The Bible records an intriguing incident in the book of Jude, where the archangel Michael and Satan had a dispute over the body of Moses. What was the reason for this conflict, and what does it reveal about the spiritual realm?
The Context of Jude
Jude was a half-brother of Jesus, who wrote a letter to warn the Christians about the false teachers who had infiltrated the church. He urged them to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints, and to keep themselves in the love of God.
In his letter, Jude gave several examples of how God judged the ungodly in the past, such as the angels who sinned, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah, and the rebellious Israelites in the wilderness. He also compared the false teachers to Cain, Balaam, and Korah, who were notorious for their wickedness and opposition to God.
One of the illustrations that Jude used to expose the false teachers was the dispute between Michael and Satan over Moses’ body. He wrote:
But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not himself dare to condemn him for slander but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 1:9, NIV)
The Source of Jude’s Reference
The interesting thing about this verse is that it is not found anywhere else in the Bible. There is no mention of Moses’ body being contested by Michael and Satan in the Old Testament or the New Testament. So where did Jude get this information from?
One possible source is an apocryphal book called the Assumption of Moses, which was a Jewish writing that narrated the death and burial of Moses. According to some scholars, this book contained a passage that described how God sent the archangel Michael to remove the body of Moses to another place and bury it there, but Samma’el, the devil, opposed him, disputing Moses’ right to honorable burial. The text may also have said that he wished to take the body to the people for them to make it an object of worship.
However, this book is no longer extant, and the only surviving fragment does not include this story. Therefore, we cannot be sure if Jude was quoting from this book or from another source that is now lost. What we can be sure of is that Jude was inspired by the Holy Spirit to write this verse, and that it is true and authoritative.
The Reason for the Dispute
Why did Michael and Satan fight over Moses’ body? There are several possible reasons that have been suggested by various commentators:
- Satan wanted to prevent Moses from being buried, because he hated him for being God’s faithful servant and leader of Israel.
- Satan wanted to expose Moses’ body, because he died prematurely due to his sin at Meribah, and he wanted to accuse him before God and shame him before the people.
- Satan wanted to possess Moses’ body, because he had a special power or glory that he coveted, or because he wanted to use it for some evil purpose.
- Satan wanted to display Moses’ body, because he wanted to tempt the Israelites to idolize him and worship him, as they did with the golden calf.
Whatever the reason, Satan had a malicious intent to dishonor Moses and to oppose God’s will. He saw Moses’ body as a trophy or a tool that he could use for his own advantage.
The Response of Michael
How did Michael deal with Satan’s challenge? He did not engage in a verbal or physical fight with him, but he simply said, “The Lord rebuke you!” He did not rely on his own authority or strength, but he appealed to God’s authority and power. He did not slander or curse Satan, but he left the judgment to God.
Michael’s response shows his humility, wisdom, and reverence for God. He recognized that Satan was a formidable enemy, and that he could not overcome him by his own might. He also respected God’s sovereignty, and trusted that he would vindicate his cause and execute his justice.
Michael’s response also echoes the words of the prophet Zechariah, who saw a vision of Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (Zechariah 3:2, NIV)
In both cases, the Lord rebuked Satan and defended his servants from his accusations. He also showed his grace and mercy to them, by forgiving their sins and restoring their status.
The Application for Us
What can we learn from this verse? Here are some applications that we can draw from it:
- We should be aware of the reality and activity of Satan, who is our adversary and accuser. He is constantly seeking to destroy us and to hinder God’s work. He is also a liar and a deceiver, who tries to distort the truth and to deceive us.
- We should resist Satan and his schemes, by being alert and sober-minded. We should not give him a foothold in our lives, by avoiding sin and temptation. We should also not be afraid of him, but stand firm in our faith and in the armor of God.
- We should rely on God and his power, by submitting to him and calling on his name. We should not trust in ourselves or in our abilities, but in God and in his promises. We should also not argue or quarrel with Satan, but leave the matter to God and his judgment.
- We should remember God’s grace and mercy, by confessing our sins and receiving his forgiveness. We should also thank him for his protection and provision, and for his salvation and sanctification.
The dispute between Michael and Satan over Moses’ body is a fascinating and instructive episode that reveals the spiritual warfare that is going on behind the scenes of human history. It also teaches us how to deal with Satan and his attacks, and how to depend on God and his grace. May we follow the example of Michael, and say to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you!”