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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Covering of the Eyes

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a phrase of much disputed signification, occurring in the expression הוּאאּלָךְ כְּסוּת עֵינִיַם, he (or this) [shall be] to thee a covering of the eyes (Genesis 20:16; Sept. ταῦτα ἔσται σοι εἰς τηεὴν τοῦ προσώπου σον; Vulg. hoc erit tibi in velamen oculorum), which is usually understood to refer to a veil that ought to have been worn by Sarah to hide her dangerous beauty, and which either her husband (if הוּא be masc.) or the present (if neuter) would furnish. (See ABRAHAM). Against this interpretation, however, there lies this objection, that such a piece of apparel, in modern Oriental usage, covers rather the face or person, and leaves the eyes free. See WOMAN. Hence many commentators (but see Rosenmü ller, in loc.) explain the phrase as an idiomatic one for a peace- offering (see Gesenius, Thes. Heb. p. 700) or propitiatory present (comp. Genesis 32:21; Exodus 23:8; Job 9:24; in none of which passages, however, does this expression precisely occur); but this does not so well suit the difficult context, "unto all that are with thee," since her companions had no cause of complaint, and a reproof would then have been inapposite. We may therefore recur to the explanation of Kitto (Pict. Bible, note in loc.): "It is customary for all the women inhabiting towns to go about closely veiled; while all the women of the different pastoral people who live in tents do not commonly wear veils, or at most only so far as to cover their foreheads and lower parts of the face, leaving the countenance exposed from the eyebrows to below the nose. Abimelech, according to this view, intended to give the very sensible advice, that while Sarah and her women were in or near towns, they had better conform to the customs of towns, and wear the complete veil, instead of that partial covering which left the eyes and so much of the face exposed" (see also his Daily Bible Illustrations, in loc.). At the same time, there appears to be a refined allusion to the other meaning of the phrase in question, by one of those plays upon words so frequent in these early narratives. Hence the terseness of the whole phraseology. (See VEIL).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Covering of the Eyes'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/c/covering-of-the-eyes.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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