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Jude 1:9

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!”

What!? Michael and Satan are disputing about the body of Moses? What does this mean? Did Moses go to hell because he hit the rock twice and not just once as was ordered? What's going on here?

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Which translation are you quoting? –  Flimzy Sep 15 '11 at 23:07
    
Now that Hermeneutics exists, this is probably a decent candidate for migration. –  Affable Geek Oct 24 '12 at 4:42
    
Others would say that of course Moses went to Hell. –  TRiG Oct 24 '12 at 20:38
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3 Answers

The "dispute" between Michael and the Devil over Moses' body comes from the Book of Enoch or an earlier work called "The Assumption of Moses".

From this source:

Aside from Jude 9, there is no biblical record of any “contention” or meeting between the devil and Michael the archangel. Many scholars, based on the writings of Clement, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Origin, and Didymus (Guthrie, 1962, p. 918; Earle, Blaney, and Hanson, 1955, p. 411), assume that Jude 9 is a reference to an apocryphal book called The Assumption of Moses, a work that is extant only in fragmental form (in Latin and in a translation from Greek). The fragment now known as The Assumption of Moses presents the account of Moses’ appointing of Joshua as his successor, and a description of the future of Israel during the conquest of the Promised Land. According to Richard Lenksi, scholars believe that the missing portion of The Assumption included “an elaboration” of Deuteronomy 34:5, the biblical account of Moses’ death, showing how God used angels to bury Moses (1966, pp. 601-602). It is thought that The Assumption of Moses, at this point, used Zechariah 3:1-2 as its basis for the use of the phrase “The Lord rebuke you!” It has not been proven, however, that Jude intended to quote from The Assumption of Moses.

Now, if you'll permit a bit of personal exegesis - The word "disputing" comes from the Greek - diakrinomenos - which means to "to take issue." The full text is:

tw diabolw diakrinomenoV dielegeto

The root of that word - krinimos, means to make an accusation against. That it is followed by dielegeto (to converse, discuss) seems to indicate that this "dispute" is more of a claim / counter-claim thing than a fight.

Basically, the devil is saying - "Hey, Moses' body belongs to me, not you!" He need not be in Hell to make a claim to the body. Indeed, as Deuteronomy 34 says, the location would have been on Mt. Nebo in Moab - not Hell!:

5 And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. 6 He buried him[a] in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. 7 Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. 8 The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.

Note also that it is the body and not the soul. Since at least some debate whether or not the ancient Jews had the concept of an afterlife, it may be fair to characterize this as a battle in which eternal death and resurrection are competing, in a sense, for Moses' remains.

In any event, we know the outcome from a much more accepted source, however. During the Transfiguration, Moses appears, along with Elijah. Elijah had been "caught up into heaven" without dying, and it may be that Moses did the same. Regardless, the Devil didn't win here, since Moses was present.

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This question presumes that the devil only exists in hell, which is clearly a false presumption.

If we look at Jesus' temptation in the wilderness (in Matthew 4:1-11), we see that Satan exists here on earth as well:

Matthew 4:1-3 (NIV)
Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”

It's clear and obvious that the devil exists here on Earth from the above passage. However, if you read the full passage, it's even more clear.

Therefore, this verse does not indicate that Moses went to hell.

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They were possibly disputing about where the body of Moses is, not whether or not he went to Hell.

The Bible says that no one knows where the body is. Maybe Satan claimed that he knew, and Michael was arguing against him, but didn't dare to bring against him a reviling accusation, (such as, "You are such a fool!")

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I like your explanation but won't upvote until you either add some sources to demonstrate that it isn't something you invented or else develop it further. –  San Jacinto May 30 '12 at 20:51
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