Some verses seem to indicate that God was seen. In Exodus 33:11

So the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, just as a man speaks to his friend. When Moses returned to the camp, his servant Joshua, the son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from the tent.

, in Judges 13:22

So Manoah said to his wife, “We will certainly die, for we have seen God.”

, in Genesis 17:1

Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless.

Then, there's Exodus 33:20

He further said, “You cannot see My face, for mankind shall not see Me and live!”

which seem to indicate the opposite.

So, the question is, has anyone seen God?

  • 3
    – rosends
    Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 1:17
  • 1
    @rosends that's a very nice resource, thank you for sharing! Commented Dec 20, 2020 at 13:52

1 Answer 1


Rambam hilchos yesodei hatorah chapter 1 says Hashem as no image at all whatsoever on the slightest in any way at all, and when Moshe asked to "see this face" it was too understand the truth of His essence...

https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/904960/jewish/Yesodei-haTorah-Chapter-One.htm 1 The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence. All the beings of the heavens, the earth, and what is between them came into existence only from the truth of His being.

א יְסוֹד הַיְסוֹדוֹת וְעַמּוּד הַחָכְמוֹת לֵידַע שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם מָצוּי רִאשׁוֹן. וְהוּא מַמְצִיא כָּל נִמְצָא. וְכָל הַנִּמְצָאִים מִשָּׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ וּמַה שֶּׁבֵּינֵיהֶם לֹא נִמְצְאוּ אֶלָּא מֵאֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ:

2 If one would imagine that He does not exist, no other being could possibly exist.

ב וְאִם יַעֲלֶה עַל הַדַּעַת שֶׁהוּא אֵינוֹ מָצוּי אֵין דָּבָר אַחֵר יָכוֹל לְהִמָּצְאוֹת:

3 If one would imagine that none of the entities aside from Him exist, He alone would continue to exist, and the nullification of their [existence] would not nullify His existence, because all the [other] entities require Him and He, blessed be He, does not require them nor any one of them. Therefore, the truth of His [being] does not resemble the truth of any of their [beings].

ג וְאִם יַעֲלֶה עַל הַדַּעַת שֶׁאֵין כָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים מִלְּבַדּוֹ מְצוּיִים הוּא לְבַדּוֹ יִהְיֶה מָצוּי. וְלֹא יִבָּטֵל הוּא לְבִטּוּלָם. שֶׁכָּל הַנִּמְצָאִים צְרִיכִין לוֹ וְהוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא אֵינוֹ צָרִיךְ לָהֶם וְלֹא לְאֶחָד מֵהֶם. לְפִיכָךְ אֵין אֲמִתָּתוֹ כַּאֲמִתַּת אֶחָד מֵהֶם:

4 This is implied by the prophet's statement [Jeremiah 10:10]: "And God, your Lord, is true" - i.e., He alone is true and no other entity possesses truth that compares to His truth. This is what [is meant by] the Torah's statement [Deuteronomy 4:35]: "There is nothing else aside from Him" - i.e., aside from Him, there is no true existence like His.

ד הוּא שֶׁהַנָּבִיא אוֹמֵר (ירמיה י י) "וַה' אֱלֹהִים אֱמֶת". הוּא לְבַדּוֹ הָאֱמֶת וְאֵין לְאַחֵר אֱמֶת כַּאֲמִתָּתוֹ. וְהוּא שֶׁהַתּוֹרָה אוֹמֶרֶת (דברים ד לה) "אֵין עוֹד מִלְּבַדּוֹ". כְּלוֹמַר אֵין שָׁם מָצוּי אֱמֶת מִלְּבַדּוֹ כְּמוֹתוֹ:

5 This entity is the God of the world and the Lord of the entire earth. He controls the sphere with infinite and unbounded power. This power [continues] without interruption, because the sphere is constantly revolving, and it is impossible for it to revolve without someone causing it to revolve. [That one is] He, blessed be He, who causes it to revolve without a hand or any [other] corporeal dimension.

ה הַמָּצוּי הַזֶּה הוּא אֱלֹהֵי הָעוֹלָם אֲדוֹן כָּל הָאָרֶץ. וְהוּא הַמַּנְהִיג הַגַּלְגַּל בְּכֹחַ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית. בְּכֹחַ שֶׁאֵין לוֹ הֶפְסֵק. שֶׁהַגַּלְגַּל סוֹבֵב תָּמִיד וְאִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּסֹּב בְּלֹא מְסַבֵּב. וְהוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא הַמְסַבֵּב אוֹתוֹ בְּלֹא יָד וּבְלֹא גּוּף:

6 The knowledge of this concept is a positive commandment, as [implied by Exodus 20:2]: "I am God, your Lord...."

Anyone who presumes that there is another god transgresses a negative commandment, as [Exodus 20:3] states: "You shall have no other gods before Me" and denies a fundamental principle [of faith], because this is the great principle [of faith] upon which all depends.

ו וִידִיעַת דָּבָר זֶה מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ ב) "אָנֹכִי ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ". וְכָל הַמַּעֲלֶה עַל דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁיֵּשׁ שָׁם אֱלוֹהַּ אַחֵר חוּץ מִזֶּה עוֹבֵר בְּלֹא תַּעֲשֶׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (שמות כ ג) "לֹא יִהְיֶה לְךָ אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים עַל פָּנָי". וְכוֹפֵר בָּעִקָּר שֶׁזֶּהוּ הָעִקָּר הַגָּדוֹל שֶׁהַכּל תָּלוּי בּוֹ:

7 This God is one. He is not two or more, but one, unified in a manner which [surpasses] any unity that is found in the world; i.e., He is not one in the manner of a general category which includes many individual entities, nor one in the way that the body is divided into different portions and dimensions. Rather, He is unified, and there exists no unity similar to His in this world.

If there were many gods, they would have body and form, because like entities are separated from each other only through the circumstances associated with body and form.

Were the Creator to have body and form, He would have limitation and definition, because it is impossible for a body not to be limited. And any entity which itself is limited and defined [possesses] only limited and defined power. Since our God, blessed be His name, possesses unlimited power, as evidenced by the continuous revolution of the sphere, we see that His power is not the power of a body. Since He is not a body, the circumstances associated with bodies that produce division and separation are not relevant to Him. Therefore, it is impossible for Him to be anything other than one.

The knowledge of this concept fulfills a positive commandment, as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:4]: "[Hear, Israel,] God is our Lord, God is one."

ז אֱלוֹהַּ זֶה אֶחָד הוּא וְאֵינוֹ שְׁנַיִם וְלֹא יֶתֶר עַל שְׁנַיִם. אֶלָּא אֶחָד. שֶׁאֵין כְּיִחוּדוֹ אֶחָד מִן הָאֲחָדִים הַנִּמְצָאִים בָּעוֹלָם. לֹא אֶחָד כְּמִין שֶׁהוּא כּוֹלֵל אֲחָדִים הַרְבֵּה. וְלֹא אֶחָד כְּגוּף שֶׁהוּא נֶחְלָק לְמַחְלָקוֹת וְלִקְצָווֹת. אֶלָּא יִחוּד שֶׁאֵין יִחוּד אַחֵר כְּמוֹתוֹ בָּעוֹלָם. אִלּוּ הָיוּ אֱלֹהוּת הַרְבֵּה הָיוּ גּוּפִין וּגְוִיּוֹת. מִפְּנֵי שֶׁאֵין הַנִּמְנִים הַשָּׁוִין בִּמְצִיאוּתָן נִפְרָדִין זֶה מִזֶּה אֶלָּא בִּמְאֹרָעִין שֶׁיֶּאֶרְעוּ בַּגּוּפוֹת וְהַגְּוִיּוֹת. וְאִלּוּ הָיָה הַיּוֹצֵר גּוּף וּגְוִיָּה הָיָה לוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לִהְיוֹת גּוּף שֶׁאֵין לוֹ קֵץ. וְכָל שֶׁיֵּשׁ לְגוּפוֹ קֵץ וְתַכְלִית יֵשׁ לְכֹחוֹ קֵץ וָסוֹף. וֵאלֹהֵינוּ בָּרוּךְ שְׁמוֹ הוֹאִיל וְכֹחוֹ אֵין לוֹ קֵץ וְאֵינוֹ פּוֹסֵק שֶׁהֲרֵי הַגַּלְגַּל סוֹבֵב תָּמִיד. אֵין כֹּחוֹ כֹּחַ גּוּף. וְהוֹאִיל וְאֵינוֹ גּוּף לֹא יֶאֶרְעוּ לוֹ מְאֹרְעוֹת הַגּוּפוֹת כְּדֵי שֶׁיְּהֵא נֶחְלָק וְנִפְרָד מֵאַחֵר. לְפִיכָךְ אִי אֶפְשָׁר שֶׁיִּהְיֶה אֶלָּא אֶחָד. וִידִיעַת דָּבָר זֶה מִצְוַת עֲשֵׂה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים ו ד) "ה' אֱלֹהֵינוּ ה' אֶחָד":

8 Behold, it is explicitly stated in the Torah and [the works of] the prophets that the Holy One, blessed be He, is not [confined to] a body or physical form, as [Deuteronomy 4:39, Joshua 2:11] states: "Because God, your Lord, is the Lord in the heavens above and the earth below," and a body cannot exist in two places [simultaneously].

Also, [Deuteronomy 4:15] states: "For you did not see any image," and [Isaiah 40:25] states: "To whom can you liken Me, with whom I will be equal." Were He [confined to] a body, He would resemble other bodies.

ח הֲרֵי מְפֹרָשׁ בַּתּוֹרָה וּבַנְּבִיאִים שֶׁאֵין הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא גּוּף וּגְוִיָּה שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר ( דברים ד לט יהושע ב יא) "כִּי ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶם הוּא אֱלֹהִים בַּשָּׁמַיִם מִמַּעַל וְעַל הָאָרֶץ מִתָּחַת". וְהַגּוּף לֹא יִהְיֶה בִּשְׁנֵי מְקוֹמוֹת. וְנֶאֱמַר (דברים ד טו) "כִּי לֹא רְאִיתֶם כָּל תְּמוּנָה". וְנֶאֱמַר (ישעיה מ כה) "וְאֶל מִי תְדַמְּיוּנִי וְאֶשְׁוֶה". וְאִלּוּ הָיָה גּוּף הָיָה דּוֹמֶה לִשְׁאָר גּוּפִים:

9 If so, what is the meaning of the expressions employed by the Torah: "Below His feet" [Exodus 24:10], "Written by the finger of God" [ibid. 31:18], "God's hand" [ibid. 9:3], "God's eyes" [Genesis 38:7], "God's ears" [Numbers 11:1], and the like?

All these [expressions were used] to relate to human thought processes which know only corporeal imagery, for the Torah speaks in the language of man. They are only descriptive terms, as [apparent from Deuteronomy 32:41]: "I will whet My lightning sword." Does He have a sword? Does He need a sword to kill? Rather, this is metaphoric imagery. [Similarly,] all [such expressions] are metaphoric imagery.

A proof of this concept: One prophet says that he saw the Holy One, blessed be He, "clothed in snow white" [Daniel 7:9], and another envisioned Him [coming] "with crimson garments from Batzra" [Isaiah 63:1]. Moses, our teacher, himself envisioned Him at the [Red] Sea as a mighty man, waging war, and, at Mount Sinai, [saw Him] as the leader of a congregation, wrapped [in a tallit].

This shows that He has no image or form. All these are merely expressions of prophetic vision and imagery and the truth of this concept cannot be grasped or comprehended by human thought. This is what the verse [Job 11:7] states: "Can you find the comprehension of God? Can you find the ultimate bounds of the Almighty?"

ט אִם כֵּן מַהוּ זֶה שֶׁכָּתוּב בַּתּוֹרָה "וְתַחַת רַגְלָיו". (שמות לא יח) "כְּתוּבִים בְּאֶצְבַּע אֱלֹהִים". "יַד ה'". "עֵינֵי ה'". "אָזְנֵי ה'". וְכַיּוֹצֵא בִּדְבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ. הַכּל לְפִי דַּעְתָּן שֶׁל בְּנֵי אָדָם הוּא שֶׁאֵינָן מַכִּירִין אֶלָּא (הַנּוֹפוֹת) [הַגּוּפוֹת] וְדִבְּרָה תּוֹרָה כִּלְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם. וְהַכּל כִּנּוּיִים הֵן. שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (דברים לב מא) "אִם שַׁנּוֹתִי בְּרַק חַרְבִּי". וְכִי חֶרֶב יֵשׁ לוֹ וּבְחֶרֶב הוּא הוֹרֵג אֶלָּא מָשָׁל וְהַכּל מָשָׁל. רְאָיָה לַדָּבָר שֶׁנָּבִיא אֶחָד אוֹמֵר שֶׁרָאָה הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא (דניאל ז ט) "לְבוּשֵׁיִהּ כִּתְלַג חִוֵּר". וְאֶחָד רָאָהוּ (ישעיה סג א) "חֲמוּץ בְּגָדִים מִבָּצְרָה". משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ עַצְמוֹ רָאָהוּ עַל הַיָּם כְּגִבּוֹר עוֹשֶׂה מִלְחָמָה. וּבְסִינַי כִּשְׁלִיחַ צִבּוּר עָטוּף. לוֹמַר שֶׁאֵין לוֹ דְּמוּת וְצוּרָה אֶלָּא הַכּל בְּמַרְאֵה הַנְּבוּאָה וּבְמַחֲזֶה. וַאֲמִתַּת הַדָּבָר אֵין דַּעְתּוֹ שֶׁל אָדָם מֵבִין וְלֹא יְכוֹלָה לְהַשִּׂיגוֹ וּלְחָקְרוֹ. וְזֶה שֶׁאָמַר הַכָּתוּב (איוב יא ז) "הַחֵקֶר אֱלוֹהַּ תִּמְצָא אִם עַד תַּכְלִית שַׁדַּי תִּמְצָא":

10 [If so,] what did Moses, our teacher, want to comprehend when he requested: "Please show me Your glory" [Exodus 33:18]?

He asked to know the truth of the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the extent that it could be internalized within his mind, as one knows a particular person whose face he saw and whose image has been engraved within one's heart. Thus, this person's [identity] is distinguished within one's mind from [that of] other men. Similarly, Moses, our teacher, asked that the existence of the Holy One, blessed be He, be distinguished in his mind from the existence of other entities, to the extent that he would know the truth of His existence as it is [in its own right].

He, blessed be He, replied to him that it is not within the potential of a living man, [a creature of] body and soul, to comprehend this matter in its entirety. [Nevertheless,] He, blessed be He, revealed to [Moses] matters which no other man had known before him - nor would ever know afterward - until he was able to comprehend [enough] from the truth of His existence, for the Holy One, blessed be He, to be distinguished in his mind from other entities, as a person is distinguished from other men when one sees his back and knows the structure of his body and [the manner in which] he is clothed.

This is alluded to by the verse [Exodus 33:23]: "You shall see My back, but you shall not see My face."

י מַהוּ זֶה שֶׁבִּקֵּשׁ משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ לְהַשִּׂיג כְּשֶׁאָמַר (שמות לג יח) "הַרְאֵנִי נָא אֶת כְּבֹדֶךָ". בִּקֵּשׁ לֵידַע אֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ שֶׁל הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה יָדוּעַ בְּלִבּוֹ כְּמוֹ יְדִיעַת אֶחָד מִן הָאֲנָשִׁים שֶׁרָאָה פָּנָיו וְנֶחְקְקָה צוּרָתוֹ בְּלִבּוֹ שֶׁנִּמְצָא אוֹתוֹ הָאִישׁ נִפְרָד בְּדַעְתּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר הָאֲנָשִׁים. כָּךְ בִּקֵּשׁ משֶׁה רַבֵּנוּ לִהְיוֹת מְצִיאוּת הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא נִפְרֶדֶת בְּלִבּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר הַנִּמְצָאִים עַד שֶׁיֵּדַע אֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ כַּאֲשֶׁר הִיא. וֶהֱשִׁיבוֹ בָּרוּךְ הוּא שֶׁאֵין כֹּחַ בְּדַעַת הָאָדָם הַחַי שֶׁהוּא מְחֻבָּר מִגּוּף וְנֶפֶשׁ לְהַשִּׂיג אֲמִתַּת דָּבָר זֶה עַל בֻּרְיוֹ. וְהוֹדִיעוֹ בָּרוּךְ הוּא מַה שֶּׁלֹּא יָדַע אָדָם לְפָנָיו וְלֹא יֵדַע לְאַחֲרָיו. עַד שֶׁהִשִּׂיג מֵאֲמִתַּת הִמָּצְאוֹ דָּבָר שֶׁנִּפְרָד הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא בְּדַעְתּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר הַנִּמְצָאִים. כְּמוֹ שֶׁיִּפָּרֵד אֶחָד מִן הָאֲנָשִׁים שֶׁרָאָה אֲחוֹרָיו וְהִשִּׂיג כָּל גּוּפוֹ וּמַלְבּוּשׁוֹ בְּדַעְתּוֹ מִשְּׁאָר גּוּפֵי הָאֲנָשִׁים. וְעַל דָּבָר זֶה רָמַז הַכָּתוּב וְאָמַר (שמות לג כג) "וְרָאִיתָ אֶת אֲחֹרָי וּפָנַי לֹא יֵרָאוּ":

11 Since it has been clarified that He does not have a body or corporeal form, it is also clear that none of the functions of the body are appropriate to Him: neither connection nor separation, neither place nor measure, neither ascent nor descent, neither right nor left, neither front nor back, neither standing nor sitting.

He is not found within time, so that He would possess a beginning, an end, or age. He does not change, for there is nothing that can cause Him to change.

[The concept of] death is not applicable to Him, nor is [that of] life within the context of physical life. [The concept of] foolishness is not applicable to Him, nor is [that of] wisdom in terms of human wisdom.

Neither sleep nor waking, neither anger nor laughter, neither joy nor sadness, neither silence nor speech in the human understanding of speech [are appropriate terms with which to describe Him]. Our Sages declared: "Above, there is no sitting or standing, separation or connection."

יא וְכֵיוָן שֶׁנִּתְבָּרֵר שֶׁאֵינוֹ גּוּף וּגְוִיָּה יִתְבָּרֵר שֶׁלֹּא יֶאֱרַע לוֹ אֶחָד מִמְּאֹרְעוֹת הַגּוּפוֹת. לֹא חִבּוּר וְלֹא פֵּרוּד. לֹא מָקוֹם וְלֹא מִדָּה. לֹא עֲלִיָּה וְלֹא יְרִידָה. וְלֹא יָמִין וְלֹא שְׂמֹאל. וְלֹא פָּנִים וְלֹא אָחוֹר. וְלֹא יְשִׁיבָה וְלֹא עֲמִידָה. וְאֵינוֹ מָצוּי בִּזְמַן עַד שֶׁיִּהְיֶה לוֹ רֵאשִׁית וְאַחֲרִית וּמִנְיַן שָׁנִים. וְאֵינוֹ מִשְׁתַּנֶּה שֶׁאֵין לוֹ דָּבָר שֶׁיִּגְרֹם לוֹ שִׁנּוּי. וְאֵין לוֹ לֹא מָוֶת וְלֹא חַיִּים כְּחַיֵּי הַגּוּף הַחַי. וְלֹא סִכְלוּת וְלֹא חָכְמָה כְּחָכְמַת הָאִישׁ הֶחָכָם. לֹא שֵׁנָה וְלֹא הֲקִיצָה. וְלֹא כַּעַס וְלֹא שְׂחוֹק וְלֹא שִׂמְחָה וְלֹא עַצְבוּת. וְלֹא שְׁתִיקָה וְלֹא דִּבּוּר כְּדִבּוּר בְּנֵי אָדָם. וְכָךְ אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים אֵין לְמַעְלָה לֹא יְשִׁיבָה וְלֹא עֲמִידָה וְלֹא עֹרֶף וְלֹא עִפּוּי:

12 Since this is so, all such [descriptions] and the like which are related in the Torah and the words of the Prophets - all these are metaphors and imagery. [For example,] "He who sits in the heavens shall laugh" [Psalms 2:4], "They angered Me with their emptiness" [Deuteronomy 32:21], and "As God rejoiced" [ibid. 28:63]. With regard to all such statements, our Sages said: "The Torah speaks in the language of man."

This is [borne out by the rhetorical question (Jeremiah 7:19):] "Are they enraging Me?" Behold, [Malachi 3:6] states: "I, God, have not changed." Now were He to at times be enraged and at times be happy, He would change. Rather, all these matters are found only with regard to the dark and low bodies, those who dwell in houses of clay, whose foundation is dust. In contrast, He, blessed be He, is elevated and exalted above all this.

יב וְהוֹאִיל וְהַדָּבָר כֵּן הוּא. כָּל הַדְּבָרִים הַלָּלוּ וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן שֶׁנֶּאֶמְרוּ בַּתּוֹרָה וּבְדִבְרֵי נְבִיאִים הַכּל מָשָׁל וּמְלִיצָה הֵן. כְּמוֹ שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהילים ב ד) "יוֹשֵׁב בַּשָּׁמַיִם יִשְׂחָק". (דברים לב כא) "כִּעֲסוּנִי בְּהַבְלֵיהֶם". (דברים כח סג) "כַּאֲשֶׁר שָׂשׂ ה'" וְכַיּוֹצֵא בָּהֶן. עַל הַכּל אָמְרוּ חֲכָמִים דִּבְּרָה תּוֹרָה כִּלְשׁוֹן בְּנֵי אָדָם. וְכֵן הוּא אוֹמֵר (ירמיה ז יט) "הַאֹתִי הֵם מַכְעִסִים". הֲרֵי הוּא אוֹמֵר (מלאכי ג ו) "אֲנִי ה' לֹא שָׁנִיתִי". וְאִלּוּ הָיָה פְּעָמִים כּוֹעֵס וּפְעָמִים שָׂמֵחַ הָיָה מִשְׁתַּנֶּה. וְכָל הַדְּבָרִים הָאֵלּוּ אֵינָן מְצוּיִין אֶלָּא לַגּוּפִים הָאֲפֵלִים הַשְּׁפָלִים שׁוֹכְנֵי בָּתֵּי חֹמֶר אֲשֶׁר בֶּעָפָר יְסוֹדָם אֲבָל הוּא בָּרוּךְ הוּא יִתְבָּרַךְ וְיִתְרוֹמַם עַל כָּל זֶה:

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