Part I: The Messiah in the Pentateuch
Blaine Robison, M.A.
Published 21 October 2017
Scripture: Scripture quotations may be taken from various versions. Click here for Abbreviations of Bible Versions. Passages translated by the author are annotated with "BR." A list of allusions to and quotations of the Tanakh in the Besekh may be found here.
Sources: Publication data for works cited may be found at the end of the article. Various Jewish works may be cited.
● DSS: Citations marked as "DSS" are from the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of Jewish manuscripts of Scripture and sectarian documents found in the Qumran caves. Most of the Qumran MSS belong to the last three centuries BC and the first century AD. Online DSS Bible. Unless otherwise indicated quotations from the DSS are taken from A New Translation of The Dead Sea Scrolls (2005), abbreviated as TDSS.
● LXX: The abbreviation "LXX" ("70") stands for the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, which was in use among Jews by the mid-2nd century BC. Online. See Barry Setterfield, The Alexandrian Septuagint History.
● Josephus: Citations for Josephus, the first century Jewish historian (Yosef ben Matityahu), are from The Works of Flavius Josephus (c. 75–99 A.D.) trans. William Whiston (1737). Online.
● MT: The Masoretic Text is the official Hebrew text of the Tanakh for Rabbinic Judaism. Work on developing a uniform Hebrew Bible began in the 2nd century under Rabbi Akiva, but completed by Jewish scholars known as the Masoretes between the 7th and 10th centuries A.D. The oldest extant manuscripts date from around the 9th century. Online.
● Talmud: Unless otherwise indicated references to the Talmud are from the Soncino Babylonian Talmud (1948); available online at Halakhah.com. The Jerusalem Talmud, identified with "TJ," may be found here. Click here for Talmud abbreviations.
● Targums: The Targums are early Aramaic translations of the Hebrew text with commentary that date from the first century. See an index of Targum texts here.
Syntax: Unless otherwise noted the meaning of Greek words is from F.W. Danker, The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (2009), and the meaning of Hebrew words is from The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (1981), abbreviated as "BDB." Parsing information for Hebrew words is taken from John Joseph Owens, Analytical Key to the Old Testament (1991). The numbering system of the Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible is identified with "SH" (Strong's Hebrew number) and "SG" (Strong's Greek number). Strong's Online.
Terminology: In order to emphasize the Jewish nature of all Scripture and message I use the terms ADONAI (=Heb. YHVH), Tanakh (Old Testament), Besekh (New Testament), Torah (Law), Yeshua (Jesus), and Messiah (Christ).
"And he said to them, 'These are My words which I spoke to you still being with you, that it is necessary for all things having been written about Me in the Torah of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms to be fulfilled. 45 Then he opened fully their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said to them that, "Thus it has been written, the Messiah was to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins be proclaimed into all nations, having begun from Jerusalem.'" (Luke 24:44-47 BR)
"For if you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me." (John 5:46)
This monograph gives an overview of all
that is written in the Scriptures concerning the Messiah, all of which point
to Yeshua of Nazareth as the Messiah.
Part I: The Messiah in the Pentateuch
The Instruction of Yeshua
"Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures." (Luke 24:27 NASB)
In the Besekh "Moses" is often shorthand for the five books attributed to him as author (Matt 22:24; Mark 12:19; Luke 16:29; 24:27, 44). Among Jews the five books of Moses are called Torah, as well as Chumash ("five"). Among Christians the five books are referred to as the Pentateuch. There are 139 verses of the Torah quoted in the Besekh, some several times. See a complete list here. However, there are over 400 allusions in the Besekh to Torah passages (GNT 897-903).
The first book of the Torah, Bereshit ("beginning), with 50 chapters and 1,533 verses is the longest book in the Bible. The book may be organized into two major parts, (1) the primeval age, Chapters 1—11; and (2) the patriarchal age, Chapters 12—50. Moses recorded some narrative received directly from God (2:4a), and likely edited written records passed down the Messianic line, as noted in Genesis 2:4b; 5:1b; 6:9b; 10:1b; 11:10b, 28; 25:13, 19b; 36:2, 10; and 37:2b. For the time after Joseph he likely incorporated some oral tradition.
Messiah in Creation
In Jewish literature, such as the Targums and the Talmud, the Messiah is seen in various aspects of God's great act of creation.
The Spirit of Creation
"The earth was unformed and void, darkness was on the face of the deep, and the Spirit of God hovered over the surface of the water." (Gen 1:2 CJB)
Jewish authorities saw in this verse a reference to the Messiah. The Midrash Rabbah says in this context that, "this was the "spirit of the Messiah," as it is written in Isaiah 11:2, "And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him" (Midrash Bereshith Rabbath 1:2 and Yalqut Mechiri to Psalm 139:12, quoted by Santala 35). A couple of other writings also mention that this refers to the "anointed king" (Pesikhta Rabbati 33 and Yalqut). This kind of hint is understandable since Rabbis' believed that even the name of the Messiah was determined before the creation of the world.
"Let there be light”; and there was light." (Gen 1:3)
On the passage Genesis 1:3 the Targum Neofiti says, "And the Memra [Word] of YHVH said 'Let there be light' and there was light by his Memra" (JANT 547; online). In the Tanakh light is a frequent image for God or God's presence or favor (Ps 27:1; 36:9; Isa 2:5) (JANT 157). The Midrash known as Pesikhta Rabbah, which was read from the 9th century on in connection with feast days, asks, "Whose is this light which falls upon the congregation of the Lord?" and answers, "It is the light of the Messiah" (Pesikhta Rabbah 62,1; Shapira 183).
Ancient Jewish literature connects the idea of Light with the Messiah in its discussions of various passages in the Tanakh, such as Genesis 1:3, Psalm 36:10, Isaiah 49:6 and 60:1 and Daniel 2:22. Santala comments that,
"The rabbinic Sages treated the references to the first light and the two great lights created on the fourth day as allusions to the Messiah. The Rabbis considered the Aramaic word Nehora, "light,” to be one of the secret names of the Messiah. So, when Yeshua identified himself as the Light of the World [John 8:12; 9:5], people understood that he was using a metaphor of Messianic identity.” (36)
Additional Note: Yalqut
Yalqut is a Hebrew term for a collection of highlighted teachings of a rabbi, often collected by his students. The main emphasis of a yalqut is practical encouragement on how to live according to Torah. Yalqut (also spelled Yalkut) also refers to Medieval anthologies of midrashic literature. The best known and most comprehensive is Yalqut Shimoni ("The Compilation of Simeon"), which covers the entire Hebrew Bible. This Yalqut comprises a connected series of extracts from Talmudic and Midrashic passages drawn up in the 12th and 13th centuries. More limited in scope is Yalqut Machiri, ("The Compilation of Machir b. Abba Mari"), which covers the Prophets, Psalms and Proverbs. Nothing certain is known about these authors.
Messiah in Genesis Narrative
The book of Genesis (and indeed the entire Bible) has a single theme that builds on the promise of redemption from the curse of sin. Walter Kaiser calls it the Promise-Plan of God (28). The plan was actually conceived before creation (1Cor 2:7-8; Heb 9:26; Rev 13:8). The plan is much like a long chain and each prediction, promise, prophecy and type of the Messiah in the Tanakh are links in that chain. Genesis tells the story of God putting that plan into motion. The creation of the heavens and the earth was the first step. Reflecting on Genesis 1:1-2 the Talmudic Sages sensed the beginning of the plan of salvation for humanity:
"The world is to exist six thousand years. In the first two thousand there was desolation; two thousand years the Torah flourished; and the next two thousand years is the Messianic era." (Sanhedrin 97a)
Moses, as the author of Genesis, understood very well that God promised a man who would bring redemption and salvation. So, Genesis is his retrospective to demonstrate the links in that Messianic chain. Moses understood that the promised redeemer would be the descendant from a particular family line and those are the characters that feature prominently in this book. In Genesis this promised man is identified primarily by the title of "Seed."
The Seed of the Woman
"And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." (Gen 3:15 NKJV)
Among Bible scholars the prophecy of this verse is referred to as the protoevangelium ("the first gospel") because it was the original proclamation of the promise of God's plan for the whole world (Kaiser 37). The Serpent (aka "Satan," Rev 12:9) tempted Chavvah (aka "Eve"), but it was Adam's sin that created the need for a Savior (1Cor 15:22). God reveals that a deliverer will come from the woman to redeem humanity from the curse of sin and do justice for the woman who was so cruelly deceived.
The Tent of Shem
"Blessed be ADONAI, God of Shem; and let Canaan be his servant. 27 May God enlarge Japheth, may he dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be his slave." (Gen 9:26-27 TLV).
The prophecy given to Noah makes his son Shem the central figure. The curious description of Japheth dwelling in the tents of Shem hints at the advent of God's deliverer occurring among the Shemites, later known through the Greek form of their name as the Semites (Kaiser 45). The messianic idea here is that God would dwell among sinful humanity. Yet, how could the holy God do this?
The Seed of Abraham
"By myself I have sworn, a declaration of ADONAI, because you have done this thing, and you have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 that in blessing I will bless you and in multiplying I will multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens, and as the sand which is on the shore of the sea, and your Seed will possess the gate of his enemies. 18 And in your Seed all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice." (Gen 22:16-18 BR)
When God called Abram to leave Haran He made three promises (Gen 12:3): (1) God would make Abram into a great nation; (2) God would bless those who blessed Abram and curse those who cursed him; and (3) in Abram all the families of the earth would be blessed. God later added two more promises (Gen 13:14-17): (1) all the land that Abram could see in all four directions and that he could walk through would belong to him and his seed forever, i.e., the land of Canaan; and (2) Abram's "seed" (descendants) would be as numerous as the dust of the earth.
A third time God spoke to Abraham mentioned His covenant. God addressed Abram's concern for an heir and made three promises plus added a prophecy of the future (Gen 15:1-21). God promised Abram an heir from his body and reaffirmed the promises of numerous descendants and all the land between the Nile and the Euphrates. The promise to Abram of an heir contains a word play on "seed," a singular noun, and a hint of the Seed of the Woman, the Messiah, which Paul mentions in Galatians 3:6. The heir is a Seed comparable to the stars of the heavens. The stars are symbolic of eternity and the majesty of God (cf. Ps 19:1; Jer 31:35-37; Dan 12:3). The number of stars is beyond the knowledge of man, therefore Abram's Seed will be greater than any man.
After Isaac was born God gave Abraham a strange command to take his son to the land of Moriah, and offer him as a burnt offering (Gen 22:1-2). Not knowing the "why" Abraham obeyed. However, Abraham expected to bring Isaac back alive (Gen 22:5), because, as Paul interprets, Abraham believed in resurrection (Heb 11:19). In response to such radical obedience and completion of the intended sacrifice the Angel of ADONAI (pre-incarnate Son of God) called to Abraham from heaven and made three special promises (Gen 22:16-18). First, Abraham's "seed" (descendants) will be as numerous as the stars of heaven, and the sand on the seashore. Second, Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) will possess the gates of his enemies (cf. Matt 16:18). Third, in Abraham's "Seed" (Messiah) the nations of the earth will be blessed. These promises were given because Abraham obeyed the voice of ADONAI.
See my web article The Story of Abraham for more information.
The Seed of Isaac
"And I will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven and I will give to your seed all these lands and in your Seed all the nations of the earth will be blessed." (Gen 26:4 BR)
God reiterated the covenant He made with Abraham with his son Isaac (Gen 17:19; 26:2-5, 23-24). In Genesis 26:4 there is a play on words in which God says that the "seed" of Isaac will inherit the land and in the "Seed" of Isaac all nations of the earth will be blessed (cf. Ex 2:24; 6:4; Lev 26:42).
The Seed of Jacob
"Also your seed shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east and to the north and to the south; and in you and in your Seed all the families of the earth will be blessed." (Gen 28:14 BR)
God reiterated the covenant He made with Abraham and Isaac with his son Jacob. As with the promise made to Isaac God also uses the same play on words to tell Jacob that his "seed" will inherit the land and that in his "Seed" all families of the earth will be blessed. This promise was received in the context of a dream experience. Jacob's dream contained three significant features: angels, a ladder and ADONAI (Heb. YHVH). Whatever the physical form the ladder may have been it had a symbolic meaning that was not explained to Jacob. Then there were angels coming and going from heaven to earth doing God's work as many verses in the Bible attest. Jacob also saw YHVH in physical form, very likely representative of Yeshua, the heavenly Son of Man. Jacob's ladder apparently represented the Messiah, the mediator between God and mankind. By the means of this "ladder" one may ascend to heaven and be in the company of angels (cf. John 1:51).
The Shiloh of Judah
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples" (Gen 49:10 NASB). The LXX reads, "A ruler shall not fail to Judah and one leading from his thighs until whenever the things reserved to him should come. And he is the expectation of nations." (ABP)
This prophecy given by Jacob to his fourth son Judah affirms that the messianic line would go through his tribe. In particular Jacob promised Judah (1) the praise of his brothers; (2) the preeminence in Israel; (3) victory over his enemies; (4) the obedience of the nations, and (5) unusual prosperity in his fields and herds. The Hebrew word shiloh (Heb. shin-yod-lamed-heh) is translated in English versions with the proper name "Shiloh." The meaning of the word is a matter of some scholarly debate but apparently the clause in which it is found intends "until he comes to whom it rightfully belongs" (Kaiser 51).
Rabbinic scholarship recognized in "Shiloh" a cryptic but shorthand form of a personal name for the Messiah. Indeed Rashi, the Medieval Jewish commentator, declared concerning this passage: "Until Shiloh comes: This refers to the King Messiah, to whom the kingdom belongs, and so did [Targum] Onkelos render it: "until the Messiah comes, to whom the kingdom belongs."
The second book of the Torah, Sh'mot ("names"), builds on the narrative of Genesis which ended with the Israelites settling in Egypt and begins 400 years later with the Israelites suffering in bondage. The people cry out to their God and God puts his deliverance plan into motion with the birth of Moses of the house of Levi. The book of Exodus is full of miracles, including the unconsumed burning bush (3:3), the ten plagues on Egypt (Chaps. 7−12), the Passover redemption of the firstborn (12:23-28), the pillar of cloud and fire (13:21), division of the Red Sea (14:29), daily manna from heaven (16:35), water from the rock (17:6), giving the Torah on Mt. Sinai (24:12-18; 31:18), and the glory cloud in the Tabernacle (40:35).
Through the experiences recorded in Exodus, Israel learned the basic nature of God and His salvation. They also learned the nature of sin, the characteristics of the godliness, the components of worship, and the meaning of salvation. In Exodus Israel learned their identity as the chosen people of God. The revelation of the Ten Words or Ten Commandments established God's expectation for life, a way of holiness and righteousness. Exodus also established a sacrificial system under the oversight of a devoted family of priests as a remedy for the effects of sin on the community.
Messiah in Exodus
God's standard approach in Scripture is that the deliverer or savior must be born, grow up in a family and then receive his divine commission. In becoming the deliverer of Israel from Egypt (Ex 15:22) and also priestly-mediator between Israel and God (Ex 24:2), Moses became a type of the Messiah. Indeed, two Midrashim convey this idea. Mid. Ruth 5:6 says, "R. Berekiah said in the name of R. Levi: 'The last Redeemer [Messiah] will be like the first Redeemer [Moses]. Just as the first Redeemer revealed himself and later was hidden from them … so the last Redeemer will be revealed to them, and then be hidden from them." Speaking about Isaiah 11:1, Midrash Psalm 21:1 says, "this is Messiah, the Son of David, who is hidden until the time of the end" (quoted in Gruber 151f). For all the ways in which the life of the last redeemer (Yeshua) paralleled the life of the first redeemer (Moses), see my article Moses and Yeshua.
The third book of the Torah, Vayrika ("He called"), is concerned mainly with worship at the tabernacle with the goal of maintaining the holiness of the sacred place. The book outlines the various sacrificial offerings (1:1−7:8) and duties of the sons of Aaron as priests of God (8:1−10:20), as well as rules for holy living (11:1−15:33) and practical holiness (17:1−22:33). Significant for the annual calendar are the instructions for Yom Kippur, Day of Atonement (16:1-34), the Sabbath and seasonal festivals (23:1−25:55).
Leviticus gives significant emphasis to the need to provide atonement for sins. Three of the five types of offerings mandated provided for atonement: (1) burnt offering, a sacrifice consumed by fire (Chap. 1). This offering was a voluntary act of worship for atonement of unintentional sin in general; or an expression of devotion, commitment and complete surrender to God. (2) sin offering (Chap. 4−5). This offering provided atonement for specific unintentional sin, and involved confession of sin, forgiveness of sin and cleansing from defilement. (3) guilt offering for an offense or guilt (Chap. 5−6). This offering was mandatory for unintentional sin against God’s holy things, or offenses against persons. All the offerings were substitutionary in nature and made it possible for God to dwell in the midst of His people. As Paul points out in Hebrews 9:22 atonement requires the shedding of blood.
Messiah in Leviticus
Just as Moses is a type of Messiah in Exodus, so Aaron, the high priest, is a type of Messiah in Leviticus. While at Sinai God made a special covenant with Aaron (Ex 28:1; Lev 2:13; Num 18:19-20). God expected that Aaron, the Levites and their descendants would be holy to the Lord. If they were faithful God promised that all of the first fruits, first issue of the womb and other offerings would belong to the seed of Aaron and that since the tribe of Levi would have no land apportioned to them the Lord would be their portion. The sign of this covenant would be salt, which was frequently added to sacrificial offerings. This covenant, too, is Messianic, as Paul explains in his letter to the Hebrews. Aaron served as a type of the Messiah and, although not of the tribe of Levi, the office of high priest has been both fulfilled and superseded by Yeshua (Heb 2:17; 3:1; 4:14-15; 5:10; 6:20; 7:26; 8:1; 9:11).
Leviticus has another element that points to Messiah. The various sacrificial offerings conducted as a means of atonement had an inherent limitation. Sin offerings had to be continually offered (Heb 10:1) and not all sins could be atoned under this system (Heb 10:4). There were thirty-six transgressions for which there was no atonement. Atonement was for unintentional sins. The atonement benefit of Leviticus offerings could only be temporary, but they implied that God would eventually provide a better and permanent solution. There needed to be a once-for-all sin offering that would atone for all sins, and that is what the Messiah would be, as Isaiah points out (Isa 53:5). Yeshua became that sin offering (John 1:29; Acts 13:39; 2Cor 5:21).
The fourth book of the Torah, B'midbar ("in the desert"), narrates a census of the twelve tribes and organization of the encampment (1:1−2:34), duties of the priests and Levites (3:1−6:27), sanctification the Tabernacle and individuals (7:1−10:10), departure from Sinai and multiple occasions of testing in the wilderness and in Moab (10:11−25:18), preparation of the new generation with a second census and regulations for offerings, vows and future conquest (26:1–31:54), and finally direction for tribal allotment and inheritance (32:1–36:13).
In spite of all the grumbling and imposition of divine consequences, the book does have some positive stories. The leaders of Israel made generous offerings in relation to the tabernacle (7:1-88), the Spirit was poured out on the 70 elders (11:24-25), the godly example of Joshua and Caleb is highlighted (13:30; 14:6-9) and Aaron's rod miraculously buds and is placed in the Ark of the Covenant (17:1-10). The Israelites score significant battle victories over the Ammonites, Amorites and Midianites (21:1-3, 21-35; 31:1-12). And, Reuben, Gad and half Manasseh settle in Gilead (32:33).
Messiah in Numbers
Moses, as a type of Messiah, continues as the central figure, carrying out specific instructions from God and mediating between God and Israel, at times imposing the judgment of God. Some passages point to the future Messiah as noted by Yeshua and the apostles.
● Executed without having a bone broken: 9:12 in John 19:36.
● Faithful as Moses: 12:7 in Hebrews 3:2, 5.
● Lifted up as the serpent in the wilderness: 21:8-9 in John 3:14.
● A star out of Jacob: 24:17 in Matthew 2:2 and Revelation 22:16.
The Healing Stake
"Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live." (21:8 NASB)
"And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up; 15 that every one trusting in him may have eternal life." (John 3:14-15 BR)
The story relates how Israelites were saved from the plague of serpents when they gazed on the brass serpent that Moses put on a standard and raised for all to see (Num 21:6–9; cf. Deut 8:15; 1Cor 10:9). Healing came to afflicted people by looking at the uplifted snake. Ironically, King Hezekiah would later demolish the bronze serpent because people treated it as an idol (2Kgs 18:4). Nevertheless, the serpent on the stake held a dual meaning. First the emblem represented overcoming the power of the serpent. Second, the emblem represented a substitutionary offering to prevent the death of sinners. Like the literal snake Yeshua would be bound to a pole and lifted up, as later depicted in Psalm 22:16 and Zechariah 12:10. People looking to Yeshua would then be saved from eternal death. In this way Yeshua is superior to Moses.
The Star out of Jacob
"I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near; a star shall come forth from Jacob, a scepter shall rise from Israel." (Num 24:17 NASB)
Balak the king of Moab hired a pagan sorcerer by the name of Balaam to curse Israel. However, after his arrival Balaam delivered seven discourses, five of which directly concerned Israel. In those brief sermons God put the message in Balaam's mouth so that only prophetic truth came out. Balaam announced that the God of Israel is not like human beings. He does not lie and He does not change His mind. Moreover, Balaam said that God had blessed Israel and no man can reverse it. In the fourth discourse Balaam offered this significant messianic prophecy. Balaam saw a man, though not one already present. He would come sometime in the future, he would be an Israelite and a king who would triumph. Balaam's use of "star" does not refer to a heavenly planet, but is a figurative term for rulership demonstrated in the parallel use of "scepter."
The fifth book of the Torah, D'varim ("words"), completes the Torah and includes lengthy sermons and instructions by Moses given forty years after the exodus in the land of Moab as the nation encamped opposite Jericho (Num 33:49; cf. Deut 1:5). While there God renewed the expectations and promises of the covenant given at Sinai. God clarified and emphasized the sign of the sabbath (6:12-15) and added many new statutes related to domestic and community relations and the administration of justice. However, at Moab at least four new elements were added to the covenant (29:1-15; 30:1-6).
First, the Moab covenant was not only made with the generation then living, but also "with those who are not with us here today," i.e., all the future descendants of the tribes of Israel in perpetuity (Deut 29:15). Second, God promised that when He uprooted His people from the Land because of their sins, He would one day bring them back (30:4-5). The implication is that Israelites (Jews) would be gathered from all over the earth, not just Babylon. This promise had not been fulfilled by the time of Paul and it properly belongs to the modern age when Jews began to make aliyah ("going up") to Israel beginning in the 1800s until culminated in the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in 1948. The promise also hints at an eschatological aliyah when the people of God are gathered from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven (Mark 13:27).
Messiah in Deuteronomy
The other two new elements in the Moab covenant have a direct bearing on Messianic expectation. The Moab covenant spoke of a heart change that hints at the New Covenant.
"Moreover ADONAI your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love ADONAI your God with all your heart and with all your soul, so that you may live." (Deut 30:6)
Even though God insisted that his expectations were doable (Deut 30:11), He knew that future generations of Israelites would not have the zeal of the people receiving this covenant in Moab (Deut 31:29). Next, the Moab covenant hinted at salvation by faith through a resurrected Messiah in Deut 30:11-14. Paul, in fact, quotes this section in Romans 10:4-7 to make this very point. The Moab covenant is the covenant and Torah that God directed Joshua to obey (Josh 1:7). The Moab covenant is Messianic because it was here that Moses prophesied that the God of Israel would raise up a prophet like him (Deut 18:15, 18).
The Prophet like Moses
"ADONAI will raise up for you a prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to him. 16 just as when you were assembled at Horev and requested ADONAI your God, 'Don't let me hear the voice of ADONAI my God any more, or let me see this great fire ever again; if I do, I will die!' 17 On that occasion ADONAI said to me, '‘They are right in what they are saying. 18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their kinsmen. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I order him." (Deut 18:15-18 CJB)
Moses was the mediator of the Torah and Covenant and he prophesied a prophet like him would appear. This is the only passage in the Torah where Moses identifies himself as a prophet. The epilogue in Deuteronomy states that no prophet had arisen in Israel like Moses who spoke to ADONAI face to face (Deut 34:10). Moreover, Deuteronomy 18:15 is the only passage in the Torah where Moses identifies the coming of the Messiah as one like him.
Moses offered important details about the future prophet. The future prophet would be like him, in that he would be prophet, priest, deliverer and mediator. He would also be a prophet "like you," that is, an Israelite. The future prophet would speak the words of God and must be heard and obeyed. Of interest is that the verb "raise up" (Heb. qum) could have a double meaning. The literal meaning points to the physical arrival in Jewish culture and giving stature to one that previously had no prominence. A deeper meaning might be deduced from the LXX, which uses anistēmi ("rise, stand up") to render qum, which is used of the resurrection of Yeshua (Mark 16:9; Acts 2:24; 3:26). Thus, the promise may hint of the resurrection of the future prophet.
After the intertestamental period when apocalyptic writings predicted the coming of the Messiah, expectation was high that the prophecy of Moses would come to pass. When Yochanan the Immerser began his ministry a delegation from the Judean authorities asked him if he was "the Prophet" (John 1:21), a clear allusion to the prophecy of Moses. Yochanan denied that he was the Prophet. However, after the immersion of Yeshua Philip encountered Nathanael and said, "We have found him, of whom Moses in the Torah and the Prophets, wrote" (John 1:45). The Samaritan woman alluded to the prophecy of Moses when she said to Yeshua, ""I know that Messiah is coming (the one called Christos); when he comes, he will disclose everything to us" (John 4:25). Later many people in Israel came to believe that Yeshua was "the Prophet" of whom Moses prophesied (John 6:14; 7:40).
BDB: The New Brown, Driver, Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon. Oxford University Press, 1907. Reprinted by Associated Publishers and Authors, Inc., 1981. Online at BibleHub.com.
GNT: The Greek New Testament, eds. Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Bruce M. Metzger, & Allen Wiegren. American Bible Society, 1966. [Nestle-Aland 25th ed.]
Gruber: Daniel Gruber, The Messianic Writings. Elijah Publishing, 2011. Annotations by the author.
JANT: Jewish Annotated New Testament, eds. Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Brettler. Oxford University Press, 2011.
Kaiser: Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. The Messiah in the Old Testament. Zondervan Pub. House, 1995.
Rashi: Rabbi Shlomo Yitzhaqi (1040-1105), Commentary on the Tanakh. Online.
Santala: Risto Santala, The Messiah in the Old Testament in the Light of Rabbinical Writings. Keren Ahvah Meshihit, 1980, 1992.
Shapira: Rabbi Itzhak Shapira, The Return of the Kosher Pig: The Divine Messiah in Jewish Thought. Lederer Books, 2013.
Copyright © 2017 by Blaine Robison. All rights reserved.