The Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy clearly foretells the coming of a Prophet who can be none other than Muhammad ﷺ. In this article we will focus on two specific prophecies found within the Book of Deuteronomy, 18:18 and 33:2:
Deuteronomy 18:18 – A Gentile Prophet Like Moses
The Old Testament contains a prophecy that God revealed to Moses in which the Israelites are informed that they will be sent a future Prophet:
There are some important details provided in this short prophecy. We are told that this future Prophet will be similar to Moses (“a prophet like you”). We are also told that he will be a mouthpiece for God as he will faithfully relay all of God’s commands (“he shall speak to them all that I command him”). This verse also reveals the people from which the Prophet will arise, “from among their brothers”. An important question we must consider is which people does “brothers” refer to here?
Jews and Christians typically interpret the mention of “brothers” as a reference to the Israelites themselves, i.e. the future Prophet will be an Israelite. Can this be the case? This interpretation is problematic because it causes a contradiction elsewhere in Deuteronomy:
As you can see, interpreting Deuteronomy 18:18 as a reference to a future Israelite Prophet causes a contradiction with this verse which states that no Prophet like Moses would ever arise again from among the Israelites. In its commentary on this verse, the Jewish Study Bible acknowledges this contradiction that is created when Deuteronomy 18:18 is taken as a reference to an Israelite Prophet:
Since the future Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18 cannot be from among the Israelites, then from which people will he arise? When Deuteronomy 18:18 is understood as a reference to a Gentile (i.e. non-Jewish) Prophet then the contradiction disappears and there is perfect harmony within the book of Deuteronomy. In fact, there are Jewish Bible commentaries which interpret Deuteronomy in a way that leaves the door open for a Gentile Prophet. The respected Artscholl Chumash commentary states the following:
However, this cannot be a reference to just any Gentile nation, as the usage of the word “brother” in Deuteronomy 18:18 indicates a people who are closely related to the Israelites. According to Hebrew dictionaries, the Hebrew word for brother that is used in Deuteronomy 18:18, ‘ach’, can mean “brother of the same parents”, “half-brother” or “relative”. With this in mind, brother can refer to Gentile peoples such as the Ishmaelites and Edomites who all trace their lineage back to Abraham and are therefore related to the Israelites:
For example, the Bible explicitly refers to the Edomites, a Gentile people who lived in ancient Palestine, as the brothers of the Israelites: “You shall not abhor an Edomite, for he is your brother.” [Deuteronomy 23:7] So we can see that “brother” in Deuteronomy 18:18 can refer to Gentile peoples who are closely related to the Israelites.
This understanding of a Gentile Prophet is further supported by an analysis of the language of Deuteronomy 18:18:
Notice that the prophecy mentions ‘their’ (“from among their brothers”). To whom is “their” a reference? The two verses which precede this verse, Deuteronomy 18:16-17, make it clear that the context is all of the tribes of Israel who are being collectively referenced:
Here the mention of “the day of assembly at Horeb” is a reference to a terrifying incident in which all of the tribes of Israel were camped at a mountain and they heard the very voice of God. Therefore, the Prophet like Moses cannot be a reference to the Israelites themselves, as God is referring to the brothers of all of the tribes of Israel when He spoke this prophecy. From a language point of view, it does not make sense to say that the brothers of the tribes of Israel are the tribes of Israel, so the brothers must be a separate people who are closely related. We’ve already seen that Gentile peoples such as the Ishmaelites and Edomites fit this description perfectly.
When would this Gentile Prophet arise? Although Deuteronomy 18:18 does not provide a timeline, we can conclude from the rest of the Bible that up to the time of Jesus he had not yet arisen. The Gospel of John shows us that at the time of Jesus, the Jewish people were still awaiting this Prophet like Moses:
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Are you Elijah? And he said, I am not. Are you that prophet? And he answered, No. [John 1:19-21]
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you?
And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
And they asked him, What then? Are you Elijah? And he said, I am not. Are you that prophet? And he answered, No. [John 1:19-21]
We can see that when John the Baptist was questioned by the Jewish leaders, he denied being three individuals:
- Jesus Christ
- That Prophet
It is clear from these verses that Jesus, Elijah and the Prophet of Deuteronomy 18:18 are three separate figures, otherwise the line of questioning does not make sense.
Common Objections to Deuteronomy 18 Answered
The most common objection to the notion of the Prophet like Moses being a Gentile (i.e. non-Jewish) is the verse Deuteronomy 18:15 which occurs three verses earlier and is a repetition of the prophecy from Deuteronomy 18:18. Compare both prophecies:
Notice that Deuteronomy 18:15 contains some extra words that are missing from verse 18, “from among you”. These extra words make it explicit that the Prophet like Moses would arise from among the Israelites, in which case he cannot be a Gentile Prophet.
The problem with these extra words is that they are missing from most versions of the Old Testament. This is clear when we compare the version of the Old Testament that these words can be found in, known as the Masoretic Text, with other versions of the Old Testament such as the Septuagint, Samaritan Torah and Dead Sea Scrolls:
Again note that these extra words can only be found in the Masoretic Text version of the Old Testament, and not among the majority of other versions of the Old Testament which happen to predate it. Furthermore, not only do these extra words contradict other versions of the Old Testament, but they even contradict the Masoretic Text itself, as we’ve seen that God repeats the prophecy just three verses later but leaves out these extra words. Also recall that Deuteronomy 34:10, which can be found in all versions of the Old Testament, states that no Prophet like Moses will ever arise out of Israel again. Taking into account the weight of all this evidence, the most logical conclusion is that these extra words do not originate from the Torah that was revealed to Moses. They are a later addition, possibly an accidental scribal error or even a deliberate fabrication.
Just who is this Gentile (i.e. non-Jewish) Prophet similar to Moses, who the world was awaiting? In the next section we will look to an additional prophecy in Deuteronomy which makes it crystal clear that it can be none other than Muhammad ﷺ, the Arabian Prophet sent to the whole of mankind.
Deuteronomy 33:2 – The emergence of saints and a fiery law from Arabia
Deuteronomy 33:2 mentions a prophecy given by Moses, foretelling the emergence of multitudes of saints and a “fiery law” from Arabia:
This prophecy can be divided into two parts:
- The mention of Sinai, Seir and Paran
- The emergence of ten thousand saints and a law
We will now discuss each of these in detail:
The mention of Sinai, Seir and Paran
Here one can see clearly that three locations are mentioned, and we are going to show that these are in fact references to the three Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Sinai is in Egypt, where Moses came from with a message from God, as is evident from the statement “the Lord came from Sinai”. Seir is an allusion to Palestine, as mount Seir was situated within the ancient kingdom of Edom, which was in Palestine. This is according to commentators of the Old Testament: “Seir is the mountain land of the Edomites to the east of Sinai” . Palestine is where Jesus appeared with a call to God: “[the Lord] rose up from Seir”.
The big question is: which location is being referred to in the final part of the verse whereby God proclaims “he shined forth from mount Paran”? The Bible tells us that Paran is the very place where Ishmael dwelt: “While he (Ishmael) was living in the Desert of Paran, his mother got a wife for him from Egypt” [Genesis 21:21]. The dwelling place of Ishmael was none other than Arabia. It’s important to note that biblical geographers differ as to the exact location of Paran. However, they are unanimous that Paran is somewhere within Arabia. From Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible:
Strong’s Bible Dictionary also tells us that Paran is a desert of Arabia:
Sebeos, a seventh century Armenian bishop and historian, when describing the Arab conquest of his time, wrote that the Arabs “assembled and came out from Paran” .
Encyclopaedia Biblica, edited by Reverend T. K. Cheyne, asserts: “Paran refers to the Arab tribal names, farran or faran.” 
The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are dated to the second century BCE and represent the oldest surviving manuscript evidence for the Old Testament along with other apocryphal books, link Ishmael, his descendants and Paran to Arabia:
Hence, the Paran (or Pharan) of Ishmael was certainly in the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, we can narrow this location down further. Modern academic research supports the claim that Ishmael’s Paran was indeed in a specific part of Arabia known as Hijaz, modern-day Western Saudi Arabia. Irfan Shahid, one of the world’s most renowned authorities on pre-Islamic, ancient Arabian geography/history, stated that there was a place called Pharan in Hijaz, which belonged to the Sulaym tribe . Professor Haseeb Shehada, an Israeli scholar and professor, in his translation of the Samaritan version of the Torah suggested an identification of the wilderness of Paran with the desert of Western Arabia which is known today as Hijaz .
It’s important to note that the association of Paran with Arabia and Ishmael has precedence in Jewish tradition. Some early Jewish Rabbinic commentaries on Deuteronomy, which pre-date Islam itself, posed a connection between Paran and Ishmael-Arabs. For instance, the Sifrei Debarim, a halakhic midrash on Deuteronomy, dated from the 3rd to the 5th century CE , states:
The Midrash Tanhuma is a Midrashic genre that began to crystallise towards the end of the Byzantine era in the Land of Israel before the Muslim conquest. It identifies Paran as that of the sons of Ishmael :
The emergence of ten thousand saints and a law
This brings us onto the next part of the prophecy, “he came with ten thousands of saints; from his right hand went a fiery law for them”. The question we must now ask is: who came from/to Arabia with ten thousand saints and a law in his right hand? As we’ve seen, the third location, Paran, is a direct reference to Western Saudi Arabia. It just so happens that this is exactly where the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was born, in the city of Mecca which is located in Western Saudi Arabia. At the time in the seventh century, the vast majority of Meccans were polytheistic in religion. Then, in 610 CE, God appointed Muhammad ﷺ as His Prophet. He began to call his people to a new, monotheistic religion. Initially, Muhammad ﷺ preached in private, and his early followers congregated in secret. When Muhammad ﷺ eventually declared his message publicly, he and his early followers were met with increasing hostility. His mission to reform society, which included the call for his people to renounce idolatry and advocating for the rights of the poor and the weak, inevitably put him on a collision course with the rich and powerful tribes of Mecca.
The leaders of Mecca instigated a sustained campaign of violence against what they saw as a rival faith and a threat to their power structure. For over a decade, Muslims would go on to suffer severe persecution; they endured beatings, torture, imprisonment and some were even killed. The leaders of Mecca even signed a pact resulting in the complete social and economic boycott of Muslims along with the tribes associated with them. Muhammad ﷺ and his followers were forced by these circumstances to leave their homes and wander in the outskirts of Mecca. Confined to the harsh and barren desert valley, they struggled to survive for three years, with even food and medicine being barred to them. During what is known as the Year of Grief, Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib passed away. Abu Lahab, early Islam’s arch-enemy and Muhammad’s bitterest foe, replaced Abu Talib as the chief of the tribe. The persecution of the early Muslim community in Mecca intensified and in 622 CE, after suffering for nearly a decade and a half, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his followers fled their home city of Mecca in order to escape persecution. They had to leave behind their possessions and properties which were confiscated by their enemies.
They arrived safely in the city of Medina. There, the early Muslim community regrouped and flourished. The persecution by their enemies had by no means come to an end, as over the next ten years the tribes of Mecca fought numerous wars against the Muslims. In 629 CE, the Meccans broke a mutual peace treaty with the Muslims. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ then led a Muslim army of ten thousand in a triumphant return to their home city of Mecca, nearly a decade after they had been forced to flee it. This historic event is known as the Conquest of Mecca:
This is an exact fulfilment of the Bible’s foretelling of the coming of ten thousand saints to Mecca. These saints are the ten thousand Muslims who accompanied Muhammad ﷺ in the conquest and obeyed God and His Messenger in all matters.
The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ did not just arrive with an army, he also brought with him the Qur’an, the law that was divinely revealed to him from God through the angel Gabriel. The Qur’an was the book by which the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ judged all matters, and the fate of the Meccans was no exception. Before ordering the troops to enter Mecca, the Prophet instructed his men to lift their hands only against those who drew swords against them. He also directed them neither to lay their hands on any moveable or immovable property of the Meccans, nor to destroy anything . The Muslim army entered the city peacefully. No house was robbed; no man or woman was harmed or even insulted. The Prophet Muhammad’s first act was to go to the Ka’aba, which Muslims believe was originally built by Abraham and Ishmael as a place of worship dedicated to the One God, but subsequently turned into a house of idolatry by the pagan Meccans. There he proceeded to destroy the idols and false gods within, whilst reciting the following verse of the Qur’an: “Say, the Truth has come and falsehood gone. Verily falsehood is bound to vanish” [17:81]. Then the Prophet went before the defeated people whose hearts were trembling, waiting to see what the victorious conqueror would do with them. The Meccans were afraid because the Arabs had lived by the law of retaliation; their own practice was that of revenge and murder. Many of them were expecting some sort of punishment in accordance with the traditions of the Arabs, and Muhammad ﷺ had the power to exact that punishment. But, instead, the Prophet granted a general amnesty to the entire population of Mecca, saying to them, “There is no censure on you on this day. May God forgive you, for He is the Most Merciful of the merciful” .
Muhammad ﷺ could have taken vengeance against all those who had persecuted him and his people for so many years, but instead he forgave them. His merciful conduct was in accordance with the Qur’an’s laws of justice: “You who believe, uphold justice and bear witness to God, even if it is against yourselves, your parents, or your close relatives…” [4:135]. It’s one thing to forgive others when you are in a position of weakness and have no choice, but it’s very difficult to do so when you find yourself in a position of strength over your staunch enemies and brutal oppressors. This is one of the many beautiful qualities of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ that changed the hatred in the hearts of his enemies to love for him, as the Qur’an testifies: “And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds.” [21:107]
Another point about Deuteronomy 33:2 that is worth highlighting is the chronology of events which mirror the order of revelation of the Torah, followed by the Gospel and finally the Qur’an:
Notice the language it uses to describe these events:
“The Lord came from Sinai…”
“…and rose up from Seir”
“…he shined forth from mount Paran”
Concerning God’s first revelation, it said “The Lord came”, in the second it said “and rose up”, while the third said “he shined forth”. The revelation of the Torah resembled the break of dawn, while the revelation of the Gospel was like the rising of the sun – light and guidance increased with it. As for the Qur’an, it is just like the appearance of the sun in the sky, with God’s light and guidance spreading more rapidly and further East and West than with the two earlier divine revelations.
In summary, we can see that a Biblical prophecy was fulfilled to the letter with the advent of the Prophet of Islam. There is no other person in the entire history of mankind who emerged from Arabia in such circumstances, with ten thousand saints and a law, except the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
It’s important to highlight the similarities between the life of Muhammad and that of Moses. Recall from the previous prophecy Deuteronomy 18:18 that the Gentile Prophet foretold therein would be like Moses. When we compare their lives we find startling similarities. For example, they both received a new law from God, they both took part in an exodus as they had to flee their places of birth to escape oppression, and they were both statesmen. In fact, historians who have studied the lives of Muhammad and Moses have remarked upon the many similarities between them. The late Reverend James L. Dow (1908-1977) who authored the Collins Dictionary of the Bible, wrote under the entry of ‘Moses’: “The only man in history who can be compared even remotely to him is Mohammed.” 
The Qur’an and Deuteronomy 33
The 95th chapter of the Qur’an, “The Fig”, bears a striking resemblance to Deuteronomy 33. God swears an oath by these same three locations:
In the beginning of this chapter of the Qur’an, God refers to three locations. The land of Palestine is meant from the statement “by the fig and the olive”, as greater Palestine is known for its abundance in these fruits. The second location mentioned, “Mount Sinai”, is known to be in Egypt. The third statement, “this secure city”, refers to the city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia, as this is where the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was living when this chapter of the Qur’an was revealed to him. This perfectly mirrors the three locations of Deuteronomy 33:2 which are Palestine (Seir), Egypt (Sinai) and Mecca (Paran).
Common Objections to Deuteronomy 33 Answered
Probably the most common objection against Deuteronomy 33 is that because it is written in the past tense, it therefore can’t be a prophecy about Muhammad ﷺ in the future:
This is a literary technique that is actually very common in Biblical prophecy and is known as the prophetic perfect tense. It is used to describe future events that are so certain to happen that they are referred to in the past tense as if they have already happened . The category of “prophetic perfect” was already suggested by medieval Hebrew grammarians, such as David Kimhi: “The matter is as clear as though it had already passed” . Rabbi Isaac ben Yedaiah describes it as:
There are numerous examples of this literary technique throughout the Old Testament. For example, in the story of Noah:
Here God told Noah to build the ark. After telling him how to build it, the text reads that God said, “and you have come into the ark”. The ark was not even built at that time, and when it was eventually built God goes on to tell Noah, “Go into the ark, you and your whole family…” [Genesis 7:1]. The prophetic perfect in Genesis 6:18 makes it clear that Noah would absolutely enter the ark. Most English versions, not wanting to confuse the reader, read something like, “And you will enter the ark.”
Another example is the story of Joseph:
We can see that when Joseph interpreted the King’s dream, he foretold that there would be seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. When describing the seven years of famine, he speaks of them in the prophetic perfect tense, mentioning them in the past for emphasis. To avoid confusing the reader, almost every English version says that the famine “will arise”.
In the writings of Isaiah:
The great captivity spoken of here is a reference to the Babylonian exile. Although this momentous event wouldn’t take place until long after Isaiah’s death, in his vision of the future he speaks of it as if it has already taken place to convey a sense of certainty.
The prophetic perfect tense can also be found in the New Testament. For example, when Paul speaks of being raised up to God:
Notice that the verse speaks in the past tense when it says, “And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him.” The Biblical scholar F.F. Bruce writes specifically about Ephesians 2:6:
So, in summary, just because a text in the Bible is written in the past tense does not rule it out as being a prophecy about the future.
Another common objection to Deuteronomy 33 is that not all versions of the Bible translate it as “ten thousands of saints”. In this article, we have made use of the King James Version for this verse. However, some other versions of the Bible translate it slightly differently. For example:
and with him thousands of saints. In his right hand a fiery law. [Douay-Rheims Bible]
and with him thousands of saints. In his right hand a fiery law. [Douay-Rheims Bible]
The original Hebrew word is ‘rebabah’ which carries the meaning of a “very large number” according to the Gesenius Hebrew lexicon:
While most English versions of the Bible translate it as “ten thousand”, it must be noted that none of these alternative translations take away from this being a prophecy about Muhammad ﷺ. Whether one translates it as “ten thousand”, “myriads” or “thousands”, they all point to the fact that some individual is going to arise from Arabia with a large number of followers and a fiery law. None other than the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ has fulfilled this prophecy in history. For those who still claim that it is not Muhammad ﷺ, then a 3,000 year old Bible prophecy about the coming of a Gentile Prophet like Moses remains unfulfilled.
To learn more about Muhammad ﷺ in the Bible please read the following article.
1 – The Jewish Study Bible, commentary on Deuteronomy 34:10, p. 450.
2 – Artscholl Chumash Commentary on Deuteronomy, p. 187.
3 – Keil-Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament”, 1991, p. 497.
4 – Sebeos, The Armenian History of Sebeosi, pp. 95-97.
5 – Reverend T. K. Cheyne, Encyclopaedia Biblica, p. 3583.
6 – Dead Sea Scrolls, Book of Jubilees, p.118, verses 12-13.
7 – Irfan Shahid, Byzantium and the Arabs in the Fourth Century, p. 325.
8 – Professor Haseeb Shehada, Translation of the Samaritan Torah, p. 90.
9 – H.L. Strack and G. Stemberger, Introduction to the Talmud and Midrash, pp. 296–8; M. Goodman and P.S. Alexander, Rabbinic Texts and the History of Late-Roman Palestine, p. 131.
10 – Haggai Mazuz, Tracing possible Jewish influence on a common Islamic commentary on Deuteronomy 33:2, p. 4.
11 – Ibid, p. 8.
12 – Sahih Bukhari, 59:574.
13 – Seerah ibn Hisham, vol. 2, p. 409.
14 – Al-Tabaqat Al-Kubra, vol. 2, p. 142.
15 – James L. Dow, Collins Dictionary of the Bible, p. 403.
16 – Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, p. 117.
17 – Bruce Waltke and M. O’Connor, An Introduction to Biblical Hebrew Syntax, p. 464.
18 – Robert Chazan, Daggers of Faith, p.87.
19 – F. F. Bruce, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, The Epistle to the Colossians, to Philemon, and to the Ephesians, p. 287.