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EYE (Heb. ‘ayin, Gr. ophthalmos). The organ of sight. The literal sense is that which is most frequently found in the Scriptures, where the eye is recognized as among the most valued of the members of the body. In the Mosaic legislation, if a man hit a slave’s eye so that it was blinded, the slave was to be released (Exod.21.26). One of the most cruel customs of the heathen nations was that of putting out the eyes of a defeated enemy (2Kgs.25.7).

The word is also used often in figurative expressions. Frequently “eye” speaks of spiritual perception and understanding. Thus the Word of God enlightens the eyes (Ps.19.8). Growth in spiritual knowledge comes through the “eyes of the heart being enlightened” (Eph.1.18). Other expressions speak of the eye as indicative of character. The good man has a “bountiful eye” (Prov.22.9 kjv). High or lofty eyes (Ps.131.1) describe the proud man. The envious man is one with an evil eye (Matt.20.15 kjv).

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

(`ayin; ophthalmos):

(1) The physical organ of sight, "the lamp of the body" (Mt 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 (Jud 16:21; 2Ki 25:7; Jer 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 (1Sa 11:2; Zec 11:17).

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

(4) The eyes of God, as well as the "seven eyes" of the Lamb (Re 5:6) and the `many eyes’ of the four living creatures of the Apocalypse (Re 4:6; also Eze 1:18; 10:12) are figurative expressions for the omniscience of God (compare Heb 4:13; Ps 139:16) and of His watchfulness and loving care (Jer 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" (Ps 32:8).

(5) Three Hebrew expressions are translated by "apple of the eye":

(a) ’ishon, 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 (De 32:10; Ps 17:8; Pr 7:2).

(b) babhah, literally, "the gate of the eye" (Zec 2:8).

(c) bath-`ayin, literally, "the daughter of the eye" (Ps 17:8; La 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 (`awan, "to watch closely," "to look maliciously at"): "Saul eyed David from that day and forward" (1Sa 18:9).

See Envy; Evil Eye.