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”So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend” (Exodus 33:11).
“But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live” (Exodus 33:20).
These verses are in perfect harmony once we understand the context. In Exodus 33:11, the Bible is speaking of God the Son as “manifest in the flesh,” in the person of Jesus and thus with His glory hidden. And 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 (Joshua 5:14, 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).
No man can see the Father and live. If at the appearance of one angel, the Roman soldiers at the tomb of the risen Christ “became as dead men” (Matt. 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, 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).
In His service,
The BibleAsk Team