The face reflects feelings. “Cain was very angry and his countenance fell” (Gen 4:5) or “a glad heart makes a cheerful countenance” (Prov 15:13). The face was covered in mourning like David’s after Absalom’s defection and death (2 Sam 19:4), or in the doom of Haman (Esth 7:8), or by a harlot (Gen 38:15), although “covered his face with his fat” suggests prosperity and arrogance (Job 15:27). Moses hid his face in reverence (Exod 3:6) but put a veil on his face when talking with his people to dim the shine received while talking with God (Exod 34:29-35).
Much is said about the face of God. It means God Himself or His glory in its fullest which could not be seen by Moses before he received the Ten Commandments (Exod 33:20). When Jacob said, “I have seen God face to face,” he was referring to the relationship of closest intimacy he felt because of his wrestling with the man by the ford of Jabbok and the blessing given to him. “No one has ever seen God” (John 1:18) face to face but “the knowledge of the glory of God” is seen in the face of Christ (2 Cor 4:6). “Speaking face to face” suggests that God shows His attributes even though not in their completeness, yet His servants are promised that they shall see His face (Rev 22:4) when they approach the throne of God in the new Jerusalem. The service of the priests is called appearing before the face of the Lord (Deut 10:8).
God hides His face when angry (Job 13:24), sets His face against the wicked for evil (Jer 44:11) and hides His face from sin, both to show His displeasure with it (Ps 27:9) and to show He has forgiven it (51:9).
The shewbread in the Ark was called the bread of the Presence, but a literal tr. is the bread of the face (Exod 25:30).
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
fas: In Hebrew the translation of three expressions:
(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, for example in the phrase "the face of the earth," where panim is used (De 6:15 et passim) and `ayin (Nu 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 (Ps 24:6; 27:8; 105:4; Pr 7:15; Ho 5:15; compare Pr 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).
"To turn away one’s face" is a sign of insulting indifference or contempt (2Ch 29:6; Eze 14:6; Sirach 4:4; compare Jer 2:27; 18:17; 32:33); on the part of God an averted face is synonymous with rejection (Ps 13:1; 27:9; 88:14).
"To harden the face" means to harden one’s self against any sort of appeal (Pr 21:29; Isa 50:7; Jer 5:3; compare Eze 3:9).
See also SPIT.
In this connection we also mention the phrase "to respect persons," literally, to "recognize the face" (Le 19:15, or, slightly different in expression, De 1:17; 16:19; Pr 24; 23; 28:21), in the sense of unjustly favoring a person, or requiting him with undue evil. Compare also the Hebrew hadhar (Ex 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.