Given my own never-ending fascination with Emmanuel Levinas's idea of the face-to-face encounter, and the importance of learning what it means to "see" the face of the Other, the juxtaposition here of G-d's face and back is troublesome. Are we being shielded from the literal face of G-d because it would distract us from seeing and sensing his presence? Are we not yet ready to see his face?
But maybe this is one more prophetic moment for which the Hebrew bible has become notorious. Is it possible that G-d's face, here, cannot be seen because the G-d that we have created and placed in the heavens is always already a reflection of our own failings? I wonder if the prophetic moment, here, rests not in the suggestion that G-d is hiding his face, but in the possibility that we cannot see it. And if we cannot see it, are we not responsible? Responsible for everything?
Or, perhaps there is no face--who, then, is this G-d without a face? I can almost buy into this possibility. Ostriker's reading of this passage reveals all of its human elements: sexuality, beauty, terror, ambiguity, storytelling. One wonders whether this passage is not, on some level, also an indictment of those who have lost sight of the face of the human Other, and, further, whether the pathway to repair lies solely in the art of storytelling.