Jude 9 tells about Michael and the devil disputing the body of Moses. Does this have origins in the OT that I just can’t find?


In the Epistle of Jude, verse 9 tells about a contention of Michael the archangel with the devil over the body of Moses. I have read the Old Testament and cannot find where this dispute took place. Can you tell me where this originate?


The verse to which you refer reads as follows: “But even Michael, one of the mightiest of the angels, did not dare accuse Satan of blasphemy, but simply said, ‘The Lord rebuke you’ (This took place when Michael was arguing with Satan about Moses’ body)” (Jude 9 NLT).

Jude, the author of the book bearing his name is believed to have been a brother of Jesus and was no doubt familiar with Bible history having lived much closer to the time than we, but we are confident that the text in question has no reference to Moses’ literal body and burial. The death and burial of Moses is recorded in the Bible, perhaps by Joshua and no Satan had any part in it. We read: “Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He [God, represented by His angel] buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is” (Deut. 34:5-6 NIV).

It seems possible that the characters in the quotation from Jude are representative, that the whole incident is a symbolism rather than an actual event. Michael, which means “one like God, high one, a prince” could represent Moses, the leader of the Children of Israel. Angels are messengers and are not necessarily heavenly angels. An archangel could be simply a messenger of a higher order. Moses was like God to the Children of Israel. The Lord said to him, “See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh: and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet. Thou shalt speak all that I command thee: and Aaron thy brother shall speak unto Pharaoh, that he send the children of Israel out of his land” (Ex. 7:1-2). Moses was made a god to them to act in a place of authority; he was acting for God and in God’s place. He filled the part of Michael to the elders of Israel.

Who was the devil in this little drama? The devil of the Bible is anyone who opposes God and right, or takes the position of an adversary, an opposer. Pharaoh ably filled this role in his dealings with Moses, so might be termed a devil. The Children of Israel could be the “body of Moses” over which the contention arose. Perhaps the contention referred to was caused by Pharaoh’s opposition to allowing the Children of Israel to leave Egypt. In the Scriptures, the church is sometimes called the body of Christ, as in 1 Cor. 12:27: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” Just as believers in Paul’s day were the “body of Christ,” so Israel was Moses’ body or church.