Does Deuteronomy 18 Define False Prophets?

Barn Door Closed After Horse Ran All the Way to China

With the sudden compulsion to fix what was obviously broken for many years now falling upon voices silent before but suddenly thunderous with opinion comes the continuing error of prophetic tests.

Grumbling about things under our breath, we murmured more than did what leaders should do. Now, a sudden explosion of opinion and analysis hits the people interested in prophecy in the face like a wet squirrel.

Questions, accompanied by new answers, with analysis based upon issues beside the point, reveal that the prophetic process does not even exist, that a Bible-based approach is unavailable. The issues left unsettled simply confused the prophetic function of prophets and the prophetic operations at the gift of prophecy level in greater measure.

We lack a kingdom discourse, so everyone is going to go back to whatever they think is right and ignore the real issues.

One Example of Misdirection

The most glaring “go-to” proof text used to slam down the gavel on the courtroom scene concerning the “prophets were wrong” is Deuteronomy 18: 21-22:

“If you ask the question, ‘How will be able to recognize if the message of someone claiming to speak for God is not from God?’ If the message arrives but fails to establish as an authentic Divine word, you shall not be afraid of that man because he has spoken presumptuously.”

Deuteronomy 18:21-22

Compare the phrasing here with the language of verse 20:

“If any prophet intentionally speaks what I did not command him to speak or speaks in the name of another god, he shall be put to death.”

Deuteronomy 18:20

Keep in mind that the idea of “prediction” is not in the text but supplied by translators who jump to the conclusion that the Prophet Moses describes is making predictions.

Verse 20 speaks of a different situation from verses 21-22. Of course, as Moses contends,

“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.”

Deuteronomy 18:15

The discussion concerns authentic priests and the Prophet, identified clearly as the leader who will go into the Tent of Meeting, hear God’s words without deviation, and speak without error. The discussion has nothing to do with predictions. The testing isn’t concerned with something predicted happening in the future. It involves whether or not the Prophet speaks God’s words when he speaks.

Anyone intentionally using God as a Source to defraud or speaking in the name of another god dies. Somebody attempting to be the Prophet who does not have God’s word in his mouth is to be ignored.


Moses commands the people to oppose all the available pagan sources of revelation of spiritual reality other than the Source, Yahweh. All these are wicked deceptions that allow demons to communicate with people and deceive them about how things really work in the spirit.

When the people encounter other cultures, they must rid themselves and the land of those that pollute it with demonic messaging. The motive for this dread rebuttal of demonic messaging is more about hearing Yahweh than anything else. However, demons always give people permission to rebel against God, and this lawlessness is spiritual leprosy to be avoided most stringently.

Moses has nothing to say about how to judge prophets. Moses discusses how God will replace him with another leader with an inerrant communication from face-to-face, Divinely-inspired speech, and how they will know if this person actually fills the bill.

Moses says that someone pretending to be this person should be put to death. Moses says a person speaking in the name of another god should be put to death.

Moses says a person in that Prophet position must be judged by the words he speaks as to whether or not inerrant communication demands their inflexible obedience.

At no time does Moses discuss or set a measurement for prophets based upon judging predictions at the time they come future or fail to come to pass. Moses does not discuss how to determine authenticity in prophets at all this passage.

Does This Provide Us a Principle?

I suppose I should address the comeback that “this passage may not address prophets in predictions, but it does provide us principles to apply to the predictions of prophets.”

No. And, it cannot. The point of this Prophet to speak to the people because the people cannot hearing God’s audible voice is that this prophet is infallible in his words or to be ignored all together. And, the idea of prediction is supplied by translators falling into faulty thinking about prophets in general merely because the word is used by Moses.

The Bible provides actual discussions of how we measure prophets as leaders and their communications in prophetic process. Moses provided nothing additional here to those specific instructions and presuppositions.

The Prophet

Moses does not discuss “prophets” at all in this chapter. He discusses one very special communicative leader, explains how Israel came to have such a leader, and how to determine if that unique leader represents Yahweh.

Moses rehearses the moment when he brought the nation out of Egypt to Mount Sinai. This scenario reveals his actual mission. Moses saw a burning bush on the mountain, and God sent him to bring the people to the mountain.

When they arrived at the mountain, the entire mountain was burning. God spoke to one man there to start the process. God intends to address the nation as a whole once they arrive.

When God speaks to them, the people tell Moses they do not want to hear God’s actual voice because He is frightening. They ask Moses to go up the mountain, talk with God, and then come back and tell them what God says.

God agrees to this plan, and this process becomes the norm for the culture. Moses is “the Prophet” to whom God speaks. God puts His words in Moses’ mouth, so the communication is perfectly Divine, the very Word of God.

Moses says that God will give them someone else when Moses is no longer that Prophet. Moses then clarifies how they will recognize this Prophet and what to do about spokesmen who act like the rebellious Korah or claim to be that unique Prophet.

Moses does not set any standard for determining authentic prophets upon the basis of predictions. That assumption does not fit the message. And, we find the actual process for determining the authenticity of prophets in other places.

Error Leads to Increased Error

Because of this error, the assumption becomes the foundation for a series of faulty conclusions about prophets and prophecy.

Note how the passage’s interpretation becomes one concerning predictions coming true when Moses isn’t discussing forecasts at all. Moses talks about God’s words put into one representative leader’s mouth instead of God speaking directly and audibly with the entire nation. Moses does not deviate from this subject when he finishes with what we read in verses 20-22.

Moses is not talking about prophecy and prophets in the way this verse is erroneously clipped from the context and applied to predictions and prophets.

The idea that prediction is the fundamental measurement of prophetic discourse, function, and leadership is hugely misleading. Only someone unfamiliar with the prophetic process would assume that prophets function primarily in predictions, especially in this context.

While prophets certainly make predictions, Moses isn’t discussing predictions in this passage, and the language he uses, translated as “prediction,” isn’t about measuring a prophet by what happens later on.

Consider that a person making a prediction requiring months or years for fulfillment would be in a position to speak for God all that time as people awaited the future fulfillment as the only means of determining if the words coming out of that leader’s mouth were God words!

The Futility of Prediction as Authenticity

We are currently wrestling with a great deal of “beside the point to the point of oblivion” discussion for the sake of debate. The point isn’t that we can now determine if prophets were authentic, if they seemed to, actually did, or mean to predict the results of an election that remain overshadowed by unresolved issues that only God can completely resolve.

How foolhardy indeed to invest discussion in that result while looking back at spoken, written, and declared communications concerning what God wants and what would happen. In other words, to say now that the report of the enemies of God becomes the basis for determining the authenticity of prophetic communication is eminently ludicrous.

As a pundit, are you going to quote CNN and MSNBC and antichrist political forces to judge the authenticity of God’s prophets?!

We are falling into the trap.

Judging prophecy as predictive by waiting until some future event to determine who is authentic or speaks authentically is directly violates the explicit instructions of Scripture to judge prophecy at the time someone communicates it.

Dr. Don Lynch

At this welcomed crossroads for dialogue, discussion, and determination of the so-called “prophetic movement,” we reach a point at which things once taken for granted, that produce confusion in the prophetic, now face healthy scrutiny.

The use of Deuteronomy 18 to judge the authenticity or the failure of prophetic accuracy based upon predictions come true is erroneous, confusing, and based upon faulty presuppositions about prophetic function that filter into the whole of our misrepresentation of the prophetic process.

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Dr. Don

Dr. Don

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