SynopsisThis passage is kind of a continuation of the last passage, in which Moses talked about “detestable practices,” that the Israelites were to avoid. In this passage, he tells them about prophets, and one means of telling a false prophet from a true prophet from the LORD.
Since the LORD will not permit the Israelites to practice sorcery or divination, their only means for divining His will—when necessary—will be through a prophet, whom the LORD will raise up from among them. The reason for this goes back to the time when the LORD spoke to the Israelites from the mountain, and they were afraid to hear His voice. So the LORD decided to send prophets, instead:
The LORD said to me [Moses]: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.” (verses 17–20)
Moses then anticipates the next question the Israelites might be wondering about: “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’” (verse 21) The answer is simple: If a prophet proclaims something, and it doesn’t come true, then that “prophet” is not from the LORD, and the Israelites should not listen to him or be afraid of him.