[b-hebrew] "The eye of the earth"

Harold R. Holmyard III hholmyard at ont.com
Sun Jun 27 17:29:53 EDT 2004

Dear Yigal,

>In Balak's message to Balaam (Num. 22:5), which he repeats to God in 
>verse 11, he refers to the Israelites as "there is a people come out 
>from Egypt, behold, they cover )t (YN H)RC (et `ein ha-arec)". This 
>is usually translated as "the face of the earth". The general 
>meaning is clear, they are so many that they cover the whole land.
>However, an (YN, literally "eye", is usually something small and 
>localized. It's most common use outside of anatomy is for "spring" 
>or "well".
>So what exactly is "the eye of the earth"? Why should "eye" mean "face"?

HH: It seems to be a meaning derived from the eye as giving what 
one's sees or what is visible. This sense also occurs in Ex 10:5, 15. 
(YN in the plural in the phrase "in his eyes" means something like 
"in his viewpoint" in Lev 13:5, or "as he sees it." We speak of 
checking out the "look of the land." (YN as "eye" functions like 
"look" in speaking of the appearance. Somebody "casts as eager eye" 
at something by giving it an avid look. We speak of having an "eye 
for beauty," a good recognition of beauty. To "catch somebody's eye" 
is to capture their attention. Beauty is "in the eye of the 
beholder," the estimation of the onlooker. To be "under the eye of" 
one's superior is to be under his supervision. Doing something with 
an "eye to public opinion" is to do it with consideration of how the 
public will look at it. These examples from the dictionary shows the 
extended use that the word "eye" can have in English, and it was 
apparently this way with biblical Hebrew.

					Harold Holmyard

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