EYE ().

—Biblical Data:

This important organ is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible, but is described only in its external appearance and significance, according to the experience of daily life. The following parts are mentioned: the eyeball ("bat 'ayin" = "girl of the eye," "little doll"; Lam. ii. 18; "babat 'ayin," Zech. ii. 12; comp. Levy, "Chal. Wörterb." i. 419b); the pupil ("ishon" = "little man," whose image appears in the eye as in a mirror; Deut. xxxii. 10; Ps. xvii. 8; Prov. vii. 2; comp. Prov. vii. 9, xx. 20); the eye-socket ("ḥor"; Zech. xiv. 2); the eyelashes ("'ap'appayim"; Ps. xi. 4; Prov. vi. 25; by synecdoche = "the eye"; comp. Job xli. 10); the eyelids ("shemurot"; Ps. lxxvii. 5), and the eyebrows ("gabbot 'enaw"; Lev. xiv, 9).

The eye of the Oriental is not only large, but it is also very strong. It appears from Gen. xxix. 17 that weak eyes were an exception. Near-sightedness, far-sighteduess, and weak-sightedness are not mentioned. The eye became weak, heavy, or fixed in old age (Gen. xxvii. i.; Deut. xxxiv. 10, I Sam. iv. 15; compare also Eccl. xii. 3). The sight was also impaired by sorrow and misfortune (Ps. vi. 8, xxxi. 10, lxxxviii. 10; Job xvii. 7). The eye is the source of tears (Jer. viii. 23); and tears flowed often and copiously (Lam. i. 16; iii. 48, 49; Ps. cxix. 136), injuring and even ruining the eyes (Lam. ii. 11, iii. 51; I Sam. ii. 33; Jer. xiv. 6). Sorrow dims and obscures the eyes (Lev. xxvi. 16; Deut. xxviii. 32, 65; Job xxxi. 16; Lam. v. 17); while under favorable circumstances they light up (I Sam. xiv. 27, 29). The eye is said to be affected by emotions in general (Ps. lxix. 4; cxix. 82, 132). The fat eye of persons addicted to high living protrudes (Ps. lxxiii. 7); much drinking of wine makes the eye deep red (Gen. xlix. 12; Prov. xxiii. 29). The son closed the eyes of his dead parent (Gen. xlvi. 4).

Diseases and Care of the Eye.

How far blindness—very frequent in antiquity—prevailed in ancient Israel can not be determined from the references found in the Bible. Blind persons are spoken of comparatively seldom (see Jew. Encyc. iii. 248, s.v. Blind, The). If a priest became blind or had a spot on his eye ("teballul be-'eno"; Lev. xxi. 20), he was not allowed to officiate at the sacrifice. Diseases of the eye were not recognized as such, since the oculist's art was not at all developed among any ancient people except the Egyptians; hence nothing has been transmitted on this point, and the nature of the diseases mentioned can not be definitely determined. The reference to the "shut" eyes (Isa. xliv. 18) indicates that an inflammation of the eyes is generally meant; and the same may be assumed from the expressions used to denote "opening the eyes" (Isa. xlii. 7, xxix. 19, xxxv. 5; comp. ib. xliii. 8; Num. xxii. 31; Ps. cxix. 18). The original inhabitants of Palestine are called figuratively "pricks" and "thorns" in the eyes (Num. xxxiii. 55; Josh. xxiii. 13). In regard to the care of the eyes, it is said that smoke injures them (Prov. x. 26). Women used a cosmetic for the eye consisting of a mixture of plumbagin and zinc, which they applied to the inner surface of the eyelids in such a way as to produce a narrow black rim, making the eyes appear larger (II Kings ix. 30; Jer. iv. 30; Isa. liv. 11; Ezek. xxiii. 40).

Blinding as a Punishment.

The barbaric custom of putting out the eyes was practised quite frequently. Samson was blinded by the Philistines, and King Zedekiah by the Babylonians (Judges xvi. 21; II Kings xxv, 7; Jer. xxxix. 7, lii, 11). The Ammonites consented to make peace with the inhabitants of Jabesh only on condition that all of them would submit to having their right eyes "thrust out" (I Sam. xi. 2). The "lex talionis" is expressed by the phrase "eye for eye" (Ex. xxi. 24; Lev. xxiv. 20; Leut. xix. 21; comp. Ex. xxi. 26). The custom of putting out the eyes was so widely spread that it became a figurative term for deceiving (Num. xvi. 14).

Emotional Significance of the Eye.

The ancient Israelites had very expressive eyes. Desire, love, hatred, pride, etc., were all expressed in the eye; and in the Hebrew language are found separate terms for all modes of seeing and not seeing (Gen. iii. 6; Num. xv. 39; I Kings ix. 3; II Chron. xvi. 9; Job x. 4, xv. 2, xvi. 9, xxxi. 7, xxxix. 29; Ps. x. 8, xxxv. 19; Prov. vi. 13, x. 10, xxiii. 5, xxviii. 27, xxx. 13; Eccl. ii. 10; Cant. iv. 9; Ecclus. [Sirach] xxvi. 29, xxvii. 22; Isa. iii. 16, vi. 10; Ezek. vi. 9, xxii. 26; God's eye, Ps. xciv. 9). According to Ecclus. (Sirach) xxiii. 19, God's eye is 10,000 times brighter than the sun. Good will and malevolence are mirrored in the eye (Prov. xxii. 9, xxiii. 6; I Sam. xviii. 9; Deut. xv. 9; xxviii. 54, 56). The raising of the eyes expressed a wish, as it still does among children (Ps. cxxiii. 1; Isa. xxxviii. 14). "Eye" is often used metaphorically (Ex. x. 5, 15 and Num. xxii. 5 ["the eye (= "face ") of the earth"]; Prov. i. 17 ["the eye (= "sight") of any bird"]; Cant. i. 15, iv. 1, v. 12 ["eyes of doves"]; Ezek. i. 4, 7; x. 9 ["like the eye(= "color") of amber," etc.]; Zech. ix. 1 ["the eyes (= "sight") of all men"]).

E. G. H.—In Rabbinical Literature:

Much more was known regarding the anatomy and physiology of the eye during the period of tradition in the centuries immediately preceding and succeeding the beginning of the common era than in Biblical times. The eyeball of man is round, while that of a beast is oblong. It consists of a dark and a white mass separated from each other by a narrow rim. The white part preponderates in the human eye, while the black preponderates in the eyes of beasts. The white is derived from the father; the black, from the mother. The black part is the means of sight. Eyes and eyesight differ in size and strength in various persons. "Persons with large eyes often have a peculiar expression. Heavy eyelids droop. The eyebrows are sometimes close to the eye; sometimes they are so long that they hang far down the face; and again there are no eyebrows at all. The eyelashes also may be heavy or sparse, or there may be none at all. Sometimes the eyes are very deeply set, a formation that may be regarded as a bodily defect" (Rosenzweig, "Das Auge in Bibel und Talmud," pp. 12, 19).

Care and Diseases of the Eye.

Pain in the eyes is dangerous, as the sight is connected with the heart ('Ab. Zarah 28b). Some kinds of food are beneficial and others harmful to the sight. Fine bread and old wine are good for the eyes, as well as for the entire body. Rapid walking consumes one five-hundredth part of the sight. Much talking hurts one whose eyes are affected. Dirt is harmful, and many diseases are caused by touching the eyes with unwashed hands. The salt taken from the Dead Sea is especially dangerous. The eyes of the inhabitants of Palmyra twitch because they live in a sandy region (Rosenzweig, l.c. pp. 20 et seq.). Water is excellent for the eyes. A drop of cold water in the eyes in the morning and washing the hands and feet at night are better than all the eyesalves in the world (Shab. 78a, 108b). Tears contain salt in order that they may not flow unrestrictedly in sorrow and distress, which would be very injurious. Tears produced by smoke or weeping injure the eye, while those that are produced by laughter or incense are beneficial. A collyrium made of stibium or antimony is often mentioned (comp. Levy, "Neuhebr. Wörterb." s.v. ). This salve was forbidden when made by the heathen (Niddah 55b; Yer. 'Ab. Zarah 40d). The veil of the Arabian Jewish women left the eyes exposed (Shab. 65a; Yer. Shab. 7b). Several diseases of the eye are mentioned, but they can not be definitely identified. Professional and popular therapeutics are found side by side. Either Galen influenced the rabbinical physicians, or both he and they drew from the same source (see Medicine). Artificial eyes made of gold are mentioned (Yer. Ned. 41c; comp. Yer. Sanh. 13c).

With the rise of Arabian culture the art of medicine was more highly developed, and physicians acquired a scientific knowledge of the eye, although this was not advanced beyond the point reached by Galen, either by the Arabian or the Jewish physicians, or by Christian practitioners, down to the eighteenth century. The general history of medicine, therefore, presents also the theories of the Jewish physicians regarding the eye. For the history of the sense of sight as recorded by the Jewish philosophers, exegetes, and other non-medical writers of the Middle Ages, see D. Kaufmann's exhaustive monograph, "Die Sinne," in "Jahresbericht der Landes-Rabbinerschule," Budapest, 1884.

  • A. Rosenzweig, Das Auge in Bibel und Talmud, Berlin, 1892;
  • Friedmann, Der Blinde, Vienna, 1873;
  • G. Brecher, Das Transeendentale;
  • Magie und Magische Heilarten im Talmud, ib. 1850;
  • Hamburger, R. B. T. i. 134 et seq., 193;
  • Hastings, Diet. Bible, i. 814.
S. S. L. B.—Color:

The color of the eyes is an important racial trait. The various colors are due to the amount of pigmentation, and can be reduced to three; viz., fair (blue, gray), dark (black, brown), and intermediate (green, yellow, etc.).

The Jews have usually black or brown eyes. The appended table (No. 1) shows the colors of the eyes of 147,375 school-children in various countries:

Table No. 1.

Observations on children must, however, be taken with reserve, because their eyes grow darker when they reach maturity. The appended table (No. 2), showing the colors of the eyes in more than 7,000 Jews, brings out this point clearly:

Table No. 2.
Galicia94355.0437.017.95Majer and Kopernicki.
Galicia2560.020.020.0Majer and Kopernicki.

It will be observed that the frequency of light,particularly blue, eyes among Jews reaches 25 per cent in some series (Ammon, Beddoe, Fishberg, Weissenberg). Some anthropologists claim that this trait points to intermixture of foreign, non-Semitic blood, especially Aryan. In support of this view it is shown that in those countries where light-colored eyes are frequent among the indigenous population the Jews also show a larger percentage of blue and of gray eyes. This can be seen in Table No. 2. In Baden over 50 per cent of Jewish recruits have blue or gray eyes; in Russia the percentage is less; while in Caucasia, where the native races have dark eyes, the Jews show 84.31 per cent of dark eyes. The English Sephardim show even a higher percentage of blue eyes than the Ashkenazim.

An important phenomenon in connection with the eyes of Jews is the variation of color according to sex. It appears from the figures in Table No. 2 that the eyes of Jewesses are darker than those of Jews. Joseph Jacobs sees in this a comparatively small variability of type among Jewesses as compared with Jews ("Racial Characteristics of Modern Jews," in "Jour. Anthropological Institute," 1885, v.).

The Jew's Eye.

The appearance and form of the Jewish eye have attracted much attention. It is stated that a Jew may be recognized by the appearance of his eyes even when his features as a whole are not peculiarly Jewish. Ripley ("Races of Europe," p. 396) gives this description: "The eyebrows, seemingly thick because of their darkness, appear nearer together than usual, arching smoothly into the lines of the nose. The lids are rather full, the eyes large, dark, and brilliant. A general impression of heaviness is apt to be given. In favorable cases this imparts a dreamy, melancholy, or thoughtful expression to the countenance; in others it degenerates into a blinking, drowsy type; or again, with eyes half-closed, it may suggest suppressed cunning." Similar descriptions of the Jewish eye are given by Leroy-Beaulieu ("Israel Among the Nations," p. 113) and also Jacobs (Jew. Encyc. i. 620a, s.v. Anthropology).

  • Majer and Kopernicki, Charakterystyka Fizyczna Ludnosci Galicyjskiej, in Zbior Wiodom. do Antropol. Kraj. i. 1877, ii. 1885;
  • Blechman, Ein Beitrag zur Anthropologie der Juden, Dorpat, 1882;
  • J. Talko-Hyncewicz, Charakterystyka Fizyczna Ludnosci Zydowskiej Litwi i Rusi, in Zbior Wiodom. do Antropol Kraj. xvi., 1892;
  • S. Weissenberg, Die Südrussischen Juden, in Archiv für Anthropologie, xxiii. 347-423, 531-579;
  • J. Jacobs, On the Racial Characteristics of Modern Jews, in Jour. Anthropological Institute. xv. 23-62;
  • idem and I. Spielman, On the Comparative Anthropometry of English Jews, ib. xix. 76-88;
  • L. Glück, Beiträge zur Physischen Anthropoloie der Spaniolen, in Wissenschaftliche Mittheilungen, aus Bosnien und der Herzegowina, iv. 587-592;
  • I. I. Pantukhof, Observations Anthropologiques an Caucase, Tiflis, 1899;
  • O. Ammon, Zur Anthropologie der Badener, Jena, 1899;
  • J. Beddoe, On the Physical Characteristics of the Jews, in Tr. Ethnological Soc. i. 222-237, London, 1861;
  • Yakowenko, Material for the Anthropology of the Jews (in Russian), St. Petersburg, 1898;
  • M. Fishberg, Physical Anthropology of the Jews, in American Anthropologist, Jan.-March 1903.

Inability to distinguish colors may be the result of disease or of injury, or it may be congenital.

Among Jews the defect is known to be extremely frequent, as is shown very clearly by the first table following, taken from Jacobs.

In a later communication Jacobs gives his own investigations on the subject ("On the Comparative Anthropometry of English Jews," in "Jour. Anthropological Institute," xix. 76-88), which show a yet larger proportion of color-blindness among English Jews:

No.Place. Jews. Others. Authority.
814Breslau4.12.1 Cohn, in "Centralbl. für Augenheilkunde," 1873, p. 97.
949London(boys) 4.9 3.5"Tr. Ophthalmological Soc." i. 198.
730" (girls) 3.1 0.4
500Frankfort 1.8 2.9 Carl, "Untersuchungen," 1881.
500Italy(boys) 2.9 2.7 Ottolenghi, "Gaz. Cliniche," 1883.
420" (girls) 0.0...Idem, in "Vessillo Israelitico," Sept., 1884.
East End. West End. All. Sephardim.
Jews 14.8 3.4 12.7 13.4
Jewesses .... 2.1 2.0 0.0

The average percentage of color-blindness among Jews examined by Cohn, Carl, Ottolenghi, and others, is about 4 per cent. Among the English Jews Jacobs has found that it is more than three times as large as this. These investigations confirm the general observations that color-blindness is more frequent in men than in women (Havelock Ellis, "Man and Woman," pp. 138-145). They also show that the East End (London) Jews, who are poorer, have a larger percentage of color-blindness than their wealthier brethren of the West End.

Jacobs attributes color-blindness to the fact that the Jews are town-dwellers, where comparatively so little color, and especially so little green, is to be met with.

To this high proportion of color-blindness he also attributes "the absence of any painters of great ability among Jews, and the want of taste shown by Jewesses of the lower grades of society," which manifests itself in the preference for bright primary colors for wearing-apparel.

It must also be remembered that in the main the Jews in almost every country are poor. They are consequently the class of people which is most predisposed to color-blindness. In the "Report" of the Committee on Color-Blindness appointed by the Ophthalmological Society of London it is stated that the reason for the high percentage of color-blindness found among the Jews lies in the fact that those of them who were examined were priacipally of the poorer class.

—Defective Vision:

Jacobs and Spielman in their investigations on the comparative anthropometry of English Jews ("Jour. Anthropological Institute," 1889, p. 79) showed that London Jews could read a test-type at a distance of only 19 inches as against 25 inches by other Londoners; Jewesses were not so markedly inferior, 23 inches as against 24 inches. On the other hand, the better-nurtured Jews had a range of 29 inches.

Botwinnick reports his observations on 829 Jews and 2,763 Christians in Russia. Of the Christians2.21 per cent were affected with near-sightedness, while about 4½ times as many Jews—9.88 per cent—were thus affected. The same observer shows that cases of myopia of a high degree (technically known as "10D") are more frequent among Jews than among non-Jews. His investigations in the Jewish schools in St. Petersburg revealed the fact that among Jewish school-children 16.7 per cent (16.5 per cent in boys and 16.8 per cent in girls) suffered from near-sightedness, as against 2 to 7.5 per cent in Christian children. Beginning with the twelfth year of life, when 18.2 per cent were affected with myopia, the percentage rose, nearly one-half of all the Jewish children from 16 to 18 years of age being near sighted.

Astigmatism is also very frequent among Jews. Javal and Wecker have shown that it is of a peculiar kind. The horizontal meridian of the cornea presents the maximum of curvature. This is contrary to the rule, the maximum of curvature being usually perpendicular (Wecker, "Sur l'Astigmatisme dans Ses Rapports avec la Conformation des Os du Crâne," in "Bulletin de la Société d'Anthropologie," June 15, 1869, pp. 545-547).

Botwinnick attributes the near-sightedness of the Jews to hereditary predisposition to weakness of the organ of sight. But this does not by any means explain the problem. The fact that the Jews are town-dwellers must not be overlooked. Besides this, the Jews are a nation of students.

  • Joseph Jacobs and I. Spielman, On the Comparative Anthropometry of English, Jews, in Jour. Anthropological Institute, xix. 76-88;
  • N. R. Botwinnick, Materiali k Voprosu o Blisorukosti u Evreev, in Vratch, 1899, No. 42.

Jews are known to be great sufferers from diseases of the eyes. The most frequent of these appears to be trachoma or granular conjunctivitis. Pilz ("Augenheilkunde," 1859) was the first to direct attention to this fact. In the city of New York the board of health recently (1903) investigated the frequency of trachoma among school-children. The results show that the disease was very prevalent in schools where the majority of the pupils were Jewish.

Glaucoma is another disease of the eyes prevalent among Jews. The characteristics of this disease are steadily increasing hardness of the globe of the eye, with pressure and cupping of the optic nerve; and forward pressure of the iris and dilation of pupil. It is very injurious to the eyesight.

As a result of these diseases blindness is very frequent among Jews (see Jew. Encyc. iii. 249, s.v. Blindness).

The most important sequela of trachoma is entropion, which consists in a distressing distortion of the lid-borders, due to the formation of contracting scar-tissue, which causes misdirection of the eyelashes, so that they turn against the globe. This condition is frequent among the Jews of eastern Europe, Egypt, and Palestine, who are huddled together in unhealthful dwellings and live under the worst conditions of poverty and misery.

Hervé states that lacrimal tumors are very frequent among Jews. He attributes this to an anatomical peculiarity, the narrowness of the nasal canal among Jews ("Bulletin de la Société d'Anthropologie," Dec. 20, 1883, p. 915).

Of the other diseases of the eyes frequent among Jews may be mentioned simple conjunctivitis, and particularly blepharitis, which consists in an inflammation of the lid-borders, with a resulting falling out of the eyelashes. In extreme cases, because of the destruction of the eyelashes and consequent distortion of the eyelids, it proves to be a most unsightly facial blemish. This disease is frequent among the Jews of eastern Europe, Egypt, and Palestine. It can be stated that the conditions predisposing to this disease are identical with those causing trachoma.

J. M. Fi.