The organ of sight, a highly efficient, self-adjusting “camera” that transmits impulses to the brain, where the object focused on the eye’s retina is interpreted as sight. The Hebrew ʽaʹyin and the Greek o·phthal·mosʹ are both used in literal and figurative senses. The Hebrew term is also used to denote a “fountain” or ‘spring.’ (Ge 24:13; Ex 15:27) The possession of two eyes, as in the human body, provides stereoscopic vision. The loss of sight is a tremendous handicap because sight is probably the most important channel of communication to the mind.
The eye is one of the most beautiful parts of the body. (Ca 1:15; 4:9; 7:4) So disfiguring and detrimental was an eye affliction that one could not serve as a priest under the Law covenant if he was blind or diseased in either eye. (Le 21:18, 20) In Israel, under the Law, the man who knocked out the eye of his slave had to let the slave go free. (Ex 21:26) In order to humiliate and to shatter the power of their enemies, some ancient nations followed the cruel practice of blinding prominent men among the captured enemy.
The structure of the eye reveals marvelous design on the part of its Maker, and the process by which the brain interprets what is transmitted through the eye is far from being understood by scientists. All of this points to its Designer’s intelligence. Jehovah God himself testifies to his creatorship of the eye, saying: “The One forming the eye, can he not look?”
Jehovah’s Eyes. God helps humans to understand and appreciate things about himself by likening them to things that we see and know well. Thus he speaks figuratively of his “eyes” being on his people, evidently indicating his watchfulness and loving care for them. The apostle Peter says: “The eyes of Jehovah are upon the righteous ones.” (1Pe 3:12) God emphasizes this care and sensitiveness for their welfare when he speaks of his servants as “the pupil” of his eye, metaphorically representing their preciousness in his sight and his quickness to act in their behalf when touched by the enemy.
Describing God’s observation of the actions of all men, Jeremiah wrote that His “eyes are opened upon all the ways of the sons of men, in order to give to each one according to his ways.” (Jer 32:19) Of Jehovah’s omniscience and his purpose to exercise justice toward all, the apostle Paul wrote: “There is not a creation that is not manifest to his sight, but all things are naked and openly exposed to the eyes of him with whom we have an accounting.” (Heb 4:13; 2Ch 16:9; Ps 66:7; Pr 15:3) Of the searching quality of God’s examination of men, the psalmist says: “His own eyes behold, his own beaming eyes examine the sons of men.”
Jehovah’s ability to know a person’s characteristics and tendencies or his genetic makeup even while he is being formed in the womb, as was the case with Jacob and Esau (Ge 25:21-23; Ro 9:10-13), is indicated by the psalmist David’s words: “Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing, as regards the days when they were formed and there was not yet one among them.”
Illustrative Usage. The human eye is an important channel of communication to the mind, strongly influencing the emotions and actions. Satan tempted Eve by causing her to desire something seen with her eyes. (Ge 3:6) He attempted to induce Jesus to sin by reaching out improperly for things seen with his eyes. (Lu 4:5-7) And the apostle John tells us that “the desire of the eyes” is one of the things originating with this world, which is passing away. (1Jo 2:16, 17) Many of the emotions are likewise expressed by the eyes, and so the Scriptures use the expressions “lofty [haughty] eyes” (Pr 6:17); “lustrous eyes” (of the bad, seductive woman
Gestures by means of the eyes are very expressive of the individual’s feelings. They may show pity or lack of it (De 19:13); they may ‘wink’ or ‘blink’ in derision, or in scheming insincerity. (Ps 35:19; Pr 6:13; 16:30) One who does not want to observe or who does not desire to carry out an act for another may be spoken of as shutting or hiding his eyes. (Mt 13:15; Pr 28:27) The stupid one is said to have his eyes “at the extremity of the earth,” wandering here and there without any fixed object, his thoughts being everywhere except where they ought to be. (Pr 17:24) Even a person’s health, vigor, or state of happiness is manifested by the appearance of his eyes. (1Sa 14:27-29; De 34:7; Job 17:7; Ps 6:7; 88:9) King Jehoshaphat addressed Jehovah: “Our eyes are toward you.”
In certain contexts the “eyes” refer to a person’s judgment (Ge 19:14; Pr 12:15; Mt 21:42), presence (Ge 23:11), knowledge (Nu 15:24), attention (Ge 44:21; Lu 4:20), or sympathy (Pr 28:27). The Hebrew word ʽaʹyin (eye) can also refer to the appearance of something, as the “visible surface” of the earth (Ex 10:5, ftn), the “look” of manna and electrum (Nu 11:7, ftn; Eze 1:4), the “sparkle” of wine (Pr 23:31), the “sparkle” of ice (Eze 1:22), and the “sight” of copper (Da 10:6).
Seeing God; Jesus. Spirit creatures, angels, are able to behold the brilliance of Jehovah (Mt 18:10; Lu 1:19), an experience that no human eyes could endure, for Jehovah himself told Moses: “No man may see me and yet live.” (Ex 33:20) John said: “No man has seen God at any time.” (Joh 1:18) Therefore, when Jesus told his disciple Philip: “He that has seen me has seen the Father also” (Joh 14:9), and when the apostle John said: “He that does bad has not seen God” (3Jo 11), obviously they were speaking of seeing God, not with one’s physical eyes, but with what the apostle Paul described as ‘the eyes of the heart.’ (Eph 1:18) Those who see with the eyes of the heart are those who have really come to know God, appreciating his qualities, and that is why John could say: “He that does not love has not come to know God, because God is love.”
So, too, in view of the fact that Jesus said ‘the world would behold him no more’ (Joh 14:19), the statement at Revelation 1:7: “Every eye will see him [Jesus Christ],” must have reference, not to the literal eye, but, rather, to the effect upon the mind of human observers of the evidences that they can see with their literal eyes when he goes forth to destroy his enemies. The Bible plainly indicates, however, that those whom God calls to heavenly life with Christ will literally see God, which requires for them resurrection in a heavenly spiritual body.
Spiritual Sight. The spiritual eye as well as the physical eye is a gift of God. (Pr 20:12) He promises to heal spiritual eyes as well as physical ones and to remove all causes for tears. (Isa 35:5; Re 21:4) One cannot understand God’s purposes without the gift of spiritual eyesight. On the other hand, Jehovah hides his truth from the eyes of those who are stubborn or rebellious, letting “their eyes become darkened.” (Ro 11:8-10; Lu 19:42) “They have [literal] eyes, but they cannot see [spiritually].”
Jesus also pointed out that one’s spiritual vision must be kept sharp and in focus. He said: “The lamp of the body is the eye. If, then, your eye is simple [sincere; all one way; in focus; generous], your whole body will be bright; but if your eye is wicked, your whole body will be dark. If in reality the light that is in you is darkness, how great that darkness is!” (Mt 6:22, 23, ftn) Jesus further counsels that a person should not presume to offer to extract a mere “straw” from his brother’s eye to help him to render more acceptable judgments, when one’s own ability to render proper judgment is impaired by a “rafter.”
The apostle John saw the throne of God and in conjunction with it four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. (Re 4:6, 8) Creatures with such equipment could be continually on the watch, able to see all things. They would be fully aware of what was taking place here on earth and would take note of God in all things and observe all his indications of what he wanted done. (Compare Ps 123:2; also Eze 1:18; 10:12.) Jehovah counsels his servants not to let his sayings ‘get away from their eyes.’
See NEEDLE’S EYE.