But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9)
What is this all about? The licentious false teachers of Jude’s day were being condemned for defying the authorities of heaven itself. Their guilt was heightened in that the very prince of angels refrained from direct confrontation even with so fallen a dignitary as the devil; the ultimate rebuke being deferred to the Lord himself.
To understand the ‘dispute’ with the devil about the body of Moses, we should aim to let the Bible interpret the Bible. The clue lies in the name of the valley where Moses’ body was buried. The account of Deuteronomy 34:6 informs us that it was at Beth Peor that his body was buried - and buried by the Lord himself.
But Beth Peor had been earlier associated with the worship of Baal (Numbers 25:1-5). It was here that God’s people were led by Balaam into immorality and idolatrous worship (see Revelation 2:14).
The implication of Jude 9 is now clear. It had evidently been the valley of Beth Peor that the devil claimed as his own. And Israel was condemned for resorting to this site of Baal worship. Yet the eventual burial of Moses there was the Lord’s own transformation, from then on, of a Satanic stronghold into a place of resurrection testimony! Here lay the ‘dispute,’ and the devil’s direct rebuke, not from an angel, but from the very Lord who had himself changed Beth Peor into a place of honour.
And history’s lesson is obvious. False teaching eventually will ‘change the grace of our God into a licence for immorality’ (Jude 4).