The Berean Expositor
Volume 13 - Page 8 of 159
Index | Zoom
It will be seen that in the immediate context of the verses under consideration, the
word "face" is used in a way which demands the recognition of a figurative sense in order
to interpret the passages truthfully and intelligibly.  This usage will be abundantly
confirmed if we glance at a few more verses in this same book of Exodus:--
"Evil is before you" (lit. your faces) (10: 10).
"Laid before their faces all these words" (19: 7).
"Thou shalt have no gods before Me" (lit. before my face) (20: 3).
"Shewbread" (lit. bread of faces) (25: 30).
"Upon the forefront (lit. over against the face) of the mitre" (28: 37).
"Before the tabernacle" (29: 10).
Coming to Exod. 33: once again, let us notice what is actually said in the verses
which appear contradictory. First the positive statement of verse 20:--
"Thou (i.e. Moses) canst not see My face: for there shall no man (Heb. Adam) see Me
and live."
There is no ambiguity in the wording here. Privileged as Moses was, in this particular
he was like the rest of mankind, utterly unable to look upon the face of God. Let us now
look at verse 11. verse 9 says:--
"And it came to pass, as Moses entered into the tabernacle, the cloudy pillar
descended, and stood at the door of the tabernacle, and the Lord talked with Moses."
Note, it was the Lord Who talked with Moses, and not Moses who talked with the
Lord. Verse 11 adds:--
"And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend."
The only part of the verse which demands attention is the expression "face to face".
Now seeing that in the same chapter it is categorically stated that neither Moses nor any
other man could see the face of God, and seeing that verse 11 does not say that Moses did
see the face of the Lord, and moreover, remembering the great latitude which the
figurative use of "face" has in the Hebrew of Exodus, the contradiction is one more of the
imagination than of the text. Unless we are prepared to understand the word "face"
literally in every occurrence quoted above, "face to face" can mean no more than that in
the case of Moses the mediation necessary in the case of Aaron and others was not
In Numb. 12: 8 the figure is retained, but the wording is altered, there instead of
"face to face" we read "mouth to mouth". The context too illuminates the intention of
Exod. 33: 11:--
"If there be a prophet among you, I the Lord will make Myself known unto him in
A VISION and will speak unto him in A DREAM. My servant Moses is NOT SO, who
is faithful in all Mine house. With him will I speak MOUTH TO MOUTH, even
apparently (plainly), and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the Lord shall he
behold" (12: 6-8).