Rachmiel Frydland and what the Ralbag says about the prophet in Deuteronomy 18.


In 'What the Rabbis Know about he Messiah by Rachmiel Frydland p. 21-22 we read the following:


"'The Lord they God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall harken.' ... Most Jewish commentators believe that Joshua and other prophets fulfilled the scriptural reference to the Prophet. However, Rabbi Levi Ben Gershon (RALBAG), of the 14th century, identified the Prophet as Messiah:  '"A Prophet from the midst of thee." In fact, the Messiah is such a Prophet as it is stated in the Midrash of the verse, "Behold my Servant shall prosper" (Is. 52.13).... Moses, by the miracles which he wrought, brought a single nation to the worship of God, but the Messiah will draw all peoples to the worship of God.'... "


Acts 3.22-23, among other sources, makes the point that Jesus fulfilled the prophecy of Moses, in Deuteronomy 18, that there would be a Prophet like Moses. Here we see, that according to this author, ON THE VERY SAME VERSE an important Jewish commentator agrees!! Unfortuinatly, Mr. Frydland does not tell us where he got this quote.


That shouldn’t be a problem. We need only get a copy of the commentary of the Ralbag and look up Deut. 18.15, and see what it says:

"'A Prophet from the midst of you, from your brethren, like me': He means to say that I am from the midst of you and from your brethren. He does not mean that he will be on a greater level than Moses, since the verse says 'there will not arise a prophet anymore in Israel like Moses.' (Deut. 34.10) Because of that it says after that 'I will put my words in his mouth.' (18.18), and it doesn't say that I will be known to him face to face."

In the next few verses he mentions various prophets like Samuel, Elijah, and Gideon who are example of this prophecy. This certainly shows that the author is wrong. The RALBAG does not associate this verse to the Messiah, but to all of the Jewish prophets that would come in the future.


The only question is where is his source? Does it exist?[1] Since there is a mention of a verse in Isaiah 53, maybe he saw it in ‘Isaiah 53 According to the Rabbinic Commentators’.[2] This source does NOT have the discussion based on Deut. 18.15, but on a totally different verse Deut. 34.10! They are somewhat similar, but far from exact. It looks like Frydland did some editing from there, and assigned it as a commentary on Deuteronomy 18:18. Since that work doesn't say its source, I looked in the RALBAG on Deut. 34.10. Not there. However we are getting somewhere. The Ralbag makes a few important points.

1.      He discusses the Rabbinic idea that while among the Jews there will not be a prophet like Moses among the gentiles there was, and that was Baalam.

2.      There are three things that make the prophecy of Moses different.

a.      G-d spoke to Moses face to face, while not with other prophets.

b.      Moses performed miracles that were seen by hundreds of thousands.

c.      They did not make continuous miracles, like the manna falling for 40 years. He says that no prophet to the Jews alone would perform greater miracles, BUT that Messiah would perform miracles seen by both Jews and gentiles. Which makes him similar and in fact greater in this one area.

3.      He states that the subject is discussed in the section dealing with Baalam.


What does he say there? In his second lesson (that we learn from the verses) the passage quoted here appears. BUT it is not what we see here. After a discussion of the prophecy of Baalam and his lower level of prophecy he states:

"'There will not arise a prophet like Moses' (Deut. 34.10) 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, "Behold my servant will prosper" 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 G-d may he be blessed with new miracles, and he (Messiah) will bring all the nations to serve G-d 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"


There is nothing new and interesting here (except maybe the association with Deut. 34.10. That Messiah will bring the entire world to serve G-d is well known. And that this should be by miracles, like the resurrection of the dead is likewise known. The main thing is that Frydland mistranslated and misused this commentary to make it appear that he viewed Deut 18.15 as the New Testament does, while the facts are that he didn't.


© Moshe Shulman 2003 http://www.judaismsanswer.com

For more information, questions answered, or help with missionaries you can reach Moshe Shulman at outreach@judaismsanswer.com.


[1]  The question of existence is important as many of them do not exist

[2]   It is common for missionaries to leave the impression of using primary sources when they are actually using a secondary one like this.