(ra` `ayin, "evil of eye"; ophthalmos poneros):
The superstition of the influence of the "evil eye," so widely spread over the earth, has had a mighty influence on life and language in Palestine, though direct references to it are not frequent in the Scriptures (Deuteronomy 15:9; 28:54,56; Proverbs 23:6; 28:22; Matthew 20:15 (compare Matthew 6:23; Luke 11:34); Mark 7:22). In the Bible the expression is synonymous with envy, jealousy and some forms of covetousness. In comparing Romans 1:29 with Mark 7:22 we find that ophthalmos poneros corresponds to phthonos. See Trench, New Testament Synonyms, under the word The eye of the envious (as also the tongue of the invidious by an apparently appreciative word, which, however, only disguises the strong desire of possessing the object of comment or of destroying it for its rightful owner) was supposed to have a baneful influence upon the wellbeing of others, especially of children. Therefore mothers bestowed constant care against the frustration of such fancied designs by means of innumerable sorts of charms. They often allowed their darlings to appear as unlovely as possible, through uncleanliness or rags, so as to spare them the harmful rising of envy in the hearts of others.
Lane, Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians, gives perhaps the most accessible account of this superstition as held at the present day in Egypt, and Thomson, The Land and the Book, does the same for Palestine, while an equal amount of evidence might be collected from every other oriental country. Instances of the same superstition, though possibly slightly disguised, are by no means wanting among ourselves. Compare the expression, "green-eyed jealousy" (Othello, III, iii; Merchant of Venice, III, ii ), etc.
F. T. Elworthy, The Evil Eye, London, 1895.
H. L. E. Luering
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