Why do I need Jesus?
With the High Holidays around the corner we do well to start inviting our Jewish family members, friends, and co-workers who are not yet followers of Yeshua to our respective communities’ High Holiday services, but often times we get pushback with responses such as the above. How is a follower of Yeshua supposed to answer? The usual response to such an objection bases itself on passages like Leviticus 17:11 and points out that the Jewish people no longer have an atoning offering to receive forgiveness for transgressions. From this jumping off point the conversation usually ends up in a tangential discussion on the sacrificial service—a topic on which your average Christian and/or Messianic believer is ill-equipped to discuss and on which your average Jew is ignorant (after all it’s only been some two millennia since we had a sacrificial system, but who’s counting?). Is there a more practical answer to this question? This week’s Torah portion offers a much clearer and more direct answer.
After admonishing Israel not to follow the religious practices of the Canaanite nations (18:9-14), Moshe explains that God will raise up His own prophet “like Moshe” that Israel must follow. Moshe warns,
A prophet from among you, from your brothers, like me, the Lord, your God will set up for you, and you shall hearken to him … I will set up a prophet for them from among their brothers like you, and I will put My words into his mouth, and he will speak to them all that I command him. And it will be, that whoever does not hearken to My words that he speaks in My name, I will exact [it] of him. (Deuteronomy18:15, 18-19)
Many Torah commentators have interpreted this on the level of peshat (plain reading) to refer to Israel’s succession of post-Mosaic prophets. However, when we connect this prophecy with the concluding words of the Torah: “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (34:10) this interpretation doesn’t seem to completely fit the context, and there seems to be more of an implicit remez (hint) that favors an eschatological/messianic interpretation. Let’s take a moment to explore this remez.
So who is this “prophet” that the text speaks of? The righteous martyr Stephen, in his trial before the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) begins his defense by recounting Biblical history pointing out how in his own time Moses was rejected by his people,
“This Moses, whom they rejected, saying, ‘Who made you a ruler and a judge?’—this man God sent as both ruler and redeemer…This is the Moses who said to the Israelites, ‘God will rise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers.’ This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers. He received living oracles to give to us” (Acts 7:35-37).
Stephen continues with a rebuke,
“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered” (Acts 7:51-52).
So we see here that Stephen connects the Righteous One—Yeshua, who had just been crucified, with the prophet like Moses. Is there any corroboration for this interpretation, or is it wholly unique to Stephen and the Apostolic writings?
The monumentally significant archeological find of ancient writings unearthed at Qumran, famously referred to as the “Dead Sea Scrolls”, contain the earliest record of this passage in eschatological/messianic terms (see 4Q 175 Test. 5-8; cf. 1QS 9:10). According to the Qumran understanding, there are three eschatological figures:
They shall govern themselves using the original precepts by which the men of the Yachad began to be instructed, doing so until there comes the Prophet and the Messiahs of Aaron and Israel. (Manual of Discipline/Community rule 1Qs Col. 9 lines 10-11)
Additionally, it’s interesting to note that the Samaritan Pentateuch in its version of the Decalogue (Exodus 20) has a unique account of the giving of the Ten Utterances. In the Masoretic text it reads, “So the people stood at a distance, while Moses approached the thick cloud where God was” (Exodus 20:21), while the Samaritan version of the same verse reads,
“And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God [was]. And the LORD said to Moses to say: I heard what people have said. All that they have spoken to you, they have spoken wisely. All that they have spoken let them put in their hearts so that they can keep my commandments in all their days, so that it would be good to them and to sons of them forever. A Prophet I shall raise up to them from the midst of their brothers, and I will place words of me into his mouth to speak to them all that I'm commanding them. And it becomes that the man who will not listen to his words that are spoken in my name, I shall require from him.”
It appears that Stephan was quoting from a textual tradition similar to the Samaritan interpolation of the “prophet like Moses” with the Ten Utterances in his testimony before the Sanhedrin. Stephan’s interpretation echoes the Samaritan eschatological understanding of the verse. Venturing over to early Rabbinic sources, a Midrash (ca. 300 CE) on the book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) points out another fascinating parallel: “As the first redeemer was, so shall the latter redeemer be. [Both will be] ‘lowly and riding on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9)’” (Kohelet Rabbah 1:8). One of the clearest messianic interpretations of Deuteronomy 18:15-19 + 34:9-10 however appears in the works of a later medieval commentator R. Levi Ben Gershom (known as the Ralbag). Commenting on Deuteronomy 34:10 he states:
“‘There will not arise a prophet like Moses' who was a prophet in Israel only, but there will be a prophet from this people for the nations and this is the King Messiah, as it says in the Midrash (quoting Midrash Tanchuma Parashat Toledot), "Behold my servant will prosper" (Isaiah 52:13)—that he will be greater than Moses. And it is explained that the miracles he will do will be greater than Moses. Moses only brought Israel alone to the service of God may he be blessed with new miracles, and he (Messiah) will bring all the nations to serve God blessed is he. As it says, 'Then will all the nations be turned to a pure speech, they will all call on the name of G-d.' (Zeph. 3.9) This faith will come about due to the wondrous miracles that will be seen to all ends of the world by all the nations, and this is the resurrection of the dead"
How will this prophet be “like Moshe”? Moshe acted in three distinct roles: as prophet who spoke “face to face with God” (Deuteronomy 34:10); as priest that inaugurated the first High Priest (Numbers 8); and as king, as Deuteronomy 33:5 states: “He [Moshe] became king”. It’s interesting to note that the term “mashiach” (literally “anointed one”) was a title designated for these three groups of people. Just as Moshe held all three titles, so too will the prophet “like Moshe” hold all three titles.
We see the ultimate interpretation of Moshe’s prophecy come to life when Phillip exclaims of Yeshua: “We've found the one that Moses wrote about in the Torah” (John 1:45; cf. 5:45). The early Messianic believers might’ve answered our modern-day objector using Deuteronomy 18:15-19 (see Acts 3:22; 7:37; Heb. 3:2-9) to show Yeshua’s fulfillment and superiority of this prophecy. Why do I need Yeshua? I have Yom Kippur? Well, for all the same reasons and more that we observe Yom Kippur, or any other mitzvah (commandment) in the Torah—i.e. not to gain favor in God’s eyes so that we may obtain entrance into the world to come, but rather out of a sense of obedience and devotion, as an act of love and to create connection to God—how much more do we have a reason to follow the mitzvah of believing in the coming Prophet like Moses. Indeed, if Moses was the agent of the giving of the Torah and the whole basis of faith (both of Judaism and Christianity) is the ability to trust in the truthfulness of his prophecy, how much more are we to believe in the coming Prophet like Moses of whom Moses foretold.
 For instance the prolific medieval Torah commentator Rashi (R. Shlomo Yitchaki) (d. 1105) sates: “[A prophet] from among you, from your brothers, like me: This means: Just as I am among you, from your brothers, so will He set up for you [another prophet] in my stead, and so on, from prophet to prophet.”
 This text known as the “Messianic Anthology” contains messianic proof-texts ascribing an eschatological view of The Prophet who is to come with the two messiahs.
 Note that, as the Letter to the Hebrews sates clearly, Yeshua is not a priest, however is higher than all the priests on earth as His service is greater than there being that His service is in the “true Temple” (see Letter to the Hebrews 8:1-6).
 See Shemot Rabbah Parasha 52, and Rambam on m.Shavuot 2.
Search in Blogs...
Browse through Blogs
Use this RSS feed to track our blogs in your favorite reader.
Blogs by Category
- Back Office
- Events and Administration
- Founder’s Blog
- Guest Authors
- Lessons from the Land
- Levertoff Documentary
- Mishlei Musings
- Road Trip 09
- Shalom Tour
- Teaching Team
- The Siddur Project
- Torah Club
- Video Blogs
- Site Info Blog
Blogs by Author
- Aaron Eby
- Boaz Michael
- D. Thomas Lancaster
- FFOZ Staff
- Guest Authors
- Media Staff
- Jacob Fronczak
- Jordan Levy
- Yisrael Levitt
- Seth Dralle
- Toby Janicki
More Recent Posts
- Respecting the Mechitzah
- Pew Sitters
- That’s a Clown Question, Bro!
- Turning Aside, Impacting Lives
- Wrong Ways to Read the Bible #2: The Love Letter Method
- When, Where and How?
- Three Kinds of Churches pt.1
- Five Bad Arguments Against Religious Claims
- The Fast of Asarah BeTevet