Sunday, 26 July 2020
Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Jude -9
This verse begins a difficulty with the book of Jude that has called it into question over the years. This is because Jude cites some things that are not recorded in the recognized canon of Scripture. Because of this, they have labeled Jude as spurious. Others have taken what is said here and then turned their conclusions in the opposite direction. By assuming that Jude is inspired, they then take the books where the citations are made and claim they are also inspired. Both of these approaches are unsound. To understand the problem, a short note from Vincent’s Words Studies will explain –
“Here we strike a peculiarity of this epistle which caused its authority to be impugned in very early times, viz., the apparent citations of apocryphal writings. The passages are Jde 1:9, Jde 1:14, Jde 1:15. This reference to Michael was said by Origen to be founded on a Jewish work called “The Assumption of Moses,” the first part of which was lately found in an old Latin translation at Milan; and this is the view of Davidson, so far at least as the words “the Lord rebuke thee” are concerned. Others refer it to Zechariah 3:1; but there is nothing there about Moses’ body, or Michael, or a dispute about the body. Others, again, to a rabbinical comment on Deuteronomy 34:6, where Michael is said to have been made guardian of Moses’ grave. Doubtless Jude was referring to some accepted story or tradition, probably based on Deuteronomy 34:6. For a similar reference to tradition compare 2 Timothy 3:8; Acts 7:22.”
For a more detailed analysis of this issue, the commentary by Albert Barnes will give great insights and proposed resolutions to the issue, or refutations of those scholars whose analyses are flawed concerning this.
Vincent’s (above) touches on why these problems are not that great. First, to deny that Jude is inspired because it cites none canonical sources is a giant error in thinking. The Bible is filled with such references. Vincent’s notes two, but they are found throughout the Old and New Testaments. Books are referenced in the Old Testament that do not exist today, such as the Book of the Wars of the Lord (see Numbers 21:14) and the Book of Jasher (see Joshua 10:13 and 2 Samuel 1:18). (Note: the “Book of Jasher” which is in publication today is a forgery.)
In the New Testament, Vincent’s noted 2 Timothy 3:8 and Acts 7:22. But Paul also cites non-Jewish literature including the writings of Greek poets, proclaiming they are true statements (for example, see Acts 17:28 and Titus 1:12). Therefore, the thinking that Jude cannot be inspired based on this is flawed.
Secondly, to claim that the cited sources of Jude’s words are inspired because they are in his letter is equally flawed thinking. Here, Jude cites The Assumption of Moses. He will also cite the Book of Enoch. Both are pseudepigraphal writings (false writings), but because he cites them, many hold to the Book of Enoch as authoritative. It is not, nor was it ever considered to be such. The Book of Jasher (cited above) and the Greek Poets (cited above) were never considered as inspired, but they were cited. To hold to the inspiration of the Book of Enoch simply because it is cited by Jude is bad theology and it is harmful.
Understanding this, Jude is writing under inspiration. Because he is, what he cites is inspired, even if the source is not (as with the references above). And so, he begins with, “Yet Michael the archangel.” For a quick understanding of the words, we turn again to Vincent’s Word Studies –
“Angels are described in scripture as forming a society with different orders and dignities. This conception is developed in the books written during and after the exile, especially Daniel and Zechariah. Michael (Who is like God?) is one of the seven archangels, and was regarded as the special protector of the Hebrew nation. He is mentioned three times in the Old Testament (Daniel 10:13, Daniel 10:21; Daniel 12:1), and twice in the New Testament (Jde 1:9; Revelation 12:7). He is adored as a saint in the Romish Church.”
Michael, designated here as “the archangel,” continues to be referred to by Jude, saying, “in contending with the devil.” Satan is a fallen angel and what he does is to harm man and attempts to thwart both the overall plan of redemption, and to either thwart the salvation of humans or to destroy their effectiveness as the people of God. In Jude’s words, we see there is a judicial contest between Michael and Satan. Specifically, it is “when he disputed about the body of Moses.”
Deuteronomy 34 details the death and burial of Moses –
“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, opposite Beth Peor; but no one knows his grave to this day.” Deuteronomy 34:5, 6
What appears to be the case is that though no man knew where the Lord buried him, both Michael and Satan were aware of it. With this being the case, Satan had an objective in desiring to have control over the body of Moses. Why would this be so? The answer is found in the words of Deuteronomy – “but no one knows his grave to this day.”
It is obvious that the Lord did not want the burial place of Moses revealed. If so, one must ask, “Why?” The obvious answer is that it would hinder the plan of redemption. To know the location, or to have control of the body of Moses, would lead to improper idolatry of the body or the spot (just as Roman Catholics do to the bodies, or body parts, or graves of their “saints”).
Further, the premise of Moses dying and being buried outside of the Promised Land is that the law has no part in the inheritance of righteousness by faith (see Galatians 2:21, 3:18, etc. for example). But if Satan could either gain control of the body of Moses (before it returned to dust), or if he could identify the location of the grave, he could then affect the typological picture made of the law remaining outside of the inheritance (symbolized by Moses remaining outside of the promise).
And this, at least in spirit, is what Jews, Judaizers, and Hebrew Root Movement people have done all along. They have attempted to take Moses’ body (in their warped theology) as a means of obtaining the inheritance. The main theme of Jude’s epistle is “contending for the faith.” But the law is not of faith. Therefore, Satan is disputing over Moses’ body in an attempt to thwart those who are “contending for the faith.”
Having control over the body (be it his body, or his grave) is a far more serious matter than it may seem on the surface. In the Bible, typology is of extreme importance because it is given to then reveal what Christ would accomplish. If the typology was disrupted, the understanding of Christ would be marred. The point of Jude’s words, however, continues on another line, saying that Michael “dared not bring against him a reviling accusation.”
The reason for saying this is found in the previous verse where Jude wrote about the dreamers who “speak evil of dignitaries.” In this, Jude is showing that if even a fallen angel is not reviled against by one of God’s archangels, how much more severe is the offense when people speak evil against the dignitaries of both God’s heavenly and earthly stations. It is a warning that our tongues should be kept in check in such regard.
However, Jude shows how and where a proper rebuke is to be made with the final words of the verse. Michael brought no reviling accusation, “but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” This is what occurs in Zechariah 3 as well –
“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” Zechariah 3:1, 2
The lesson is that when certain rebukes need to be made, we are to elevate them to the Lord. If the Lord chooses to rebuke, He will do so (as noted above in Zechariah 3). If we are wrong in our disagreement, then He will withhold His rebuke. Jude’s intent was that in Michael rebuking Satan, he would be assuming an authority which rightly belonged to the Lord. Michael understood this, and he spoke accordingly.
Life application: As noted, the account in this verse is not a part of the Old Testament. Rather, it is from the pseudepigraphal book The Assumption of Moses. However, Jude shows us that the account is true, and it was probably an oral tradition which was used by the writer of The Assumption of Moses.
The name Michael means “Who is Like God?” It is important to relate here that Michael is the archangel, not Jesus. There are several cults – such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses – that claim Jesus and Michael are one and the same. Only a poor analysis of the Bible could come to such a conclusion. Michael has the roles of defending Israel and opposing Satan elsewhere in the Bible.
As we saw, Michael says, “The Lord rebuke you,” elevating the rebuke to the Lord. However, in Zechariah, the Lord says, “The Lord rebuke you,” to Satan. He is the Lord, and He makes the proclamation. Therefore, it is clear that Michael is not the Lord.
In that case, the LORD (Jehovah) Himself is rebuking Satan as is proper. In our rebukes of others, we should likewise take care in how we do so, considering God’s authority and the hierarchies He has established.
Lord God, give us wisdom as to when we should rebuke another and when it is improper. Also, give us wisdom as we strive to maintain proper doctrine, especially when we should warn against those who lack it and abuse Your word. May we carefully handle Your word, and may we be used as instruments of conveying it and the truths it contains. Amen.