The ancient Egyptians have shown us Immortals with
creature heads but don't seem to tell us why. The ancient
Israelites with their strong written tradition may give us more clues. It's helpful to have some knowledge of the
sources behind the English translations, including how and when they are said to
have occurred. For some discussion of this please refer to my Eden: Fact or
Fantasy chapter 2 Note 1, elsewhere on this website.
The Book of Exodus tells us that Moses had many conferences with (the
Immortal) Yhwh (mistranslated as 'Jehovah'; or 'the Lord'; or 'God'). Then we find
that Moses never actually saw Yhwh. Here's the King James English translation
(1611 AD, Protestant: Anglican; Episcopalian). This
tells us how Moses asked Yhwh if he could see him, and the answer he was given
(I've added the speakers' names in brackets) (Exodus chapter 33, verses 18 to
18. And he (Moses) said, I beseech thee, show me thy glory,
19. And he (Yhwh) said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will
proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be
gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.
20. And he said, Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and
21. And the Lord said, Behold, (there is) a place by me, and thou shalt stand upon
22. And it shall come to pass, while my glory passeth by, that I will put thee in a
clift of the rock, and will cover thee with my hand while I pass by:
23. And I will take away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back parts: but my face
shall not be seen.
Because this is important to us here, let's see how some other translations deal with the
Next, here's the New American Bible version (Catholic):
Then Moses said, "Do let me see your glory!" He answered, "I will make all my
beauty pass before you, and in your presence I will pronounce my name, "LORD";
I who show favors to whom I will, I who grant mercy to whom I will. But my face
you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives. "Here," continued the LORD,
"is a place near me where you shall station yourself on the rock. When my glory
passes I will set you in the hollow of the rock and will cover you with my hand until
I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand, so that you may see my back; but
my face is not to be seen."
The following modern versions are not significantly different for our purposes
from these two just quoted: The New World Translation; Revised Standard Version;
and the Authorized Bible of the Church of
the East By George M. Lamsa. Finally, here's another translation, which seems to be
by an independent scholar:
The Holy Bible...A new translation by James Moffatt DD Dlitt MA (Oxon)
(Dr. Moffatt apparently attributes Exodus ch. 33 v. 18-23 entirely to the J or oldest
source (discussed in my Note 1 referred to in the first paragraph of this chapter):
17. The Eternal said to Moses, "I will do as you have asked, for you have found
favour with me, and I own you as my own,"
19. He added, "I will make all my goodliness pass before you and manifest to you
what the Eternal is: for I will be kind to whom I will be kind, and pitiful to whom I will
18. Moses said, "Ah, let me see thy majesty."
20. The Eternal replied, "You cannot see my full face, for no man can live after
21. Then the Eternal added, "But here is a spot near me, where you may place
yourself on the rocks;
22. and when my majesty sweeps by, I will put you into a cleft of the rock, covering
you with my hand till I sweep past you:
23. Then I will remove my hand, to let you see my back. My face is never to be
What are we to make of all this? Let's remember there are several strands
or traditional stories in the text as we have it. These were probably verbal at first,
then many centuries later written down in different cultures having different
languages from the originals. To compound the problem there is what modern scholars call corrupt text.
This may arise from bad copying by hand from time to time, and misunderstanding
what happened at the original event a thousand or more years earlier. With all the
accumulated errors, it's not surprising the original meaning is clouded or mis-represented. That's why it doesn't make rational sense to us. But through this
murky fog we may discern some logical truth.
First, I suggest verse 19 is irrelevant and may have been a later addition by a
devout scribe. That leaves:
1. Moses asks 'show me your glory.'
We have to try to fathom out what the word 'glory' is meant to represent.
2. Yhwh says you cannot see my face. No one can see that and live.
We will have to try to find out why.
3. Yhwh says you can take protection among these rocks and I will interpose a
barrier between us until I've passed by you.
4. Yhwh says after I've passed by you can look out and see the back of me.
For the last two statements, whatever the original wording was, it seems to have been misunderstood
later to mean 'hand.' As the text stands it doesn't make practical sense,
particularly if we are to accept the appearance of the physical bodies
of the Immortals as represented by the Egyptians. That conclusion leads us
to deduce verses 21-3 may be a later scribal addition
to explain how it was that after saying his face could not be seen,
Yhwh was able to show himself to Moses without Moses' dying as a result.
For these reasons I propose to discount verses 21-3 as impractical
later additions. That leaves points 1 and 2 to consider.
The first piece of evidence is in Exodus. After a long visit to Yhwh to have the
laws for governing the Israelites dictated to him,
"Moses did not know that the skin of his face emitted rays"
The humans around Moses
to come near Moses, so he put a veil on his face
This is Exodus ch 34 vs 29 - 30, 33. It's discussed briefly in The Immortals ch 9
Because human-Immortal interaction seems to have been a world-wide
phenomenon, we're able to consider one more piece of evidence. Here's W. K.
Moorehead, archaeologist, writing in Etowah Papers, page 18 and following. He's
discussing a site in southern Georgia, USA, where his reproduction of an aerial
photo shows the typical ziggurat shape of an ancient Mesopotamian or Mexican
stepped pyramid, both large and smaller sized. Then he continues:
The following is condensed from Du Pratz's interesting account of the origins of the
Natchez nation and the establishment of its social order, as told to him by one of
the guardians of the temple: a great many years ago there appeared among us
a man and his wife who had descended from the sun. It is not that we thought he
was the son of the sun, or that the sun had a wife by whom he had children, but
that they appeared so bright that it was believed they came from the sun. This
man told us that we did not govern ourselves well, that we did not have a master;
that each one of us believed he had sufficient intelligence to govern others while
he could not govern himself; that he had descended in order to teach us how to
live better. He told us to go to a better country which he would show us; that we
must recognize no other sovereign but himself and those who should descend
from him and his wife... in order not to forget the good words he had brought us,
a temple should be built, into which only princes and princesses (males and female
Suns) should have the right to enter to speak to the Spirit; that in the temple
should be preserved eternally a fire..."
Here we have a parallel case to Yhwh and the Israelites. An Immortal appears,
promises a better life to the humans, moves them to a new location, and provides
orderly governance in exchange for servitude to him. In the Natchez case it seems
there is no risk to humans in seeing the Immortals, but we are told these beings appeared
'so bright that it was believed they came from the sun.' What interests us most
here is the independent confirmation for the brightness of these beings.
The word 'glory' means a radiance of light, or a circle of light or a halo around the
head or figure of a God. It's also used by some Christian sects to denote
This is from The Adoration of the Magi (c1445 AD) by Fra Angelico and Fra
Filippo Lippi. The three subjects with halos are Mary, Joseph and the infant Jesus.
It shows us how over thousands of years a convention arose to glorify special
people by equating them with the much earlier Immortals, using the halo to
represent former Immortal brightness by a symbolic circle of light around the head.
It seems that the word translated as 'glory' refers to the remarkable 'brightness' of these
beings the Bible calls Angels, and here we've called them the Immortals.
2. HUMAN DEATH ON SEEING AN IMMORTAL
Here's part of the story of Hagar and the well. (Also see
my The Immortals chapter 9, 3rd section). The Hagar incident is at Genesis ch 16
v. 13. The Revised Standard Version gives this
translation (I've used the words 'a God' as she met an 'Angel', not Yhwh):
13. So she called the name of the Lord who spoke to her "Thou art a God of seeing"
for she said "Have I really seen (a) God and remained alive after seeing him."
The name of the well Hagar was at translates as "the well of one who sees and
I suggest Dr. Moffatt's translation makes more sense:
So she named the Eternal who had spoken to her " (a)God Seen." "Even
here in the desert," she said to herself, "have I seen (a) God, and lived after my vision?"
14. Hence the well was called Beerlahai-roi (well of life and vision);...
This tells us that as far back as the time of early Genesis it was possible for a
human to see an Immortal and not die, although apparently commonly believed
otherwise by humans.
from ample evidence in ancient writings that the Immortals could and did mate with
chosen mortals, and produced half-Immortal offspring, who were always mortal; that is, they eventually died..
If Hagar was unharmed after actually seeing an Immortal face to face, it suggests
that the Biblical scribes may have developed a myth about death to those humans
who did see the face of an Immortal, just as the scribes developed a myth that the
name Yhwh was too holy to be spoken and Adonai, meaning a Lord, any Lord,
was to be spoken instead. The myth of human death from visual contact with an Immortal
may have had a basis in misunderstood fact: Yhwh, according
to Exodus, warned Moses to keep the Israelites well away from the 'mount' when
he descended in a pillar of cloud and fire to see them and 'put the fear of God' into
this 'stiff-necked people.' Yhwh told Moses that any who touched the mount
would surely die. (See my The Obelisk, chapter 5).
That seems to be all we can derive from the Bible. To find
out more about the faces of the Immortals we need to go to another ancient
culture, the Sumerians, and we'll do so in the next chapter.