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Jude 1:9

Please explain Jude 1:9.

Jude 1:9 states: "Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil he disputed about the body of Moses, durst not bring against him a railing accusation, but said, The Lord rebuke thee."

The angel, Michael, is mentioned by name five times in the Bible. He is "Michael, one of the chief princes" (Daniel 10:13); "Michael your prince" (Daniel 10:21); "Michael... the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people" (Daniel 12:1); and, "Michael the archangel" (Jude 1:9). The final biblical reference to Michael refers to him in the context of "Michael and his angels" (Revelation 12:7). In the references in Daniel, we learn that he is the prince of the people of Israel. That is, he is the special advocate and protector of the nation of Israel. In Jude 1:9, he is the archangel. He is not said to be "an" archangel; but "the" archangel. He has a special place with God and a special relationship to God's earthly people. Evidently, there is only one archangel and that archangel is Michael. The word, archangel, means chief angel. As such, we can expect that Michael would be the most powerful of the angels.

Yet, Michael met Satan in a battle for the body of Moses. Michael is the most powerful of the angels, but he knew that he did not have the power to contend with the devil in his own strength. Rather, he said, The Lord rebuke thee. He fought the devil in the name and in the power of the Lord. He did not bring a railing accusation against Satan. That is, he did not call him names or taunt him, as if he were some weakling that could be played with. He toke the entire encounter with utmost seriousness. As such, Michael is an example to us all. When we are fighting a battle with the devil, we should not try to fight him in our own strength, but rather reply, The Lord rebuke thee.

Of course, the question arises as to why Michael and the devil were fighting over the body of Moses in the first place. In truth, there is no explanation here or elsewhere in scripture. The point of Jude 1:9 is that even Michael fought the devil in the strength of the Lord and so should we. The particular instance used for illustrating this truth is not as important to the argument. But, of course, it is this incidental fact that so intrigues us. So, although we do not have a direct statement from scripture, we can look at some possibilities. We do know that the Lord did not allow the body of Moses to be buried by the children of Israel. Here is the record that we have in the Old Testament:

Deuteronomy 34:5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.  6 And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.

The Lord buried the body of Moses in an undisclosed place and so the place of his sepulchre is unknown to man. Many have speculated that the Lord did this in order to keep the tomb of Moses from being a shrine where Moses would end up being worshipped. Although this is possible, it raises the question as to why God did not do this with Abraham or David--men who were probably as likely to be venerated as Moses. Now, we add another question. What did the devil want with the body of Moses? If he fought to get the body of Moses at the time of his death, perhaps he wanted to rejoice over the death of such a mighty man of God. Or perhaps he wanted to create a false religion around Moses. Or, perhaps he just wanted to desecrate the body of Moses.

We may never know on this side of heaven. The history of Moses is further complicated by the fact that he and Elijah show up on the Mount of Transfiguration and carry on a conversation with Jesus (Luke 9:30-31). Had Moses been resurrected or is it his soul that meets with Jesus? Also, since Moses is likely one of the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3, he would have to be resurrected at some point so that he could die a second time (Revelation 11:7). The history of Moses after his death is very complex. I, for one, have decided that we will not understand the entire story about Moses until we meet in glory. It is enough to know that many things are going on behind the scenes that are not apparent to the human eye.