The Messiah Would Be a Prophet Like Moses
This prophecy comes in the context of a warning by Moses against false prophets. In contrast to false prophets, the “prophet like me” will speak what is true. Moreover, according to verse 16, the prophet would speak for God so that the Israelites would not need to hear God’s voice directly, which was a fearsome prospect. In this way, the prophet would be a mediator between God and the people.
Some interpret the prophecy to refer to the entire line of prophets. Others understand Moses to be speaking of a singular prophet. Messianic Jewish professor Michael Rydelnik notes that the phrase “like me,” that is, like Moses, is defined in Numbers 12:6-8 as being someone who speaks to God mouth to mouth (or face to face). This is as opposed to other prophets to whom the Lord speaks “in a vision… in a dream.” He also notes the important verses Deuteronomy 34:10-12. Verse 10 reads, “There has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face.” These verses, coming at the end of the Torah, clearly refer back to chapter 18 and were apparently written long after Moses’ death, since verse 6 states that “no one knows the place of his burial to this day”– a phrase that only makes sense if written a long time after Moses had died.
In Deuteronomy 18, while Moses may have been intimating about the line of prophets to come, certainly long after his death, no prophet “like Moses” had arisen. Undoubtedly, this helped give rise to the expectation common in Jesus’ time that the “Prophet” with a capital “P” was coming. This is why in John 1:21, people ask John the Baptist, “ ‘Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet?’ And he answered, ‘No.’ ” They affirm this expectation of the coming Prophet in John 1:25.
Later in John 6:14, we read that, “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’ ” This makes sense when we consider that Deuteronomy 34:11 explains that no prophet like Moses has arisen, “none like him for all the signs and the wonders that the Lord sent him to do.” Then in John 7:40, we read that, “When they heard these words, some of the people said, ‘This really is the Prophet.’ ”
Jesus considered himself to be a prophet: “They took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.’ ” (Matthew 13:57). So did many of the people: “Although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matthew 21:46). And so did his followers:
They said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people.”
Specifically, they considered him to be the prophet like Moses:
Moses said, “The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.”
This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, “God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.”
Like other true prophets, Jesus spoke words of encouragement for those who followed God as well as warnings for those who did not. And like other true prophets, Jesus predicted the future with accuracy:
His death and resurrection: “[Jesus was] saying, ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.’ ”
Peter’s denial of knowing Jesus: “Jesus said, ‘I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.’ ”
The destruction of the Temple: “While some were speaking of the temple, how it was adorned with noble stones and offerings, he said, ‘As for these things that you see, the days will come when there will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’ ”
And like Moses, Jesus uniquely spoke with God face to face (see Jesus’ prayer in John 17 – showing an intimacy with God the Father even greater than Moses had). He was indeed the “prophet like Moses” who was to come.