Deuteronomy 18:15,18 is probably the passage in the Bible which is most often by Muslims thought to be a prophecy about Muhammad. Let us therefore look at this verse very carefully. In verse 15 Moses is speaking, in verse 18 the Lord himself is speaking through Moses.
15 The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me
from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.
18 I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers;
I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him.
It is urged (by Muslims) that the promised prophet was not to rise among the Israelites but among their "brothers" the Ishmaelites (compare Genesis 25:9,18); that no such prophet did rise among the Israelites (Deut. 34:10); that Muhammad was like Moses in many points, e.g., both were brought up in their enemies' houses, appeared among idolaters, were at first rejected by their own people and afterwards accepted by them, each gave a law, fled from their enemies (Moses to Midian, Muhammad to Medinah, a name of a similar meaning), marched to battle against their enemies, wrought miracles, and enabled their followers after their own decease to conquer Palestine.
In reply it may be said that Deut. 34:10 refers only to the time at which it was written, and the word "since" may be said to imply the expectation, that such a prophet would arise "in Israel", not outside.
The words "from the midst of thee" are almost certainly genuine, though even without them the meaning is clear. It is true that Ishmael was Isaac's half-brother: but, if the Ishmaelites may be called the brethren of Israel, assuredly, the Israelite tribes may more correctly be called one another's brethren. (Compare, Surah 7:83, "their brother Shu'aib.") Israelites are called one another's brethren in this very book of Deuteronomy, e.g., in chapters 3:18; 15:7; 17:15; 24:14. In ch. 17:15 we have an exactly parallel passage in reference to the appointment of a king: "one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee. "Most, if not all, the kingdoms of Europe are ruled by kings who belong to families which are or were originally foreig;: but in all history we never hear of the Israelites appointing over themselves a foreigner as king. They should have gone to the Ishmaelites for their kings, if the Muslim explanation of "from among their brethren" in Deut. 18:18 is correct.
They did not do so, because they understood their own language. Who at the present day among Muslims, if told to summon one of his "brethren" to receive some important post, would conclude that members of his own family were excluded, and that he must find a man whose ancestors had, hundreds of years before, been kindred to his own? Moreover, the Taurat clearly says that no prophet was to be expected from Ishmael, for God's covenant was made with Isaac, not with him (Gen. 17:18-21; 21:10-12).
The Qur'an also in several places speaks of the prophetic office as having been entrusted to Isaac's seed (Surah 29:27; Surah 45:15). The promised prophet was to be sent unto Israel: but Muhammad professed to be sent to the Arabs among whom he was born. As for a likeness to Moses, we learn from Deut. 34:10-12, that the two points in which the Israelites expected the coming prophet to resemble Moses were: (I) personal knowledge of God, and (2) mighty works. As regards the former, is there not a tradition that Muhammad said, "We have not known Thee in the truth of Thy knowledge (or 'as Thou shouldest be known')"? With reference to mighty works, the Qur'an tells us that Muhammad was not given the power of working miracles (Surah 17:61: see Baidawi's and Abbasi's commentaries: Surahs 2:112; 6:37,57,109; 7:202; 10:21; 13:8,30; 29:49,50).
The points of resemblance between Moses and Muhammad which Muslims adduce might be found in Musailamah and in Mani for the most part, but do not prove that these men were prophets. Finally, God Himself has explained in the Gospel that this prophecy referred to Christ, not to Muhammad (compare Deut. 18:15,19, "Unto Him ye shall hearken," etc., with Matt. 17:5; see also Mark 9:2, and Luke 9:35). Jesus explains that this and other passages in the Taurat refer to Himself (John 5:46: see Gen. 12:3; 26:4; 18:18; 22:18; 28:14). He was descended from Judah (Matt. 1:1-16; Luke 3:23-38; Heb. 7:14), was born in Israel, and spent almost all His life among the Jews, and sent His disciples in the first place to the latter (Matt. 10:6) and only secondly to the Gentiles (Luke 24:47; Matt. 28:18-20). In Acts 3:25,26, the prophecy we are considering is definitely referred to Christ.
1. Notice this as of supreme importance as a complete refutation of the Muslim argument. Compare Surah 7:63,71,83 (where to 'Ad, Thamud, and Madyan are sent Hud, Salih, and Shu'aib, each being called "their brother", though each addresses those to whom he is sent as "My people"): cf. Surah 7:57: also Surah 11:27,30, 52, 64,85; and Surah 26:105,106; 123,124; 141,142; 176, 177.
2: Those of Moses are referred to in the Qur'an (Surah 7:101-116,160).
3: See Chapter V below.
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