Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings, From the wicked who oppress me, From my deadly enemies who surround me. - Psalm 17v8-9
Though we all understand what the ‘apple of the eye’ means and it is a beautiful phrase, the origin of this old English word misses the point of what the psalmist was saying. The phrase seems to have come from the shape of what we now call the pupil of our eye and it was by King Alfred in its modern figurative sense as far back as the 10th century. Apparently the Anglo-Saxons coined the word because the literal pupil of the eye was spherical, like an apple. Since the eye is so well protected in the head and so carefully guarded the phrase developed to mean anything that was precious and protected, something that was very dear.
A little look at the phrase will help us understand more of why it means what it does to us. It pictured someone who is precious and dear. Hebrew literature used ‘daughter of the eye’ and Arabic used the phrase ‘the little man of the eye.’ This is the literal sense of the Hebrew used here. The use of the word comes from the fact that the image of one being looked at supposedly can be seen is a mirror image on the eye of the beholder.
Believe or not the modern word ‘pupil’ actually captures the idea better even though we don’t normally connect it. It comes from a Latin word which means the ‘little boy’ or ‘little girl’ of the eye. We can now see the connection when we think of pupils in a classroom.
Anyway, back to the verse. I love to look at how our phrases develop and sometimes get caught up in that.
The blessing is obvious. As God’s children we are the ‘little people of His eye.’ It pictures the fact that He is always watching us and watching out for us. We are like the ‘daughter of His eye’ in the fact that we are precious to Him.
‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of world. Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight…’
Thank God that we are the ‘little children’ of His eye.