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Bible Encyclopedias

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia


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ı̄ ( עין , ‛ayin ; ὀφθαλμός , ophthalmós ):

(1) The physical organ of sight, "the lamp of the body" (Matthew 6:22 ), one of the chief channels of information for man. A cruel custom therefore sanctioned among heathen nations the putting out of the eyes of an enemy or a rival, because thus his power was most effectually shattered (Judges 16:21; 2 Kings 25:7; Jeremiah 39:7 ). Such blinding or putting out of the "right eye" was also considered a deep humiliation, as it robbed the victim of his beauty, and made him unfit to take his part in war (1 Samuel 11:2; Zechariah 11:17 ).

The eye, to be useful, was to be "single," i.e. not giving a double or uncertain vision (Matthew 6:22 = Luke 11:34 ). Eyes may grow dim with sorrow and tears (Job 17:7 ), they may "waste away with griefs" (Psalm 6:7; Psalm 31:9; Psalm 88:9 ). They may "pour down" (Lamentations 3:49 ), "run down with water" (Lamentations 1:16; Lamentations 3:48 ). Eyes may "wink" in derision (Psalm 35:19; Proverbs 6:13; Proverbs 10:10; compare also Proverbs 16:30; Proverbs 30:17 ), and the harlot takes the lustling "with her eyelids" (Proverbs 6:25 ). To 'lift up the eyes' (Genesis 13:10 et passim ) means to look up or around for information and often for help; to 'turn away the eye' or 'hide the eyes' indicates carelessness and lack of sympathy (Proverbs 28:27 ); to 'cast about the eyes,' so that they "are in the ends of the earth" (Proverbs 17:24 ) is synonymous with the silly curiosity of a fool, and with the lack of attention of him who is everywhere but at his work. In the execution of justice the "eye shall not pity," i.e. not be deflected from the dictates of the law by favorable or unfavorable impressions (Deuteronomy 19:13 et passim ), nor spare (Ezekiel 5:11 et passim ), and the lex talionis demanded "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot" ( Exodus 21:24; Deuteronomy 19:21 ).

(2) Figurative: The eye of the heart or mind, the organ of spiritual perception, which may be enlightened or opened ( Psalm 119:18 ). This is done by the law of God (Psalm 19:8 ) or by the spirit of God (Ephesians 1:18 ), or it may be "darkened" and "holden" (Luke 24:16; compare Matthew 13:13; 2 Corinthians 4:4 ).

(3) The eye as an index of the mind and disposition of man. The Bible speaks of the "good" margin, or "bountiful" eye, i.e. the kindly, disposition (Proverbs 22:9 ); of "proud," haughty," "lofty eyes" (Psalm 18:27; Psalm 131:1; Proverbs 6:17 ); of the 'lowly eyes' of the humble (Job 22:29 margin; compare also Luke 18:13 ); of 'adulterous eyes,' "eyes which play the harlot" (Ezekiel 6:9 , in the sense of idolatrous inclinations; 2 Peter 2:14 ). Rage or anger is shown by the "sharpening" of the eyes (Job 16:9 ).

(4) The eyes of God, as well as the "seven eyes" of the Lamb (Revelation 5:6 ) and the 'many eyes' of the four living creatures of the Apocalypse (Revelation 4:6; also Ezekiel 1:18; Ezekiel 10:12 ) are figurative expressions for the omniscience of God (compare Hebrews 4:13; Psalm 139:16 ) and of His watchfulness and loving care (Jeremiah 32:19 ). As the human eye may, with the slightest glance or motion, give an indication, a command, so God is able to "guide" or "counsel" His obedient child "with his eye" (Psalm 32:8 ).

(5) three Hebrew expressions are translated by "apple of the eye": ( a ) אישׁון , 'ı̄shōn , literally, "the little man," which probably means the "pupil of the eye," it being the part of the eye in which the close onlooker may see his image reflected en miniature . Several oriental languages have very similar expressions (Deuteronomy 32:10; Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2 ). (b ) בּבה , bābhāh , literally, "the gate of the eye" (Zechariah 2:8 ). (c ) בּת־עין , bath -‛ayin , literally, "the daughter of the eye" (Psalm 17:8; Lamentations 2:18 ). All these three phrases seem to indicate the pupil rather than the "apple of the eye," and designate the most sensitive part of the eye, which we protect with the greatest care. Thus the Scriptures declare, for our great comfort, that God will protect and care for those that are His own.

To eye ( עון , ‛āwan , "to watch closely," "to look maliciously at"): "Saul eyed David from that day and forward" (1 Samuel 18:9 ). See ENVY; EVIL EYE .

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Bibliography Information
Orr, James, M.A., D.D. General Editor. Entry for 'Eye'. International Standard Bible Encyclopedia. 1915.

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