CAN A HUMAN BEING SEE GOD?
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
Question: According to Exodus 33: 20, no man can see God and live. How then can we
understand Exodus 24: 10, 11?
Answer: Exodus 33: 20: “And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see
me, and live.”
Exodus 24: 10, 11: “And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a
paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the
nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink.”
In Exodus 33: 20, God told Moses in reply to his earnest request to see God’s glory, that no one
can see the literal face of God and live. Nevertheless, God promised to grant Moses’ request by
putting him “in a cleft of the rock” and covering him while His “glory” passed by, and then
permitting him to catch a glimpse of that glory-light representing God to him; but God
explained, “my face shall not be seen” (vs. 21-23) – the glory-light shining out from it is so
bright that it would destroy a human being if he were to see it.
In Exodus 24: 10, 11, Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the 70 elders (v. 9) were not permitted to
see God’s body, for St. John assures us that “no man hath seen God at any time” (John 1: 18)
(1 John 4: 12). Nor did they see the glory-light shining from His body. What they saw was a
vision, a representation of His body, just as the three Apostles saw a representation of Moses and
Elijah in the “vision” on the mount (Matthew 17: 1-9). This is suggested by: (1) the reference of
feet to God and the description of a symbolic pavement under His feet; and (2) the word in verse
11 which is translated “they saw” in the expression “they saw God,” in the Hebrew is chazah,
from which the Hebrew words for seer and vision are derived.
Let us recognize that a “vision” is not the real thing, but a representation of it. For example,
when St. Peter saw the sheet with all manners of beasts descending from heaven, he saw a
representation of Jews (the clean animals of the vision) and Gentiles (the unclean animals of the
vision), but not Jews and Gentiles themselves (Acts 10: 9-16).