The Apple of the Eye

The human eye is quite amazing. In his book, The Origin of the Species, Charles Darwin wrote, “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree” (page 227). “It is scarcely possible to avoid comparing the eye with a telescope. We know that this instrument has been perfected by long-continued efforts of the highest human intellects.” (page 231). “The belief that an organ so perfect as the eye could have formed by natural selection, is enough to stagger anyone…” (page 259 – All quotes from the 1998 edition of the Modern Library Paperback edition). Dr. Robert Jastrow remarked, “The eye is a marvelous instrument, resembling a telescope of the highest quality, with a lens, an adjustable focus, a variable diaphragm for controlling the amount of light, and optical corrections for spherical and chromatic aberration. They eye appears to have been designed; no designer of telescopes could have done better. How could this marvelous instrument have evolved by chance?” (The Enchanted Loom: Mind and Universe, 1981, page 96-97 – quoted on page 56 of Wayne Jackson’s book, “The Human Body: Accident or Design?, 1993). Wayne Jackson has written, “The mechanism of the eye is extremely complex. Light images from the environment enter the eye (at 186,000 miles per second) through the Iris, which opens and shuts like the diaphragm of a camera, to let in just the right amount of light. The images move through a lens, which focuses the ‘picture’ (in an inverted form) on the retina at the rear of the eyeball. The image is then picked up by some 137 million nerve endings that convey the message (at 300 miles per hour) to the brain for processing.   No wonder even secular writers are prone to speak of ‘the miraculous team work of your eye and brain’” (ibid). Dr. Bert Thompson has written, “…the eye is infinitely more complex than any man-made camera. It can handle 1.5 million simultaneous messages, and gathers 80% of all the knowledge absorbed by the brain. The retina covers less than a square inch, and contains 137 million light-sensitive receptor cells, 130 million rods (allowing the eye to see in black and white), and 7 million cones (allowing the eye to see in full color). In the average day, the eye moves about 100,000 times, using muscles that, milligram for milligram, are among the body’s strongest. The body would have to walk 50 miles to exercise the leg muscles an equal amount” (Essays in Apologetics IV, page 189-190, 1990).

The wording of our title, The Apple of the Eye, appears in the Bible 5 times in some form(No, Stevie Wonder did not coin this phrase in his song You Are The Sunshine Of My Life). Let us look and learn what is meant.

First passage: Deuteronomy 32:10. These are among the final words which the great man, Moses, uttered before his death. The context actually begins back in verse 7. Moses says basically, “Many of you are too young to know some of these things first hand. But some of this history generations past could testify. Moreover , some of these things are recent enough that, even your own fathers and the elder generation among you could tell you.”

God, in the wilderness, “encircled” (NKJV) or “led” (KJV) them (v. 10). The original word can be used of making a circuit or walking around. Note: it is not the term for what God did with cloud and fire. The word means to encircle, to surround, to encompass, or to turn around something. God placed His protective care around this people.

He also “instructed” (NKJV) or “cared for” (NASB) them (v.10). The original word carries the idea of both giving understanding to and caring for another.

He cared for them [him (v. 10)=Jacob (v. 9) put for Jacob’s children (v. 8)] as an eagle does its young (v. 11-12 cf. Ex. 19:4). Matthew Henry, “The eagle is observed to have a strong affection for her young, and to show it, not only as other creatures by protecting and making provisions, but by educating and teaching them to fly. For this purpose she stirs  them out of the nest” (Comments on this verse Volume I, page 674). Jamison-Fausset – Brown commented “This beautiful and expressive metaphor is founded on the extraordinary care and attachment which the female eagle cherishes for her young… she in their attempts at flying supports them on the tips of her wings, encouraging, directing and aiding their feeble efforts. So did God take the most tender, and powerful care of His chosen people” (page 164). A. Clark speaks of the fact that some birds actually bear their young on their backs when the grow weary (volume I, page 827). The New Bible Commentary says, “The parent eagle in teaching her young to fly spreads her wings to prevent them from falling” (page 220).

He also is said to have kept them as “the apple of his eye” (v.10). On the surface one might think this means Israel was a beautiful thing before God’s eye, as an apple is to the human eye. But let’s look closer. The original word means, “the little man of the eye.” The reference is to the reflection seen when one looks closely into another’s eye. The I.S.B.E. says, “The eyeball, or globe of the eye with the pupil in the center, called ‘apple’ from its round shape … the Hebrew … little man referring perhaps specially to the pupil, probably from the little image one sees of himself when looking into another’s pupil” (Volume I, page 209).

Many take this to be a Hebrewism for protection/preciousness (see NASB).   Zondervan’s Pictorial Dictionary, “The eyeball, or the pupil in its center protected by the eyelids automatically closing when anything approaches too near. A symbol of that which is precious and protected” (page 53). Remember as a kid other kids saying, “Made you blink!”? They said this as if not blinking was manliness. Not blinking is actually stupidity. God made the body to so react. They eye is delicate and fragile. The I.S.B.E., “It’s great value and careful protection by the eyelids automatically closing when there is the least possibility of danger made it the emblem of that which is most precious, and jealously protected” (ibid). The NIV Study Bible footnotes read, “Lit. Little man of the eye referring to the pupil a delicate part of the eye that is essential for vision and that therefore must be protected at all cost.”

Others take this to mean that God’s eye was watchful over them. Have you ever notices the reflection of self in another`s eyes? Thus, God was so fixed His attention upon them, that it was as if one could see their reflection in His eye.

Even so today, our God cares for us very much. We are precious to Him (Psalm 116:15; Revelation 14:13; Acts 7:54-56). He knows our tears (Psalm 56:8). One day our tears will be wiped away (Revelation 21:4; Revelation 7:17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-55; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-7).

 Second passage: Proverbs 7:2. The original wording here is the same.

If this is language of protection – then, think of how dearly we that are wise regard our eyesight. We understand how terrible it must be to be blind. We put on goggles, safety glasses, sunglasses, whatever is necessary in protection of our eyes. Even so, should we treasure the word of God, as that which is essential to spiritual sight.

If the language is of having one’s eye upon something – then we’re being told that we should live our lives with our eyes fixed on His law. We should spend a great amount of effort looking upon the word of God. We should seek to direct our lives according to His word.

 Third passage: Psalm 17:8-9. It is thought that David wrote these words as a prayer to God during the time that Saul’s army was chasing after him.

In verse 8, we have the picture of a hen taking care of her chicks. It is similar to Matthew 23:37 (shade, protect from heat, elements).

In verse 8a, the original wording is different, than found in the earlier two passages. The word which appears here means literally, “The daughter of your eye.” But, I do not believe that the meaning has changed at all. This is either a plea for protection (much like verse 8b), or it is saying “let me be precious to you as a daughter is in the eyes of a parent.”

 Fourth passage: Lamentations 2:18-19 (KJV). The original wording is the same as before – daughter of your eye.

It is being used here as simply another term for the eye itself. It is paired with tears. Robert Taylor Jr. writes, “The apple of the eye is to continue its profuse production of tears” (Studies in Jeremiah and Lamentations, Volume II, page 486-487).   Jerusalem had fallen and it was due to their own sins. They brought this suffering upon themselves.

Brethren, we too, need to learn to weep at the miserable mess sin makes of our lives. But, we should not just weep for our sorrow of calamity but we should weep also out of genuine Godly sorrow (2 Corinthians 7:9-10; Matthew 5:4; James 4:8-10). We should weep with regrets of sin and we should amend our ways (Proverbs 28:13; Acts 2:37-38; Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:8-10).

 Fifth passage: Zechariah 2:8b. The actual term here is “gate of the eye.” This is the term for the pupil of the eye for them.

The context concerns the returning remnant from captivity. The message is this – “When you were hurt in going forth into captivity, it was as if someone poked me in the eye” (something painful! It’ll make a grown man cry!). The message is He felt their pain. Note – He is aware of ours as well!

This word picture, “the apple of the eye,” is rich and beneficial in our understanding God’s word. It tells of His treasuring us. It tells also of how we ought to treasure Him and His word. Moreover, it tells how we should be pained over sin. It how He is pained over our sorrows and pains.

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
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