The face of God

The passage in Genesis 32 of Jacob’s encounters with God and Esau is tied together by repeated uses of the word face, which most English translations almost completely obscure. When Jacob is preparing his gift to send ahead by the hand of his servants to Esau in verses 21 and 22, a more direct rendering* would be:

You shall say: Also – here, your servant Jacob is behind us.
For he said to himself:
I will wipe (the anger from) his face
with the gift that goes ahead of my face;
afterward, when I see his face,
perhaps he will lift up my face!
The gift crossed over ahead of his face,
but he spent the night on that night in the camp.

After Jacob wrestled with God, in verse 31:

Jacob called the name of the place: Peniel/Face of God
for: I have seen God,
face to face,
and my life has been saved.

Again when Jacob meets and reconciles with his brother in chapter 33:

take this gift from my hand.
For I have, after all, seen your face, as one sees the face of God,
and you have been gracious to me.

It’s very interesting, but I’m not sure what to do with it.

*from Everett Fox’s The Five Books of Moses



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3 responses to “The face of God”

  1. Robert Murphy Avatar

    I decided to start my own online Bible translation!

    1. Joshua Avatar

      Wow, really? That’s quite an undertaking. Keep me informed on how it goes.
      Also, how did you learn Greek and Hebrew? Any direction toward good resources would be much appreciated.

  2. Robert Murphy Avatar

    It’s no easy task. I may finish before I die. Probably not. I’m hoping to “crowd source” the problem, but so far no takers.
    For Greek, I was privileged to have a ruthless professor at university. He beat it so deep into my skull it’s never coming out! For Hebrew, I taught myself – which has been lack-luster. But, I’m at seminary now, so I’ve got lots of chances to ask questions. One of my professors helped produce the ESV!