VERSE OF THE DAY
Moses continued, “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.
Moses spoke on saying the Lord your God will rise up for you a prophet like me from among the Israelites you must honor and listen to him
On December 18, 2015, 12:52 am
Deuteronomy Chapter 18
Deuteronomy 18 – Priests and Prophets
A. The provision for priests and Levites.
1. (1-2) The inheritance of the Levites.
The priests, the Levites; all the tribe of Levi; shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel; they shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and His portion. Therefore they shall have no inheritance among their brethren; the LORD is their inheritance, as He said to them.
a. The priests, the Levites; all the tribe of Levi; shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: The Levites – those of the tribe of Levi, who were the paid ministers for the nation of Israel – shall have no inheritance among their brethren. In other words, they were not to have allotted portions of land for their own possession.
b. They shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and His portion: Instead, the Levites were to be supported by the gifts and offerings of God’s people. The Levites were permitted to receive at least a portion of most animals sacrificed to the LORD, and thus were provided with meat for food.
2. (3-5) The specific portions of the sacrificial animal set apart to the Levites.
And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice, whether it is bull or sheep: they shall give to the priest the shoulder, the cheeks, and the stomach. The firstfruits of your grain and your new wine and your oil, and the first of the fleece of your sheep, you shall give him. For the LORD your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand to minister in the name of the LORD, him and his sons forever.
a. And this shall be the priest’s due from the people, from those who offer a sacrifice: From a typical sacrifice, the priests received the shoulder, the cheeks, and the stomach. The rest of the animal would either be burnt before the LORD or returned to the one bringing the sacrifice, so he could enjoy his own fellowship meal with the LORD.
b. Your grain and your new wine and your oil and the first of the fleece of your sheep: The priests also received these offerings of firstfruits from the people.
3. (6-8) All the Levites had equal rights to the offerings.
So if a Levite comes from any of your gates, from where he dwells among all Israel, and comes with all the desire of his mind to the place which the LORD chooses, then he may serve in the name of the LORD his God as all his brethren the Levites do, who stand there before the LORD. They shall have equal portions to eat, besides what comes from the sale of his inheritance.
B. Prescriptions for prophets.
1. (9-11) The command to reject all the occult practices of the Canaanites.
When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who practices witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead.
a. You shall not learn: God knows that many people have a natural curiosity regarding the occult, and that curiosity often leads them to gain knowledge God commands them to leave alone.
b. Anyone who makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire: This refers to the debased worship of the Canaanite god Molech, to whom children were sacrificed by burning.
c. Or one who practices witchcraft: The word witchcraft here seems to be a broad word, describing a variety of occult activities. Basically, anything that makes contact with the demonic or dark spiritual world.
i. Thompson on practices witchcraft: “A variety of devices were in use in various lands, but all were designed to discern the will of the gods. The same word in Ezekiel 21:21 refers to the practice of whirling arrows in a quiver and deciding the answer to the question by the first arrow thrown out.”
ii. There is a modern revival of witchcraft, or Wicca, and many people claim that “white” witchcraft (as opposed to “black” witchcraft) is a use of spiritual powers for good, as well as being a more feminist, ecology-friendly understanding of god and spirituality. But whether a witch claims to be “white” or “black,” they are still using occultic powers.
iii. Some claim that white, or “right hand path” witches are in the majority today. They worship elements and nature deities, the “Mother Goddess,” Gaia, Ashtarte, Isis, Osiris, and a host of other names for the Goddess. Characteristically they are active in “Saving the earth” activities, due to the fact that they are pantheists (those who believe the divine life force is in everything: ever see the bumper sticker picturing a globe bearing the legend “Love Your Mother”?). They deny the existence of Satan, calling him an invention of the Christian Church. They claim to use their powers (and they do have powers) for good: sending healing energies to the sick, affirmations which bring prosperity, and loudly proclaiming their creed, “As it harm none, do as thou wilt.” It’s ironic how their creed sounds so similar to that of a man who referred to himself as “The Beast, 666” – Satanist Aleister Crowley, who wrote, “Do as thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”
iv. Of course, there are black, or “left hand path,” witches. These are witches who originally were into white witchcraft and got hungry for more power. As their teachers noticed this power lust, they were taken aside and told, “You are now ready to go after the higher power, and there is only one way to achieve this power. Satan is its source.” Thus, comes the white witch’s abrupt surprise: either give up your witchly ambitions, or go for the higher power. The bottom line is that the power behind all kinds of witchcraft is Satan. He is the author of all deception, and all rebellion. To practice or approve of witchcraft is to serve Satan.
v. And this Satanic power kills. Ronald Baker was a 21-year-old student at UCLA, and was found stabbed to death at the mouth of a railroad tunnel in the rocky hills above Chatsworth Park. Police first thought the mangled body was of a transient hit by a train; but they then found an occult connection in Baker’s death. The killing took place on the night of the summer solstice, and the tunnel near the park is known to police as a gathering place for devotees of the occult. Baker was involved with Wicca (described as “benevolent witchcraft”), often wore a pentagram pendant, and belonged to a UCLA metaphysical group known as Mystic Circle (from a July 1990 news article).
vi. Some who call themselves Christians are buying into this deception. Take the case of a woman who calls herself Starhawk, who is a practitioner of Wicca – a witch. She first learned about Wicca at an anthropology course at UCLA when she was 17, and she took the name Starhawk in 1975 when it came to her in a dream. After a master’s degree in psychology, she began teaching at universities. She is a licensed minister of the Covenant of the Goddess and performs marriages and other ceremonies. She views the earth as a sensitive, living organism which she calls “the Goddess.” Mary Elizabeth Moore of the Claremont School of Theology said of Starhawk: “Many Christians, especially women and others who are trying to reclaim creation-centered theology, find her work to be compatible with, or at least adaptable to, Christian teaching.” Starhawk was scheduled to speak at the First Christian Church in Santa Monica on a Friday evening (from a June, 1993 news article).
d. Or a soothsayer: This has reference to astrological-type divination, predicting the future or seeking guidance through the stars, planets, clouds, or weather.
i. Kalland says that the soothsayer: “Is… predicting the future by means of physical signs (astrology).” Thompson points out “it seems to refer to divination by reading clouds, or from a root which occurs in Arabic meaning ‘to make unusual noises’, ‘croon’, ‘hum’, in which case it may refer to some kind of incantation.”
ii. Even though Astrology is unscientific – it is based on the supposition that the sun circles the earth, and the positions of the planets and stars have shifted, and are never consistently uniform; therefore, the houses of the Zodiac have shifted – despite all that, thirty-two million Americans believe in Astrology! There are 10,000 full time and 200,000 part time astrologers in America. Three out of four American newspapers carry a horoscope column.
iii. So where does the real “power” of astrology come from? From what most astrologers call “intuition” – but is really psychic knowledge and ability. Astrology is idolatry and stems from the demonic. It leads people away from trusting in God and encourages them to put trust in what God created. And isn’t that Satan’s goal: To replace confidence in God with a dependence on anything else?
iv. Therefore, the Bible clearly forbids us to participate in astrology, which includes reading your horoscope, studying your sign, and computing a natal chart. It is an occult art, meaning that it involves “knowledge of hidden things”, seeking spiritual knowledge apart from God’s revelation. It is a foundational art, which means it is the building block for all occultists. It is studied by witches and magicians alike. Every Christian should renounce any involvement they have ever had with astrology!
e. Or one who interprets omens: The word comes from the root “to hiss” or “to whisper” and refers to psychics and fortune-tellers who use “aids” other than naturally created things to gain knowledge, tell the future, and cast spells.
i. Today, these people are the tarot card readers, crystal ball seers, tea-leaf readers, palm readers, Ouija board users, and the like. A Christian has no business participating or approving of any of these practices, because either they are money-grubbing frauds (at best!), or worse, they gain their knowledge from satanic, demonic, spiritual sources.
ii. This is why it is dangerous for people – especially kids – to break out the Ouija board, or do a little séance, or little “dark” magic tricks. They are tapping into a source of spiritual power that is real – yet evil, and unspeakably dangerous. Many, many people have been ruined on the rocks of “innocent” occult or fortune telling games, and the fact that there is a real power behind those things should make us all the more concerned.
iii. There is a demand for this kind of thing; why else would a homeless man in New York be arrested for stealing skulls from a Brooklyn cemetery and selling them for use in occult ceremonies? A skull can bring as much as $4,000 (from an August, 1991 news article).
iv. It is worth noting that Satan or his demons cannot absolutely know the future; but they can reasonably predict the future based on their superior knowledge of people and circumstances or predict events that they can have a hand in shaping through their own demonic influence.
f. Or a sorcerer: This has reference to those who use drugs or potions to cast spells, gain spiritual knowledge, or enter into altered states of consciousness. Modern drug abuse easily falls into this category, and the use of drugs has a definite occult connection that the drug taker may not want but is exposed to nonetheless.
i. Clarke says of sorcerer: “Those who by means of drugs, herbs, perfumes, and so forth, pretended to bring certain celestial influences to their aid.” Thompson adds, “derived from the root… ‘to cut up’, may denote one who cuts up herbs and brews them for magical purposes (cf. LXX pharmaka, drug). The term is used in Micah 5:12 for some such material as drugs or herbs used superstitiously to produce magical effects.”
g. Or one who conjures up spells: This is literally, “A charmer of charms” and refers to those who cast spells or charms for good or evil upon others with spiritual powers apart from God.
i. It is a glorious thing to bless another in the name of the LORD; or even to pray to God against the evil of another person. But it is always and forever wrong to use demonic, dark, pagan, or occult powers to cast spells or charms.
h. Or a medium: The idea is of someone who “stands between” the physical world and the psychic world; they channel knowledge from the psychic world into the physical world.
i. Thompson notes that the medium: “Spoke from within a person (Leviticus 20:27) with a twittering voice (Isaiah 29:4). Those who practiced this art called up the departed from the realm of the dead, or rather, professed to do so.”
ii. Those who practice such powers are really among us. In May of 1990, after a man died in the City of Industry, his corpse remained at the home of a spirit medium that had convinced his family that he could revive the man. Friday, LA County coroner’s investigators picked up the decomposing body at the home of the family. The unidentified medium apparently gave the corpse back after being unable to revive the deceased.
i. Or a spiritist: Literally, this word refers to the “knowing ones” – those who claim unique occult or psychic knowledge and powers – such as those on the many psychic hotlines that one can pay to call. Again, a Christian has no business participating or approving of any of these practices, because either they are money-grubbing frauds (at best!), or worse, they gain their knowledge from satanic, demonic, spiritual sources.
j. Or one who calls up the dead: This refers to the practice of necromancy, which is the conjuring up or the contacting of the dead.
i. This refers to “One who investigates, looks into, and seeks information from the dead.” (Kalland) This is much on the increase in our culture; “The proportion of adults who say they have been in touch with the dead has risen from 27% to 42% during the past 11 years. Close to 20 million Americans now report mystical experiences.” (McDowell, 1989)
2. (12-14) Why rejection of all these occult actions is commanded.
For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you. You shall be blameless before the LORD your God. For these nations which you will dispossess listened to soothsayers and diviners; but as for you, the LORD your God has not appointed such for you.
a. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD: God did not take these occult actions lightly then, nor does He now. It is consorting with the power of darkness, and always to be rejected by Christians.
i. Our culture is becoming more and more accepting of these occult themes and practices, while it is becoming more and more intolerant of Biblical Christianity. In 1991, a ninth grade Junior High Student in Dickson, Tennessee, sued the school board because his teacher wouldn’t accept a research paper written on the life of Jesus. Students were allowed to write on topics such as the occult, reincarnation and spiritualism, and the teacher originally only said that the topics must be “decent.” The student was given a zero on her paper when the topic was declared unacceptable (from an August, 1991 news report).
ii. “It may be pertinent to comment that in our own day, when spiritualism, astrology, teacup reading and the like are widely practiced, these injunctions given to ancient Israel have a particular relevance. Not only is it impossible to discover the future by such practices, but the practices themselves are forbidden by God to men who call themselves members of the covenant family.” (Thompson)
b. Because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out from before you: God’s judgment was upon the Canaanites because of these occult practices, and if Israel took up the same occult practices, they could also expect the judgment of God.
i. Yes, the Canaanites were sex-worshippers (in their service of the goddess Ashtaroth); and yes, they were money and success worshippers (in their service of the god Baal). But other peoples given over to sex and greed haven’t been judged as severely. What made the Canaanites particularly ripe for judgment was their occult practices, practices the people of God were strictly forbidden to imitate.
c. You shall be blameless: more than being a general call to a holy walk, this is a solemn warning to keep from any involvement with these detestable practices of the occult. The LORD your God has not appointed such for you!
i. We are to be blameless in regard to such things, even as the Ephesian Christians, who destroyed all things that marked the occult in their lives (Acts 19:19-20). This is why it is dangerous for people to seek or approve of the occult, even if they don’t really believe it – even if they just kind of think it is “cool.”
ii. For example, rock singer Ozzy Osbourne says that his satanic image is all an act. “We wrote a couple of songs about black magic, so what? I hammed it up, but I’m not the devil. I don’t put curses on people.” But in the same interview, Osbourne refers to “the him,” who is a “malevolent voice in his head that transmits destructive and self-loathing messages.” Osbourne said of this voice inside him, “He’s there all the time… I’ve always had a haunted head.” “Innocent” involvement with the occult didn’t protect him. Satan doesn’t really care if you are a true believer in him or not; just as long as he has you.
3. (15-19) The promise of a true Prophet to come.
The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die.” And the LORD said to me: “What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.”
a. The LORD your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me: Moses, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, promised a prophet to come; a prophet that would first be like me – that is, like Moses.
b. From your midst, from your brethren: Like Moses, this Prophet would be from the midst of Israel. This not only meant that He would be an Israelite, but that He would be a “man of the people” – He would be one of them.
c. Him you shall hear: Like Moses, this Prophet would command the attention of the nation. This means both that Israel should listen to this Prophet, and that they would listen to this Prophet.
d. According to all you desired of the LORD your God in Horeb: Like Moses, this Prophet would be a mediator, representing God to the people, and representing the people before God.
e. Will put My words in His mouth: Like Moses, this Prophet would speak God’s Word.
f. I will require it of him: Like Moses, this Prophet’s message would only be rejected at a great penalty.
g. I will raise up for them a Prophet: People looked for this Prophet in Jesus’ day (John 6:14, 7:40) and some thought that John the Baptist might be this Prophet (John 1:19-21). But the New Testament plainly tells us that Jesus is this Prophet (Acts 3:19-26, Acts 7:37).
4. (20-22) The penalty for a false prophet.
“But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.” And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?”; when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
a. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name: There are those who would presume to speak a wordin God’s name. Therefore we must always, always, guard against presumption when we say, “The LORD told me.”
i. “The difference was that, whereas the true prophet spoke for God, the false prophet spoke presumptuously, i.e. he blurted out personal opinions for which there was no backing from Yahweh.” (Thompson)
b. Which I have not commanded him to speak: Some may genuinely hear from the LORD, but it is not a word that He has commanded him to speak. Just because God tells us something doesn’t mean we should tell others.
c. Or speaks in the name of other gods: Obviously, those who presumed to “prophecy” in the name of Baal or Ashtoreth, or any number of the other false gods of the Canaanites were false prophets.
d. That prophet shall die: Simply stated, the penalty for false prophets was death. Presumptuous speaking in the name of the LORD, disobedient speaking in the name of the LORD, and speaking in the name of false gods was simply never to be tolerated in Israel.
e. How shall we know: It is easy to tell if a prophet speaks in the name of Baal or Ashtoreth; but how can one know if a prophet speaking in the name of the LORD is speaking presumptuously or disobediently? Simply by their accuracy.
f. If the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken: If a prophet says, “Thus says the LORD,” claiming that something will happen, and it does not happen, then that prophet must be held accountable for that false prophecy – and we are no longer to regard that person as a prophet.
i. Not too long ago there was a great emphasis on the “prophets” in some Christian circles, and many would prophesy that something would happen – and it did not. However, those people excused their false prophesies by saying they were “learning” and “experimenting” and “under grace,” therefore, we should not regard them as false prophets.
ii. While it is true that one may need to learn how to flow in the gifts of the Holy Spirit, no one should say something is from God unless they are assured that it is – and if they are wrong, then their own discernment and ability to hear from God are rightly called into question.
iii. Besides, if prophets were held to this standard under the Old Covenant, are we to have a lesser standard under the New Covenant? Is there more of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit now, or less? Under the New Covenant, are we more intimately guided by God, or less? It is true we are under grace, so we no longer stone false prophets – yet, we shouldn’t respect them or give them the title or position of “prophet” if they are false prophets.
iv. Instead, the New Testament says all prophecy – any time someone says, “The LORD told me” – all prophecy should be judged: Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge (1 Corinthians 14:29; see also 1 John 4:1). It is far better to be humble and say, “I think the LORD may have said to me” instead of being too confident in one’s ability to hear from the LORD.
v. Tom Stipe, in the foreword to Counterfeit Revival, speaks powerfully about the problem of false prophets in the church:
After only a couple of years, the prophets seemed to be speaking to just about everyone on just about everything. Hundreds of… members received the ‘gift’ of prophecy and began plying their trade among both leaders and parishioners. People began carrying around little notebooks filled with predictions that had been delivered to them by the prophets and seers. They flocked to the prophecy conferences that had begun to spring up everywhere. The notebook crowd would rush forward in hopes of being selected to receive more prophecies to add to their prophetic diaries.
Not long after ‘prophecy du jour’ became the primary source of direction, a trail of devastated believers began to line up outside our pastoral counseling offices. Young people promised teen success and stardom through prophecy were left picking up the pieces of their shattered hopes because God had apparently gone back on His promises. Leaders were deluged by angry church members who had received prophecies about the great ministries they would have but had been frustrated by local church leaders who failed to recognize and ‘facilitate’ their ‘new anointing.’
After a steady diet of the prophetic, some people were rapidly becoming biblically illiterate, choosing a ‘dial-a-prophet’ style of Christian living rather than studying God’s Word. Many were left to continually live from one prophetic ‘fix’ to the next, their hope always in danger of failing because God’s voice was so specific in pronouncement, yet so elusive in fulfillment. Possessing a prophet’s phone number was like having a storehouse of treasured guidance. Little clutched notebooks replaced Bibles as the preferred reading material during church services.
vi. We must always guard against letting an emphasis on the “prophetic” overshadow a simple emphasis on God’s Word: The prophet who has a dream, let him tell a dream; And he who has My word, let him speak My word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat?” says the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:28)
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission
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Feb 1, 2009
Commentary on Deuteronomy 18:15-20
Where are the prophets today? Who speaks for God?
How do we know if one speaks for God or if God is being used to promote a social or political agenda? This question is as old as the ages, and this text from Deuteronomy goes hand-in-hand with the Gospel lesson from Mark. These questions are asked over and over again about Jesus. Is he the real deal? Is he really speaking for God, or is he just another itinerant prophet?
The literary setting for Deuteronomy is at the end of Moses’ life as the wandering Israelites prepare to enter the Promised Land. Moses is the only leader they have ever known, and his impending death puts the community in jeopardy. Deuteronomy represents Moses’ last words to Israel, both present and future. The style is one of a sermon. In other words, it is not simply information, but it encourages and cajoles, calling the people to belief and a life lived according to God’s instruction. It is the equivalent of Moses’ ancient life instruction book to the people of Israel.
To fully grasp the meaning of this passage in a modern context, some explanation is necessary. What is the modern equivalent of ancient prophets? First, most people are unfamiliar with exactly what a prophet was in the ancient near eastern context. In biblical times, prophets were not rare. Indeed, 2 Kings tells that the king of Israel had 400 prophets at his disposal (1 Kings 22:6)! The problem was not finding a prophet it was finding a prophet that was truly speaking for God.
Prophets performed a wide range of functions, including some that are condemned in Deuteronomy 18:10-11. Prophets of the Lord are the mouthpieces for God, and their proclamations are made without the common acts of divination or speaking to dead spirits. Prophets of ancient times should probably be thought of as preachers, for they interpret the word of God to the people. Ancient Prophets, however, were distinct from priests who were responsible for leading the people in worship. The only function of an ancient prophet was to declare the word of God to the people. They did not run meetings or organize the congregation.
I see the modern day equivalent of prophets any given Saturday in New York City. As I go about my tasks, it is not uncommon to see an individual or a group standing on milk cartons and telling the passersby that “God loves them,” or that “they are going to hell,” or that “they are one of the lost ten tribes of Israel.” This religious cornucopia is now intensified by multiple cable television stations and internet sites. Prophets or preachers are still standing up and telling the people they speak for God. Often the messages are contradictory, and we still wonder which ones are true and which are false.
This passage begins with the reason why prophets are needed. It reaches back to the giving of the law in Exodus 19 and 20. When the people heard God speak they were so frightened, they begged Moses to speak with God and be their mediator. Prophets, then, are selected by God (“I raise up” verses 15, 18; “I will put my words” verse 18; “I command” verse 18) for the sake of the people. Prophets answer to God, not to the people, so they are free to speak the truth. Prophets also come “from among their own people” (verse 18). These speakers of truth are home grown. They know the ways and the hearts of the people they speak to and connect with them. They who speak for God must also be paid attention to, for to ignore their calls is the same as ignoring God (verse 19).
The hanging question is the same today as it was in ancient days: how do we know which of the many preachers/prophets who speak are truly speaking for God? The answer in the text is clear. If what the prophet says comes true, then the prophet is speaking for God. It seems like a good answer, but it does not answer all of our questions. Prophets talk of eternal things and life after death. Some of what they say is simply unknowable in this life. The test in Deuteronomy certainly helps us with some prophets who claim to speak for God, but not all. What is clear is that if a prophet/preacher leads folks astray, it is the prophet and not the people who are at fault. Unfortunately, unscrupulous prophets tend to prey on those who are the weakest and most vulnerable.
This text also speaks to Jesus’ life and ministry. His truths were not easy to hear, and eventually it was his truth telling that would result in death on a cross. Some would not believe him because he did not have the right pedigree, and did not hang out with the right people. Others did not believe him because they had already formed their own ideas of what the Messiah was to be, and Jesus’ message of grace and forgiveness was nothing like they envisioned. Still others were clear that this was Joseph’s son who could not possibly be proclaiming God’s will. Yet all of the things in the Deuteronomy text can be shown in Jesus’ life, preaching, and death.
About the author
Professor of Old Testament
New Brunswick Theological Seminary
New Brunswick, NJ
Who was the Prophet Promised in Deuteronomy?
Deuteronomy or Devarim is the fifth book of the Hebrew Bible
Chapter 18 of Deuteronomy contains two verses that have been the subject of intense debate over the centuries. Moses(as) told the assembly of Israel:
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brethren – him you shall heed. Just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God, or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They have rightly said all that they have spoken.’ I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. And whoever will not give heed to my words which he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die. (Deuteronomy, 18:15-20)
Christian missionaries argue this verse proves that the advent of Jesus(as) was foretold in the Hebrew Bible. Muslims believe that the coming of the Muhammad(saw), the Founder of Islam, was foretold in these passages. On the other hand, many Jews claim that Joshua(as) was being referred to in this prophecy. However, before we analyse all these claims, let us review the salient features of the prophecy. There are five important features:
1. A prophet will come.
2. He will resemble Moses(as).
3. He will be raised from among the brethren of Israel.
4. He will convey the exact words of God as revealed to him, to mankind.
5. If anyone pretends to be the prophet promised in this prophecy, such a pretender will incur God’s displeasure, and will meet death and defeat. However, the real claimant to this prophecy will remain completely protected by God.
Deuteronomy consists of three sermons by Moses(as). The identity of the promised Prophet mentioned by Moses(as) in Deuteronomy 18 is the subject of intense debate
First, let us look at the Christian interpretation that this prophecy was about the coming of Christ(as). The Christians quote the following references:
1) Luke 7:39 – the Pharisee said to himself, ‘if this man were a prophet…’.
2) John 5:46 – Jesus(as) said “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he (Moses(as)) wrote about me.”
3) In various places, at various times, several people called Jesus(as) the ‘prophet’, yet Jesus(as) never corrected them, rebuked them, nor told them otherwise. When the Pharisees called him otherwise, He set them straight. Matt. 21:11, John 1:45, 6:14, 7:40, Luke 7:16, 24:19, etc.
4) Jesus(as) called himself a prophet – John 4:44.
5) After His ascension his disciples emphatically said he was that prophet: Acts 3:22, 7:37. In none of these references is there any claim by Jesus(as) to be a Prophet in the context of Deuteronomy 18:15-20.
We notice an obvious ambiguity. Moses(as) predicted the appearance of a prophet, but most Christians do not believe that Jesus(as) actually was a prophet of God. Instead, he is held to be Divine by them. The very foundation of present-day Christianity is based on the concept that Jesus was the ‘Son of God’. However, Moses(as) did not prophesy about a “Son of God”; he prophesied about the advent of a great prophet who would be like him.
In 2006, Pope Benedict XVI published the book Jesus of Nazareth, which was translated into English in 2007. The first chapter of this book, entitled “An Initial Reflection on the Mysteries of Jesus” contains the following:
The Book of Deuteronomy contains a promise that is completely different from the messianic hope expressed in the other books of the Old Testament, yet it is of decisive importance for understanding the figure of Jesus. The object of this promise is not a king of Israel and a king of the world – a new David in other words, – but a new Moses…1
The first chapter of this book is mainly about this prophecy. But oddly enough, the complete text of the prophecy has not been given in Jesus of Nazareth.
Unfortunately, Pope Benedict XVI does not discuss this particular aspect in his book. Instead of clearing up this inconsistency, he focuses on another point entirely. He discusses the fact that the term “Prophet” as used in the literature of Israel, had a totally specific and unique meaning as compared with the literature of the surrounding religious world. While this comparison is of academic importance, the fact remains (in whatever way the title of “Prophet” was used in the Bible), the Christian world does not claim that Jesus(as) was a prophet. So according to Christian beliefs, Jesus(as) cannot be the Divine prophet that was promised in Deuteronomy, since Christians believe him to be the “Son of God”, as opposed to a Prophet and a teacher of faith.
The next point is that according to the Pope, this prophecy is totally different from the prophecies about the Messiah in other books of the Old Testament. Unfortunately, his introduction, quoted above, lends some doubt to the conclusion he eventually draws. If this prophecy was really about the Messiah, then why would it be completely different from the other prophecies about the Messiah? If those other prophecies were about the same person, then there should have been some noticeable similarities. This very observation leads us to the conclusion that this particular prophecy, unlike the other prophecies about the Messiah, is actually about a different person.
What Does Deuteronomy 18:15 Mean? ►
“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.
Picture courtesy of Moody Publishers/FreeBibleimages.org
The book of Deuteronomy reiterates the Law of Moses to a new generation of Israelites who were soon to enter the promised land following their long, 40-year wanderings in the wilderness.
God knew that the abominable practices of the Canaanites would tempt His people to engage in idolatry and other detestable practices. And so, in this eighteenth chapter of Deuteronomy, the Lord forbids His people from engaging in all aspects of occultic trickery, including witchcraft, soothsayers, fortune-telling, conjurers, spirit mediums, séances, and necromancy.
The sinister reality of Satanism and the bewitching fascination with occult practices is equally problematic today as it was in the dim and distant days, when Israel was preparing to cross the Jordan River.
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Paul and the other apostles give similar such warnings to those of us in this church age – beware of sorcery. We read in Galatians that the deeds of the flesh are evident which are, “immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these,” about which Paul forewarn us – that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Moses was the prophetic voice through whom the Word of the Lord came to the people of Israel. For over 40 years the Lord had spoken through this one man, and God knew that the people would search for an alternative mediator after his departure… and he even warned them against looking in the wrong places.
The Lord assured the people that God Himself would raise up a continuous line of seers and prophets, who would speak His words to them. They were also warned that false prophets would arise who would speak their own lying words to the people, but explained that the identifying mark of a true prophet of God, is that their prophetic word would always be fulfilled.
In this verse, and also in stark contrast to the list of occultic practices and satanic pretenders whom Israel would encounter in the promised land, God presents a beautiful picture of the Lord Jesus Christ – the one, true Prophet of God, Who would be raised up from the nation of Israel, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me,” Moses told them.”This prophet will come from among you. He will be raised up from your countrymen and you shall listen to him.”
Other scriptures inform us that this coming Prophet Who would speak only the Word of the Lord, would arise from the Seed of Abraham, through Isaac, his sons of promise, and Israel – God’s chosen people. The Prophet who would be like Moses, would come from the house of Judah and be born in the royal line of King David.
Moses painted a prophetic picture of the Messiah. He gave Israel some clear, distinguishing marks of their coming Prophet, so that He would be clearly identified when He arrived, “God will raise up for you a prophet like me,” were Moses’ encouraging words, “and he will come from among you, from your countrymen.” Moses also gave Israel some important instructions to Israel, “You shall listen to HIM.”
Scripture tells us that, “no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses,” but that a time was coming when the Lord God would raise up another Prophet, and today we know Him to be Jesus – the Lord’s anointed Prophet, Priest, and King of Israel.
Moses spoke of the Lord Jesus, Who would be the ultimate Prophet, through Whom God would speak His words of salvation. In the same way that Moses was the first and most important prophet, who brought His people out of the land of Egypt… and through whom God spoke during their long history, so the coming Prophet would be fulfilment of God’s plan of redemption. He would save His people from their sin and restore to them the joy of their salvation.
This coming Prophet would enjoy such intimacy with God that He would not say or do anything by His own initiative. This great Prophet would speak only those things that He heard from His Father in heaven. This anointed Prophet of God would be unique in the history of the world. He would be obedient to His Father’s instructions – even to the point of death on the Cross. YES, this coming Prophet was the Lord JESUS Himself, fully God and fully man.
There would be many future prophets in Israel who would faithfully speak the Word of the Lord and follow the footsteps of Moses, including those who penned the New Testament. But when Christ, the ultimate Prophet would arrive, He would be the One and only Mediator of a new and better covenant – a covenant that was cut at Calvary, through His Own shed blood – a covenant that will be fully and finally ratified when He returns as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Heavenly Father, thank You for the witness of Your Word and the wonderful truths it contains. Thank You that You have told us the end from the beginning through many prophets who, like Moses, faithfully spoke the Word of the Lord. Thank You for Jesus Who came to earth as the ultimate Prophet, Priest, and King. Thank You that He is the living Word, Who only spoke those things that He heard from You, and thank You for the written Word, which instructs us in godly living, and provides all we need to live godly in Christ Jesus. Give me wisdom and grace to discern and identify the many false prophets that have entered Christendom, and I pray that in the power of the indwelling
Spirit of God that I would become a true witness to Your Word, and that Christ may be glorified in me. This I ask in Jesus’ name, AMEN.
What does Deuteronomy 18:15 mean?
John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible
The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet
Not Joshua, as Aben Ezra, not Jeremiah, as Baal Haturim, nor David F15, as others; nor a succession of prophets, as Jarchi; for a single person is only spoken of; and there is a dissimilitude between Moses and anyone of the prophets, and all of them in succession, ( Deuteronomy 34:10-12 ) , but the Messiah, with whom the whole agrees; and upon this the expectation of a prophet among the Jews was raised, ( John 6:14 ) and is applied to him, and referred to as belonging to him in ( Acts 3:22 ) ( 7:37 ) , who was a prophet mighty in word and deed, and not only foretold future events, as his own sufferings and death, and resurrection from the dead, the destruction of Jerusalem, and other things; but taught and instructed men in the knowledge of divine things, spake as never man did, preached the Gospel fully and faithfully, so that as the law came by Moses, the doctrine of grace and truth came by him; and he was raised up of God, called, sent, commissioned and qualified by him for the office of a prophet, as well as was raised from the dead as a confirmation of his being that extraordinary person:
from the midst of thee;
he was of Israel, according to the flesh, of the tribe of Judah, and of the house of David, born of a virgin in Bethlehem, preached only in Judea, and was raised from the dead in the midst of them, and of which they were witnesses:
of thy brethren;
the Israelites, of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came, and to whom he was sent as a prophet, and among whom he only preached:
like unto me;
the Targum of Jonathan adds,
“in the Holy Spirit;”
which he received without measure, and in respect of which was superior to Moses, or any of the prophets: he was like to Moses in the faithful discharge of his office, in his familiar converse with God, in the miracles which he wrought; as well as in his being a Mediator, and the Redeemer of his people, as Moses was a mediator between God and the people of Israel, and the deliverer of them out of Egypt; and it is a saying of the Jews F16 themselves,
“as was the first redeemer, so is the second:”
unto him ye shall hearken;
externally attend on his ministry, internally receive his doctrine, embrace and profess it; do what is heard from him, hear him, and not another, always and in all things; see ( Matthew 17:5 ) .
F15 Herbanus in Disputat. cum Gregent. p. 13. col. 2.
F16 Midrash Kohelet, fol. 63. 2.