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Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words

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‛Ayin (עַיִן, 5869), “eye; well; surface; appearance; spring.” ‛Ayin has cognates in Ugaritic, Akkadian, Aramaic, and other Semitic languages. It occurs about 866 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew (5 times in biblical Aramaic).

First, the word represents the bodily part, “eye.” In Gen. 13:10, ‛ayin is used of the “human eye”: “And Lot lifted up his eyes, and beheld all the plain of Jordan.…” It is also used of the “eyes” of animals (Gen. 30:41), idols (Ps. 115:5), and God (Deut. 11:12— anthropomorphism). The expression “between the eyes” means “on the forehead”: “And it shall be for a sign unto thee upon thine hand, and for a memorial between thine eyes, that the Lord’s law may be in thy mouth …” (Exod. 13:9). “Eyes” are used as typical of one’s “weakness” or “hurt”: “And it came to pass, that when Isaac was old, and his eyes were dim, so that he could not see, he called Esau his eldest son, and said …” (Gen. 27:1). The “apple of the eye” is the central component, the iris: “Keep me as the apple of the eye” (Ps. 17:8). “Eyes” might be a special feature of “beauty”: “Now he was ruddy, and withal [fair of eyes], and goodly to look to” (1 Sam. 16:12).

‛Ayin is often used in connection with expressions of “seeing”: “And, behold, your eyes see, and the eyes of my brother Benjamin, that it is my mouth that speaketh unto you” (Gen. 45:12). The expression “to lift up one’s eyes” is explained by a verb following it: one lifts up his eyes to do something—whatever the verb stipulates (cf. Gen. 13:10). “Lifting up one’s eyes” may also be an act expressing “desire,” “longing,” “devotion”: “And it came to pass after these things, that his master’s wife [looked with desire at] Joseph …” (Gen. 39:7). The “eyes” may be used in gaining or seeking a judgment, in the sense of “seeing intellectually,” “making an evaluation,” or “seeking an evaluation or proof of faithfulness”: “And thou saidst unto thy servants, Bring him down unto me, that I may set mine eyes upon him” (Gen. 44:21).

“Eyes” sometimes show mental qualities, such as regret: “Also regard not [literally, “do not let your eye look with regret upon”] your stuff; for the good of all the land of Egypt is yours” (Gen. 45:20). “Eyes” are used figuratively of mental and spiritual abilities, acts and states. So the “opening of the eyes” in Gen. 3:5 (the first occurrence) means to become autonomous by setting standards of good and evil for oneself. In passages such as Prov. 4:25, “eye” represents a moral faculty: “Let thine eyes look right on, and let thine eyelids look straight before thee.” Prov. 23:6 uses the word of a moral state (literally“evil eye”): “Eat thou not the bread of [a selfish man], neither desire thou his dainty meats.” An individual may serve as a guide, or one’s “eyes”: “And he said, Leave us not, I pray thee; forasmuch as thou knowest how we are to encamp in the wilderness, and thou mayest be to us instead of eyes” (Num. 10:31).

The phrase, “in the eye of,” means “in one’s view or opinion”: “And he went in unto Hagar, and she conceived: and when she saw that she had conceived, her mistress was despised in her eyes” (Gen. 16:4).

Another phrase, “from the eyes of,” may signify that a thing or matter is “hidden” from one’s knowledge: “And a man lie with her carnally, and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and [she be undetected] …” (Num. 5:13).

In Exod. 10:5, the word represents the “visible surface of the earth”: “And they shall cover the face of the earth, that one cannot be able to see the earth.…” Lev. 13:5 uses ‛ayin to represent “one’s appearance”: “And the priest shall look on him the seventh day: and behold, if the plague in his sight be at a stay [NASB, “if in his eyes the infection has not changed”].…” A “gleam or sparkle” is described in the phrase, “to give its eyes,” in passages such as Prov. 23:31: “Look not thou upon the wine when it is red, when it giveth his color [gives its eyes] in the cup.…”

‛Ayin also represents a “spring” (literally, an “eye of the water”): “And the angel of the Lord found her by a spring [KJV, “fountain”] of water in the wilderness, by the spring [KJV, “fountain”] on the way to Shur” (Gen. 16:7).

Ma‛yân (מַעְיָנָה, Strong's #4599), “spring.” This word appears 23 times in the Old Testament. In Lev. 11:36, ma‛yân means “spring”: “Nevertheless a fountain or pit, wherein there is plenty of water, shall be clean: but that which toucheth their carcase shall be unclean.” Another example is found in Gen. 7:11: “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, … the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.”

Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Eye'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​vot/​e/eye.html. 1940.
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