1. The Hebrew word for face refers to a relationship between God and people
I was awake at 4.13am today and rereading the note that I had written about Moses asking the Lord to reveal His glory. I heard the Lord ask, “what does it mean to see God’ s face?” During my study a while ago, I used blueletterbible.org and typed “face” as a search word. I found that paniym (H6440) is the Hebrew word that God used for face in Exodus 33: 20:
And he said, Thou canst not see my face (paniym/H6440): for there shall no man see me, and live.
I then followed the word paniym (H6440) and read the verses with that word. I restricted findings for paniym to verses that related directly to God in any way (at least up to Ex 23: 29). I then did a content analysis of the verses and categorized them according to similarity. I found, even without categorizing the verses, that seeing the face of God referred to a relationship between God and the human in the context.
Since the King James Version was translated in a different era, the translators used familiar words of their times to translate from the Hebrew to English. Therefore, you will find that they used words like “presence”, “before thee” and “before” in order to convey the meaning of the Hebrew word. I therefore had to examine the context or scenario to elicit the meaning of the word “face”.
a. Adam and Eve – hid from the presence (paniym) of God
The concept of the face of God was first used when Adam and Eve hid from His presence (paniym/H6440) after they had sinned. This scripture shows that God would visit Adam and Eve during the days. Prior to their sin, Adam and Eve had face to face interaction with God, but they hid because they had become aware of their corruption. They were now ashamed to have face to face contact and to worship Him:
And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence (paniym) of the Lord God among the trees of the garden (Gen 3: 8).
b. Cain – left the presence (paniym) of God
Adam’s son Cain “went out from the presence (paniym) of the Lord” following the murder of his brother. In the context it meant that he left the family home in Eden, which was also the place where God would visit his family. Cain did not beg for mercy, but alienated himself from God by leaving the location. Does it mean that God could not visit him elsewhere? No, but it meant that Cain chose to exile himself from friendship with God. If you read the scenario closely, you will see that God expressed love and concern although He was forced to take the role of Judge. However, Cain was so rebellious that he could not receive the love of God.
Sin causes people to lose friendship with God. I hope He is your friend