Jews for Jesus

Issues Issues Volume 11 Number 4 A Prophet Like Unto Moses

A Prophet Like Unto Moses

Biblical similarities between Moses and the Jewish Messiah.

They didn't intend to start a new religion. They had made a discovery. As far as they were concerned, it was the discovery of a lifetime and they were excited. The way they explained it showed that they had been on a Jewish quest, seeking a Jewish goal.

Pinchas, or Philip, expressed it well to his brother Nathaniel when he told of this discovery: We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph."

In response, Nathaniel quipped, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?"

And Philip seriously replied, "Come and see."

But even before that, Andrew had told his brother Simon about the same discovery. He said, "We have found the Moshiach," which is translated "the Christ."

Here we see two different Jews, each speaking his understanding of the same person. That person was Israel's promised Messiah.

But exactly what did Pinchas mean when he said, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law…wrote"? Where in Torah did Moses mention the Messiah? While it wouldn't be disputed that many, if not all, of the prophets talked about Israel's coming deliverer, one's thoughts do not readily go to Moses.

A Deliverer

Yes, Moses did speak of a deliverer to come. Tucked into the midst of the summary of the Law in the eighteenth chapter of Devarim (Deuteronomy), talking about the punishment of false prophets, Moses made a remarkable prophecy:

"The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like unto me from the midst, of your brethren. Him you shall hear."

What did Moshe Rabeynu mean when he said, "like unto me"? Did this mean that the Prophet who would come would be an older man? (Moses was eighty years old when he brought the Israelites out of Egypt.) Did it mean that the Prophet would be hot-tempered and impatient? (Certainly Moses was that way.) Did it mean that the Prophet would be trained in the ways of Egyptian royalty? The answer to all of the above is "No." The text describes how that Prophet would be like Moses, as it recalls the experience of a nation that has been memorialized and burned into our consciousness.

"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." (Deuteronomy 18:18,19)

How have Jewish commentators interpreted that prophecy? Most contemporary commentators believe that Joshua and other prophets fulfilled the Scripture. However, this was not always the case. The late Rachmiel Frydland, in his book, What the Rabbis Know About the Messiah, pointed out: "Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon (RALBAG), of the fourteenth century, identified the Prophet as Messiah." He went on to give RALBAG's commentary:

'A Prophet from the midst of thee.' In fact, the Messiah is such a Prophet as it is stated in the Midrash of the verse, 'Behold my Servant shall prosper' (Isaiah 52:13).…Moses, by the miracles which he wrought, brought a single nation to the worship of God, but the Messiah will draw all peoples to the worship of God. (1)

The Midrashic passage that RALBAG cites, referring to Messiah as Prophet, states:

It is written, Behold, my servant shall deal wisely, He shall be exalted, and extolled, and be very high (Isaiah 52:13). It means, He shall be more exalted than Abraham of whom it is written, 'I lift up my hand' (Genesis 14:22). He shall be more extolled than Moses of whom it is said, 'As a nursing father beareth the nursing child' (Numbers 11:12). 'And shall be very high'—that is, Messiah shall be higher than the ministering angels. (2)

Whether or not one accepts the premise that the Deuteronomy passage predicts the Messiah, what can we know about the similarities between Moses and the Prophet who was to be like him?

That "likeness" points to a time, a place and an event. The context of Deuteronomy 18 demonstrates that Israel as a nation did not want to confront or be confronted by God. It was a fearful time of thunder, lightning, storms and earthquakes as the whole nation was gathered in the desert. The dark mountain of Sinai seemed to be the center of the storm and seismic activity. The people of Israel were frightened and rightly so, because they sensed that they were encountering something holy and awesome.

That word, "awesome," can hardly contain the meaning and depth of their fear. They knew that they were being summoned to meet their Creator, possibly "panim l' panim" (face to face). They were terrified, for they knew from the Patriarchs that no one could look upon God's face and live. Yet here was the Almighty, the King of the ages, coming to confront them. They trembled in one accord, saying, "Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God. Don't let me see this great fire anymore lest I die."

Never was the nation so unified in their desire. Never was a nation so fearful. The fear of the Lord abounded in every heart. Every person knew that he or she was unclean before the Almighty, so they spoke as one, asking that Moses be their intercessor—their go-between, their intermediary. Whatever God had for them could be told to Moses, who in turn would tell the people God's message as he had done before in the events leading up to their redemption. And God did speak to Moses, confiding in him that what the people had asked was good.

A Mediator

Then the Almighty also confirmed the words Moses had spoken about the Prophet who would be the speaker of God's word and the intermediary between God and his people. But the king of heaven added something about this intermediary when he said, "And it shall be that whoever will not hear my words which he speaks in my name, I will require it of him."

So it seems on that most serious day in Israel's history, it was decided that an intercessor should speak for God to the people, and everything the intercessor would speak or require would be God's word and God's requirement. God's word and will would be transmitted through that very special intercessor. Thus, the primary way that the Prophet (Messiah) was to be "like Moses" was in the role of go-between or intermediary.

In Bible days, every priest was an intermediary or intercessor who made representation to God on behalf of the people. The priest would bring the petitions and offerings of repentance of Israel and stand in the Holy Place on behalf of the people.

The prophets were also intercessors who spoke to the people on behalf of God. They mediated God's word and often called the nation back to a relationship with the Almighty asking and exhorting the people to turn from sin and return to the covenant relationship.

Kings like David and Solomon were also like Moses in that they led and administered the Law to the whole nation. Because a king is a judge in peace and a commander in war, Israel's kings acted in God's stead to mediate God's will and hence were intercessors acting on God's behalf.

Sin Bearer

The word Messiah, or Moshiach, means "anointed." Prophets, priests and kings were all anointed to show their consecration. Moses, in a sense, fulfilled all three functions at the same time.

But there was one way in which the Prophet to come, the Messiah, would most resemble Moses. The Moshiach Y'shua resembles Moses the most in that Moses offered himself to die for the sins of the people.

For all of the things that are praiseworthy about Moses' life, one episode is often overlooked. Perhaps the rabbis commented less on this section because of the embarrassment of Israel's idolatry which preceded the following passage:

"Now it came to pass on the next day that Moses said to the people, 'You have committed a great sin. So now I will go up to the LORD; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.' Then Moses returned to the LORD and said, 'Oh, these people have committed a great sin, and have made for themselves a god of gold! Yet now, if You will forgive their sin—but if not, I pray, blot me out of Your book which You have written.' And the LORD said to Moses, 'Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book. (Exodus 32:30-33)"

In order that Israel might be saved from the wrath of God, Moses stood ready to offer his own life—to take the punishment of the people's sins on himself if God could find no other way to forgive them. He asked God that his life be an expiation for the sins of the people. As a priest he could have made grandiose offerings—thousands of lambs or bulls—but instead he simply offered his own life.

Shepherds and Sheep

We need to remember that forty years of Moses' life were spent as a shepherd in those same mountains and deserts of Midian. In leading the people, he showed the mindset and attitudes of a good shepherd. The job description of a "good shepherd" calls for the kind of serious commitment in which one must be willing to give his own life for the sheep. Y'shua explained this most succinctly as recorded in the New Testament book of John:

"The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have [it] more abundantly. I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, [he who is] not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My [sheep], and am known by My own.

"As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." (John 10:10-15)

The truly good shepherd puts the welfare of the flock above his own.

When Philip told his brother Nathaniel, "We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph" he recognized that Moshe Rabeynu and Moshiach Y'shua were alike. But he probably did not realize until later the full implications of what he was saying.

We see that Y'shua was a prophet like Moses, only better. Moses died, but the B'rit Chadasha (New Testament) tells us that Moshiach Y'shua is alive forever to make intercession for us. Y'shua is the one who can lead us out of the Egypt of everyday life. He can break the shackles of the bondage of sin. On life's journey to the promised land (heaven), he can be our guide and provider, and though his provision will not be manna and quail, there will be bread from heaven to feed our souls and restore our spirits.

There is one big difference between Y'shua and Moses: Moses led the people to the promised land, but he wasn't allowed to enter himself. That was because wise and good though Moses was, even he had sinned. Moshiach Y'shua, on the other hand, is the perfect mediator because he was innocent, without sin, and took our deserved punishment upon himself. He is waiting in heaven for all those who put their trust in him. When we see Y'shua there, certainly Moshe Rabeynu will be there too, because he was the one who knew and foretold his coming and trusted in him.

  • What the Rabbis Know About The Messiah by Rachmiel Frydland, (Cincinatti, OH: Messianic Publishing Company, Messianic Literature Outreach, 1991) page 22

  • See Midrash Tanhuma, (Israel: KTAV Publishing Company, 1989) pp166-67

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    0 # Actually_A_Jew 2014-09-18 20:26
    When you quote Exodus 32 - isn't it odd that God doesn't take Moses up on the offer to let him die for the sins of the nation? Instead, God says, "Whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book." This is because the Bible is expressly against someone dying for the sins of another. There is no way that this magically changed 1000 years later. There is only one Torah, it will never be replaced. Also, if you think all Jews need to convert to bring Jesus back, let me tell you straight - I will never convert, my children will never convert, and the righteous remnant of Israel will never convert - so don't hold your breath.
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    0 # Del Ja 2015-04-18 04:17
    Actually Bible is not against someone dying for the sins of another thatswhy a blemishless lamb was accepted as a sacrifice for the redemption of sins(Leviticus 17:11) Moses was not accepted as a substitutionary atonement because he could not be completely blemishless. But Jesus Christ the incarnate word of God who was foretold by Prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 53:3,4,10) offered himself as the sacrifice for our sins.
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    0 # Hope 2014-09-07 11:06
    Wonderful, excellent, clearly expressed! I had never fully explored the similarities between Moses and Jesus before. Inspiring and beautiful. Thank you-- I really appreciate it.
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    0 # Debi 2014-04-20 16:56
    This is a very important article for us to read and to understand the predictions from the Old Testament. .. to know Whom we believe is enough, but it is even better to know why we believe so, when challenged by others, we can defend our beliefs. I have enjoyed this explanation of what Moses meant when he said 'a prophet like unto me ' , for certainly Jesus is our Messiah, and the beauty of the Bible never ceases to amaze me and full me with wonder and love for our Creator. .. thank you. ..
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    0 # Matt Sieger 2012-10-22 07:52
    Adeline,
    The primary sources for this article are the Hebrew Scriptures (the Old Testament) and the New Testament. The other sources are footnoted at the bottom of the article.
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    0 # Beulah 2008-03-26 10:02
    "A related confusion is John 19:31, which says that after Yesua's crucifixion was a sabbath. This does not mean that the crucifixion happened on a Friday because the next day was Saturday. Scripturally, Shabbat refers to any holy day that is a day of rest, such as the first day of Pesach. So the Shabbat was the 14th of Nissan, the first day of Pesach and evening of the second seder. The day began that evening, following the Jewish calendar.)" I think penei.org does a good job in explaining what some people find confusing.
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    0 # Adeline 2012-10-22 04:21
    Could you help me with this. Because what are your sources?
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    0 # Beulah 2008-03-26 10:01
    Perhaps this will help clarify: "Thus, Yeshua's triumphal entry was on a Sunday. His last supper was a seder on a Wednesday night. His crucifixion was on a Thursday afternoon. He was three nights and three days in the tomb (Matthew 12:40). Sunday morning he rose from the dead. "Many people believe that the different gospels give conflicting accounts of Yeshua's crucifixion. Was Yeshua crucified on a preparations-for-the -seder day, and how could that be if the evening before was a seder? The accounts do not conflict once the context is known.
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    0 # Josh 2006-07-04 05:43
    I think Rich's first point hurts himself. Did Jesus say "on the third day", or "after three days". It could not have been both unless Jesus said both, but in that case he would have had to have been buried for the duration of Sunday day, anyway. His second point is problematic in the same vein. Who said what? Were the pharisees actually giving the correct account, or were they incorrect? It all goes back to which one of the gospels was incorrect in his account.
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    0 # Mordechai 2006-06-03 16:52
    Rich: 3 days and 3 nights only equals the third day if the night came first. Gen. and II Chron.: the phrase "...and 3 nights" is absent. It was only intended to be for a period of 3 days, and so on the 3rd day the time could be considered up by Jewish Law. Est.: She did not say she would go to the king after the 3rd day, but that they should fast for 3 full days anyway. I Shm.: Where does it say only his master could feed him? Also, 3 days and 3 nights=not eating. 3 days=after being dismissed. No connection. Are you saying that Jesus really said he would rise on the 3rd day (Mat. 27:63) even though he is recorded as saying he would rise after 3 days and 3 nights (12:40)? Who would you say got the story wrong?
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    0 # Rich 2006-05-12 01:21

    Continuing - in the Tanach-

    In Genesis 42:17 Joseph incarcerated his brothers for three days, and then in verse 18 he spoke to them on the third day, and (from the context) released them on that day.

    In 2 Chronicles 10:5 Rehoboam stated that the people of Israel were to return to him in/after (cf. LXX) three days, and in verse 12 Jeroboam and the people came to Rehoboam on the third day.

    In Esther 4:16 Esther asks the Jews, "Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day," and then she would go in to the king, and in 5:1 Esther went in to the king on the third day.

    Finally, in I Samuel 30:12 an abandoned Egyptian servant had not eaten bread or drunk water for three days and three nights, and in verse 13 he states that his master left him behind three days ago. Thus, the Old Testament gives the picture that the expressions "three days," "the third day," and "three days and three nights" are used to signify the same period of time.

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    0 # Rich 2006-05-12 01:18

    No, "three days and three nights" = "on the third day." A bit more from the book I quoted earlier:

    ( 1) The three Markan passages are paralleled by one or two of the other Synoptic Gospels, and in each case the other Synoptic does not use "after three days" as Mark does but "on the third day" (Mark 8:31 = Matt. 16:21/Luke 9:22; Mark 9:31 = Matt. 17:23; Mark 10:34 = Matt. 20:19/Luke 18:33). Thus, the two phrases mean a period extending to the third day.

    (2) In Matthew 27:63 where the Pharisees before Pilate state that Jesus had predicted that "after three days I will rise again," the Pharisees then asked Pilate if they could have a guard of soldiers to secure the sepulcher until the third day. The phrase "after three days" must have been equivalent to "the third day," or otherwise the Pharisees would have asked for a guard of soldiers until the fourth day.

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    0 # Mordechai 2006-05-11 01:37
    Rich, I know very well what you are saying, and that is why I included Friday day and Sunday day. However, Jesus was only buried on part of two nights (Friday night and Saturday night). For his prophecy to work (3 days and 3 nights) he would have had to have been still buried throught the day Sunday and into a little bit of Sunday night.
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    +1 # Rich 2006-05-10 01:17

    In Jewish reckoning of that time, part of a day was considered as an entire day. The following is a brief excerpt from "Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ" by Harold Hoehner (Zondervan publishers). See the full book for more details.

    I t is interesting to note that the same concept is borne out in Rabbinic literature. There are several passages found in Jewish literature which combine Jonah 1:17 ("Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days an(Midrash Rabbah: Genesis lvi. 1 (on Gen. 22:4); Genesis xci. 7 (on Gen. 42:17-18); Esther ix. 2 (on Esther 5: 1); Midrash on the Psalms: Ps. 22:5.) Furthermore, Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah (lived ca. A.D. 100), who was the tenth in the descent from Ezra, stated: "A day and night are an Onah ['a portion of time'] and the portion of an Onah is as the whole of it." (Jerusalem Talmud: Shabbath ix. 3; cf. also Babylonian Talmud: Pesahim 4a.)

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    0 # Mordechai 2006-05-09 01:08
    Here's a proof that he fits Deut 18:20-22: Jesus said he would live in the belly of the earth for 3 days and 3 nights (Matt. 12:40). At the 9th hour on Friday, he cried out and died (Mark 15:34-37). He was buried that evening (15:42-47). Mark (16:2-6) then said that when the women went to visit Jesus early Sunday morning, Jesus was already gone. In summary, Jesus said he would be buried for 3 days and 3 nights. But according to the texts, he was buried 2 days and 3 nights (Friday day-nite, Sat. day-nite, Sun. day). Thus, Jesus was wrong and was a false prophet.
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    0 # Malvina 2006-04-29 15:12
    Mordechai, Jesus said that the stones of the Temple will not stand one on top of another. We sure see that today. Jesus said that there will be wars and hunger. Jesus also prophecied the distruction of Jerusalem. I can go on and on... So you see, Deut 18:20-22 doesn't speak of Jesus :) I recommend www.messiahrevealed.org
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    0 # Actually_A_Jew 2014-09-18 20:21
    But the Gospels were written after the Temple was destroyed! So how is that a prophecy? A prophecy is something ridiculous that no one could have guessed, for instance Isaiah predicting 500 years in advance that Cyrus would bring the exiles back to Israel.
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    0 # Mordechai 2006-01-15 11:06
    Deuternomy, or any other part of the first five books of the Torah, has not explicitly mentioned a messiah. You guys need to go easy on assuming Jews are all about Messiah. Moshe Rabeynu said there would be other prophets who would receive the word of G-D directly from G-D, he would relate it to the nation, and he would teach and lead the nation. It wasn't, as you suggest, anything concerning background or age. The Ralbag's quotes are totally butchered. Just because he says these verses talk about the eventual messiah, does not at all mean he agrees with your Christian take on the messiah. He clearly did not believe in Jesus, or he would have said so. I do believe, however, Jesus can be seen in Deuteronomy 18:20-22. Take a look.
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    0 # suguna 2015-03-28 11:33
    [quote name=curious)
    Now dat d temple hs been destroyed how do jews atone for their sins.
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