Of the five senses, the eye is the most significant in Scripture. The Old Testament word eye (ayin) is the 16th letter of the Hebrew alphabet, originally a circle symbolizing the eye. It can refer to eyelike objects, such as pools of color (Ezek. 1:4); springs or fountains (Prov. 8:28); facets of a jewel (Zech. 3:9); broad daylight (II Sam. 12:11); or surface of the earth (Exod. 10:5). And eye in Old Testament and New Testament (ophthalmos) refers both to the bodily organ itself and, by figure of speech, to seeing and many related actions, such as knowing, perceiving, and judging. But the main significance of eye is as a metaphor for faith. Faith comes by hearing, but seeing is believing. By faith Abraham rejoiced to see Jesus’ day (John 8:56). Paul was sent to open the eyes of the Gentiles and turn them from darkness to light that they may receive forgiveness (Acts 26:18). In the gospel, Jesus is set forth before our eyes (Gal. 3:1). And the gospel call is, “Look unto me and be saved” (Is. 45:22).
The eye is an apt metaphor for faith because both are faculties that permit communion between dissimilar realities by receiving knowledge through light. The light of the body is the eye (Matt. 6:22). The eye is the interface of the soul by which information received from the physical realm by light waves is communicated to the soul for processing. To see is to know or perceive (Is. 41:20). And to have faith is to have the eyes of understanding enlightened (Eph. 1:18) or see things unseen (II Cor. 4:18). Whereas without faith, the understanding is darkened, so that seeing one sees not or perceives (Matt. 13:13; Eph. 4:18). “In the eye” refers to judgments based on seeing (Jer. 7:11). Something can be good or right in the eyes (approved or pleasing), bad or evil in the eyes (sinful or wicked), smoke in the eyes (annoying), despised, abhorred, or glorious in the eyes (Gen. 16:4; Exod. 5:21; Is. 49:5). One can find grace in the eyes (favor or blessing). And to be the apple (pupil) of the eye is to be considered vulnerable but precious. Like faith, the eye is also capable of depth perception (Heb. 11:3) and two-way communication whereby qualities, emotions, and desires of the soul are revealed. Eyes reflect life, death (Ps. 13:3), riches, poverty (Ps. 73:7), generosity, stinginess (Prov. 22:9, 23:6), greed, contentment (Eccl. 4:8), aimlessness, purpose (Ps. 17:11), arrogance, humility (Prov. 6:17;Job 22:29), mockery, pity (Prov. 30:17; Ezek. 16:5), grief, joy (Ps. 88:9). And with dove’s eyes, the beloved communicates her love (Song 1:15).
Ironic, it is, that the eyes God uses as a metaphor to save us, also get us into so much trouble. Tempted by the prospect of eyes being opened, and seeing the tree was pleasant to the eyes, Eve fell (Gen. 3:5-8). If the eye is evil, the whole body is full of darkness (Matt. 6:23). The eye can offend, bring to hell, be wanton, hasty to be rich, and not be satisfied (Is. 3:16; Prov. 28:22; Eccl. 1:8). The hypocrite sees the mote in a brother’s eye but no beam in his own (Matt. 7:3). While the lawless soul does that which is right in his own eyes (Prov. 12:15).
As with faith, God is sovereign in the matter of eyes. The Lord made the seeing eye (Prov. 20:12). Eyes can see well, or be blemished, dim, weak, weary, darkened, and wasted (Lev. 21:20; Deut. 28:65;Gen. 48:10; Is. 38:14). The Lord can shut eyes and open them (Is. 6:10; Ps. 119: 18), deliver eyes from tears, turn them from beholding vanity, and enlighten them (Ps. 116:8, 19:8; Eph. 1:17). And He that formed the eye, shall He not see? (Ps. 94:9). The eyes of the Lord are in every place, observing good and evil (Prov. 15:3). They behold and try the children of men (Ps. 11:4). His eyes are upon the sinful to destroy them (Amos 9:8), and before His eyes the fool cannot stand (Ps. 5:5). But His eyes run through the whole earth to defend the righteous (Zech. 4:10). His eyes are set upon them for good and never withdrawn (Job 36:7; Jer. 24:6; Ps. 33:18). He sees our substance in the womb, keeps us as the apple of His eye, and our death is precious in His eyes (Ps. 139:16, 116:15, 17:8). Therefore His salvation is marvelous in our eyes (Ps. 118:23). With eager eyes we look unto the Lord (Ps. 133:2). Although in the eyes of men we are reduced to nothing (B.C., Art. 27), eye hath not seen the things that God has prepared for them that love Him (I Cor. 2:9). When the Lord shall return, we shall be changed in the twinkling of an eye (I Cor. 15:52), shall see Him eye to eye (Is. 52:8), and He shall wipe all tears from our eyes (Rev. 21:4).