There are a few verses within the Old Testament that discuss the "apple of the eye," so let's start by talking about what the apple of eye is within a biblical context. In ancient Hebrew, the word ishon is used for "apple" and it is connected to the root word ish, which means "man." When looking at the etymology of the word, we find that the ishon is known as "the little man of the eye." Essentially, the apple of the eye is the pupil. The pupil is what enables us to see and be seen. If you look someone straight in the eye, you may have noticed that you can see your reflection in their pupil. That's an example of being "the little man of the eye." It means you are the center of that person's focus, and they are the center of your focus.
In Proverbs, a son is being instructed in the ways of wisdom. He is told to keep the commands of wisdom: "My son, keep my words and treasure up my commandments with you; keep my commandments and live; keep my teaching as the apple of your eye" (Proverbs 7:1–2). This proverb may be directed toward a son, but it applies to all of us. The high value we should place on the teaching is indicated in where we are instructed to keep it—always in eyesight, our primary focus. If keeping the commandments is equated with having life, it can be inferred that keeping the "teachings as the apple of your eye" is another way of saying the same thing; in doing this we are kept safe.
Because we value our sense of sight, we protect our own eyes as much as we are able to. David is praying for protection from enemies in Psalm 17:8–9 and he uses this phrase: "Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings, from the wicked who do me violence, my deadly enemies who surround me." Deuteronomy 32 showcases the Lord's protective care of the Israelites while they were in the wilderness: "he encircled him, he cared for him, he kept him as the apple of his eye" (Deuteronomy 32:10). Both of these verses indicate being in the apple of God's eye as a place of protection.
Being the apple of God's eye means being at the very center of His focus and protection. He loves and protects even when His people are stubborn and rebellious or are caught in the worst of situations. His care remains constant. In a similar fashion, we are to keep God and His instructions as the apple of our eyes. When we are focused on Him, our own rebellion and worry melts away as we see ourselves where we truly are if we are in Christ, protected in the apple of God's eye.
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