The Lord told Moses, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20). No man can see the Father and survive. If at the appearance of one angel, the Roman soldiers at the tomb of the risen Christ “became as dead men” (Matthew 28:4), what might be expected when sinful man is ushered into the very presence of the Father?
Jesus stated, “No one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18). And He added, “Not that anyone has seen the Father except He who is from God; He has seen the Father” (John 6:46).
Therefore, when Moses asked to see the full glory of God the Father (Exodus 33:18), his request was denied (Exodus 33:20). Instead, he was covered with the hand of God as the Lord revealed His character to him saying “The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilt” (Exodus 34:6, 7).
So what does the verse in Exodus 33:11 mean? ”So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” In this verse, the Bible is speaking of God the Son as “manifest in the flesh,” in the person of Jesus before His incarnation and thus with His glory hidden. Whereas in Exodus 33:20, the Bible is speaking of God the Father in His undimmed glory.
There are many verses in the Bible that tell us that God spoke to men in the person of Jesus in the Old Testament: to Abraham (Genesis 18:1-3), Jacob (Genesis 32:24–25, 30), Joshua (Joshua5:14, 15), Gideon (Judges 6:22; 13:22), Daniel (Daniel 3:25) etc. and in the New Testament as well (John 1:18; 6:46; 1 Tim. 1:17; 1 John 4:12).
Check out our Bible Answers page for more information on a variety of topics.
Thank you for visiting BibleAsk – an online ministry dedicated to providing Bible based answers to your questions. If you enjoyed and agree with this answer, please like and share! If you don’t agree, please leave a comment below, and we’ll be sure to respond! If you have another question you would like to ask, please click here and someone from our team will personally answer it (don’t worry, your email address will never be shared). Check out our Bible Answers page to see just Bible verses answering thousands of questions. If you feel impressed to support this ministry, kindly visit our donate page to send a tax-deductible love gift to BibleAsk. Any donation size helps 🙂