Israel is the apple of God’s eye. This was true during the days of David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. It’s also true now, but of whom exactly is it true?
Two Passages Where God Said Israel Was the Apple of His Eye
Zechariah 2:8 is a well-known verse, often quoted by Christian Zionists with reference to modern Israel (as does this Christian ministry), and typically as a way of saying that Christians are bound to stand in loyalty to the nation of Israel:
“For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.‘“
Looking back at the history of ancient Israel, God did indeed refer to this nation as the apple of His eye:
“Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you: When the Most High divided their inheritance to the nations, when He separated the sons of Adam, He set the boundaries of the children of Israel. For the Lord’s portion is His people; Jacob is the place of His inheritance. He found him in a desert land and in the wasteland, a howling wilderness; He encircled him, He instructed him, He kept him as the apple of His eye” (Deuteronomy 32:7-10).
Of course, Deuteronomy 32 is overall a lament concerning Israel, where God
 speaks of “their end” in the days of “a perverse generation, children in whom is no faith” (verses 5, 20, 28-29; see also Matthew 17:17 and Philippians 2:14-15)
 denies that many within Israel are even His children (“They are not His children…“; verse 5)
 goes on to prophesy of a time when Gentiles would rejoice with His people over the avenging of the blood of God’s servants (verse 43; see also Matthew 23:35-36; Revelation 16:3-6, 17:1-6, 18:20-24).
Other Passages Where This Phrase Is Used
The phrase “apple of my eye” is used in two other passages. David asks God to keep him as the apple of His eye, and Solomon advises his readers to value his instructions as much as they value their own eyeballs:
“Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings” (Psalm 17:8).
“Keep my commands and live, and my law as the apple of your eye” (Proverbs 7:2).
Which Israel Is the Apple of God’s Eye?
From Deuteronomy 32 and Zechariah 2 it’s clear that God does have an apple of His eye. Is modern, national Israel the apple of God’s eye, as many say? If so, does this include even the Arab citizens of Israel, as well as expatriates living there? If so, who was the apple of God’s eye between 70 AD and 1948 when there was no nation of Israel?
Israel is indeed the apple of God’s eye. The apple of God’s eye is Jesus, true Israel, and His followers, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16).
When Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, God shouted from the heavens how He felt about His Son:
“And suddenly a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased‘” (Matthew 3:17).
When Jesus was transfigured on the mountain toward the end of His ministry, God proclaimed the same words over His Son (Matthew 17:5). Throughout the New Testament we see similar testimony indicating that Jesus is the apple of God’s eye, even if this phrase isn’t used there. For a deeper study of how Jesus is Israel, see this post (“Why I Stand With Israel”), which shows how Matthew, Luke, and John are among the New Testament authors who demonstrate that what was said of ancient Israel in the Old Testament is now said of Jesus, our Savior.
The Church of Jesus Christ is also the Israel of God, His beloved, the apple of His eye. This is because we abide in Christ, the apple of God’s eye. Of Jesus it is said that “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation” (Colossians 1:15). We who belong to Jesus are “a new creation” (II Corinthians 5:17), “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:10), and “a holy temple in the Lord…a habitation of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:21-22; compare with Deuteronomy 32:7-10 quoted above). We are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29, Colossians 3:10), and we are God’s chosen people (Ephesians 1:11-12, Colossians 3:12-13, I Peter 2:9-10).
When Saul persecuted God’s people, Jesus’ followers, He took it personally: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?…I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 9:4-5). When the beast made “war with the saints” for 42 months (Revelation 13:5-7), God saw it as making “war with the Lamb” (Revelation 17:12-14).
The Context of Zechariah 2
Who did God ultimately see as Zion when He called the “daughter of Zion” (Zech. 2:10) “the apple of His eye” (verse 8)? Was this prophecy simply about national Israel or all Jewish people? God spoke through Zechariah at a time when the people of Judah and Israel had been “spread…abroad like the four winds of heaven” (Zech. 1:19-21, 2:6), but God was calling them to escape from Babylon (2:7). He would shake His hand against the nations that plundered them and touched the apple of His eye (2:8-9). Zechariah prophesied of a time when God would come and dwell in the midst of Zion (verse 10). This was not to be a mono-ethnic or single-nation reality:
“Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and they shall become My people. And I will dwell in your midst. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. And the Lord will take possession of Judah as His inheritance in the Holy Land, and will again choose Jerusalem” (Zech. 2:11-12).
The identity of Zion and the identity of Israel was destined to expand to include people from all nations. This has already been accomplished in Christ, and the church was born in Jerusalem as Jews were added to the church daily (Acts 2:47) and a short while later non-Jews began to flow in as well (Acts 11:18). God again chose Jerusalem, but His chosen Jerusalem is the heavenly one, not the one 43 miles from Tel Aviv (Galatians 4:21-31).
However, Zion would not include the corrupt and perverse, disobedient people who God didn’t even regard as His children. This was true even in Moses’ day, as we saw earlier (Deuteronomy 32:5). Most importantly, God’s people, Zion, would not include those who would not hear His Son, Jesus, for they would be cut off:
“For Moses truly said to the fathers, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatever He says to you. And it shall come to pass that every soul who will not hear that Prophet shall be utterly destroyed from among the people‘” (Acts 3:22-23).
A study of the Old Testament reveals that Jews were cut off from among God’s people for quite a number of reasons (e.g. Exodus 31:14, 32:33; Leviticus 7:20-21, 27; 17:4, 9-10, 14; 18:29; 19:8; 20:3, 5-6, 17-18; 22:3, 23:29; Numbers 9:13, 15:30, 19:13; Deuteronomy 29:19). The ultimate reason for being cut off from among God’s people, from Zion, is being separated from Jesus. Today, the Christian Zionist movement doesn’t see the slightest reason for a single ethnic Jew to be outside of God’s people, not even if they are Atheists or they mock Jesus Christ. They are all God’s chosen people, and they are all the apple of God’s eye, if Christian Zionism is to be believed.
Any teaching that uses Zechariah 2:8 to say that the apple of God’s eye is limited to the Jewish people, or limited to people living within the borders of ancient Israel, or that it includes people who reject Jesus Christ, is off-base. The apple of God’s eye is first Jesus, and by extension those who belong to Him (Galatians 3:16, 29). If you belong to Jesus, rejoice that you are the apple of God’s eye.
I hope you will enjoy this song by the worship artist, Jason Upton, which rejoices in this truth. This song is called “One Reason,” from his 2001 album, Faith: