The apple of his eye

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It’s one of those sayings that trip off the tongue.  It’s said by a doting father to his son; a protective husband to his wife; perhaps even a musician to their favourite instrument: “You’re the apple of my eye.”  We know that it means “my beloved”.  But for most of us, we’re not really sure why it means that.  And what exactly the “apple” of the eye is!

The phrase occurs a number of times in the King James Bible and in fact it was a phrase that was already used in English translations prior to 1611.

It translates a Hebrew phrase that would mean more literally “little man of the eye.”  You could possibly also translate it “dark spot of the eye”.  And there you understand that it refers to the pupil.

In Old English the pupil was called the apple of the eye as far back as the 9th century.  So between this Old English idiom and the Old Testament phrase we get “apple of the eye.”

Whatever you treat as the apple of your eye is something about which you are massively protective.  Our own eye sockets, eye lids and eyebrows surround this extremely sensitive part of us.  To lose an eye is not only incredibly disabling, but horribly shaming also (e.g. Judges 16:21; 2 Kings 25:7).  We protect our eyes at all costs.

So what does God treat as the apple of His eye?

“For the LORD’S portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.  He found him in a desert land, and in the waste howling wilderness; he led him about, he instructed him, he kept him as the apple of his eye.  As an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings:  So the LORD alone did lead him, and there was no strange god with him.  He made him ride on the high places of the earth, that he might eat the increase of the fields; and he made him to suck honey out of the rock, and oil out of the flinty rock.”   (Deuteronomy 32:9-13)

[O LORD] Keep me as the apple of the eye, hide me under the shadow of thy wings  (Psalm 17:8)

He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of His eye.  (Zechariah 2:8)

God’s people are jealously loved, protected and honoured.  We are the apple of His eye!

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