I remember as young folks we argued whether God could be seen or not. The Hebrew word used here is ”ra’ah” which means something that may be seen literally or figuratively. Albert Barnes says that means they perceived Gods presence. Adam Clarke calls it the manifestation of God. Pulpit calls it a vision of God. Keil and Delitzech say we should not go beyond the limits drawn in Exod.33:20-23. Whatever, it is, there was a perception of some divine nature that was discernible. There have been moments we’ve had dreams that are so imprinted in our minds that we can hardly forget them. We can say, we saw the dream. Well, along with the seeing was their experience of the presence of God. God chose these leaders to expand His influence in the Israelite community. Beyond what they ate, the imprint of God in the mind of these leaders must have lasted a lifetime. Leaders must have this kind of impact to know and follow the main leader well. In the New testament, a similar thing happened at the mount of transfiguration. Peter wanted to build three tabernacles. This manifestation of Gods presence is so awesome that it is reserved for the serious minded. Rev. 22:4, reports that in the new heaven and the new earth, we will see the face of God. While we wait, long for His presence. Its what makes the difference.
And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under his feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in his clearness. And upon the nobles of the children of Israel he laid not his hand: also they saw God, and did eat and drink. Exodus 24:10-11 KJV