Deuteronomy 18:15
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Deuteronomy 18:15-20. THE ONE MEDIATOR.

The connection between these verses and the preceding is well illustrated by Isaiah’s question (Deuteronomy 8:19): “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead?” Or, as the angels turned the phrase on Easter morning, “Why seek ye Him that liveth among the dead?”

(15) The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet.—Namely, Him of whom St. Peter spoke in Acts 3:22-26. “Unto you first God, having raised up His son Jesus, sent Him to bless you.” It must not be forgotten that the prophetic office is still continued to our risen Lord. He still “speaketh from heaven.” But He “descended first into the lower parts of the earth.” He has “the keys of hell and of death;” and knows all their secrets. They who can draw near to Him have no need to look downward, to consult dead relatives, or seek knowledge from spirits whose character, even if they are accessible, is beyond our discernment. The Holy Spirit, our Comforter and Advocate on earth, and the Prophet, our Advocate that speaketh from heaven, are enough for all human need. What we cannot learn from them, or from the light they give us, it is better not to know.

(16) According to all that thou desiredst . . . in Horeb.—It should never be forgotten that the Prophet like to Moses was promised on “the day of the assembly.” The Holy Spirit, who is Christ in us, was promised on the day of the delivery of the “letter that killeth.” (See also on Deuteronomy 5:28.)

(18) He shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.—“The words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself” (our Lord, in John 14:10). “He shall not speak of Himself. He shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (the Holy Spirit, John 16:13-14).

(19) Whosoever will not hearken . . . I will require it of him.—“For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from Him that speaketh from heaven: whose voice then shook the earth.” (Hebrews 12:25.)

(20) That prophet shall die.—Rashi illustrates this by the case of Hananiah (Jeremiah 28) who prophesied that Jeconiah, and all that went with him to Babylon, should return within two years. He was sentenced by Jeremiah to die that year; and he died accordingly, within two months.

Deuteronomy 18:15. Will raise up — Will produce and send into the world in due time. A Prophet of thy brethren, like unto me — These words are very remarkable, and deserve our very particular attention. Moses was now about to leave his people, and therefore informs them, for their comfort, that God would raise them up another prophet, who should speak unto them God’s words, and instruct them in his will. He has been understood by many eminent persons as foretelling hereby that God would raise up a succession of prophets in the Jewish Church for the instruction of his people. And, perhaps, this interpretation is not to be altogether rejected,

1st, Because this prediction is alleged here as a reason why they need not consult with diviners, as they should have prophets at hand to advise them whenever it was needful.

2d, Because the prophet here spoken of is opposed to the false prophets, and a general rule is hereupon given for the discovery of all succeeding prophets, whether true or false, Deuteronomy 18:20-22.

3d, Because, as is here threatened, whenever the people did not hearken to, and obey these prophets, God required it of them, punishing them repeatedly, and that in a signal manner, by the sword of their enemies, by famine, and by captivity, especially the captivity of the ten tribes under Shalmaneser, the king of Assyria, and the captivity of Judah and Benjamin by Nebuchadnezzar, with the awful calamities preceding and following.

The prediction, however, must of necessity be primarily interpreted of the Messiah. 1st, Because the text speaks of one prophet only, in the singular number, and not of many. 2d, Because the Messiah alone can with propriety be said to have been a prophet like unto Moses, it being simply denied, and that repeatedly, that any other prophet did, or should arise, like unto him. See Deuteronomy 34:10; Numbers 12:6-8. God spoke to the other prophets in dreams and visions, or by the appearance of angels, but he conversed with Moses in a free and familiar way, mouth to mouth, and face to face, as it is expressed, as a man converses with his friend, Moses having his light in the divine will immediately from God, without the intervention of dreams, visions, or the appearance of angels. They only expounded and enforced the laws of God already given, none of them being, properly speaking, lawgivers, in the intermediate space between Moses and Christ. But Moses was properly a lawgiver, and that in a very extraordinary sense, delivering a law which was in general entirely new, and that with such authority and attestations from God, as had never been witnessed on earth before. Not many of these prophets wrought miracles, and those who did, can with no propriety be said to have resembled Moses in that respect. The first and the last of these instances of dissimilitude are particularly noticed in one of the passages above referred to. “There arose not a prophet in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face; in all the signs and wonders which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt; and in all that mighty hand and great terror which Moses showed in the sight of all Israel.” Add to all this that Moses was a mediator and a king as well as a prophet, in the former of which characters none of the ancient prophets resembled him, and none, except David, in the latter. But Christ was truly like him in all these greater, and in a variety of lesser respects. He was not only a prophet, but a priest and mediator, a king and lawgiver; and not only fully equalled, but infinitely surpassed Moses in the excellence of his ministry and work, the glory of his miracles, and in his familiar and intimate converse with God; being in the bosom of the Father, and the wisdom and word of God incarnate. 3d, The awful threatening denounced in this passage, (Deuteronomy 18:19,) was most signally fulfilled with respect to those of the Jews that did not hearken to this prophet: the Lord most terribly required it of them, and continues to require it. For wrath came upon them to the uttermost, (1 Thessalonians 2:16,) by the Roman armies, in the siege and destruction of their cities, and especially of Jerusalem their capital city, and the utter ruin of their country; and the sad effects of that wrath they have felt for upward of seventeen hundred years, and continue to feel to this day. But, 4th, What perfectly places the matter beyond all doubt, this prophecy is expounded by God himself of Christ, and of Christ alone, in the New Testament. See Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37; John 1:45; John 5:45-46; John 6:14.

18:15-22 It is here promised concerning Christ, that there should come a Prophet, great above all the prophets; by whom God would make known himself and his will to the children of men, more fully and clearly than he had ever done before. He is the Light of the world, Joh 8:12. He is the World by whom God speaks to us, Joh 1:1; Heb 1:2. In his birth he should be one of their nation. In his resurrection he should be raised up at Jerusalem, and from thence his doctrine should go forth to all the world. Thus God, having raised up his Son Christ Jesus, sent him to bless us. He should be like unto Moses, only above him. This prophet is come, even JESUS; and is He that should come, and we are to look for no other. The view of God which he gives, will not terrify or overwhelm, but encourages us. He speaks with fatherly affection and Divine authority united. Whoever refuses to listen to Jesus Christ, shall find it is at his peril; the same that is the Prophet is to be his Judge, Joh 12:48. Woe then to those who refuse to hearken to His voice, to accept His salvation, or yield obedience to His sway! But happy they who trust in Him, and obey Him. He will lead them in the paths of safety and peace, until He brings them to the land of perfect light, purity, and happiness. Here is a caution against false prophets. It highly concerns us to have a right touchstone wherewith to try the word we hear, that we may know what that word is which the Lord has not spoken. Whatever is against the plain sense of the written word, or which gives countenance or encouragement to sin, we may be sure is not that which the Lord has spoken.The ancient fathers of the Church and the generality of modern commentators have regarded our Lord as the prophet promised in these verses. It is evident from the New Testament alone that the Messianic was the accredited interpretation among the Jews at the beginning of the Christian era (compare the marginal references, and John 4:25); nor can our Lord Himself, when He declares that Moses "wrote of Him" John 5:45-47, be supposed to have any other words more directly in view than these, the only words in which Moses, speaking in his own person, gives any prediction of the kind. But the verses seem to have a further, no less evident if subsidiary, reference to a prophetical order which should stand from time to time, as Moses had done, between God and the people; which should make known God's will to the latter; which should by its presence render it unnecessary either that God should address the people directly, as at Sinai (Deuteronomy 18:16; compare Deuteronomy 5:25 ff), or that the people themselves in lack of counsel should resort to the superstitions of the pagan.

In fact, in the words before us, Moses gives promise both of a prophetic order, and of the Messiah in particular as its chief; of a line of prophets culminating in one eminent individual. And in proportion as we see in our Lord the characteristics of the prophet most perfectly exhibited, so must we regard the promise of Moses as in Him most completely accomplished.

De 18:15-19. Christ the Prophet Is to Be Heard.

15-19. The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet—The insertion of this promise, in connection with the preceding prohibition, might warrant the application (which some make of it) to that order of true prophets whom God commissioned in unbroken succession to instruct, to direct, and warn His people; and in this view the purport of it is, "There is no need to consult with diviners and soothsayers, as I shall afford you the benefit of divinely appointed prophets, for judging of whose credentials a sure criterion is given" (De 18:20-22). But the prophet here promised was pre-eminently the Messiah, for He alone was "like unto Moses" (see on [156]De 34:10) "in His mediatorial character; in the peculiar excellence of His ministry; in the number, variety, and magnitude of His miracles; in His close and familiar communion with God; and in His being the author of a new dispensation of religion." This prediction was fulfilled fifteen hundred years afterwards and was expressly applied to Jesus Christ by Peter (Ac 3:22, 23), and by Stephen (Ac 7:37).

Will raise up, i.e. will produce and send into the world in due time.

A Prophet: those words may be understood secondarily concerning the succession of prophets which God would raise for the instruction of his church, both because this is alleged as an argument why they need not consult with diviners, &c., because they should have prophets at hand whensoever it was needful to advise them, and because this Prophet is opposed to the false prophet; and a general rule is hereupon given for the discovery of all succeeding prophets, whether they be true or false, Deu 18:20-22; but they are chiefly to be understood of Christ, as the following words show, which do not truly and fully agree to any other; particularly where he is said to be

like unto Moses, which is simply denied concerning all other prophets, Deu 34:10, and therefore it is not probable that it should be simply affirmed concerning all true prophets succeeding him. But Christ was truly, and in all commendable parts, like him, in being both a Prophet and a King, and a Priest and Mediator, as Moses was, in the excellency of his ministry and work, in the glory of his miracles, in his familiar and intimate converse with God, &c. And this place is expounded of Christ alone by God himself in the New Testament, Acts 3:22 7:37. See also John 1:45 6:14.

The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet,.... Not Joshua, as Aben Ezra, not Jeremiah, as Baal Haturim, nor David (o), 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, 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, 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 (p) 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.

(o) Herbanus in Disputat. cum Gregent. p. 13. Colossians 2. (p) Midrash Kohelet, fol. 63. 2.

The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a {g} Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;

(g) Meaning, a continual succession of prophets, till Christ, the end of all prophets, comes.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
15. A prophet from the midst [of thee] of thy brethren like unto me shall the LORD thy God raise up to thee] Such is the emphatic order of the original, missed by EVV. A prophet—not individual but collective1[143], i.e. a succession of prophets, for the whole spirit of the passage is that God shall never fail to speak directly to His people—is placed at the head of the sentence in forcible contrast to the diviners and necromancers just described, a speaker for God as Aaron was spokesman for Moses (J, Exodus 4:16; Exodus 7:1). Like the king (Deuteronomy 17:15) he must be an Israelite (Sam., from the midst of thy brethren); (LXX B etc. from thy, Acts 3:22; Acts 7:37, from your, brethren); diviners and necromancers were foreign (Isaiah 2:6, Nahum 3:4, Isaiah 47:9; Isaiah 47:12). Like unto me, i.e. (as the next v. shows) in being the mediator of God; the phrase does not imply equality in rank with Moses; according to Deuteronomy 34:10, there hath not arisen a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, cp. Numbers 12:6-8.

[143] Cp. the use of the sing, king in Deuteronomy 17:14 ff., and judge in Jdg 2:18. ‘A Prophet is used by enallage for a number of prophets. Moses is here treating of the continual manner of the Church’s government. Not at all more correct is their opinion who apply it strictly to Christ alone, for it is well to bear in mind what I have said respecting God’s intention, viz. that no excuse should be left for the Jews, if they turned aside to familiar spirits or magicians, since God would never leave them without prophets and teachers. But if He had referred them to Christ alone, the objection would naturally arise that it was hard for them to have neither prophets nor revelations for two thousand years.’ (Calvin.)

Verses 15-22. - There should be no need for Israel to turn to heathen soothsayers, or diviners, or such like, because from amongst themselves, of their own brethren, would God raise up prophets like unto Moses, who, as occasion required, would reveal to them what God willed them to know. Verse 15. - A Prophet. The Hebrew word so rendered (נָבִיא) is a derivative from a verb (נָבָא), which signifies to tell, to announce; hence the primary concept of the word is that of announcer, or forth-speaker; and to this the word "prophet" (Greek προφήτης from πρόφημι, I speak before or in place of) closely corresponds; the prophet is one who speaks in the place of God, who conveys God's word to men, who is an interpreter of God to men. (As illustrative of the meaning of the word, cf. Exodus 7:1; Exodus 4:16.) Hence Abraham is called a prophet (Genesis 20:7), and the term is applied to the patriarchs generally (Psalm 105:15); God conveyed his mind to them, and they spoke it forth to others (cf. Amos 3:7). Like unto me. When the people heard the voice of God speaking to them at Sinai, and from the midst of the fire uttering to them the Ten Words, they were struck with terror, and besought that they might not again hear that awful voice, but that Moses might act as mediator between God and them - might hear what God should say, and speak it unto them (Deuteronomy 5:22-27). Moses thus became God's prophet to the people; and of this he reminds them here, as well as of the circumstances amid which he entered specially on this office (cf. vers. 16, 17). The phrase, "like unto me," does not necessarily imply that the prophet who was to come after Moses was to be in every respect the same as he; all that is indicated is that he would act as Moses had acted as a mediator between God and the people in the way of conveying his will to them. Deuteronomy 18:15"A prophet out of the midst of thee, out of thy brethren, as I am, will Jehovah thy God raise up to thee; to him shall ye hearken." When Moses thus attaches to the prohibition against hearkening to soothsayers and practising soothsaying, the promise that Jehovah would raise up a prophet, etc., and contrasts what the Lord would do for His people with what He did not allow, it is perfectly evident from this simple connection alone, apart from the further context of the passage, in which Moses treats of the temporal and spiritual rulers of Israel (ch. 17 and 18), that the promise neither relates to one particular prophet, nor directly and exclusively to the Messiah, but treats of the sending of prophets generally. And this is also confirmed by what follows with reference to true and false prophets, which presupposes the rise of a plurality of prophets, and shows most incontrovertibly that it is not one prophet only, nor the Messiah exclusively, who is promised here. It by no means follows from the use of the singular, "a prophet," that Moses is speaking of one particular prophet only; but the idea expressed is this, that at any time when the people stood in need of a mediator with God like Moses, God would invariably send a prophet. The words, "out of the midst of thee, of thy brethren," imply that there would be no necessity for Israel to turn to heathen soothsayers or prophets, but that it would find the men within itself who would make known the word of the Lord. The expression, "like unto me," is explained by what follows in Deuteronomy 18:16-18 with regard to the circumstances, under which the Lord had given the promise that He would send a prophet. It was at Sinai; when the people were filled with mortal alarm, after hearing the ten words which God addressed to them out of the fire, and entreated Moses to act as mediator between the Lord and themselves, that God might not speak directly to them any more. At that time the Lord gave the promise that He would raise up a prophet, and put His words into his mouth, that he might speak to the people all that the Lord commanded (cf. Deuteronomy 5:20.). The promised prophet, therefore, was to resemble Moses in this respect, that he would act as mediator between Jehovah and the people, and make known the words or the will of the Lord. Consequently the meaning contained in the expression "like unto me" was not that the future prophet would resemble Moses in all respect, - a meaning which has been introduced into it through an unwarrantable use of Numbers 12:6-8; Deuteronomy 34:10, and Hebrews 3:2, Hebrews 3:5, for the purpose of proving the direct application of the promise to the Messiah alone, to the exclusion of the prophets of the Old Testament. If the resemblance of the future prophet to Moses, expressed in the words "like unto me," be understood as indicating the precise form in which God revealed Himself to Moses, speaking with him mouth to mouth, and not in a dream or vision, a discrepancy is introduced between this expression and the words which follow in Deuteronomy 18:18, "I will put My words in his mouth;" since this expresses not the particular mode in which Moses received the revelations from God, in contrast with the rest of the prophets, but simply that form of divine communication or inspiration which was common to all the prophets (vid., Jeremiah 1:9; Jeremiah 5:14).

But whilst we are obliged to give up the direct and exclusive reference of this promise to the Messiah, which was the prevailing opinion in the early Church, and has been revived by Kurtz, Auberlen, and Tholuck, as not in accordance with the context or the words themselves, we cannot, on the other hand, agree with v. Hoffmann, Baur, and Knobel, in restricting the passage to the Old Testament prophets, to the exclusion of the Messiah. There is no warrant for this limitation of the word "prophet," since the expectation of the Messiah was not unknown to Moses and the Israel of his time, but was actually expressed in the promise of the seed of the woman, and Jacob's prophecy concerning Shiloh; so that O. v. Gerlach is perfectly right in observing, that "this is a prediction of Christ as the true Prophet, precisely like that of the seed of the woman in Genesis 3:15." The occasion, also, on which Moses received the promise of the "prophet" from the Lord, which he here communicated to the people, - namely, when the people desired a mediator between themselves and the Lord at Sinai, and this desire on their part was pleasing to the Lord, - shows that the promise should be understood in the full sense of the words, without any limitation whatever; that is to say, that Christ, in whom the prophetic character culminated and was completed, is to be included. Even Ewald admits, that "the prophet like unto Moses, whom God would raise up out of Israel and for Israel, can only be the true prophet generally;" and Baur also allows, that "historical exposition will not mistake the anticipatory reference of this expression to Christ, which is involved in the expectation that, in the future completion of the plan of salvation, the prophetic gift would form an essential element." And lastly, the comparison instituted between the promised prophet and Moses, compels us to regard the words as referring to the Messiah. The words, "like unto me," "like unto thee," no more warrant us in excluding the Messiah on the one hand, than in excluding the Old Testament prophets on the other, since it is unquestionably affirmed that the prophet of the future would be as perfectly equal to his calling as Moses was to his,

(Note: Let any one paraphrase the passage thus: "A prophet inferior indeed to me, but yet the channel of divine revelations," and he will soon feel how unsuitable it is" (Hengstenberg).)

- that He would carry out the mediation between the Lord and the people in the manner and the power of Moses. In this respect not one of the Old Testament prophets was fully equal to Moses, as is distinctly stated in Deuteronomy 34:10. All the prophets of the Old Testament stood within the sphere of the economy of the law, which was founded through the mediatorial office of Moses; and even in their predictions of the future, they simply continued to build upon the foundation which was laid by Moses, and therefore prophesied of the coming of the servant of the Lord, who, as the Prophet of all prophets, would restore Jacob, and carry out the law and right of the Lord to the nations, even to the end of the world (Isaiah 42; 49; 40; Isaiah 61:1-11). This prophecy, therefore, is very properly referred to Jesus Christ in the New Testament, as having been fulfilled in Him. Not only had Philip this passage in his mind when he said to Nathanael, "We have found Him of whom Moses in the law did write, Jesus of Nazareth," whilst Stephen saw the promise of the prophet like unto Moses fulfilled in Christ (Acts 7:37); but Peter also expressly quotes it in Acts 3:22-23, as referring to Christ; and even the Lord applies it to Himself in John 5:45-47, when He says to the Jews, "Moses, in whom ye trust, will accuse you; for if ye believed Moses, ye would also believe Me: for Moses wrote of Me." In John 12:48-50, again, the reference to Deuteronomy 18:18 and Deuteronomy 18:19 of this chapter is quite unmistakeable; and in the words, "hear ye Him" which were uttered from the cloud at the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:5), the expression in Deuteronomy 18:15, "unto Him shall ye hearken," is used verbatim with reference to Christ. Even the Samaritans founded their expectation of the Messiah (John 4:25) upon these words of Moses.

(Note: On the history of the exposition of this passage, see Hengstenberg's Christology.)

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