“Raise Up Unto Thee A Prophet”
Deuteronomy 18: 15, 18-19
One of the passages of the Bible most frequently quoted by Muslim writers in support of the claim that Muhammad has been foretold in that Book, is found in Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19. It is there written, ‘The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; . . . I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.’ Muslim controversialists, in urging that Muhammad is foretold in this passage, lay great stress upon the words ‘from among their brethren’. These words, they claim, clearly show that the great Prophet whose advent is here foretold, was to arise, not among the Bani Isra'il, but amongst their brethren. These latter, we are told, were the Ishmaelites, from whom was descended Muhammad; hence the passage can refer to none other than the great Arabian Prophet. 1 Great emphasis, too, is laid upon the words ‘like unto thee’, i.e. Moses, and various resemblances between the latter and Muhammad are pointed out, such as that they both married and had children, they both wielded the sword, etc., neither of which things, the Christian is reminded, Jesus did.
When one comes to examine the passage quoted above in the light of its Muslim exegesis, the latter is seen to be based upon a most obvious fallacy. 2 Nothing less than a perverse obstinacy could persuade any one to believe that the words ‘from among thy brethren’, mean anything else than Jews, for the word brethren is most consistently used in various places in this very book of Deuteronomy with that meaning. A reference to a few such passages will make the matter clear, and show at once the groundlessness of the claim that the passage denotes ‘the brethren of the Bani Isra'il—the Ishmaelites.’ In Deuteronomy 17:14-15, the word ‘brethren’ is obviously used of the Jews themselves. It is there written, ‘When thou art come unto the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein; and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are round about me; thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, which is not thy brother.’ Comment upon this passage is scarcely necessary, for all are well aware that the first king of the Jews, anointed by the Prophet Samuel, under the express direction of God Himself, was not an Ishmaelite but Saul the son of Kish of the Jewish tribe of Benjamin. This is clear from 1 Samuel 10:20, 21, 24, where we read, ‘And when Samuel brought all the tribes of Israel near, and the tribe of Benjamin was taken. And he brought the tribe of Benjamin near by their families, and the family of Matrites was taken and Saul the son of Kish was taken . . . And Samuel said to all the people, See ye him whom the Lord hath chosen, that there is none like him among all the people? And all the people shouted, and said, “God save the King”.’ From what has been written above it is clear that the word ‘brethren’ means, of the same nationality, i.e. Jews.
Again in Deuteronomy 15 the word is used with precisely the same signification. It is there written, ‘And if thy brother, an Hebrew man, or an Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee’ (verse 12). Yet once again in Leviticus 25:46, it is written, ‘Over your brethren the children of Israel, ye shall not rule, one over another, with rigour.’ From these passages, and many more to the same effect might easily be quoted, it is manifest that when God said to Moses, ‘I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren,’ He meant from among the Bani Isra'il themselves, and not from the Arab tribe of the Quraish. This is so obvious that one cannot but wonder at the blindness and perversity which persists in urging some other meaning.
The Muslim controversialist is less excusable for such an error from the fact that his own Qur'an contains quite similar uses of the word ‘brother’. Thus in Qur’an Al-A'raf 7:85, we read:—
وَإِلَى مَدْيَنَ أَخَاهُمْ شُعَيْباً قَالَ يَا قَوْمِ
‘And (we sent) to Madian their brother Shu'aib. He said, “O my people”.’ In this passage of the Qur'an, Shu'aib is represented as addressing his own tribe as ‘my people’ and yet God is represented as saying, ‘(we sent) to Madian their brother Shu'aib.’ Comment upon this passage is superfluous, for the words themselves make it obvious that the word ‘brother’ is used in the sense of fellow-tribesman.
But we have yet another observation to make with reference to this word ‘brethren’. It is this: even granting for the sake of argument, that the word is used in Deuteronomy 17 in the sense attached to it by Muslim writers; yet Muhammad is still excluded; for it must be remembered that Ishmael was not Israel's brother but his uncle. The brother of Israel (i.e. Jacob) was Esau. 3 This is clear from Genesis 25:24-26, where we read, ‘And when her days to be delivered were fulfilled, behold, there were twins in her womb. And the first came forth red, all over like an hairy garment; and they called his name Esau. And after that came forth his brother, and his hand had hold on Esau’s heel; and his name was called Jacob.’ Consequently, even on the showing of Muslims themselves, the promised Prophet would appear, not from the descendants of Ishmael, but of Esau, that is, the Edomites. This is clear from the words of Scripture, which run thus, ‘Thou shalt not abhor an Edomite; for he is thy brother’ (Deuteronomy 23:7).
The Muslim attempt to press details of likeness between Moses and Muhammad in accordance with the words of the prophecy, ‘I will raise them up a Prophet from amongst their brethren like unto thee,’ is equally futile. The likeness referred to is obviously spiritual and functional rather than personal. 4 Insistence upon the latter point lands the Muslim in insuperable difficulties. For example, Muslims glory in the fact that Muhammad was an Ummi Prophet, which, according to them, means that he was unable to read or write. But Moses, we are told in the Bible, was instructed in all the wisdom of the Egyptians (Acts 7:22). It will be difficult indeed for our Muhammadan brethren to explain wherein the likeness exists here.
Again we are told in the Qur'an Al-Ankabut 29:39 that Moses worked many miracles:—
لَقَدْ جَاءهُم مُّوسَى بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ
‘Moses came unto you with proofs of his mission’; but the testimony of the Qur'an is equally clear that Muhammad worked no miracle. Thus, for example, he says:—
إِنَّمَا الآيَاتُ عِندَ اللَّهِ وَإِنَّمَا أَنَا نَذِيرٌ مُّبِينٌ
‘Signs are in the power of God alone, and I am only a plain-spoken warner’ (Qur'an Al-Ankabut 29:50). And again, still more clear:—
وَمَا مَنَعَنَا أَن نُّرْسِلَ بِالآيَاتِ إِلاَّ أَن كَذَّبَ بِهَا الأَوَّلُونَ
‘Nothing hindered us from sending (thee, O Muhammad) with the power of working miracles, except that the peoples of old treated them as lies’ (Qur’an Al-Isra' 17:59). If such personal resemblances are to be pressed, it is difficult to see in what respect Muhammad can be said to be like unto Moses. To say that they both married, and both wielded the sword means little; for so did the false prophet Moseilama, and many others.
But there is another point to be noticed in connexion with the prophecy we are discussing. In the fifteenth verse of Deuteronomy 18 referred to, it is said that God would raise up a Prophet ‘unto thee’, i.e. unto the Bani Isra’il. 5 Now it is well known that Muhammad proclaimed himself as, in a special sense, sent to the Arabs, and not the Jews. Thus we read in Qur’an At-Taubah 9:128 that,
لَقَدْ جَاءَكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ
‘Now hath an apostle come unto you from among yourselves.’ Again in Qur'an Ibrahim 14:4, we find these words:—
وَمَا أَرْسَلْنَا مِن رَّسُولٍ إِلاَّ بِلِسَانِ قَوْمِهِ
‘We have not sent any apostle, save with the speech of his own people.’ And yet again in Qur’an Al-Qasas 28:46, we read,
وَمَا كُنتَ بِجَانِبِ الطُّورِ إِذْ نَادَيْنَا وَلَكِن رَّحْمَةً مِّن رَّبِّكَ لِتُنذِرَ قَوْماً مَّا أَتَاهُم مِّن نَّذِيرٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ
‘Nor wast thou (O Muhammad) on the slope (of Sinai) when we called (to Moses); but it is of the mercy of thy Lord that thou warnest a people, to whom no warner had come before thee.’ If the reader will reflect upon the purport of the three Qur’anic passages quoted above, he will see how far removed from the truth is the statement that Muhammad was sent ‘unto thee’, i.e. unto the Jews. Muhammad confessedly knew no Hebrew, and in the celebrated Mishkatu'l-Masabih, 6 in Kitabu'l-Adab it is related that he instructed his amanuensis Zaid to learn Hebrew for the purpose of carrying on his correspondence with the Jews. If Muhammad was sent to a people to whom no prophet had been sent before, then manifestly he was not sent to the Jews, to whom a long succession of Prophets had been sent, as the Qur'an itself bears witness. These two significant words ‘unto thee’ are thus amply sufficient in themselves to refute the claim that the prophet spoken of in the passage quoted can be Muhammad. The plain truth is that the prediction refers to the Lord Jesus Christ, who was in a special sense sent to the Jews, as He Himself affirmed in these words, ‘I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matthew 15:24).
Yet again the passage in Deuteronomy distinctly states that the promised Prophet would he raised up ‘from the midst’ of the Jews. 7 This prediction can in no sense apply to Muhammad, who was born, not in Judea, but in Mecca some hundreds ,of miles away, and in the midst of idolatrous Arabs. It does, on the other hand, describe the Messiah, who was born in Bethlehem ‘the city of David’, and who lived all His life amongst the people to whom He had been sent. The Messiah was literally raised up ‘from the midst’ of the Bani Isra’il, and fulfilled in all its minute particulars this wonderful prophecy of Moses. His great work was the redemption of His people from the thraldom of sin, just as Moses had saved Israel from the thraldom of Egyptian bondage; and He now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high as the great Intercessor for His people, even as Moses had pleaded with God on behalf of disobedient Israel.
Finally, we remark that, in the word of God, the Injil, it is distinctly stated that this prophecy of Moses refers to the Lord Jesus Christ. 8 Thus in Chapter three of the Book of the Acts, we read, ‘For Moses indeed said, A prophet shall the Lord God raise up unto you from among your brethren, like unto me; to him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you. And it shall be, that every soul, which shall not hearken to that prophet, shall be utterly destroyed from among the people. Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel, and them that followed after, as many as have spoken, they also told of these days. Ye are the sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with your fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. Unto you first God, having raised up his Servant, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities’ (Acts 3:22-26). Nor is this all; the Messiah Himself, on one occasion, definitely stated the same thing in these words, ‘For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me’ (John 5:46). Thus the conclusion is clear that the important prophecy recorded in Deuteronomy 18 refers to the Messiah, Jesus Son of Mary, and to none other; and down through all the ages the divine message has sounded the warning that, ‘Whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him’ (Deuteronomy 18:19).
1. Proof of Prophet Mohammad from the Bible, Lahore, p. 5.
2. The term ‘brethren’ denotes Israelites.
3. According to the Muslim argument, 'brethren' would mean Edomites.
4. The term ‘like unto thee’ denotes a spiritual and functional likeness.
5. The Prophet foretold was to be sent to the Bani Isra'il.
6. Lahore edition, A. H. 1321, vol. iii, p, 231.
7. The Prophet foretold was to arise amongst the Jews.
8. The Injil refers the prophecy to Jesus Christ.