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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Face, in Scripture, is often used to denote presence in the general sense, and, when applied to the Almighty, denotes such a complete manifestation of the divine presence, by sound or sight, as was equivalent, in the vividness of the impression, to the seeing of a fellow-creature 'face to face.' The 'face of God' therefore denotes in Scripture anything or manner by which God is wont to manifest himself to man.

It was a very ancient and common opinion that our mortal frame could not survive the more sensible manifestations of the divine presence, or 'see God face to face and live' (). Hence, in this passage, the gratitude and astonishment of Jacob, that he still lived after God had manifested himself to him more sensibly than by dreams and visions. This impression was confirmed to Moses, who was told, 'Thou canst not see my face: no man can see my face and live' (); which clearly signifies that no one can, in this present state of being, endure the view of that glory which belongs to Him (; ; ).

It is to be borne in mind that God is usually represented to us in Scripture under a human form; and it is indeed difficult for even more spiritualized minds than those of the Hebrews to conceive of Him apart from the form and attributes of the highest nature actually known to us. The Scripture sanctions this concession to the weakness of our intellect, and hence arise the anthropomorphous phrases which speak of the face, the eyes, the arm of God. The appearances of the angels in the Old Testament times were generally in the human form (, etc.); and from this cause alone it would have been natural, in the imagination, to transfer the form of the messengers to Him by whom they were sent.





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Face'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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