Someone here has said that Moses saw God face to face.
Well lets be technical here. The text actually says that :

Thus the LORD used to speak to Moses face to face - NASB

It does not mention seeing, only speaking. Moses' eyes could have been covered in some way, or the LORD's presentation could have been covered in some way. Face to face can just mean that it was a close and intimate relationship and communication. It does not require that Moses saw God.

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    Thank you Nigel J. I'm new here so I appreciate it! Jan 10, 2020 at 18:00
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    Jan 10, 2020 at 18:30
  • You have read into the text something the text doesn’t say. It doesn’t say Moses SAW God but that they spoke face to face. Two people can speak face to face and not see each other as was the case with Moses. Jan 10, 2020 at 18:34
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    This question may be of interest: Has anyone seen God or not? Feb 1, 2021 at 16:01

2 Answers 2


With him will I speak mouth to mouth, even apparently, and not in dark speeches; and the similitude of the LORD shall he behold: wherefore then were ye not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? Numbers 12:8 KJV

It is clear from Numbers that a 'similitude' was seen by Moses.

And the LORD spake unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh unto his friend. Exodus 33:11 KJV

This speaking by 'similitude' is called, in Exodus, 'speaking face to face'.

So it is scriptural to refer to God speaking to Moses 'face to face'.

But Numbers explains in, more detail, what that means. It was a provision whereby God could communicate the wealth of detail which we see set out in Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.

We know, of course, that 'God is a Spirit', John 4:24, and that 'no man hath seen God at any time', John 1:18. What Exodus and Numbers reveal is the means whereby God presented a 'face' (that is to say the similitude of a face) in order that a wealth of information could be - accurately - conveyed by word of mouth to the man, Moses.

  • God qualifies it and adds, as a man speaks to a friend. Men don’t speak in similitudes to their friends, they speak as direct as possible. The Torah is not a collection of similitudes. It was mouth to mouth or face to face but in the cover of darkness/cloud hence why nothing could be seen. And true to OT pattern the Lord is the Angel of the Lord (Jesus) who needs not be an immaterial spirit. Jan 10, 2020 at 9:53
  • I thought hermeneutics was about context. “The people stood far off, while Moses drew near to the thick darkness where God was .” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭20:21‬ even at the burning bush they were face to face “And the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed. And when the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, Moses, Moses. And he said, Here am I.” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭3:2, 4‬ The Lord was a pillar of fire standing. Jan 10, 2020 at 13:13
  • Also the Hebrew ותמנת translated similitude is a reference to the image of the Lord. In the burning bush He took the form of a pillar of fire which I personally imagine it was about the height of a standing man or no less than the top of the bush, that’s a ותמנת or He took other forms much larger at times, a pillar of clouds and a much bigger pillar of fire. Jan 10, 2020 at 13:18
  • @NihilSineDeo i'm sorry, I really do not understand the point or meaning of your comments. I think it would be much better if you formulated an answer to the question of your own and then I might appreciate what your view is. (And might well be able to up-vote your contribution.)
    – Nigel J
    Jan 10, 2020 at 16:37
  • Considering my comment was directed toward your response and you used a different passage other than Exodus 33:11, any answer I give to address your use of the ותמנת translated similitude would be irrelevant to the question asked by the OP. Hence why I left a comment. If time permits I might respond though the question is misleading because the text not even in English says Moses saw God face to face, it only says he spoke face to face. Jan 10, 2020 at 18:55

The wording here uses metaphors for intimacy and accessibility. In the ancient Near East, it was dishonorable to look a superior in the face. Here, Moses and Yahweh converse as equals even though they are far from it.

If one looks at verse 20

But he said, “You are not able to see my face, because a human will not see me and live.”

It clarifies that the previous description of Moses as meeting with Yahweh face to face (Exod 33:11; Num 12:6–8; Deut 34:10–12) is to be understood metaphorically.

Another question that may be of interest: Has anyone seen God or not?

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