Does Exodus 30:20 contradict 30:11?

Question: It says in Exodus 33:20 that God told Moses that no one could see His face or he would die, but in verse11 it says God spoke to Moses face to face.

Answer: The phrase “face to face” is one that speaks of the familiarity and closeness that Moses had to God in their conversations. Typically God spoke through prophets by giving them visions or dreams, but God spoke directly to Moses in an audible voice and perhaps came to him in a physical form, like the form of a man, as He did with Abraham on occasion (Genesis 18). Moses understood that this was merely an accommodation to him so when he asked to see God’s “glory” (verse 18) he was wanting to see God without any accommodating form. He wanted to see what God really looked like.

The Bible is clear that no one has seen God at any time (John 1:18), that God is Spirit and humans do not normally see spirit (John 4:24). But God wanted to give Moses yet another accommodating representation of Himself that was a little more reflective of His glory. However, he warned Moses that no one could see His face without suffering death. This indicates that His “face” is the unfiltered expression of His glory that is so overwhelming to us in our unglorified and unresurrected state that it would be lethal. When our bodies and souls are fitted for the kingdom by the resurrection this will not be an issue. God’s glory will be fully revealed and we will be fully able to experience it (Revelation 22:4).

Randall Johnson


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