Seeing God and Surviving

(Susan Baker) #1

Exodus 33:20 says “But He said, "You cannot see My face, for no man can see Me and live.” Yet Genesis 32:31 says of Jacob, “And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: ‘for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved.’ “

How do we reconcile this through proper interpretation?

Thank you,


(C Rhodes) #2

@Susan_Baker. One quick qualifier is knowing that in Exodus GOD said you cannot see my face and live. In Genesis, Jacob said I have seen GOD face to face.

Not to discount anything Jacob said but there is a vast difference when we speak of our encounters with GOD and when GOD walks through our lives. I think maybe Christians are the original viral engine. So much of what we experience with GOD seems to defy description. Love beyond explanation. Joy unspeakable.

I think Jacob spoke honestly from his own humanity. But not to be confused with the authority of GOD’s voice. If GOD said it is so, then it is. I imagine that is why no one will ever live to speak of finding Eden. GOD said no, then.put angels at the entrance. With GOD no is definitely no.

(Andrew Bulin) #3

I found the translation of this to be interesting. When Jacob talks about being saved/preserved/living (depending on your translation), in Hebrew it’s likened to a rescue or a deliverance.[1] Similarly, we could relate this to his earlier prayer in verse 11:

Genesis 32:11 NASB
[11] Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, that he will come and attack me and the mothers with the children.

Jacob was seeking deliverance from his brother, and here he survives wrestling with the supernatural. He would be reassured that God will take care of him.

The passage says he wrestled a “man” (v. 24). Jacob recognizes he was in the presence of the God, but His messenger who represents God. Elsewhere it is confirmed in the Bible that this was an angelic being and not YHWH (Hos. 12:4).

On the issue at hand seeing God “face to face,” we can also find more interesting details in the translation. This is less like a visual reference of seeing God and more of a knowing Him clearly, especially since he was not wrestling God Himself. Without need of outside help, Jacob can now understand God better. [1] For example, consider Job’s comment when God answers him out of the whirlwind and testifies of Himself:

Job 42:5 NASB
“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You …

This is a coming of awareness and not actual physical sight. Not only does Jacob become more aware of who God is, it is here his faith is bolstered as he moves on from his old life of being deceptive and fearful Jacob, to being Israel (v. 28).

[1] Victor P. Hamilton, The Book of Genesis: Chapters 18-50 in The New International Commentary on the Old Testament, eds. R. K. Harrison and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 336-337.

(Jimmy Sellers) #4

Here is a curveball. The Jew believed in 2 Powers in Heaven. (see link)

For the orthodox Israelite, Yahweh was both sovereign and vice regent—occupying both “slots” as it were at the head of the divine council. The binitarian portrayal of Yahweh in the Hebrew Bible was motivated by this belief. The ancient Israelite knew two Yahwehs—one invisible, a spirit, the other visible, often in human form. The two Yahwehs at times appear together in the text, at times being distinguished, at other times not.

You will have to clear your mind of preconceived western teaching. But I would be interested to hear the thoughts on this view.

(Andrew Bulin) #5

Hmmm. That is a challenging one. Particularly this statement:

The paradigm of a high sovereign God (El) who rules heaven and earth through the agency of a second, appointed god (Baal) became part of Israelite religion, albeit with some modification.

It sounds like the more liberal approach to the expanse of Israel being limited to co-mingling with the people of Canaan, which influenced their religion. Then we have to ignore the singleness of the emphasis of the Shema:

“ Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!

You’re right, it would take some time for me to wrap my head around that. I may check out that book. :slight_smile:

(Jimmy Sellers) #6

For a better understanding on this POV you would find The Unseen Realm a better read.
I had the same thoughts, what about the Shema, what about a pantheon, what about dualism? The book will stretch you mind. I generally shy away for books that claim to have a unique or new found secret message from the Bible but Heiser is not making that claim in fact I would argue that he is advocating for a more authentic form of Biblical understanding.

(SeanO) #7

@Susan_Baker Here is another thread regarding the same question with a number of good answers from @CarsonWeitnauer and others.

(Susan Baker) #8

Thank you, C Rhodes. I am reading the Masoretic text. Since the phrase “face to face” is so specific and unique, I assumed there is a connection in meaning, yet the outcomes are contradictory…Jacob did live.

You make a valid point about our perspective versus God’s. I will keep probing. Thanks for your thoughtfulness.

(Susan Baker) #9

Thank you, @andrew.bulin In the back of my mind (where I see God :pensive: with His creative help and Comfort) I knew of a couple passages similar to Genesis and Exodus. You have brought them forward: Hosea and Job. It’s interesting that the verses you citied are in the last chapter of Job where he is reminded of God’s will and plan, finding justification in surrender to that. Sometimes through examples of what God isn’t, we also “see” who He is.

(Susan Baker) #10

That’s very interesting, @jimmy_sellers. Two YHWHs, or one YHWH, two persons? Since Genesis reveals God’s “us” early on and when it comes to the creation of Man, 1:26, can Western Christianity be faulted for crediting the third person in the Comforter as God’s own?

(Susan Baker) #11

Thank you, @SeanO. I’ll check that out from Carson. Received my book on Pascal. :wink::pray:

(Susan Baker) #12

@Jimmy-sellers Also Genesis 3:22…

(Jimmy Sellers) #13

So as not to be misunderstood these are not my original thoughts there are the results of my reading Heiser’s book(s) and rereading these verses that have generally been glossed over, not in there subject, but in how I should understand what was being said.
So here is another verse that is hard to ignore.

18 And Yahweh appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre. And he was sitting in the doorway of the tent at the heat of the day. 2 And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, three men were standing near him. And he saw them and ran from the doorway of the tent to meet them. And he bowed down to the ground. 3 And he said, “My lord, if I have found favor in your eyes do not pass by your servant. 4 Let a little water be brought and wash your feet, and rest under the tree. 5 And let me bring a piece of bread, then refresh ⌊yourselves⌋. Afterward you can pass on, ⌊once⌋ you have passed by with your servant.” Then they said, “Do so as you have said.” (Ge 18:1–5).

Then later on in the same chapter there are eating and according to the story they (this must be the three men) ask about Sarah and after Abraham answered then we switch to He. Who is the “he” and how can he know that Sarah will miraculously give birth at her advanced age?

8 Then he took curds and milk, and the calf which he prepared, and set it before them. And he was standing by them under the tree while they ate. 9 And they said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “Here, in the tent.” 10 And he said, “I will certainly return to you ⌊in the spring⌋, and look, Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the doorway of the tent, and which was behind him.
(Ge 18:8–10).

(SeanO) #14

@Susan_Baker Great! Hope you enjoy.