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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Face

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(usually פַּנִים , paninm', πρόσωπον), whatever of a thing is most exposed to view; hence the face of the country, ground, waters, sky, etc. In Scripture, this term 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, ss 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. Thus, when it is said that Adam and Eve hid themselves from "the face of Jehovah," we understand that they hid themselves from his presence, however manifested; for the term there used is the only proper word to denote presence in the Hebrew language. It was a very common and ancient opinion that our mortal frame could not survive the more sensible manifestations of the divine presence, or "see God face to face and live" (Genesis 32:30). 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 imupression was confirmed to Moses, who was told, "Thou canst not see my face: no man can see my face and live" (Exodus 33:20), which clearly signifies that no one can in this present state of being endure the view of that glory which belongs to him (1 Corinthians 13:12; 1 John 3:2; Revelation 22:4). The ancient heathen entertained the same notion, which is remarkably expressed in the celebrated mythological story of Semele, who, having prevailed on the reluctant love to appear to her in his heavenly splendor, was struck dead by the lightnings of his presence. It is to be borne in mind that God is usually represented to us in Scripture under a human force; 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 Scriptures sanction 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 (Judges 13:6, 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. (See ANTHROPOMORPHISM).

The presence of Jehovah (Exodus 33:14-15) and the "angel" (Exodus 23:20-21) is Jehovah himself; but in Isaiah 63:9, the angel of his presence is opposed to Jehovah himself. The light of God's countenance is a token of his favor, and is therefore put synonymously with favor (Psalms 44:3; Daniel 9:17). Thus, as in man, if the countenance be serene, it is a mark of good will; if fiery or piercing, of anger or displeasure. "Face" also signifies anger, justice, and severity (Genesis 16:6; Genesis 16:8; Exodus 2:15; Psalms 78:1; Revelation 6:16).

The Jews prayed with their faces turned towards the Temple (1 Kings 8:38; 1 Kings 8:44; 1 Kings 8:48), and those residing out of Jerusalem turned it towards that point of the heavens in which Jerusalem lay (Daniel 6:10); thus the Mohammedans, when praying, always turn their faces towards Mecca. To bow down the face in the dust (Isaiah 49:23) is a mark of the lowest humiliation and submission. (See ATTITUDES).

The "bread of faces" is the show-bread which was always in the presence of God. (See SHOW-BREAD).


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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Face'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/tce/f/face.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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