Exodus 24:9-11 OTBDC: Has God ever truly been seen or not? Is it even possible?

Edward D. Andrews
EDWARD D. ANDREWS (AS in Criminal Justice, BS in Religion, MA in Biblical Studies, and MDiv in Theology) is CEO and President of Christian Publishing House. He has authored over 180 books. Andrews is the Chief Translator of the Updated American Standard Version (UASV).

Moses once expressed the desire to see God. In Exodus 33:18-20, we read:

Exodus 33:18-20 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 And he [Moses] said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before your face and will proclaim before you my name ‘Jehovah.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy. 20 But he said, “You cannot see my face, for no man can see me and live!”

What did God permit Moses to see? It was his passing goodness or glory. Take note of what 33:21-23 states,

Exodus 33:21-23 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

21 And Jehovah said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.

APOSTOLIC FATHERS Lightfoot

John 1:18 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God[1] who is in the bosom of the Father,[2] that one has made him fully known.

When we consider what Jehovah Himself told Moses and what the Apostle John said, it is clear that Moses merely saw the light or radiance remaining of God’s glory pass by. Even then, Moses still needed divine protection to survive the event. Clearly, Moses did not see God.

Exodus 33:11 says that Moses saw God “face to face.” This “face to face” expression does not mean that Moses was in visual contact with Jehovah’s face. It is an expression that refers to the manner of communication. The expression simply means a two-way conversation. It is easier to understand today, as a person can carry on a two-way conversation with someone on the other side of the earth with a cell phone and not see each other.

Mosaic Authorship HOW RELIABLE ARE THE GOSPELS Young Christians

Things were different with Moses when he communicated with God, as it was not by visions, as was true of other prophets. This is stated:

Numbers 12:6-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

And he said, “Hear my words: If there is a prophet among you, I the Lord make myself known to him in a vision; I speak with him in a dream.
Not so with my servant Moses. He is faithful in all my house. 8 With him I speak mouth to mouth, clearly, and not in riddles, and he beholds the form of Jehovah. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”

THE CREATION DAYS OF GENESIS gift of prophecy

Moses beheld the “form of Jehovah” when he, Aaron his brother, as well as others were on Mount Sinai.

Exodus 24:10 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

10 and they saw the God of Israel; and under his feet was what seemed like a sapphire pavement, as clear as the sky itself.

However, in what sense did these men see “the God of Israel,” because God had told him, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” Verse 11 of Exodus 24 goes on to say, “He did not lay his hand on the chief men of the sons of Israel; they beheld God, and ate and drank.” What exactly did they behold?

DEFENDING OLD TESTAMENT AUTHORSHIP Agabus Cover BIBLICAL CRITICISM

Jehovah God has no reason to come down from heaven itself in order to deliver messages to humans. This would be like the President of the United States getting in Air force One to go to some small town in the Mid-West, to deliver a message to one of his congressmen. It is almost nonsensical, and the press would make such a big deal if it ever happened. Now, imagine the Creator of everything going to visit a human personally. There are only three incidents when God’s voice was heard from heaven, all coming from the New Testament three and a half years of Jesus’ ministry. (Matthew 3:17; 17:5; John 12:28)

Who were making the personal visits for God to the earth, from the time of Abraham forward? Jehovah God used his angels (messengers), as representatives of himself. Even when Moses received the Law, these angelic messengers transmitted it.

How to Interpret the Bible-1

Galatians 3:19 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

19 Why, then, the Law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should arrive to whom the promise had been made; and it was transmitted through angels by the hand of a mediator.

Moses even spoke to an angel that came in the place of God. This angel was God’s spokesperson, and he spoke to Moses as if it were Jehovah God himself speaking, because in a representative way it was.

Acts 7:38 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

38 This is the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living sayings[3] to give to us.

This holds true of the angel that visited Moses at the thorn bush as well, he was the mouthpiece of Jehovah God, speaking as though he were him. Exodus 3:2 tells us, “And the angel of Jehovah appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush.” However, when we look to verse 4 we get, “And when Jehovah saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the midst of the bush.” Then, in verse 6 this angelic representative says, “I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” Thus, when Moses was speaking with an angelic representative of God, he addressed him as though he were Jehovah God himself, and the angel would speak as such too.—Exodus 4:10.

We find a similar experience in Judges chapter 6, verses 11-22 of Gideon speaking with an angelic representative as though the angel were God himself.[4] In verse 22 Gideon even says:

Judges 6:22 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

22 And Gideon realized that he was the angel of Jehovah; and Gideon said, “Alas, O, my lord Jehovah! For now I have seen the angel of Jehovah face to face.”

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[1] The original words were μονογενὴς θεός or ο μονογενης θεος “only-begotten God” or “the only-begotten God” (P66 P75 א B C* L 33 syrhmp 33 copbo) A variant reading is ο μονογενης υιος “the only begotten Son” A C3 (Ws) Θ Ψ f1, Maj syrc).
[2] Or at the Father’s side
[3] Sayings: (Gr. logia, on [only in the plural]) A saying or message, usually short, especially divine, gathered into a collection.–Acts 7:38; Romans 3:2; Hebrews 5:12; 1 Peter 4:11.
[4] Also, consider the case of Manoah and his wife, the parents of Samson. (Judges 13:2-18)

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