1 Peter 3:12
For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(12) For.—Or, Because. In the Psalm there is no such connecting particle, but it is involved in the juxtaposition. The sense that the Lord’s eyes are over you is a sufficient reason for self-restraint under provocation: especially, perhaps, when we see that by “the Lord” St. Peter understands Jesus Christ. That this is the case is clear from his use of the same Psalm in 1Peter 2:3. If Christ, the model of meekness under persecution (1Peter 2:23), is watching, we not only need no passionate self-defence, but should be ashamed to use it. Was St. Peter thinking how once, while he himself was cursing and swearing at those who accused him of being a Christian, he felt the eyes of the Lord turn upon him? The thought of His eyes being over Us is chiefly that of guardianship.

Open unto their prayers.—Rather, are towards their prayeri.e., directed towards it. Here, as in 1Peter 2:3, the Prayer Book version has influenced our translation.

Against them that do evil.—There is no difference in the Greek between this preposition and that just rendered “over.” But the countenance of the Lord is over them that do evil things. He marks what they are doing. This is sufficient comfort when men injure us (1Peter 2:23); sufficient warning not to injure in return. It is instructive now to turn and see the circumstances in which this lovely Psalm was composed. The moment was one of David’s extremest peril among an infuriated heathen population. The danger and dread he was in are shown in Psalms 56. Yet nothing can be brighter and more serene than Psalms 34. He had obtained life and days; and it was all through confidence in God on the one hand, and inoffensive self-submission on the other. Had he used violence—“shown spirit,” as we say—like the “young lions,” he would have come worse off. It seems to be for this cause that St. Peter deemed the Psalm so appropriate to his readers, misjudged and suspiciously watched (Psalm 56:5-6) by unbelievers, who only waited the opportunity to shed their blood (Psalm 56:1-2). But the striking change is that, whereas David’s trust in Jehovah was a trust simply in the Eternal Being without distinction of Persons, St. Peter bids the Hebrews of Asia read that Psalm into an act of faith in Jesus. We shall see the same thing in 1Peter 3:15, as we saw it in 1Peter 2:3. The force of the change will be felt by any one who reads through that Psalm, substituting (like the Rheims version) “our Lord” for “the Lord.”

3:8-13 Though Christians cannot always be exactly of the same mind, yet they should have compassion one of another, and love as brethren. If any man desires to live comfortably on earth, or to possess eternal life in heaven, he must bridle his tongue from wicked, abusive, or deceitful words. He must forsake and keep far from evil actions, do all the good he can, and seek peace with all men. For God, all-wise and every where present, watches over the righteous, and takes care of them. None could or should harm those who copied the example of Christ, who is perfect goodness, and did good to others as his followers.For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous - That is, he is their Protector. His eyes are indeed on all people, but the language here is that which describes continual guardianship and care.

And his ears are open unto their prayers - He hears their prayers. As he is a hearer of prayer, they are at liberty to go to him at all times, and to pour out their desires before him. This passage is taken from Psalm 34:15, and it is designed to show the reason why a life of piety will contribute to length of days.

But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil - Margin, upon. The sense of the passage, however, is against. The Lord sets his face against them: an expression denoting disapprobation, and a determination to punish them. His face is not mild and benignant toward them, as it is toward the righteous. The general sentiment in these verses 1 Peter 3:10-12 is, that while length of days is desirable, it is to be secured by virtue and religion, or that virtue and religion will contribute to it. This is not to be understood as affirming that all who are righteous will enjoy long life, for we know that the righteous are often cut down in the midst of their way; and that in fire, and flood, and war, and the pestilence, the righteous and the wicked often perish together. But still there is a sense in which it is true that a life of virtue and religion will contribute to length of days, and that the law is so general as to be a basis of calculation in reference to the future:

I. Religion and virtue contribute to those things which are favorable to length of days, which are conducive to health and to a vigorous constitution. Among those things are the following:

(a) a calm, peaceful, and contented mind - avoiding the wear and tear of the raging passions of lusts, avarice, and ambition;

(b) temperance in eating and drinking - always favorable to length of days;

(c) industry - one of the essential means, as a general rule, of promoting long life;

(d) prudence and economy - avoiding the extravagancies by which many shorten their days; and,

(e) a conscientious and careful regard of life itself.

Religion makes men feel that life is a blessing, and that it should not be thrown away. Just in proportion as a man is under the influence of religion, does he regard life as of importance, and does he become careful in preserving it. Strange and paradoxical as it may seem, the lack of religion often makes people reckless of life, and ready to throw it away for any trifling cause. Religion shows a man what great issues depend on life, and makes him, therefore, desirous of living to secure his own salvation and the salvation of all others.

II. Multitudes lose their lives who would have preserved them if they had been under the influence of religion. To see this, we have only to reflect:

(a) on the millions who are cut off in war as the result of ambition, and the want of religion;

(b) on the countless hosts cut down in middle life, or in youth, by intemperance, who would have been saved by religion;

(c) on the numbers who are the victims of raging passions, and who are cut off by the diseases which gluttony and licentiousness engender;

continued...

12. Ground of the promised present and eternal life of blessedness to the meek (1Pe 3:10). The Lord's eyes are ever over them for good.

ears … unto their prayers—(1Jo 5:14, 15).

face … against—The eyes imply favorable regard; the face of the Lord upon (not as English Version, "against") them that do evil, implies that He narrowly observes them, so as not to let them really and lastingly hurt His people (compare 1Pe 3:13).

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers; God watcheth over them, looks favourably on them, and hears their prayers: see Psalm 34:15. This he lays down as a motive to patience under injuries, and to keep us from tumultuating passions, and desires of revenge; that God sees all we suffer, hath a care of us, and is ready to hear, and in due time to help us.

But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil; his anger, or indignation; face being here taken not for God’s favour, (as many times it is), but in the contrary sense, as Leviticus 17:10 20:5 Psalm 68:1,2. Men show by their countenances whether they be angry or pleased; and hence it is that God’s face is sometimes taken for his favour, sometimes for his displeasure. A further argument to persuade us to patience, that God undertakes to plead our cause against our enemies, and avenge us on them; whereas if we think to secure ourselves against them by undue means, we make God an enemy to us. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,.... Who are so not merely in the sight of men, but of God; nor in their own account, and by their own works, but in the esteem of God, through the imputation of the righteousness of his Son unto them: and because he loves this righteousness, and is well pleased with it, seeing by it his law is magnified and made honourable, therefore his countenance beholds with pleasure and delight those righteous ones who are clothed with it; his eyes of omniscience, love, care, and protection, are always upon them, watching over them, delighting in them, running to and fro in the earth on behalf of them; he sees every injury done them, and in his own time and way will do them justice; which is a reason why they should not take vengeance themselves, but leave it with him, whose it is:

and his ears are open to their prayers; or "prayer"; in the Hebrew text, "to their cry"; he is a God hearing prayer, and his righteous ones have his ear; he hears them while they are speaking, and will sooner or later answer, and avenge his elect, who cry unto him day and night; for as he has an ear to hear their cries, which is not heavy, he has an arm to save them, which is not shortened; and this is another reason why they should behave as before directed, and which is still strengthened by what follows,

but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil; it is added in the psalm, "to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth": by "the face of the Lord" is meant, as the Jewish writers (y) interpret it, the anger of the Lord; it intends, not his kind, pleasant, and loving countenance, but his angry one with the former he beholds the upright, and with it he looks upon his righteous ones; but the latter is upon and against the wicked, and is dreadful and intolerable, and the consequence of it is everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power,

(y) Jarchi & Menachem apud ib. & Aben Ezra in loc.

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the {i} face of the Lord is against them that do evil.

(i) This word face after the manner of the Hebrews, is taken for anger.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
1 Peter 3:12. πρόσωπον Κυρίου, Jehovah’s face, i.e., wrath (Targum, the face of Jehovah was angry) as the following clause, to cut off the remembrance of them … shows; cf. Lamentations 4:16; Psalm 21:9. But Peter stops short and leaves room for repentance.

Ver, 13. κακώσων echoes ποιοῦντας κακά (as ζηλ. τοῦ ἀγ. echoes ποιησάτω ἀγαθόν); but the phrase comes also from O.T.: Isaiah 1:9, Κύριος βοηθήσει μοι· τίς κακώσει με;—τοῦ ἀγαθοῦ ζηλωταὶ. The phrase sums up 1 Peter 3:11. All that was good in Judaism, however it may have been perverted, finds its fulfilment in the new Israel (Romans 10:2). Some Jews were zealots, boasting their zeal for the Lord or His Law, like Phinehas and the Hasmonaeans (1 Maccabees 2. passim): all Christians should be zealots for that which is good. So Paul says of himself as Pharisee that he was a zealot for his ancestral traditions (Galatians 1:14). For him as for the colleague of Simon the Zealot the word retained a flavour of its technical sense; cf. Titus 2:14, that He might cleanse for Himself a peculiar people, zealot of good (καλῶν) works; cf. similar use of ἀφωρισμένος = Pharisee (Romans 1:1). τοῦἀγ. in emphatic position.12. For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous] It may be noted that the “for” is added by the Apostle to emphasize the sequence of thought. There is no conjunction either in the Hebrew or the LXX. The disciples of Christ were to find peace and calmness in the thought of the Omniscience of God. He knew all, and would requite all. Vengeance—so far as men dared desire vengeance—was to be left to Him (Romans 12:19). The two prepositions “over the righteous” and “against them that do evil” express, perhaps, the thought of the original, but as the Greek preposition is the same in both cases, they are open to the charge of being an interpolated refinement. The eyes of God are upon both the good and the evil. It lies in the nature of the case that the result is protective or punitive according to the character of each.1 Peter 3:12. Ὅτι οἱ ὀφαθλμοὶ) because the eyes. The Septuagint has ὀφαθαλμοὶ the remainder is in the same words, as far as κακά.—ἐπὶ δικαίους, over the just) who have from that source life and good days.—πρόσωπον, the countenance) with anger: comp. 2 Samuel 22:28. Anger excites the whole countenance of a man; love affects the eyes.Verse 12. - For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers. The apostle adds the conjunction "for" (ὅτι, because) to mark the connection. God's people must turn away from evil and do good, because the all-seeing eye is upon them; they will find strength to do so, because God heareth prayer. Perhaps when the apostle was writing these words he remembered how once "the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter." But the face of the Lord is against them that do evil. The preposition in the two clauses is the same (ἐπί, over, or upon). The Lord's eye is upon the good and the evil. The apostle omits the words that follow in the psalm, "to cut off the remembrance of them from the earth," perhaps because he wishes us to regard the spiritual rather than the temporal consequences of our actions.
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