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Q: #554. If God buried the body of Moses after he died (Deut 34:6), then how could there be a dispute between Michael and Satan over his body (Jude 9)?

     A: First, let’s look at these two verses:

(Deut 34:5-6)(NASB) “So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. (6) And He (God) buried him in the valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor; but no man knows his burial place to this day.”

(Jude 9) “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.”

     So, how do we reconcile these two verses. After studying this quite a bit, I find two answers to be the most plausible.

     First, we learn earlier in Numbers that God would not allow Moses to enter the Promised Land because he had sinned against Him (Num 20:2-13)(Also see: Deut 32:48-52). God actually brought Moses’ life to an end. (Deut 34:7 tells us that Moses was perfectly healthy when he died.) After the death of Moses (Deut 34:5), we are told that God “buried him” (Deut 34:6). But, did God bury him “immediately?” Maybe not.

     This is where (Jude 9) might come into play. After the death of Moses, as the body of Moses laid there, perhaps Michael was there to protect it. (He is shown to be the chief guardian angel [an “archangel“]: Dan 12:1, Dan 10:13,21, Rev 12:7.) Satan was also there, and he wanted the body! Why he wanted it, we do not know for sure, but we can be sure it was for a sinister reason. 

     The reason given by most scholars, and what seems to me to be the most logical answer, is that he likely wanted to use the body of Moses to create a shrine or idol that the Israelites would worship instead of God. This was certainly a good strategy, as we see that they have already done this with “the Golden Calf” (Ex Ch. 32), and they turned the “bronze serpent” of (Num 21:4-9) into an idol that they worshipped all the way until Hezekiah became king (about 700 years later!), when he destroyed it. (***Note: The Israelites would also likely have had to leave the Promised Land to worship at this shrine or idol to Moses.)

    Knowing Satan’s plot, how could God stop it? By stepping in, and burying the body of Moses Himself, “in a place” where no one (including Satan) would know where it was.

     BUT, the second theory is VERY interesting too! 

     In this theory, after Moses died, God buried him. But, after a period of time (we don’t know how long a period of time), God raised the body of Moses, and brought it to Heaven. WHAT, you might be saying? Let me explain!

     We know that at a future date, God is going to put Elijah and Moses on the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus (Mt 17:1-9). We also know, of course, that since God had taken Elijah up to Heaven bodily (without dying) (2 Kin 2:11), he almost certainly was at the Mount of Transfiguration in that same body, right? Doesn’t it make sense that Moses would also appear in his body? So, how could Moses get that body? If God had previously brought it to Heaven from where He had “hidden it!”

***Note: Moses may also be one of the “two witnesses” who appears bodily in (Rev 11:3-12).

     This would be where (Jude 9) comes in for this theory. After God raised the body of Moses from its “hiding place,” there was a war over that body between Michael and Satan. Satan likely either wanted the body for himself (for some sinister purpose), or he simply wanted to stop what was happening. This war appears to have ended after Michael says, “The Lord rebuke thee.” 

***Note: A majority of scholars believe that (Jude 9) was taken from a pseudepigraphical work called “The Assumption of Moses” (Origin and Clement of Alexandria confirm this). The definition of “Assumption” in this work means, “the taking up of a person into heaven” (Webster’s). This also seems to fit with this second theory. (Jude 9 is one of several places in the New Testament that appears to quote from extra-biblical sources. While these sources may contain some truths, this does not mean that they were God-inspired works.) 

     It is worth noting that this war closely parallels another war in the heavenly realm, which is found in (Dan 10:10-14), when Satan hinders the angel Gabriel from answering a prayer for 21 days, until Michael steps in to stop Satan.

     Ultimately, we do not know “for sure” how these two verses fit together, but I find either of these two theories to be the most plausible.

***Note: Supporters of the second theory include commentaries from: Ellicott, Barnes, Jamieson/Fausset/Brown, Liberty, Life Application Bible.

Copyright: © Steve Shirley

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