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Spiritual sight and blindness

eye close-up
eye close-up
Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images

"The Lord opens the eyes of the blind." Psalm 146:8

Like light and darkness, sight and blindness is a motif used frequently in Scripture. Sometimes a character's physical blindness is meant to symbolize his spiritual blindness (e.g., Eli's weak vision in his old age aligned with his increasing spiritual weakness), but in other cases, physical blindness is juxtaposed to spiritual sight.

In I Kings 14, the blind prophet Ahijah was given the ability to "see" through a convoluted situation and find the truth of the matter. In this case, King Jeroboam's son became ill and the boy's mother went to inquire of the prophet Ahijah. Her husband was a wicked king, although he was previously warned by Ahijah to walk in the ways of the Lord. And so, desiring to avoid spiritual confrontation but also wanting to find out if their son would live, Jeroboam told his wife to approach the prophet in disguise.

However, God told Ahijah that the woman would disguise herself, so when she arrived he immediately greeted her as the wife of Jeroboam. Also, rather than first addressing the question she had brought to him, he instead spoke a harsh prophecy regarding her husband and his household which would result from his unfaithfulness to the Lord.

The juxtaposition of physical sight and spiritual sight in this passage highlights the reality that truth is more clearly seen with spiritual, rather than physical sight. The passage also shows us that this spiritual sight is a gift from God. Though Ahijah lacked physical sight, he was blessed with the gift of spiritual revelation.

Countless works of literature also pick up this archetype of a "blind seer." It is common to find characters with poor vision who possess a kind of supernatural “sight.” One of the most classic and notable examples is found in Sophocles' "Oedipus the King". In this play, the prophet Tiresias is a blind character, yet he is the only one who is able to see the truth about Oedipus and the prophecy concerning him.

Additionally, in the third of Sophocles' Three Theban Plays, "Oedipus at Colonus," Oedipus is blinded, and yet it is clear that he has gained wisdom. With the loss of physical sight, he gained the ability to find truth, i.e., sight of a different kind.

In Scripture and in literature, the sight and blindness motif enhances plot and adds thoughtful subtext. It is underscored in the whole of Scripture, which reminds us, as we see in I Sam. 16:7, that “God sees not as man sees" and that only He can provide the spiritual vision that reveals ultimate truth.

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