The Faces of God

The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:

Numbers 6:25 (KJV)

Face – An idiom says a lot about a culture. In America, we have the idiom “two faced” when describing someone’s hypocrisy. If a person said different things to different people in order to win favor, we’d consider them to be two faced. We recognize that they are showing one face to one person and another face to the other. But in the Hebrew, our God has two faces.

The word paniym is always used in the plural. So we’d read the verse as, the Lord’s faces shine upon us. This just doesn’t make sense to us does it? Our culture declares someone with more than one face as artificial, back-handed, or deceitful – but this isn’t God. Maybe the paleo-Hebrew letter meanings can help.

The root of Paniym is spelled with the Hebrew letters pey, nun, hey – פנים. These letters, when combined, can mean “the mouth moves”, and is commonly understood as “what turns back and forth”. So think about this, God can hide His face from us (Ps. 13:1) and yet see everything we do at the same time.  Isn’t this contradictory? Not to the Hebrew mind, because you see, God has two faces. It’s not deceptive, but rather it’s the Hebraic way of understanding, and it actually makes a lot of sense when we break it down.

As an instrument of one’s physiology, the face is extremely revealing. Man’s moods, emotions, and dispositions are easily expressed through the features of the face. It’s not only the exterior physical traits, but what’s communicated by those traits as well.  Again we start to see a duality in the nature of paniym.

How great is this priestly blessing that calls for all of God’s faces to shine upon us. As Moses writes, no man can look upon God and live (Ex. 19:21) and so if we can’t see if God is looking at us, this blessing reassures us – He is.

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