Deuteronomy is the final book in the Torah. It is the last set of instructions given to the Israelites before their military conquest of the holy land. God commanded the Israelites to invade the land and displace the inhabitants and set it up as their home and to follow His customs and laws. This happens in the book of Joshua.
One of the better known verses in Deuteronomy is the promise of a Prophet. This happens in Deuteronomy 18:15. The verse reads:
A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you from among your own kindred; that is the one to whom you shall listen.
Islamic apologists like Shabir Ally and Zakir Hussain say that this is Muhammad. Christians say it’s Jesus Christ. Who is correct? Usually the debate revolves around the word kindred. Is it kindred in an immediate context such as among the Israelites, like the king in Chapter 17, or is it kindred in a wider context as to include fellow non-Israelite Semites such as the Arabs. For most people, the debate starts and ends with this word. However, there is another way of looking at this.
Let’s look at five chapters of Deuteronomy. We will look at Chapter 18, the two chapters before it and the two chapters after it. Remember that Deuteronomy is instructions for the Israelites in the land that God has given them, where they are to displace the nations living there. Here are some quotes from those five chapters.
You may not sacrifice the Passover in any of the communities which the Lord, your God, gives you; only at the place which the Lord, your God, will choose as the dwelling place of his name, and in the evening at sunset, at the very time when you left Egypt, shall you sacrifice the Passover.
– Deuteronomy 16: 5 – 6
You shall rejoice in the presence of the Lord, your God, together with your son and daughter, your male and female slave, and the Levite within your gates, as well as the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow among you, in the place which the Lord, your God, will choose as the dwelling place of his name.
– Deuteronomy 16: 11
In all the communities which the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes to administer true justice for the people.
– Deuteronomy 16: 18
Justice, justice alone shall you pursue, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you.
– Deuteronomy 16: 20
If there is found in your midst, in any one of the communities which the Lord, your God, gives you, a man or a woman who does evil in the sight of the Lord, your God, and transgresses his covenant, by going to serve other gods, by bowing down to them, to the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, contrary to my command; and if you are told or hear of it, you must investigate it thoroughly. If the truth of the matter is established that this abomination has been committed in Israel, you shall bring the man or the woman who has done this evil deed out to your gates and stone the man or the woman to death.
– Deuteronomy 17: 2 – 5
When you have come into the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, and have taken possession of it and settled in it, should you then decide, “I will set a king over me, like all the surrounding nations,” you may indeed set over you a king whom the Lord, your God, will choose. Someone from among your own kindred you may set over you as king; you may not set over you a foreigner, who is no kin of yours.
– Deuteronomy 17: 14 – 15
When you come into the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not learn to imitate the abominations of the nations there.
– Deuteronomy 18: 9
Although these nations whom you are about to dispossess listen to their soothsayers and diviners, the Lord, your God, will not permit you to do so.
– Deuteronomy 18: 14
When the Lord, your God, cuts down the nations whose land the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you have dispossessed them and settled in their cities and houses, you shall set apart three cities in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you to possess.
– Deuteronomy 19: 1 – 2
Thus, in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you as a heritage, innocent blood will not be shed and you will not become guilty of bloodshed.
– Deuteronomy 19: 10
You shall not move your neighbor’s boundary markers erected by your forebears in the heritage that will be allotted to you in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you to possess.
– Deuteronomy 19: 14
I think the context is pretty clear where things in Deuteronomy 18 will happen. In the land that God is giving them. In the land where they’re going to drive out their enemies. It is obvious that the kindred refers to their fellow Israelites, and not other neighboring Semitic nations such as the Arabs. If the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18 was from the deserts of Arabia, wouldn’t the Scripture specifically point this out to the readers since everything seems to be happening in the land that God is giving them? Would God point it out? Yes.
We know that God would point it out because that is what God does in Chapter 20. Deuteronomy 20 is about military tactics for the Israelites. The first nine verses are rules of war. Verses 10 through 14 are instructions on how to attack enemy cities not situated in the land that God is giving them. This is about the cities of neighboring nations that they may have to fight in a future war. Verse 15 reads:
That is how you shall deal with any city at a considerable distance from you, which does not belong to these nations here.
In verse 16 we have a context shift. In verses 16 through 18 we read:
But in the cities of these peoples that the Lord, your God, is giving you as a heritage, you shall not leave a single soul alive. You must put them all under the ban—the Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—just as the Lord, your God, has commanded you, so that they do not teach you to do all the abominations that they do for their gods, and you thus sin against the Lord, your God.
We can see that God would specify if anything happens outside of the land that He is giving the Israelites as he does in Chapter 20. He doesn’t do this for Chapter 18 or in most places in the book. It is obvious that the Prophet has to come from inside the land that God is giving them. Mecca is not part of that land. The Arabs living in Mecca are not the kindred spoken of in the chapter.
On the other hand, Bethlehem is in the land that the Israelites were given. Jesus Christ appeared to the Children on Israel while they lived in their land. Jesus Christ is the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18. The earliest followers of Jesus recognized this and recorded it in Acts 3: 19 – 23. In those verses, Peter says:
Repent, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be wiped away, and that the Lord may grant you times of refreshment and send you the Messiah already appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the times of universal restoration of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old. For Moses said:
‘A prophet like me will the Lord, your God, raise up for you
from among your own kinsmen;
to him you shall listen in all that he may say to you.
Everyone who does not listen to that prophet
will be cut off from the people.’