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I had heard about you with my ears, but now my eye sees you; — ‭‭(Job)‬ ‭42:5‬ ‭

Given that in some situations no man can see God and live (Exodus 33:20), yet in other situations God is seen and the person lives (Genesis 32:30), what did Job mean when he said “now my eye sees you?” Did Job see God in the whirlwind or at some other point?

“But," he said, "you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live."” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭33:20‬

Compare

"For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life was spared."” ‭‭Genesis‬ ‭32:30‬ ‭

  • 1
    He (presumably) saw by faith. But the question, as posed, becomes a matter of opinion. – Nigel J Jan 2 at 9:54
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    It is 'my eye' not 'my eyes'. My opinion is that this is the eye of faith. – Nigel J Jan 2 at 13:53
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    This discussion really belongs on our 'meta' site — I have posted a question there, please vote and/or contribute your thoughts: hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3556/… – Jack Douglas Jan 4 at 16:48
  • Possibly related: Mat 5:8 KJV - 8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Also: hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/5357/… – Ruminator Jan 31 at 18:12
  • οψονται I think this is where the Greek will shed some light in the intended definition “to see”. That is assuming there is a correlation, which seems to be the case. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 31 at 18:20
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+50

It is a Mental Perception

The Hebrew word for "eye" (עַ֫יִן) can carry a figurative meaning "of mental and spiritual faculties."1

Likewise, the Hebrew verb "see" (רָאָה) can carry a figurative meaning of either mental perception or recognition.2

Now in Job 42:1-6, Job had just completed enduring a thorough, direct, verbal chastening and educating by God (speaking from the whirlwind, Job 38:1, 40:6) about God's nature (focusing a lot on His power and might) versus Job's own nature (who is he to question God?). This occurs, with just a few short breaks, from Job 38:1-41:34.

Job declares he has been educated in things he "did not know" through this, and indeed still lacks a full understanding (42:2-3). But he has listened ("I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear," 42:5a) and so "now my eye sees You" (42:5b) is reflecting on his knowledge gained by the experience of God's chastening words (and his whole experience in being tormented by Satan). And because of this knowledge, Job now "abhors" himself and repents of his prior, ignorant statements that reflected poorly on God's character and nature (v.6).

Now it is true that "hearing" and "ears" can be figurative to mean understanding also (some examples: Dt 29:4, Ps 115:6), but here the passage appears to be using literal in the first, and figurative for the second, based on the facts that:

  1. It is very explicitly stated "I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear." So to me, the "of You" either means literally the source (i.e. God speaking, equivalent to "heard from You") or literally the content (i.e. about God). Either fits the context, but both refer to the words spoken.
  2. The following contrast "but now" implies the "seeing" is a different experience than the hearing (so they cannot both be referring figuratively to understanding). Though obviously the eye seeing could be literal still in this contrast, but the other points I made I think argue against that.
  3. The context has God directly speaking to Job (so he indeed "had heard" from God just then).

So there is no need to try to view this as being an actual "physical" seeing of God. The context points to a mental and spiritual awareness that has come to Job through the whole experience, and this is the most likely meaning, in context, of what "now my eye sees You" refers to. He is expanding on his actually "hearing" having brought an "understanding" he did not previously have.


NOTES

1 Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), s.v. עַ֫יִן, no. 3. Some examples are Adam and Eve's eyes opened to good and evil (Gen 3:5, 7), eyes shut to understanding (Isa 44:18), and others, and even in Job, "eyes" fail to perceive the place where wisdom and understanding come from (Job 28:20-21).

2 Ibid., s.v. רָאָה, no. 3, 5, 7. Some examples, God "sees" wickedness in men (Job 11:11), God "saw" that His creation was "good" (Gen 1:10, 12), the writer of Ecclesiastes tells his heart to "look" at the greatness attained (Ecc. 1:16).

  • Yes Ruminator, that’s the angle I’ve been trying to figure out but I sense that @ScottS is differentiating (Though they don’t specify this distinction) between merely audibly hearing and actually now understanding intellectually what he(Job) did wrong, why he had to go through what he did and how to prevent this from ever happening again. In this sense “my eye has seen you” would definitely not mean to physically see God. It’s equivalent to “I see what you mean” or “I can see that” – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 31 at 17:51
  • Interesting that the word 'faith' is not once mentioned, here. Just the word 'mental'. – Nigel J Feb 27 at 8:07
  • @NigelJ Not just "mental" but "spiritual" is mentioned as well in my answer (regarding the knowledge). But you are correct, I don't see faith being the focus of the passage. Job had faith already; the only way he could be "blameless and upright" in God's sight was by faith, and he "feared God" (Job 1:1) and interceded for his family with God (1:5). Through Job's discussion, it is clear he has faith in God. So Job's experience was not a coming to faith one, but rather coming to a greater understanding of the One he already had faith in (similar to what Paul prays for believers in Col 1:9-10) – ScottS Feb 27 at 16:43
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The Hebrew meaning of "to see YHVH" was to feel and know His presence / His word.

After having waited through the false statements provided by Job's three "friends," Elihu begins to provide the answer in Job ch. 32 and reprimands the three and Job for judging and questioning YHVH's judgment.

Then in ch. 38, YHVH speaks.

"Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said,

2 Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?

3 Gird up now thy loins like a man; for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me." (KJV, Job 38:1-3)

Speaking out of the whirlwind was a method of YHVH's presence.

Excerpt from Benson Commentary on Job 38:1

"out of the whirlwind — Out of a dark and thick cloud, from which he sent a terrible and tempestuous wind, as the harbinger of his presence. The LXX. render the clause, δια λαιλαπος και νεφων, perturbinem et nubes, by a tempest and clouds." Source: Biblehub

Excerpt from Barnes' Notes:

"Out of the whirlwind - The tempest; the storm - probably that which Elihu had seen approaching, Job 37:21-24. God is often represented as speaking to people in this manner. He spake amidst lightnings and tempests on Mount Sinai Exodus 19:16-19, and he is frequently represented as appearing amidst the thunders and lightnings of a tempest, as a symbol of his majesty; compare Psalm 18:9-13; Habakkuk 3:3-6. The word here rendered "whirlwind" means rather "a storm, a tempest." The Septuagint renders this verse, "After Elihu had ceased speaking, the Lord spake to Job from a tempest and clouds." Source: Ibid.

Excerpt from Jamieson-Fausset-Brown:

"In this manner God appears and speaks to him, partly, because this was his usual method in those times, as we see, Exodus 19:18 Numbers 9:15,16; see also 1 Kings 19:11 Ezekiel 1:4; partly, to awaken Job and his friends to the more serious and reverent attention to his words; partly, to testify his displeasure, both against Job, and against his three friends; and partly, that all of them night be more deeply and thoroughly humbled and abused within themselves, and prepared the better to receive, and longer to retain, the instructions which God was about to give them. " Source: Ibid.

Job saw this tempest, whirlwind with his eyes, and he knew it was the presence of YHVH. But, his knowledge was increased and made more certain by his hearing YHVH speak. He "saw" meant he understood, just as we might say, "I see" when we understand a concept or idea that we didn't understand before.

Clarke's commentary on Job 42:5 -

"I have now such a discovery of thee as I have never had before. I have only heard of thee by tradition, or from imperfect information; now the eye of my mind clearly perceives thee, and in seeing thee, I see myself; for the light that discovers thy glory and excellence, discovers my meanness and vileness." Source: Clarke'sCommentary

  • So you are saying that Job didn’t see G-d per se but perceived that He was in the whirlwind. I don’t know that would qualify in my mind as seeing G-d, that’s still only hearing His voice out of, a whirlwind. The whirlwind was not G-d. Can you see the distinction I am making? +1 for the response and references quoted. Thank you. If you could clarify further and maybe prove the whirlwind was in fact G-d that would help strengthen your argument in my mind. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 28 at 15:05
  • Yes, Job literally saw the whirlwind, the tempest and b/c YHVH spoke out of the tempest he knew he was in the presence of YHVH. The verses cited in the commentaries provided are the sources you should check for His method of showing His presence to the ppl. But, yes the whirlwind was in essence YHVH in the physical world. YHVH is a Spirit, & that was the way He showed Himself to the ppl. I could cite references from the commentaries in the post, but you can easily look them up. – Gina Jan 28 at 15:15
  • No need to quote further, it’s sufficient that I know where to look now. I’m not convinced that the whirlwind WAS G-d Himself. So for that reason I can’t agree that Job saw G-d. Job merely heard Him in that sense – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 28 at 15:19
  • It is the problem with "literal" vs conceptual reading. We have to be able to use the context of the scriptures and be flexible enough to distinguish. The tempest was a physical manifestation of YHVH. His Spiritual nature cannot manifest Himself as a spirit in a physical realm. You will find His presence expressed as "in the clouds" as well. – Gina Jan 28 at 15:24
  • Agreed, but Jacob not only saw G-d he touched Him and wrestled with Him and was struck physically in the hip by Him. By your reasoning the burning bush was also G-d. The pillar of cloud and the pillar of fire was not His covering but was Him. Darkness is not His covering from which he spoke to Moses and Solomon but was G-d. I draw a distinction between G-d being the covering and G-d speaking out of the covering. – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 28 at 15:36
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"Seeing God" is a another word for "prophecy", or the "religious experience" or whatever you want to call it. See for example Gen. 18 where the Lord "appeared" to Abe, it is obviously in the prophetic sense, not in the visual sense. And the bible is full of this language. What Job is essentially saying, is that until now he has only heard of him, but now he had a chance to experience him. To achieve this religious or prophetic experience is what Job and other biblical writers call "seeing God".

Here is an excerpt of the Guide for the Perplexed by the great Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides,

The three verbs raah, hibbit, and hazah, which denote "he perceived with the eye," are also used figuratively in the sense of intellectual perception. As regards the first of these verbs this is well known, e.g., And he looked (va­yar) and behold a well in the field" (Gen. xxix. 2) here it signifies ocular perception: "yea, my heart has seen (raah) much of wisdom and of knowledge" (Eccles. i. 16); in this passage it refers to the intellectual perception. In this figurative sense the verb is to be understood, when applied to God e.g., "I saw (raiti) the Lord" (1 Kings xxii. 19); "And the Lord appeared (va­yera) unto him (Gen. xviii. 1); "And God saw (va­yar) that it was good" (Gen. i. 10) "I beseech thee, show me (hareni) thy glory" (Exod. xxxiii. 18); "And they saw (va­yiru) the God of Israel" (Exod. xxiv. 10). All these instances refer to intellectual perception, and by no means to perception with the eye as in its literal meaning: for, on the one hand, the eye can only perceive a corporeal object, and in connection with it certain accidents, as colour, shape, etc.: and, on the other hand, God does not perceive by means of a corporeal organ, as will be explained. (Translation by M. Friedlander)

1

John 1:18

No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

Colossians 1:15

He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God...

It was Jesus who came to Job and spoke with him face to face. It was Christ who walked in the garden with Adam and Eve, and who slew the first lamb to clothe them. It was Christ who came to Gideon before sending him to defeat the Midianites. It was Christ who visited Abraham before Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed. It was Christ who wrestled with Jacob. It was Christ who came to Joshua, and whom Joshua fell down and worshiped before taking Jericho.

Jesus existed, and was the visible representative of the Godhead, prior to becoming a man. He interacted with men all through the Old Testament, even leading the children of Israel in the midst of the cloud and pillar of fire. (1 Corinthians 10). He was the One in the burning bush speaking with Moses; the I AM, Yahweh. While He was on earth, the Jews nearly stoned Him before His time when He said that He was. (John 8:58)

Isaiah 47:4

As for our Redeemer, Yahweh of hosts is His name, The Holy One of Israel.

  • Welcome to the site, thank you for the response +1. I would have to agree with you on the basis that Jesus left His signature in the text. Job 38:1 right after God in the Hebrew we see the AlephTav. And I’m a big advocate that Jesus is the Word and the Word is right there in the text, the et or eth. I wonder how you came to the conclusion that it was Jesus that Job saw or “saw”? Do you think it was Jesus who said “you cannot see my face and live” to Moses? >> You say He is the image but is He also God in your understanding? – Nihil Sine Deo Jan 31 at 14:38
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Did Job see God in physical form?

Job did not see God in physical form,in view of what Jesus said, it should be understood figuratively and not literally.

John 6:45-46 (NASB)

45"It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father."

John many years after the death of Christ, wrote:

John 1:18 (NASB)

18 "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him."

SEEING GOD FIGURATIVELY

After God interrogated Job in the previous chapters and giving Job a lesson in how great is God's power , knowledge and wisdom, compared to that man,Job confesses:

The confession.

42 Then Job answered the Lord and said, 2 “I know that You can do all things,And that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.

3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.” 4 ‘Hear, now, and I will speak;I will ask You, and You instruct me.’

5 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear;But now my eye sees You; 6 Therefore I retract,And I repent in dust and ashes.”

Job repents.

From Job's confession we note that Job did not literally see God with his eyes, but with the eye of understanding, the eye of faith and appreciation , and by looking at God's wisdom thru his creation and dealings with him,and having the eyes of his heart enlightened ,(Eph.1:18) was able to admire God far greater than he did before.

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First of all people in the Old Testament saw God and lived. Where it says no man can see God and live. It means nobody has ever saw God in his full glory. The only one that has is Jesus Christ. There are instances in the Old Testament 44 appearances of God. He ate with Abraham and the 2 angels. He appeared to Jacob and Jacob wrestled with God. peniel means I have seen God face to face and my life is preserved. It is believe Jacob saw God in a form similiar to a human. Minoah and his wife saw the Angel of the Lord which was Jesus Christ or at that time the Preincarnate Christ. Minoah asked him his name he said my name is a secret. that means in the hebrew Wonderful. Isaiah 9:6 King James Version (KJV) 6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.

  • Welcome to Biblical Hermeneutics Stack. Thank you for your response. Please take the tour by clicking on the tour link at the very bottom. Also consider fast tracking what is expected by clicking on this link in terms of responses. hermeneutics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/653/… – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 2 at 0:12
  • Please take the time to improve your answer by adding appropriate references, including Bible verses. I would challenge your interpretation that it was two angles that accompanied the visit at the oaks of mamre. All three spoke, all three received workship and all three perceived that Sarah ‘thought’ in her heart and they prophecies about the future which meant restoring a barren womb. That would mean that He took the form of three people. That’s just a side note. Genesis 18 – Nihil Sine Deo Feb 2 at 0:23

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