Q: What Does ‘The Apple of God’s Eye’ Mean?
People often use the phrase the apple of my eye to express how precious a loved one is in their sight. The word apple is an English idiom used metaphorically for the pupil or contractile aperture (center) in the iris of the eye that lets in light. The contracting iris regulates the amount of light hitting the retina to produce an image. It is extremely delicate and sensitive to any foreign object, and impairment to this portion of the eye is irreparable.
When you look into someone’s pupil, you’ll see it acts as a mirror, reflecting your image back to you. In the biblical context, the Jewish people are metaphorically reflected in God’s eye. They are so precious to Him that He protects them as He would the pupil of His own eye.
Moses first used the phrase as a poetic description to express God’s providential care for Israel during the nation’s wilderness wanderings: “He kept him as the apple of His eye” (Dt. 32:10). In practical terms, the phrase speaks of God’s awareness of all abuse and harmful actions against the nation of Israel. The Lord is extremely sensitive to how countries over the centuries have treated His Chosen People.
King David used the phrase in a prayer for God’s guidance and protection from his enemies, as did Moses for Israel. In desperation, David cried out to God, “Keep me as the apple of Your eye” (Ps. 17:8). In other words, David asked God to protect him from harm and death at the hands of his enemies. Moses requested the same for Israel.
The prophet Zechariah said, “He who touches you touches the apple of His eye” (Zech. 2:8). In other words, anyone who harms Israel is harming God.
When Israel is afflicted, God feels it as though the affliction happened to Him. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “In all their [Israel’s] affliction He was afflicted, and the Angel of His Presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bore them and carried them all the days of old” (Isa. 63:9).
The “Angel of His presence” is a personification of God’s protective presence over Israel. God’s watchful care guarantees Israel’s survival and ultimate deliverance from every aggressor outside His will who seeks Israel’s annihilation. God’s love for Israel is unconditional (Dt. 7:6–8), unfailing (Isa. 63:9), and unending (Jer. 31:3). Israel will be preserved as long as the world exists (vv. 35–37).