Speaking Face to Face
Answers to your Scripture questions
I’m reading Exodus 33.11 and Exodus 33.20, and there is a seeming contradiction. Can you spot it?
—Boyd Kiel, via e-mail
The first of these verses reads, “And the Lord spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend,” and the second, “Thou canst not see my face; for there shall no man see me, and live.” To make sense of this, we can assume that the phrase “face to face” should be understood as an idiom of intimacy. Moses was the greatest of the prophets, and God spoke to him as a friend. Moses is allowed to see all God’s goodness and glory (what he is), but not his face (how he looks). It underscores the difference between the Creator and his creatures, even in the case of Moses, who is “faithful in all mine house” (Numbers 12.7, 8).
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