Moses experienced God directly. However, he was warned not to look upon His face and expect to live.
Saint Gregory of Nyssa suggests that what Moses witnessed was God’s kindness and generosity. According to him, Moses witnessed Him manifested on His “backside”.
This would provide assurance and encourage him to believe in Israel’s future.
What did he see?
Jewish theological tradition holds that Moses witnessed God’s throne and face on Mount Sinai (Janub Sina, Hebrew: Har Sinai and Arabic Jabal Musa). There he received revelation of the decalogue; according to some traditions he may also have received knowledge regarding all Biblical texts and interpretation.
Exodus 33:11 reports that Moses spoke directly with God “like one would speak with a friend,” seemingly contradicting later verses where He warns Moses not to see His face and live (Exodus 33:3, 5, 20). This verse appears contradictory since its meaning appears to be linked with what we read later where He told Moses not to see His face and live despite their face-to-face interactions (Exodus 33:5, 20, 31). But in reality it refers to temut, translated “face,” refers to God’s presence that no human could possibly endure (Exodus 33:3, 5, 20, 3).
Moses experienced God as He appeared through light rather than physical form, foreshadowing what would later manifest fully through Christ, who Paul describes as being “the image and glory of an invisible God”. Jesus revealed “His Father” (Colossians 1:15).
He experienced brightness as an indication of the severity of his situation and why he did not fear being there, an important characteristic that allowed him to serve as a mediator between God and his people.
Moses interceded for Israel before interceding with Yahweh for their rebellion, reminding Him that His name was Yahweh rather than I Am (Numbers 14:14). Moses’ experience on this mountain represented the culmination of an awakening which started in Egypt and would ultimately bring about the New Covenant.
What did he hear?
As Moses came close to God at the burning bush, he heard two sounds that indicated His presence: 1) Glory — Hebrew for “glory,” which indicated God was indeed present and 2) Voice from above — Moses heard an audible and clear voice calling out from within; “Kabod.”
God was calling out to Moses from within the burning bush and inviting him to join in His work of redeeming Hebrew slaves from slavery. It is important to keep this in mind – God is an awesome covenant-making God and always fulfills His promises – but He also cares deeply about those suffering around him.
Moses knew all too well the sufferings of his own people. While shepherding his father-in-law’s sheep, he saw both his own family and those of other herders struggle with poverty; often hunger and malnutrition affected both groups he shepherded; most lived in tents or caves rather than the palaces he left behind in Egypt.
These circumstances were deeply disturbing to Moses. They caused him to question whether or not he identified with royalty or peasantry; ultimately he decided that listening to God rather than following his heart was best for his future; leaving Egypt behind altogether was his decision.
As Moses embarked upon his long and challenging ministry journey, this decision required tremendous courage. However, over time we see him grow more submissive to the voice of the Lord rather than his own prideful desires.
From Moses’ experience, we can learn that God is both compassionate and powerful – yet sovereign and holy. To understand this fully we must not mix up these aspects. Although obedience may cause suffering we should trust that he will ultimately make things right in his time. He is our protector, He knows us better than we know ourselves.
What did he feel?
Moses was one of the key Bible figures, leading God’s people out of slavery and into the Promised Land. A powerful speaker and courageous leader, his life was not without challenges – until that fateful encounter in which God spoke to Moses at a burning bush! That moment changed everything for him – leaving us all with some intriguing questions about this figure from history.
The Bible mentions two aspects of Moses’ experience that testify to His close relationship with Him. Exodus 33:11 states, for instance, that “the LORD spoke directly with Moses face-to-face as one would speak to a friend,” suggesting an intimate and personal interaction where Moses felt close to God and believed He considered him an intimate friend.
As well as this, Moses witnessed the “kavod,” or glory of God. This image can often be found depicted in ancient Hebrew artwork and may suggest that Moses could see God in all its splendor when on Mt. Sinai.
This revelation of kavod is crucial, because it shows that grace comes solely from God and not any human source. Moses had been trying to justify himself before God by arguing that the Israelites deserved mercy based on their sinful ways; however, God’s grace did not depend on what Israel had done – something Moses needed to realize for himself.
Finally, the Bible details Moses’ encounter with God at Mt. Sinai where he witnessed His holiness – the reason he didn’t want to return back home after meeting Him face to face – which could explain why he stayed.
Moses must have seen that God was holy in order to comprehend why animal sacrifices could never provide sufficient atonement for the sins of his people, and instead understood that someone must endure suffering in their place in order to provide full and perfect atonement – this was an invaluable lesson that Moses needed to communicate to his people.
What did he say?
The story of Moses stands the test of time in the Bible. Born to an Egyptian mother who secretly concealed him when Pharaoh ordered all newborn Hebrew boys be killed as part of a population reduction plan, Moses was saved by Pharaoh’s daughter and raised as her child until later becoming one of Israel’s leaders who led their people out of slavery into God’s Promised Land.
In Exodus chapter 14, Moses experienced a miraculous event which would forever alter his life. According to legend, when in his forties Moses rescued a Hebrew slave from being beaten and in so doing killed one of Egypt’s guards who then attacked Moses directly – this led directly into conflict with King Pharoah and caused God to speak directly through a burning bush on Mount Horeb.
As God began shaping Moses for His ministry, He stripped him of his Egyptian wisdom and instilled humility within him. Additionally, He provided Aaron as his spokesperson in order to demonstrate to Moses that he could not do this task alone and must rely on His help and strength.
God granted Moses’ request to see His glory; however, He only granted a partial promise by proclaiming His name before Moses and warning that to see its full splendor would require gazing upon a fiery flame consuming Him completely. Moses experienced what is called “Theophany,” an appearance of God which foreshadows Jesus Christ who would become its permanent and definitive manifestation in Jesus Christ himself.
At Mount Sinai, Moses only witnessed part of God’s glory; His hand protected him from being exposed to its full intensity – much like how welding helmets protect workers against harmful light levels or asbestos suits protect people against heat exposure. Even so, Moses witnessed more than ever before of His glory than any human could before! Even so, even seeing only His backside was impressive enough.
At the core, Moses’s faith and trust in God helped him lead God’s people successfully. Knowing He was with him gave him courage to step out in faith – for this we thank him and hope you can find the courage to follow his example!