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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible
FACE is used freely of animals, as well as of men; also of the surface of the wilderness ( Exodus 16:4 ), of the earth, of the waters or deep, of the sky. It is used of the front of a house ( Ezekiel 41:14 ), of a porch ( Ezekiel 40:15 , Ezekiel 41:25 ), of a throne ( Job 26:9 ). Covering the face in 2 Samuel 19:4 is a sign of mourning (cf. covering the head); it is also a mark of reverence ( Exodus 3:6 , 1 Kings 19:13 , Isaiah 6:2 ). In Genesis 24:65 it indicates modesty. Otherwise it is used simply of blindfolding, literal ( Mark 14:65 ), or metaphorical ( Job 9:24 ). To fall on the face is the customary Eastern obeisance, whether to man or to God. Spitting in the face is the climax of contempt ( Numbers 12:14 , Deuteronomy 25:9 , Matthew 26:67 ). The Oriental will say, ‘I spit in your face,’ while he actually spits on the ground. The face naturally expresses various emotions, fear, sorrow, shame, or joy. The ‘fallen face’ ( Genesis 4:5 ) is used of displeasure; ‘hardening the face’ of obstinate sin ( Proverbs 21:29 , Jeremiah 5:3 ). The face was ‘disfigured’ in fasting ( Matthew 6:16 ). It may be the expression of favour, particularly of God to man ( Numbers 6:25 , Psalms 31:16 ), or conversely of man turning his face to God ( Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 32:33 ); or of disfavour, as in the phrase ‘to set the face against’ ( Psalms 34:16 , Jeremiah 21:10 , and often in Ezk.), or ‘to hide the face.’ [ N.B. In Psalms 51:9 the phrase is used differently, meaning to forget or ignore, cf. Psalms 90:8 ]. Closely related are the usages connected with ‘beholding the face.’ This meant to be admitted to the presence of a potentate, king, or god ( Genesis 33:10; Genesis 43:3; Genesis 43:5 , 2 Kings 25:19 , Esther 1:14; Esther 4:11; Esther 4:16; cf. ‘angel (s) of the face or presence,’ Isaiah 63:9 , Tob 12:15 , Revelation 8:2 , and often in apocalyptic literature). So ‘to look upon the face’ is to accept ( Psalms 84:9 ), ‘to turn away the face’ is to reject ( Psalms 132:10 , 1 Kings 2:16 RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). To ‘behold the face’ of God may be used either literally of appearing before His presence in the sanctuary or elsewhere ( Genesis 32:30 [ Peniel is ‘the face of God’], Exodus 33:11 , Psalms 42:2; the ‘shew-bread’ is ‘the bread of the face or presence’), or with a more spiritual reference to the inward reality of communion which lies behind ( Psalms 17:15 ); so ‘seeking the face’ of God ( Psalms 24:6; Psalms 27:8 ). On the other hand, in 2 Kings 14:8 ‘see face to face’ is used in a sinister sense of meeting in battle.
The Heb. word for ‘face’ is used very freely, both alone and in many prepositional phrases, as an idiomatic periphrasis, e.g. ‘honour the face of the old man’ ( Leviticus 19:32 ), ‘grind the face of the poor’ ( Isaiah 3:15 ), or the common phrase ‘before my face’ ( Deuteronomy 8:20 , Mark 1:2 ), or ‘before the face of Israel’ ( Exodus 14:25 ). Many of these usages are disguised in our versions, not being in accordance with English idioms; the pronoun is substituted, or ‘presence,’ ‘countenance’ are used, ‘face’ being often indicated in AVm [Note: Authorized Version margin.] or RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ( Genesis 1:20 , 1 Kings 2:16 ); so in the phrase ‘respect persons’ ( Deuteronomy 1:17 ). On the other hand, ‘face’ is wrongly given for ‘eye’ in AV [Note: Authorized Version.] of 1 Kings 20:38; 1 Kings 20:41 , where ‘ashes on face’ should be ‘headband over eye’; in 2 Kings 9:30 , Jeremiah 4:30 , the reference is to painting the eye; in Genesis 24:47 RV [Note: Revised Version.] substitutes ‘nose,’ in Ezekiel 38:18 ‘nostrils.’
C. W. Emmet.
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Hastings, James. Entry for 'Face'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hdb/​f/face.html. 1909.