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The meaning of Face in the Bible
(From International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

fas: In Hebrew the translation of three expressions: (1) panim (2) 'ayin, literally, "eye" and (3) 'aph, literally, "nose," "nostril," already noted under the word COUNTENANCE, which see. The first and second of these words are used synonymously, even in metaphorical expressions, as, e.g. in the phrase "the face of the earth," where panim is used (Deuteronomy 6:15 et passim) and 'ayin (Numbers 22:5 et passim). The third expression preserves more clearly its original meaning. It is generally used in the phrases "to bow one's self to the earth," "to fall on one's face," where the nose actually touched the ground. Often "my face," "thy face" is mere oriental circumlocution for the personal pronoun "I," "me," "thou," "thee." "In thy face" means "in thy presence;" and is often so translated. A very large number of idiomatic Hebrew expressions have been introduced into our language through the medium of the Bible translation. We notice the most important of these phrases.

"To seek the face" is to seek an audience with a prince or with God, to seek favor (Psalms 24:6; Psalms 27:8 bis; Psalms 105:4; Proverbs 7:15; Hosea 5:15; compare Proverbs 29:26, where the Revised Version (British and American) translates "Many seek the ruler's favor," literally, many seek the face (Hebrew pene) of a ruler).

If God "hides his face" He withdraws His presence, His favor (Deuteronomy 32:20; Job 34:29; Psalms 13:1; Psalms 30:7; Psalms 143:7; Isaiah 54:8; Jeremiah 33:5; Ezekiel 39:23, Ezekiel 39:14; Micah 3:4). Such withdrawal of the presence of God is to be understood as a consequence of man's personal disobedience, not as a wrathful denial of God's favor (Isaiah 59:2). God is asked to "hide his face," i.e. to disregard or overlook (Psalms 51:9; compare Psalms 10:11). This is also the idea of the prayer: "Cast me not away from thy presence" (literally, "face," Psalms 51:11), and of the promise: "The upright shall dwell in thy presence" (literally, "face," Psalms 140:13). If used of men, "to hide the face" expresses humility and reverence before an exalted presence (Exodus 3:6; Isaiah 6:2); similarly Elijah "wrapped his face in his mantle" when God passed by (I Kings 19:13). The "covering of the face" is a sign of mourning (II Samuel 19:4 = Ezekiel 12:6, Ezekiel 12:12); a "face covered with fatness" is synonymous with prosperity and arrogance (Job 15:27); to have one's face covered by another person is a sign of hopeless doom, as if one were already dead. This was done to Human, when judgment had been pronounced over him (Esther 7:8).

"To turn away one's face" is a sign of insulting indifference or contempt (II Chronicles 29:6; Ezekiel 14:6; Sirach 4:4; compare Jeremiah 2:27; Jeremiah 18:17; Jeremiah 32:33); on the part of God an averted face is synonymous with rejection (Psalms 13:1; Psalms 27:9; Psalms 88:14).

"To harden the face" means to harden one's self against any sort of appeal (Proverbs 21:29; Isaiah 50:7; Jeremiah 5:3; compare Ezekiel 3:9).

See also SPIT.

In this connection we also mention the phrase "to respect persons," literally, to "recognize the face" (Leviticus 19:15, or, slightly different in expression, Deuteronomy 1:17; Deuteronomy 16:19; Pro. 24; 23; Proverbs 28:21), in the sense of unjustly favoring a person, or requiting him with undue evil. Compare also the Hebrew hadhar (Exodus 23:3 the King James Version), "to countenance" (see under the word).

The "showbread" meant literally, "bread of the face," "of the presence," Hebrew lechem panim; Greek artoi enopioi, artoi tes protheseos.

H. L. E. Luering


See more on the meaning of Face in the Bible:
Face {Easton's Bible Dictionary}

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