OT Encounters: Deut 18:15-20 – A Promised Prophet

By Jeff Pulse

The Old Testament text for January 28, 2018, the fourth Sunday of the Epiphany, is from the last book of the Torah, Deuteronomy. The text is Deuteronomy 18:15-20, and we hear Moses addressing the people of Israel and giving them the promise that the LORD will raise up a prophet LIKE HIM from the people. At first, this does not seem to bear much comment, but as we read further into Deuteronomy, we see in chapter 34: 10-12 words that seem contradictory to the words of our text. Chapter 34 says there has not arisen a prophet like Moses who knew the LORD face to face and spoke to Him mouth to mouth. There are two school of thoughts among conservative scholars: 1) A prophet like Moses refers to the line of prophets that lead up to Christ; 2) A prophet like Moses refers to Christ directly. I would argue that both are true and help reconcile the two Deuteronomy passages. Christ is not only the fulfillment of the prophetic line; He is also the NEW Moses. No other prophet lived up to Moses until the NEW Moses arrived. Thus we speak of Jesus as being a prophet after the order of Moses.

Our text also reminds the people of how they wanted to be near the LORD God but were terrified of His holy presence. There was wisdom in this terror, for the unholy cannot be in the presence of the holy. Man needs a “mediator” between himself and God, and Moses was that mediator for the children of Israel. He was the one they sent up the mountain into the glory cloud. He was the one who went into the tent of meeting in their place. And he was the one who stayed the hand of the LORD when He was going to strike the whole nation dead and start over with Moses.

One other interesting thing to note in verse 18: “…and I will put my words into his mouth.” A true prophet speaks the words of God, not his own. Therefore, in the call of several prophets, we see the LORD doing something to—or placing words in—the new prophet’s mouth. This is true of Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, etc. It sets apart a prophet and points to the pastor’s role as prophet/preacher today. We speak the word of the LORD, not our own.

18:15 yaqim—root: qum “to rise; arise; raise up”

           tishmaun—root: shama “to hear; listen” Note the “nun” at the end of this verb. This appears to be a paragogic nun which is a left-over letter from older forms of the language. An English equivalent would be “toward” verse “towards”—the ending “s” is unnecessary, but it remains.

18:16 shaalta—root: shaal “to desire; ask”hey

           lishmoa—root: shama “to hear; listen”

           ereh—root: raah “to see” Cohortative—“Let me (not) see”

           amuth—root: muth “to die” With “lo” means “Lest I die”

Note the desire to have the LORD near, but the fear of His presence at the same time.

18:17 heytiybu—root: tov–hiphil “to be good; right”

18:18  wenathati—root: nathan “to give; put”

            wediber—root: dabar—piel “to speak”

            atsawenu—root: tsun  “to command” “I command him”

18:19  edrosh—root: darash “to require”

18:20 yaziyd—root: zayad—hiphil “to behave or act presumptuously; insolently”

           lo—tsiwiythiw—root: tsun “to command” “I have not commanded him…”