CHAPTER FOURTEEN "THE DEVIL'S DISPUTE ABOUT THE BODY OF MOSES"


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“Yet Michael the archangel, when contending with the devil, disputing about the body of Moses, did not bring against him an abusive accusation, but said, the Lord rebuke you.” (Jude v 9).

The traditional view of this, of course, is that the devil is a fallen angel, and the “body of Moses” is taken to mean the literal physical body of Moses after his death, i.e. his corpse. The “dispute” is believed to be over the destination of the body. The devil wanted to take it to hell, disputing that Moses' failure to sanctify the Lord at Horeb's rock, and subsequent failure to enter the promised land, made him eligible for hell. Michael wanted to take him to heaven, disputing that mercy rejoices against judgement, and rebuked the devil for being so unmerciful.


TOO MUCH ASSUMPTION


This interpretation is based entirely on assumption. Every point is mere supposition and conjecture for which there is no Scriptural support whatever. Not only that, but it actually contradicts tradition's doctrine of life after death which is based on the immortality of the soul.

It is generally believed that the body is only a shell, a mortal coil from which the soul departs at death to either heaven or hell. It is therefore believed that the devil is not interested in the body or corpse, only the soul. So why would the devil want custody of Moses' corpse? And why would Michael want it if only the soul goes to heaven?

The fact of the matter is that Scripture teaches that when Moses died, the Lord buried his body “in a valley in the land of Moab (Jordan today) .... but no one knows the place of his sepulchre to this day” (Deu. 34:6).


MOSES IS DEAD


Scripture teaches that Moses is dead. His body is buried in a secret place, chosen by the Lord, awaiting resurrection. Heb. 11:13 says the faithful in Old Testament times “all died in faith not having seen the promises, but saw them afar off.” Verses 39-40 say they did not receive the promise and will not receive it until everyone else does, which will be at the second coming of Christ. (The transfiguration scene involving Moses was a “vision” of this. Matt. 16:28 to 17:9. 2 Pet. 1:16-18).


NO NEED TO GUESS


What, then, is Jude talking about when he refers to Michael and the devil disputing over the body of Moses? Fortunately we do not have to guess, for Scripture compared with Scripture gives the answer. The key to it is in the words of Michael to the devil: “The Lord rebuke you.” These words are a direct quotation from Zech. 3:1, indicating that the incident Jude has in mind relates to that passage of Scripture.

This is what it says: “And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the Lord said to satan, the Lord rebuke you, O satan, even the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”

Now, in view of the fact that this is the passage Jude has quoted from, the logical thing to do is make a comparison between the two, and see if there are any other links or parallels that throw light on the subject.


ZECHARIAH 3--------------------JUDE

Joshua the high priest.-----------------The body of Moses.

The angel of the Lord.-----------------Michael the arch angel.

Satan.-----------------The devil.

Resist.-----------------Dispute.

The Lord rebuke you.-----------------The Lord rebuke you.

Filthy garments.----------------Garments spotted by the flesh.

A brand plucked out of the fire.-----------------Pulling them out of the fire.


OBVIOUS PARALLELS


Now, in some of these items, the parallel is obvious. “Satan” can be equated with “devil” without difficulty. The “angel of the Lord” parallels with “Michael the arch angel,” and the words “the Lord rebuke you” are common to both. The references to unclean garments and snatching from the fire also connect. In view of this it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that “Joshua the high priest” corresponds with “the body of Moses.” The equation seems to demand it, but the question is, does it make sense? In what way could the high priest be equated with the body of Moses?

A key is supplied in 1 Cor. 10:2 which says all Israel were “baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea.” Now, if those who are baptized into Christ become the “body of Christ,” would it not be reasonable to conclude that those baptized into Moses could be called the “body of Moses”? If so, then Jude's reference to the body of Moses would not be to a corpse, but to the nation of Israel as constituted under the old covenant given by God through Moses.

Significantly enough, as those baptized into Christ become his “church”, Moses is referred to in Act. 7:38 as “he who was in the church in the wilderness.” Moses was the leader of the Old Testament church!


THE PRIEST REPRESENTED THE PEOPLE


At this point someone may point out that the parallel between Zech. 3:1 and Jude v 9 equates the body of Moses with Joshua the high priest, not the nation of Israel. This is true, but what has to be appreciated is the high priest represented the nation. His ministry was for them, for which reason he wore stones on his shoulders and over his heart, engraved with the names of the twelve tribes of the nation.

That Joshua represented the people is indicated in Zec. 3 by the fact that the Lord's reply is made, not on behalf of just Joshua himself, but “Jerusalem,” i.e. the Jewish community. Also, taking away the filthy garments from Joshua (v 4), is explained to mean removing the iniquity of the “land,” which involved the whole nation.


BIBLE HISTORY PROVIDES THE ANSWER


Who then, was the devil and satan and what was the dispute all about? The answer is found in the historical background to Zech. 3 which is recorded in the book of Ezra. This book tells us that Cyrus, king of Persia released Jews from Babylon to restore the temple at Jerusalem, enabling them to put into effect the sacrificial rituals and services ordained by God through Moses. At the time, Joshua the son of Josedech was high priest, and Haggai and Zechariah were the prophets.

The rebuilding and restoration of the temple no sooner commenced and opposition came from the neighbouring community of the Samaritans, referred to in Ez. 4:1 as “the adversaries,” which, of course, is what satan means, and should be kept in mind in relation to the reference to satan in Zec. 3.

The Samaritans offered to help the Jews build the temple, but they turned the offer down due to the Samaritans coming from an idolatrous background and having a hotch potch religion. The Samaritans were offended by the rejection of their offer and embarked upon a terrorizing campaign designed to intimidate and discourage the Jews. The pressure and frustration got so bad, that work stopped for several years. Then the prophets Haggai and Zechariah stood up and prophesied, encouraging the people to resume work.

The Samaritans then challenged their right to rebuild the temple, claiming they did not have permission from the Persian king to do so. Ezra 6 informs us that the Samaritans then wrote an “accusation” to the king, giving a bad report and making false charges, hoping to persuade him to stop the work. This, of course, constituted them “devil,” because, as we have seen, devil means false accuser. And, significantly enough, the word “accusation” in Ez. 4:6 comes from the Hebrew word “sitnah,” which is a direct derivation from the Hebrew word “satan.”

While the Jews were waiting for a reply from the king, restoration of the temple continued, for the eye of their God was upon them. And it was during this waiting period that Zechariah received the vision of satan being rebuked by the Lord.


ONE VERSE COVERS THE SITUATION


Zech. 3:1 actually represents in one verse, the problem facing the Jews at the time and its outcome. Before a reply came back from the king of Persia, God told His people what the outcome would be, namely, the adversary would be rebuked, implying that the restoration work on the temple would be completed and successful.

And this is precisely what happened as is recorded in Ezra 6. The king of Persia searched the archives and found that Cyrus had authorized the restoration, so he wrote back to the Samaritans and rebuked them, telling them not to interfere, threatening them with very serious consequences if they did. This is what Zec. 3:1 and Jude v 9 are talking about when they refer to the Lord rebuking the devil or satan.

From this it is evident that the three men in Zechariah's vision each represent a body of people. Joshua the high priest represents the Jewish nation, the “body of Moses,” seeking to restore the law of Moses in the land. Michael the archangel represents the angelic hosts under his command which kept their watchful eyes upon Israel. These hosts or armies are referred to in Haggai as the “Lord of hosts,” and in Zec. 4:10 as the “eyes of the Lord.” And satan, of course, represented the Samaritan community.


A COURT SCENE


Zec. 3:1 presents the situation which existed at the time, in the form of a court case. The angel is the judge, Joshua is the accused and satan is the accuser, for which reason he stands at Joshua's right hand because that was the position in Jewish legal proceedings (Ps. 109:6-7).

Satan (the Samaritans), didn't want Jerusalem restored. The Babylonians had destroyed the city and temple with fire and the Samaritans wanted it to remain in its burned state. But the Lord had other ideas, and that is why he said: “The Lord rebuke thee O Satan, even the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this (Jerusalem) like a burning stick plucked out of the fire?”


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