peoples to the worship of God.’[iii]
Anticipating and Identifying a Prophet like Moses
The Brit Hadasha (New Testament), especially in the Gospel of John and Acts reveals that the disciples were initially anticipating and later identified a prophet like Moses. In John 1:21, John the Baptist was asked by the priests and Levites from Jerusalem whether he was Elijah. When John stated that he wasn’t, they asked him whether he was the Prophet to which he responded, “no”. It is a reasonable inference to assume that question relates to Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 (Moses is representative of the law and Elijah the prophets) and that is also why some Bibles cross-reference that text in the margin.
Also in the same chapter Philip associated Yeshua (Jesus) particularly with Moses in addition to the other prophets and upon finding Nathanael he said to him “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote-Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph (John 1:45).”
After Yeshua had fed the five thousand, those who witnessed that event stated “This is truly the Prophet who is come into this world (John 6:14).” Again when Jesus spoke concerning the Holy Spirit, many who heard Him said “Truly this is the Prophet (John 7:40).”
Both Peter and Steven unmistakeably relate the Messiah as being raised up as the prophet like Moses and quote Deuteronomy 18:15; 18-19 in the respective texts (Acts 3:22-26; 7:37-43).
How is the Prophet like Moses?
Sometimes we state that someone takes after another when we refer to their character, mannerism or appearance. In terms of the life and ministry of Moses and Yeshua there are remarkable and profound similarities. Ada Habershon was a fine author and personal friend of Charles Spurgeon and in the second appendix of ‘The Study of the Types’ lists over sixty parallels between Moses and Jesus. For the sake of brevity, a score or so shall be included here.
From birth, both Moses and Yeshua were spared from death as a baby at the hands of Pharaoh and Herod as commands had been issued respectively to slaughter the very young Hebrew males (Exod. 1:22; Matt. 2:16). Both came out from Egypt (Heb. 11:27; Matt. 2:15). Scripture states they were known as God’s servant (Psalm 105:26; Matt. 12:18), chosen (Psalm 106.23; Isa. 42:1), prophet (Deut.18:15-19; John 6:14), priest (Psalm 99:6; Heb. 7:24), judge (Exod. 18:13; John 5:27), shepherd (Exod. 3:1; John 10:11), leader (Isa. 63:12; 55:4), mediator (Exod. 33:8-9; 1 Tim. 2:5), intercessor (Num. 21:7; Rom. 8:34), deliverer (Acts 7:35; Rom. 11:26) and ruler (Acts 7:35; Micah 5:2).
Moses refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter and thus refused a kingdom whilst Jesus refused the kingdoms of this world which the devil showed him (Heb. 11:24; Matt. 4:8-10).
Moses said “Let my people go (Exod. 9:13).” Yeshua proclaims liberty to the captives (Isa. 61:1).
The magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God (Exod. 8:19)”. Yeshua said “If I with the finger of God cast out devils (Luke 11:20).”
Moses stretched out his hand and the Lord caused the sea to go back (Exod. 14:21). The disciples were amazed when he calmed the storm that even the winds and the waves obeyed Him (Matt. 8:27).
The people were almost ready to stone Moses (Exod. 17:4). Then they took up stones to cast at Him (Jesus) (John 8:59).
The man Moses was very meek (Num. 12:3). Jesus is meek and lowly in heart (Matt. 11:29).
Moses appointed twelve, one from each tribe (Deut. 1:23). The Lord ordained twelve disciples (Mark 3:14).
Moses gathered seventy men of the elders of the people (Num.11:26). The Lord appointed another seventy also (Luke 10:1).
The law was given by Moses but grace and truth came through Yeshua Messiah (John 1:17).
Moses had the heavenly manna that sustained life but Yeshua gave bread that gives life (John 6:31-32).
Moses was forty days in the mount and neither ate bread nor drank water (Exod. 34:28). Yeshua was forty days in the wilderness and fasted for forty days and forty nights (Matt. 4:1-2).
Moses was present at the first Passover (Heb. 11:28). Yeshua our Passover has been sacrificed for us (1 Cor. 5:27)[iv]
The Transfiguration -Yeshua and Moses
the Torah Moses face shone, but Yeshua (Jesus) was transfigured on the mountain
(Matthew 17:2)! Moses was also present at the transfiguration, identifying him
with the greater Prophet. If we cannot gaze at the sun in its brilliance, light
and heat, how can we possibly behold the glory of God? In connection with
Deuteronomy 18:15, 19, a voice came out of the cloud saying, “This is My
beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him (Matt. 17:5)!”The instruction
to ‘hear Him’ was the original and appropriate response commanded in the
Deuteronomy passage (18:15, 19). Hear in both references refers to hearing
intelligently, giving attention, obedience, consideration[v]. It implies more than
listening and requires a response. Moses wore a veil over his face, though we
need to have the veil removed from our hearts to see and believe in the Prophet
[i] How to Introduce Your Jewish Friends to Messiah (Chosen People Ministries, New York; 1991), p21-22
[ii] Michael L. Brown Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus Volume 4 New Testament Objections (Baker Books, Grand Rapids; 2008 ), ,p269
[iii] Moishe Rosen https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v11-n04/a-prophet-like-unto-moses/ cited in Rachmiel Frydland What the Rabbis know about the Messiah (Cincinnati, Messianic Publishing Company, Messianic Literature Outreach; 1991), p22
[iv] Ada R Habershon The Study of the Types (Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids; 1985), p165-168
[v] Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (AMG Publishers, Chattanooga; 1991), p1670