Keyword:

Light from the Sidra

Shofetim

Deuteronomy 16:18-21

There is inquisitiveness in the heart of man and a desire to know the future. The nations that inhabited the land of Canaart before the Israelite conquest used different occultic means to see into the future. In Shofetim Moses issues a strong warning to Israel, “When you come into the land which the LORD your God is giving you, you shall not learn to follow the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, or one who uses witchcraft, or a soothsayer, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who conjures spells, or a medium or a spirit[ual]ist or one who calls up the dead. For all who do these things are an abomination to the LORD, and because of these abominations the LORD your God drives them out before you” (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).

God promised to raise up in Israel a prophet who would teach, explain and direct them in the way of truth, “I will raise them up for them a Prophet like you [Moses] 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”.

What does this promise mean? One opinion is that the word “prophet” means a class of prophets. Instead of the diviners and the charmers of the nations God would raise up true prophets to speak the truth in his name. Such a meaning is possible. God did raise up prophets throughout the history of Israel. But that does not seem to be the principal meaning of the promise, for these reasons:

  • Moses used the singular “a Prophet” throught the passage.

  • Various Jewish and Christian commentators on the Scriptures refer this prophecy to an individual. Ibn Ezra referred this promise to Joshua the son of Nun and Abarbanel believed it referred to Jeremiah.

  • In no other place in Scripture is there any suggestion that this prophecy refers to a collective body and at the time of the second temple Israel expected - on the strength of this prophecy - a special prophet. People of that period understood this prophecy to refer to a special individual.

The Prophet was to be to his generation all that Moses had been to his. In Numbers 12, God spoke to Aaron and Miriam after they criticised Moses, “If there is a prophet among you, I, the LORD make myself known to him in a vision and speak to him in a dream. Not so with my servant Moses; he is faithful in all my house. I speak with him face to face, even plainly, and not in dark sayings; and he says the form of the LORD”. In Deuteronomy 34:10, it is written, “... since then there has not arisen in Israel a prophet like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face”. Moses had a special position before God, and he cannot be compared with other prophets that appeared at different times in history. The prophet promised here was to have a very special status before God.

How shall we identify the Prophet and where in history shall we place him? At the time of the second temple in Jerusalem there appeared a great Prophet, “mighty in word and deed”. There was great expectation in Israel at that time, and the general feeling of the people of the land was that this was the long-promised Prophet like Moses.

That Man was more than a prophet. He fulfilled not only the the promise of the “Prophet like Moses”, but all the prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the ideal Servant of God, in whom and through whom all the nations of the earth would be blessed. That Man was the source, the centre and the focus of all God's revelation, but although “the am ha’aretz heard him gladly”, the leaders of Israel despised him and rejected him. The reason given by Israel for this rejection is well known, but the Prophet himself revealed the true reason:

How can you believe, who receive honour from one another, and do not seek the honour that comes from God alone? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one who accuses you, Moses, in whom you trust. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how can you believe my words?” (John 5:44-47)

Since the time of Jesus the voice of prophecy has been silent. There is no need for it, because Jesus was the last and ideal prophet of Israel. By him, all the revelation God had to give came.


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