One of the most stunning claims of Christianity is that God prophesied to Moses that Jesus would come in the future as “a prophet like Moses”. Let us examine the scriptures to understand the truth of God’s word and how some religions have misunderstood this central prophecy.
The Christian Claim
The Christian claim is found in John 5:46;
45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: the one who accuses you is Moses, your very patriarch!
**46 For had you believed Moses, you would have believed me; for he wrote of me.**
47 But if you didn’t believe him, how could you possibly believe me?
John 5:46 (NSV)
What did God say?
Deuteronomy 18 contains the institution of the office of prophecy:
15 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—
16 just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’
17 And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken.
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.
19 And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him.
20 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or[f] who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’
21 And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’—
22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.Deuteronomy 18:15-22
So, we see that the people of Israel:
- Had a direct line to Hashem
- Requested the office of Prophecy because the direct line was killing some of them
- God said that they had spoken well and was pleased with their request
- God said then he would institute an office of prophecy:
- 22 when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously.
One of the most interesting things about this passage is that it does not necessarily refer to a single person. It refers to any prophet in the future — i.e. the office of prophecy.
The Inclusive Claim
The next time anything like this is discussed in the bible is 13 chapters later in Deuteronomy 31:3;
3 The Lord thy God, he will go over before thee, and he will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt possess them: and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the Lord hath said.
4 And the Lord shall do unto them as he did to Sihon and to Og, kings of the Amorites, and unto the land of them, whom he destroyed.
5 And the Lord shall give them up before your face, that ye may do unto them according unto all the commandments which I have commanded you.
6 Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
7 And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou must go with this people unto the land which the Lord hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
8 And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.
9 And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, and unto all the elders of Israel.
10 And Moses commanded them, saying, At the end of every seven years, in the solemnity of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles,
11 When all Israel is come to appear before the Lord thy God in the place which he shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing.
12 Gather the people together, men and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law:
13 And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it.
14 And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thy days approach that thou must die: call Joshua, and present yourselves in the tabernacle of the congregation, that I may give him a charge. And Moses and Joshua went, and presented themselves in the tabernacle of the congregation.
15 And the Lord appeared in the tabernacle in a pillar of a cloud: and the pillar of the cloud stood over the door of the tabernacle.
16 And the Lord said unto Moses, Behold, thou shalt sleep with thy fathers; and this people will rise up, and go a whoring after the gods of the strangers of the land, whither they go to be among them, and will forsake me, and break my covenant which I have made with them.
17 Then my anger shall be kindled against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide my face from them, and they shall be devoured, and many evils and troubles shall befall them; so that they will say in that day, Are not these evils come upon us, because our God is not among us?
18 And I will surely hide my face in that day for all the evils which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
19 Now therefore write ye this song for you, and teach it the children of Israel: put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for me against the children of Israel.
20 For when I shall have brought them into the land which I sware unto their fathers, that floweth with milk and honey; and they shall have eaten and filled themselves, and waxen fat; then will they turn unto other gods, and serve them, and provoke me, and break my covenant.
21 And it shall come to pass, when many evils and troubles are befallen them, that this song shall testify against them as a witness; for it shall not be forgotten out of the mouths of their seed: for I know their imagination which they go about, even now, before I have brought them into the land which I sware.
22 Moses therefore wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel.
23 And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said, Be strong and of a good courage: for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I sware unto them: and I will be with thee.
24 And it came to pass, when Moses had made an end of writing the words of this law in a book, until they were finished,
25 That Moses commanded the Levites, which bare the ark of the covenant of the Lord, saying,
26 Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.
27 For I know thy rebellion, and thy stiff neck: behold, while I am yet alive with you this day, ye have been rebellious against the Lord; and how much more after my death?
28 Gather unto me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their ears, and call heaven and earth to record against them.
29 For I know that after my death ye will utterly corrupt yourselves, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days; because ye will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke him to anger through the work of your hands.
30 And Moses spake in the ears of all the congregation of Israel the words of this song, until they were ended.
The Inauguration of Joshua as a prophet like Moses
18 And the Lord said unto Moses, Take thee Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay thine hand upon him;
19 And set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation; and give him a charge in their sight.
20 And thou shalt put some of thine honour upon him, that all the congregation of the children of Israel may be obedient.
21 And he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall ask counsel for him after the judgment of Urim before the Lord: at his word shall they go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he, and all the children of Israel with him, even all the congregation.
22 And Moses did as the Lord commanded him: and he took Joshua, and set him before Eleazar the priest, and before all the congregation:
23 And he laid his hands upon him, and gave him a charge, as the Lord commanded by the hand of Moses.Numbers 27:18-23
During the inauguration of Joshua is is set as a leader of the people whom all must obey, and to inform this God commands Moses to lay hands on him and transfer some of his honor to him “so that they will obey (Joshua)” in Moses’ stead.
The Exclusive Claim
After this, the next reference is to Joshua at the very end of Deuteronomy:
- After Moses dies,
- Joshua is mentioned as inaugurated
- And it is stated no other prophet like Moses
8 And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended.
9 And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses.
10 And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,
11 In all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land,
12 And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel. Deuteronomy 34:8-12
Now we see that the only prophet who was raised up was Joshua, and that no other prophet of a similar stature (like Moses) would be given.
Confirmation of Joshua
1 Now after the death of Moses the servant of the Lord it came to pass, that the Lord spoke unto Joshua the son of Nun, Moses’ minister, saying,
2 “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore rise up, go over this Jordan, thou, and all this people, unto the land which I do give to them, even to the children of Israel.
3 Every place that the sole of your foot shall tread upon, that (place) have I given unto you, as I said unto Moses.
4 From the wilderness and this Lebanon even unto the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, and unto the great sea toward the going down of the sun, shall be your coast.
5 There shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.
6 Be strong and courageous: for it is this people who shall receive the land as an inheritance, just as I swore to their forefathers that I would give it to them.
7 You must be strong and courageous, that you may follow through and do according to all of the law, as Moses my servant commanded you: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, so that you may prosper wherever you are and wherever you go.
8 This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.
9 Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.
10 Then Joshua commanded the officers of the people, saying,
11 Pass through the host, and command the people, saying, Prepare you victuals; for within three days ye shall pass over this Jordan, to go in to possess the land, which the Lord your God giveth you to possess it.
12 And to the Reubenites, and to the Gadites, and to half the tribe of Manasseh, spake Joshua, saying,
13 Remember the word which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, saying, The Lord your God hath given you rest, and hath given you this land.
14 Your wives, your little ones, and your cattle, shall remain in the land which Moses gave you on this side Jordan; but ye shall pass before your brethren armed, all the mighty men of valour, and help them;
15 Until the Lord have given your brethren rest, as he hath given you, and they also have possessed the land which the Lord your God giveth them: then ye shall return unto the land of your possession, and enjoy it, which Moses the Lord’s servant gave you on this side Jordan toward the sunrising.
16 And they answered Joshua, saying, All that thou commandest us we will do, and whithersoever thou sendest us, we will go.
17 According as we hearkened unto Moses in all things, so will we hearken unto thee: only the Lord thy God be with thee, as he was with Moses.
18 Whosoever he be that doth rebel against thy commandment, and will not hearken unto thy words in all that thou commandest him, he shall be put to death: only be strong and of a good courage.
Joshua 1 is a statement that Joshua fulfills, in every way, the office of prophet like Moses — the office of which saw no other prophet (Deu 34:10):
- v.1 – by divine order,
- v.2 – rise up (I shall raise up)
- v.3-4 – I give the land to you as I gave to Moses
- v.5 – “as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee”
- v.8 – “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth;”
- v.9 – by divine command,
- v.16-17 – the people pledge to obey Joshua as they obeyed Moses.
- v.18 and the Lord will require it of him (v.1 the Lord spake to Joshua…)
By the text itself the transmission of office from Moses to Joshua is very clear, and after Joshua there would never be another prophet like Moses (Deu 34:10) “And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, “.
Joshua is the prophet like Moses, and no one else.