Ayin


Ayin is the sixteenth letter in the Hebrew alphabet. Ayin (also written as Ayen) has no sound of its own, but usually has a vowel associated with it. Every line in Psalm 119:121–128 starts with this letter. Ayin looks like this:

ayin

Like the first letter of the aleph-bet (Aleph), Ayin is a silent letter, so it represents an attitude of humility. The Ayin doesn’t speak, but it “sees” because it is the Hebrew word for “eye” and “to see”.

Rabbis teach that the letter Ayin shows two “eyes” at the top, portraying how Yahweh is able to see both sides of every situation. This letter reminds us that God is watching over us all the time. The eyes of the Lord represent His intimate knowledge about every part of our lives.

“The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.”
(Proverbs 15:3)

In Psalm 119:120-128, David described himself as a servant three times (v. 122, 124, 125). The word servant starts with the silent letter “Ayin”, showing that our service to God and to others should be done without bragging about what we do or drawing attention to ourselves.

Jewish scholars love to find numerical connections in the scriptures. They point out that in Genesis 16, Hagar said, “You are the God who sees me. I have now seen the one who sees me.” The sixteenth letter plays big in the sixteenth chapter of the first book in the Torah.

Because we have two eyes, traditional Hebrews teach that everyone has one evil eye and one good eye, and we choose which one to use to interpret the world around us. Even Jesus used the idea of “good eyes” and “bad eyes” in the Sermon on the Mount.

The eye is the lamp of the whole body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. Matthew 6:22-23

The meaning of this is easily lost on us because He was using an idiom, or a figure of speech, that was relevant in Jewish culture. (Like when we say, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” we don’t mean literal cats and dogs are falling out of the sky.)

In Jesus’ day, to have a “good eye” meant you were generous and open-hearted and to have a “bad eye” meant you were stingy and always chasing after money. Reading this passage in context, it makes sense. Just prior to these verses about eyes, Jesus talked about storing up treasure in heaven. Just after, He taught that we cannot serve both God and money. He wasn’t preaching about eyes! He was teaching about money! He was using an idiom that His audience completely understood. Be generous. Don’t be stingy.

“If we love others sincerely and have a generous spirit, our life will be full of light. If we think only of our own gain, turning a blind eye to the needs of others, our lives will be dark indeed.” (Listening to the Language of the Bible, Lois Tverberg)

The dual nature of our eyes means we need to “keep an eye” on our eyes. On one hand, we can have the eyes of our hearts enlightened by the Spirit. (Eph. 1:18) On the other hand, we have to constantly battle against “the lust of the eyes.” (1 John 2:16)

eyes

Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see.
Oh be careful, little eyes, what you see.
For the Father up above is looking down in love,
So be careful, little eyes, what you see.

ayin (1)

Next: My favorite word in the Bible that starts with “R”.

3 thoughts on “Ayin

  1. With little intention I have been learning Hebrew!!! Thank you Dinah!!! Your tutelage has been read and deciphered and absorbed and enjoyed! Thank you

  2. Pingback: Pe | a small drop of ink

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