(Deut. 18:15) Why does Peter apply this passage to Jesus?

CLAIM: Peter said, “THE LORD GOD WILL RAISE UP FOR YOU A PROPHET LIKE ME FROM YOUR BRETHREN; TO HIM YOU SHALL GIVE HEED to everything He says to you. 23 And it will be that every soul that does not heed that prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people’” (Acts 3:22-23). Does this passage prefigure Jesus?

RESPONSE: This is not exclusively a prophecy about the Messiah. Instead, Moses was predicting that there would be a great prophet that succeeded him. Why does Peter apply this prediction to Jesus?

First, Moses predicted that a future prophet would come. He said, “The Lord your God will raise up a prophet like me” (v.15). Clearly, Moses believed that this prophet would come in the future of Israel’s history.

Second, this future prophet would be like Moses. Moses said that the prophet would be “like me” (v.15). Therefore, the Jews were supposed to expect a future prophet like Moses. Jesus was “like” Moses in a number of respects.[1]

1. Both were prophets (Num. 12:6-8).

2. Both were redeemers (Ex. 3:10). Both rescued their people from slavery.

3. Both were mediators (Ex. 20:18-21).

4. Both were intercessors (Ex. 32:7-35). The people escaped God’s judgment, because Moses interceded for them.

Third, the people were “required” to listen to this prophet. God said, “It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him” (v.19). Peter said that the failure to listen to this prophet (Jesus) would result in judgment from God (Acts 3:23).

Fourth, Moses said that a prophet would succeed him but no prophet in history ever succeeded Moses. In Deuteronomy 18, we read that this prophet would be like Moses (speaking with signs and wonders). But, no prophet ever surpassed Moses, according to Deuteronomy 34 (the end of the book).

(Deut. 18:15a, 17-18) “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him… 17 The LORD said to me, ‘They have spoken well. 18 I will raise up a prophet from among their countrymen like you, and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.

(Deut. 34:10-12 NASB) Since that time no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, 11 for all the signs and wonders which the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, all his servants, and all his land, 12 and for all the mighty power and for all the great terror which Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Fifth, therefore, Peter was picking up on this tension, claiming that it was resolved in Jesus –the final prophet. Peter was picking up on the fact that Jesus was the greatest and final prophet for the Jewish people. He predicted the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple (Lk. 19:41-44). No true prophets have arisen after him. When Jesus began his ministry, the people recognized him as a great prophet –sent from God (Lk. 7:16; Jn. 1:21; 6:14; Acts 7:37). Michael Brown writes, “So, Deuteronomy 18 tells us that the Lord would raise up such a prophet for his people, but Deuteronomy 34 tells us that, in the fullest sense, no such prophet arose. It is quite natural, then, that Jewish people reflecting on these Torah passages would begin to ask, ‘Where, then, is that prophet like Moses? Where is that leader to whom the Lord will speak face-to-face, who will work signs and wonders and deliver us from bondage?’”[2]

[1] These similarities were taken from Fruchtenbaum, Arnold G. Messianic Christology: a Study of Old Testament Prophecy concerning the First Coming of the Messiah. Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998. 29.

[2] Brown, Michael L. Answering Jewish Objections to Jesus: Messianic Prophecy Objections. Volume Three. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2003. 11.