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Matthew 22:

23 That same day the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 24“Teacher,” they said, “Moses told us that if a man dies without having children, his brother must marry the widow and raise up offspring for him. 25Now there were seven brothers among us. The first one married and died, and since he had no children, he left his wife to his brother. 26The same thing happened to the second and third brother, right on down to the seventh. 27Finally, the woman died. 28Now then, at the resurrection, whose wife will she be of the seven, since all of them were married to her?”

29 Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God. 30At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven. 31 But about the resurrection of the dead—have you not read what God said to you, 32‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.”

Jesus refuted the Sadducees by citing the following as proof text that there was the resurrection of the dead, Exodus 3:

6 Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God.

Did Moses himself understand that there was the resurrection of the dead or was he like the Sadducees? Please focus on what Exodus 3:6 itself directly communicates.

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    Up-voted +1. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. John 5:46.
    – Nigel J
    Sep 20, 2021 at 15:29
  • 1
    This is a great idea! Please expand it into an answer :)
    – Tony Chan
    Sep 20, 2021 at 15:38
  • According to the Bible, God promised Abraham: “All the families of the ground will certainly bless themselves by means of you.”​—Genesis 12:3. That is a staggering promise, and Abraham heard it uttered on at least two other occasions. (Genesis 18:18; 22:18) In order to fulfill it, God would need resurrect from the dead representatives of families that have died out. It seems reasonable that Moses would know about this promise given to his forefathers and handed down.
    – ACME
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:16
  • @TonyChan Very interesting. We studied these same verses, Exodus 3:6 and John 5:46, while asking the exact same question yesterday morning! +1.
    – Xeno
    Sep 20, 2021 at 23:23

5 Answers 5

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If we accept the early tradition that Moses wrote the book of Job and that it existed before even the Torah, or at least described events before Moses' time, then it is quite clear that Moses believed in the resurrection because he places the following words in the mouth of Job (Chapter 19)

23 “Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, 24 that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!

25 I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26 And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; 27 I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another.

How my heart yearns within me!

Further, assuming Jesus is the model exegete, I do not believe He would impute to OT writers what they do not believe themselves, such as when Moses wrote Ex 3:6 as quoted in Matt 22 as listed by the OP.

Therefore, I believe Moses believed in the bodily resurrection of the righteous as taught by Jesus. The logic of Jesus in Matt 22 is rather simple - God is the God of the living not the dead, and therefore, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will one day be living beings again.

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Did Moses understand that there was the resurrection of the dead from Exodus 3:6?

The simple and short answer would be "No."

A Little about the Hebrew

The Hebrew language verbs do not have tense as the verbs of many languages do; they have what some call aspect. Instead of conjugations, some call the Hebrew verb forms shapes. The concept of time in Hebrew is not a fixed and unambiguous element. Hebrew differs in some fundamental ways, which means translations often fail to convey the same meaning in English.

Let's examine that text Exodus in the Hebrew with the help of interlinear and grammatical notations. Remember, Hebrew reads from right to left.

Interlinear Hebrew/English for Exodus 3:6

Count the verbs you see from the beginning of the verse (the "6" on the top right) up to the word "Jacob", the first word on the second line (at the right). You will see there is only one verb there--the very first word of the verse. The last line has three verbs, but that is not the line referencing God being the God of the patriarchs.

The only verb in the key expression there is the one saying "And said (God)...." This means when we see "I God of your father", the verb of being is implied.

What might Moses have understood from this? The most logical understanding would be that he knew God was present, and saying "I AM the God of your father..." but he would have also known that his father and the other patriarchs were in their graves. God's statement did not present any contradiction with these facts, it was simply an assurance to Moses that he was speaking to the same God that his ancestors had known.

HOWEVER

Moses' understanding regarding the resurrection of the dead need not be based solely on this single statement. While we cannot deduce the resurrection truth from this text alone, Moses would have known of the promised Messiah, and he lived in faith that the Messiah would restore the lives of God's faithful.

Moses himself was given a promise that he would live and see Canaan.

And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying,Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: ... Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel. (Deuteronomy 32:48-52, KJV)

God told Moses that even though he must die, and would not enter Canaan with the people, he would yet see it (future).

Conclusion

While Exodus 3:6 cannot inform us regarding Moses' understanding of the resurrection of the dead, the Bible gives other evidence that Moses died in the hope of the resurrection.

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    Spot on. Just because a verse may be compatible with a doctrine doesn't mean that it itself teaches it. Even Jesus's use of these verses doesn't mean that the original sense was teaching resurrection.
    – curiousdannii
    Sep 21, 2021 at 4:59
  • Couldn't God just be referring to Moses seeing the land from the vantage point of the mountain where he died, but before he died?
    – Austin
    Sep 21, 2021 at 15:30
  • I think it's probably more accurate to say "maybe" instead of "no" since we don't know for sure how Moses would have understood that statement. The rest of your answer better agrees with "maybe", so it would be clearer to update it to reflect this.
    – bob
    Sep 21, 2021 at 19:30
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Your question has a clear, simple answer. Off course Moses understood the resurrection. This encounter, Moses with God, or rather what the Lord proclaimed here, made it crystal clear!

How could God proclaim that He was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob ….. if they were dead? And yet all these promises made to them specifically (to them themselves) were as yet unfulfilled. And this proclamation would not have been ‘news’! Moses would already have known this, as this was Gods ‘title’, how he was known to the Israelites!

Moses knew the promises made to Abraham. And the promise is pivotal in understanding this….

GEN 13:15 for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever.

God was going to give Abraham the land - forever. That is, it wasn’t [just] the decedents who would have it forever. There must be a resurrection involved if this and the other promises were to be fulfilled. That’s why Abraham was so confident in proceeding with the command to sacrifice Isaac. Because of the promise.

The Sadducees only believed, or accepted the Torah (first five books), they did not believe the prophets - so Jesus could not use any of the (many) promises relating to a resurrection of the saints that are found elsewhere in the Old Testament (that is, the Prophets). That’s what shut the Sadducees up - the answer could not be argued. ….. it’s all about the promises!

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  • +1 You should include reference to Hebrews 11:19 since you clearly make reference to it.
    – Austin
    Sep 25, 2021 at 8:18
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Did Moses believe in his own [spiritual] resurrection from the dead? - Yes. | Moses in Exodus 32:32 offers to sacrifice his spiritual resurrection in Heaven (by removing his name from the Book of Life).

[Shemot 32:32] "And now, if You forgive their sin But if not, erase me now from Your book, which You have written." ( וְעַתָּ֖ה אִם־תִּשָּׂ֣א חַטָּאתָ֑ם וְאִם־אַ֕יִן מְחֵ֣נִי נָ֔א מִֽסִּפְרְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֥ר כָּתָֽבְתָּ )

Did Moses believe in his own [physical] resurrection to live in the promised land? - No. | Moses was aware in Numbers 20:12 & Deuteronomy 4:21 that his lack of obedience to YHVH (by not speaking to The-Rock at מְרִיבָה Merivah) would forever keep him from earthly inheritance.

[Devarim 4:21] "And YHVH was angry with me because of you, and He swore that I would not cross The-Yarden and that I would not come into the good land YHVH your-God, is giving you as an inheritance." (וַֽיהֹוָ֥ה הִתְאַנַּף־בִּ֖י עַל־דִּבְרֵיכֶ֑ם וַיִּשָּׁבַ֗ע לְבִלְתִּ֤י עָבְרִי֙ אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֔ן וּלְבִלְתִּי־בֹא֙ אֶל־הָאָ֣רֶץ הַטּוֹבָ֔ה אֲשֶׁר֙ יְהֹוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ נַֽחֲלָֽה)

Didn't Moses appear later in the promised land in Matthew 17:3? | Spiritually (in a vision), not physically resurrected.

[Matthew 17:3, KJV] "And, behold, there appeared unto them Moses and Elias talking with him." ( 17:3 καὶ ἰδού, ὤφθησαν αὐτοῖς Μωσῆς καὶ Ἠλίας μετ᾽ αὐτοῦ συλλαλοῦντες )

Did Moses believe God was in Heaven or on Earth? - Both. | Deuteronomy 4:39

Although Moses merited righteousness in the Book of Life to return to Heaven (spiritual resurrection), he understood physically resurrection (after death) in the promised land was not in his future.

Did Moshe experience physical resurrection on earth before his final burial? - Yes. | Deuteronomy chapter 9 verse 18 & verse 25 recount two occurrences of Moshe's physical return to the Israelites after 40-day fasts without food or drink.

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    lot of conjecture and doctrine
    – ACME
    Sep 20, 2021 at 21:09
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Hebrews 11

24By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, 25choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the [g]passing pleasures of sin, 26esteeming the [h]reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures [i]in Egypt; for he looked to the reward.

Moses could have stayed in Egypt and enjoyed all kinds of earthly rewards. Instead, he follows God to the promised land in order to receive the heavenly reward. By faith, Moses understands eternal life.

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  • Hi Doug, welcome to BH-Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please be sure to take the site tour and read our code of conduct. Thanks! Sep 25, 2021 at 7:56
  • +1 was just thinking about those verses. Well played, Doug.
    – Austin
    Sep 25, 2021 at 8:26

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