“And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.”” ‭‭Exodus‬ ‭33:21-23‬ ‭

If appears that there are two camps

God could not be seen

This is all hyperbolic language

If God could not be seen, why bother covering Moses up? And why uncover Moses to see God’s backside if there was nothing to see?

God could be seen

The text says what it means

God could be seen by Moses and God chose to hide His face/front but gave Moses the privilege of seeing Him from behind as He passed by.

So why did God cover Moses with His hand before passing by Moses? Please specify which camp you are in, so as to how you understand this text. Thank you


The "cannot be seen" vs "can be seen" is moral not optical question.

Ps 5:5 - The arrogant cannot stand in your presence. You hate all who do wrong;

Rev 6:16-17 - Then the kings of the earth and the eminent people, and the commanders and the wealthy and the strong, and every slave and free person hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains; and they said to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the sight of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of Their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

In fact, we also read that:

  • John 1:18 - No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
  • John 6:46 - No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father. (See also Matt 18:10.)
  • 1 John 4:12 - No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God remains in us, and His love is perfected in us.

Thus, I conclude that OT epiphanies of YHWH were of Jesus and not the Father. In all these cases (eg, see appendix below) where people saw YHWH (the pre-incarnate Jesus) His full divinity was veiled so as not to endanger the lives of those who saw.

In the specific case of Ex 33 & 34, we read the specific request from Moses in Ex 33:18 as:

Then Moses said, “Please show me Your glory.”

This was a big ask and more than any sinful human could withstand and so God provided a compromise to only reveal part of the His glory - that of His back only and not of His face.

It is significant, that when the redeemed saints dwell in the New Jerusalem, their primary reward is to see the face of God and the Lamb, Rev 22:4.

APPENDIX - OT Epiphanies of YHWH

  • Gen 18:1, 10 - Then the LORD appeared to Abraham by the Oaks of Mamre in the heat of the day, while he was sitting at the entrance of his tent. ... Then the LORD said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year, and your wife Sarah will have a son!”
  • Gen 32:30 - So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, "It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared."
  • Ex 3:5, 6 - “Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then He said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
  • Josh 5:13 - 6:2 - And the LORD said to Joshua, “Behold, I have delivered Jericho into your hand, along with its king and its mighty men of valor. (V2)
  • Judges 6:14 - The LORD turned to him and said, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel from the hand of Midian. Am I not sending you?” [See also V16]
  • Eze 1 - the prophet's vision of God; many elements of which are repeated in Rev 4 & 5.
  • See also instances of the “Angel of the LORD” clearly being the LORD - Gen 16:7-13, 22:11-17, 32:24-30, 48:16, Ex 3:2-6, 32:34, Num 22:22-35, Josh 5:13-15, Judg 2:1-4, 6:11-23, 13:3-23, Isa 63:9, Dan 3:25, 28, Hos 12:4, 5, Zech 3:1-7, Mal 3:1, Rev 8:3-5, 10:1-10, 18:1, 20:1-4.
  • A closely related phrase, “Angel of God” who is clearly God as in Gen 6:13, 8:15, 9:8, 17, 15:13, 17:3, 4, 21:12, 16-21, 35:1, 10, Ex 4:3-8, 6:2, 23:20, 21, Deut 1:6, 1 Kings 12:22, etc. See also Acts 10:3, 4, Gal 4:14.
  • Thank you. I’m going to have to meditate on this and most likely I’ll have questions to follow May 23 at 11:56
  • First question, please in a few words qualify what you understand his glory is/was May 23 at 12:37
  • Second question, as it relates to “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face,” ‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭34:10‬ God spoke to Moses face to face, in the cloud or in the darkness, meaning Moses did not have a visual of God but if this was a moral and not optical question why was visual inhibited? May 23 at 12:40
  • @NihilSineDeo - Question 1 - the Glory of God is a moral value (Prov 25:2, Ps 19:1, Ex 24;16, Ps 106:20, Hos 4:7, Job 37:22, etc). It is this realization of the infinite glory of God that is so dazzling to humans and potentially fatal which is why it must be veiled when God/Jesus come face to face with a sinner.
    – Dottard
    May 23 at 20:47
  • @NihilSineDeo - Question 2 - As explained in the answer above, Moses probably say the pre-incarnate Christ face to face = "the LORD" in Deut 34:10. as per the other references supplied. This was not the Father.
    – Dottard
    May 23 at 20:50

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