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In Exodus, G-d tells Moshe that "no one can see Me and live" (Exodus 33:20), but then in Exodus 24 Moses went up with Aharon, his sons, and 70 of Israel's elders, and they saw the G-d of Israel. . . . G-d did not harm the Israelite nobles; they saw Him, and they ate and drank. (Exodus 24:9-11). How is this possible?

Abraham Ibn Ezra thought that the elders saw God in a prophetic vision. This interpretation is seems to be somewhat problematic however, since the text would not have mentioned that G-d did not harm (literally, raise His hand against) them. If it was just a vision, why explain that G-d did not strike them for seeing a vision? It appears that they really saw the G-d of Israel, but how?

marked as duplicate by Renato Grun, sabbahillel, Joel K, Alex, LN6595 Mar 6 at 1:11

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    Are you looking for an explanation of the Ibn Ezra, or an alternative explanation of the verse that resolves these difficulties? – DonielF Mar 4 at 19:09
  • @RenatoGrun Only if the OP confirms like the second half of my comment; if he means to ask like the first half of my comment, they’re related, but not a duplicate. – DonielF Mar 4 at 19:48
  • @DonielF actually both, but I’m not looking for what they did see (like in the question Renato pointed to) but in which way they saw – Y.Talmid Mar 4 at 20:28
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AFAICT nobody argues that they were given a glimpse through a prophetic vision. As for your question of how they could be deserving of punishment for it, Rashi explains the issue was that they stared intently at the vision. Nevertheless, Hashem didn’t want to punish them immediately due to the joy of receiving the Torah, but instead pushed off their deaths until a later time:

ויראו את אלהי ישראל. נִסְתַּכְּלוּ וְהֵצִיצוּ וְנִתְחַיְּבוּ מִיתָה, אֶלָּא שֶׁלֹּא רָצָה הַקָּבָּ"ה לְעַרְבֵּב שִׂמְחַת הַתּוֹרָה וְהִמְתִּין לְנָדָב וַאֲבִיהוּא עַד יוֹם חֲנֻכַּת הַמִּשְׁכָּן, וְלַזְּקֵנִים עַד וַיְהִי הָעָם כְּמִתְאוֹנְנִים, וַתִּבְעַר בָּם אֵשׁ ה' וַתֹּאכַל בִּקְצֵה הַמַּחֲנֶה (במדבר י"א) – בַּקְּצִינִים שֶׁבַּמַּחֲנֶה (תנחומא):

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