Can you explain Jude 9?


by Shawn Brasseaux

The Bible says in 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.” This is one of the strangest verses found in the “New Testament” Scriptures. There are several unanswered questions. Firstly, what was “the body of Moses?” Secondly, why was Satan so interested in it? Thirdly, what was Jude’s purpose in mentioning this odd scenario? This Bible study will attempt to answer all three inquiries.

What makes Jude 9 challenging is the fact that it lacks a direct (historical) “Old Testament” parallel passage. It is something God the Holy Spirit kept secret until He revealed it in Jude’s little epistle; still, Israel is benefited by God mentioning the account precisely in the book of Jude. We “unlock” Jude 9 by recalling related verses and concepts.


Some have suggested “the body of Moses” was the nation Israel. They claim just as we are “the Body of Christ,” the nation Israel is the “body of Moses.” Is this a wise interpretation of the term? For some time, before I researched it, I considered it a possibility. Since studying the matter for myself, I do not believe “the body of Moses” refers to Israel. Never once does the “Old Testament” Scriptures call Israel “the body of Moses.” While Moses was an important figure in Jewish history, the nation Israel existed centuries before Moses was even born. For God to call Israel “the body of Moses” would not make much sense. The nation began with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jacob’s 12 sons.

The definition of “the body of Moses” that makes most sense to me is the literal, flesh-and-blood, physical body that Moses lived in while he walked on the Earth. Let me share with you what verses led me to that conclusion.


There was something unique about Moses’ physical body in the Old Testament economy. Can you recall what it was? Deuteronomy 34:5-6 says: “So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day.” In this the last chapter of Deuteronomy, we read that God Himself buried Moses.

Moses’ special burial was twofold. Firstly, it prevented the Jews from knowing the exact location of his grave. They would have undoubtedly made it a shrine, a place of idolatrous worship. Remember, religion revels in recovering “relics!!” Secondly, God had a very unique purpose to fulfill with that corpse (which we will mention in our third section). Satan evidently recognized this, for, as Jude reported, Satan contended with Michael the Archangel concerning Moses’ body. Michael the Archangel and Satan himself were apparently present at Moses’ burial.


What is the purpose of Jude 9? This is where we must recognize the context of the whole book of Jude. We also have to note the surrounding verses in the book of Jude. Furthermore, we must be mindful of what the “Old Testament” already said about Moses’ body (our earlier comments).

Jude sits in the section of the Bible we will conveniently call “Hebrews through Revelation.” Hebrews is the first Israeli book that follows Paul’s epistles in the canon of Scripture. The book of Hebrews marks the beginning of Israel’s program once our Dispensation of Grace ends with the Rapture (us, the Body of Christ, being caught up to meet the Lord in the air). Hebrews loops back to early Acts, early Acts loops back to the Four Gospels, and the Four Gospels loop back to the books of Genesis through Malachi (what we call “the Old Testament” by convenience). Moreover, what starts in Hebrews continues in James, 1 & 2 Peter, 1 & 2 & 3 John, and Jude. It all culminates in the book of the Revelation.

The book of Hebrews speaks of “the world to come” (Hebrews 2:5). Everything that needs to occur before Jesus Christ can return to Earth, or everything that will occur when Jesus Christ returns to Earth, we can find glimpses and summaries in Hebrews through Revelation. Before Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, there will be a time we call “the seven-year Tribulation. The Bible calls it “Daniel’s 70th Week” (Daniel 9:24-27), or “the Time of Jacob’s Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). It is the last seven years of Satan ruling over the Earth.

Jude’s overall purpose is to encourage believing Israelites to “earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (verse 4). They are living among Bible mockers and unbelievers (see verse 18-19). Jude uses some very unflattering language to describe these followers of Satan. He also makes several Old Testament allusions to highlight who these people really are and what they are really doing. The imagery is quite horrific. Friend, you will not understand every little thing in the tiny book of Jude, but read it sometime. Only 25 verses long, Jude is a book of correction for Israel’s Little Flock as they endure the seven-year Tribulation. They need to think about their circumstances as God thinks about them, and not fall into Satanic deception.

The best way to handle Jude 9 is to get the thought-flow starting with verse 8: “[8] Likewise also these filthy dreamers defile the flesh, despise dominion, and speak evil of dignities. [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.” In light of verse 9, verse 8’s “dignities”—Greek word is doxa, as in “doxology,” or “praises, glories, honors”—must be angelic beings. The unbelievers whom Jude is denouncing tend to “speak evil of” (blaspheme) angelic beings. Yet, as Jude points out, even the powerful Archangel Michael did not speak evil of Satan when he disputed with Satan over Moses’ body. Rather than dare fight Satan himself, or slander Satan, Michael depended upon the Lord Jesus Christ to deal with Satan. Jude’s purpose is not so much to deal with the subject of Moses’ body being buried, but rather Michael’s method/attitude when dealing with Satan concerning Moses’ body. “The Lord rebuke thee,” Michael told Satan, echoes the words of the Angel of the LORD recorded in Zechariah 3:2: “The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan.”

To further understand Jude 9, we appeal to 2 Peter 2:10-11, which reads very similar: “[10] But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. [11] Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.” Verse 11 seems to indicate that verse 10 and Jude 8 are referring to people who rail against evil angels. Unlike Michael the Archangel who dared not bring railing accusation against Satan, these unbelievers fail to understand the immense strength of angels (especially fallen angels).

Jude proceeds to say the unbelieving neighbors of his audience not only “speak evil of dignities [angels]” (verse 8)—foolishly forgetting they are weak compared to angels, and not even mighty Michael the Archangel railed against Satan (verse 9)—but these unbelievers also “speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves” (verse 10). They are completely clueless as to what they are doing. They have no insight into spiritual matters because the Spirit of God is not leading them (1 Corinthians 2:9-16). In fact, Jude says they are “as brute beasts” (the dumbest of the most unintelligent animals!). Had these blasphemers been led by God’s Spirit, they would have reacted the way Michael the Archangel responded. They would have let Almighty God take care of them rather than speak evil of these angels.

Remember our comments about Moses’ special burial recorded at the end of Deuteronomy? During “Daniel’s 70th Week,” the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble, commonly called the “Seven-Year Tribulation,” God will have two witnesses stand before the Antichrist (the world political leader). See Revelation 11:1-12. There is strong Scriptural evidence that Moses is one of these two witnesses. Notice verse 6—this is very similar to Moses’ previous ministry when Israel was in Egypt. Evidently, God will resurrect Moses’ hidden body, have Moses stand to oppose the Antichrist, and then permit the Antichrist to kill Moses. But, we must stop here, and save that for another study!

Also see:
» Can you explain 1 Peter 3:18-21?
» Can you explain Genesis 6:1-4?
» Did God give angels free will as He gave to mankind?