As part of his final instructions and admonitions to the people of Israel, Moses prophesies thus,
“The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear…” (Deuteronomy 18:15)
“And the Lord said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him.” (Deuteronomy 18:17–19)
Who is this prophet Moses is talking about? This is a go to verse for a lot of Muslim apologists who claim that the Bible endorses Muhammad as a prophet. Who else could fit this description? who else could Moses have been talking about other than Muhammad?…they say…
However, the laziest of reads through the passage quickly debunks this. God promised to raise a prophet from among their brethren. This prophet is supposed to be like Moses. Get the hint? The prophet referred to had to be a Jew.
There was anticipation among the people of Israel about this prophet and they took it for granted that it would be a Jew. Hence the Pharisees asked John the Baptist,
“…Are you the Prophet?…” (John 1:21)
Was Muhammad a Jew? No. What did he think of Jews?
“The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him; but the tree Gharqad would not say, for it is the tree of the Jews.” (Sahih Muslim Book 54 Hadith 103)
“It has been narrated by ‘Umar b. al-Khattib that he heard the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) say:
I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslim.” (Sahih Muslim Book 32 Hadith 75)
He was not very fond of Jews to say the least.
There is yet another very important reason why the prophet referred to in Deuteronomy 18:15,17–19 cannot be Muhammad, and this is because the Bible expressly states that this prophet is Jesus Christ.
Hence Peter in proclaiming the gospel in the book of Acts states,
“ For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you.
And it shall be that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people.’ Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days. You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed.’ To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities.” (Acts 3:22–26)
The context of the above statement was Peter making the point that since the promise of salvation was made to the Jews, it is only fitting that Jesus Christ was sent first to the Jews as they were the recipients of the promise (in Abraham). The promise of salvation being embedded in those words Moses spoke as well as the words of all the other prophets.
Again in proclaiming the gospel to Cornelius, Peter says,
“To Him (Jesus Christ) all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.” (Acts 10:43, parenthesis mine for context)
So all the prophets bore witness to Christ, Moses is a prophet, Moses bore witness to Christ, therefore Deuteronomy 18 was also a prophesy about Christ.
Now, Stephen in offering his defence before he was stoned quotes that same verse,
“This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear. (Acts 7:37)
If you read the entirety of Acts 7 in context, Stephen was recounting Israel’s history of disobedience and rebellion. In the story of Moses particularly, he recounts how the people of Israel initially rejected him as a leader when he tried to settle a dispute between two of his brethren but it was this same Moses that God sent to be a deliverer to those same people who rejected him.
“This Moses whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’ is the one God sent to be a ruler and a deliverer by the hand of the Angel who appeared to him in the bush.” (Acts 7:35)
This is one of the very many ways Christ was like Moses. The people of Israel also rejected Him but He is the God appointed saviour and deliverer for them and all of mankind. Other similarities include:
(i) Both Jewish (ii) Proclamation to kill all Jewish babies at the time they were born (iii) Both delivered their people from slavery (Moses from slavery to Egypt, Christ from slavery to sin and death) (iv) both spoke on behalf of God (v) Both were messengers of a covenant (Law of Moses which was sealed by blood of bulls and goats sprinkled on the people, Christ stating the wine at His last supper represented His blood of the New Covenant) (vi) Both performed miracles, signs and wonders (Muhammad notoriously had no miracles), the list goes on.
You could look at the book of Hebrews for other comparisons between these men.
Obviously there is a sense is which there can be no comparison between these men, Christ is much more than a prophet (even though the Bible is clear that He is one), Christ is much more than Moses,
For this One has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as He who built the house has more honor than the house. (Hebrews 3:3)
Christ cannot be compared to anyone in heaven or on earth but at the time Moses uttered this prophesy, the idea of the gospel was still hidden from the world, how could those men comprehend God becoming flesh and dying to save man?
New wine would burst old wineskins, this comparison to Moses was for their benefit, they had never seen and experienced God to the extent they did under Moses, they saw the ten plagues, they saw the ground open up and swallow men alive, they saw water come out from a rock, they saw manna fall from heaven, Moses was the realest deal they had experienced. Moses was a god among them. It is in this context that God tells the Israelites, another prophet like Moses would be raised up from among them. This is because that was the best they had, but Christ exceeded Moses in every way, Moses took Israel out of Egypt but could not lead them into the promised land. Christ on the other hand took us, His followers, out of the bondage to sin by His suffering and death, and lead us into the promised land of a fruitful relationship with God by His resurrection from the dead.
So who is the prophet in Deuteronomy 18? He is Jesus Christ, the messenger of the covenant, the captain of salvation, the Son of the Living God.