In Rabbinic Literature
The concept of a future redeemer similar to Moses is common in rabbinic literature dating to the seventh century. The rabbis who compiled the Talmud and other key Jewish texts in the Middle Ages assumed the final messianic redeemer would follow the pattern of the first redeemer, Moses. Thus, not surprisingly, they noted a multitude of patterns between the two. Here are a few examples:
Pesikta 5:8 reads, “As the first one appeared among Israel and then disappeared from among them, so the last redeemer will appear among Israel and then disappear from among them.” In other words, just as Moses had “two comings” to Israel, the Messiah will have a first coming and a second coming.
Just as the first redeemer caused manna to come down for the people of Israel, so too the last redeemer will cause manna to come down (see Psalm 72:16).
As the first redeemer caused the well to give water (Numbers 20:11), so the last redeemer will cause water to spring forth (see Joel 3:18).
These examples show how the concept of a Messiah “like Moses” is relatively common in rabbinic Judaism. Admittedly, the connection between Moses and a future Messiah may not be explicit within Deuteronomy 18:15. Still, it probably has its origins there: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me [Moses] from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him.”
Messiahs in the First Century
Jewish people in Jesus’ day were also looking for a Messiah like Moses. This desire makes sense. The Jewish people of this period saw themselves as slaves to a great foe—not slaves of Egypt, but slaves of Rome. They hated the power of Rome and its meddling hands in their land. Israel despised the taxes, the military occupation, and the political necessity of mixing Jewish religion with pagan Roman ideologies. They wanted a redeemer to come and lead Israel out of her slavery; they wanted a prophet like Moses.
It is no surprise several failed messianic movements arose during this period. In each case, the movement’s leader was crushed and usually tortured and killed. It is striking how much these messianic impostors followed a predictable pattern: they headed out to the wilderness, gathered many followers, performed signs and wonders, and did everything possible to convince everyone they were the new Moses who would lead Israel to redemption from her oppressors.
Why were there so many impostors, and why did people follow them? It is because the coming of a new Moses was the widespread hope of the Jewish people at the time. But, unfortunately, it is easy to fall for a fraud when he appears as expected!
“Like the initial redeemer, so the ultimate redeemer.”—Ruth Rabbah 5:6
Fulfillment in Jesus
Only one first-century man who claimed to be the Messiah still has followers today—Jesus of Nazareth. Like other messianic teachers of His time, He was tortured and executed. Unlike anyone else, though, He rose from the dead. His resurrection is His vindication, the proof He is precisely who He said He was—the Messiah (1 Corinthians 15:20–26). Jesus is the redeemer like Moses. The blood of lambs ensured God would spare the Israelites from the death of the firstborn (Exodus 11–12). This Passover event was the pivotal moment for the exodus from Egypt. Jesus laid down His own life as a Passover lamb to deliver His people from a greater oppressor than Egypt or Rome—death itself (John 1:29).
The New Testament features numerous similarities between Moses’ and Jesus’ lives. In these instances, the apostles demonstrate how Jesus, and only Jesus, perfectly fits the portrait of the Messiah painted by the Old Testament. Central to this portrait is Messiah’s similarity to Moses.
We encourage you to study the comparison chart here. You can easily print it out to keep this tool readily available in your Bible, on your fridge, or anywhere else you will see it as a means for inspiration. You can also share with Jewish people the similarities between Moses and Jesus.