1 Peter – Chapter Three XVI

by Ed Urzi

“For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil. And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good?” (1 Peter 3:12-13)

Finite human beings often struggle to comprehend the person and nature of God. One way to enrich our understanding of God’s relationship to humanity involves the use of a literary tool known as an anthropomorphism. An anthropomorphism refers to a figure of speech in which human abilities (such as vision or hearing) or human emotion (such as anger or jealousy) are attributed to God.

These familiar terms can help us better comprehend and understand our Creator. The passage quoted above exemplifies this by ascribing the physical attributes of eyesight and hearing to the Lord. One Biblical scholar ties these references together in the larger context of 1 Peter chapter three…

“The Apostle Peter quotes Psalm 34 to affirm that ‘the eyes of the lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer’ (1 Peter 3:12). Since the previous verses encourage good conduct in everyday life, in things such as refraining from speaking evil and turning away from evil and doing right, Peter is saying that God readily hears the prayers of those who live lives of obedience to him.” (1)

Peter continues with another literary device in the following verse: “Who will harm you if you are zealous for good?” (CEB). This example showcases the use of a rhetorical question as a literary tool. A rhetorical question features an obvious answer that serves to emphasize a point or validate an opinion. Unlike other types of questions, a rhetorical question does not seek to elicit information. Instead, the answer to a rhetorical question is self-evident.

The rhetorical question in 1 Peter 3:13 makes several points in light of the preceding verses. First, no one is likely to harm us if we bless others and do not return “evil for evil or reviling for reviling” (verse nine). Others are not likely to hurt us if we refrain from evil and deceitful speech (verse ten). People are unlikely to injure us if we turn from evil, do good, seek peace, and pursue it (verse eleven). Nevertheless, as one commentator observes, “Doing good will not harm anyone, but one may suffer for so doing.” (2)

Finally, we would not normally expect to find such tools in the literary toolbox of someone like Peter, a man who formerly served as a humble fisherman. Thus, this passage reminds us of what Jesus can accomplish in the lives of those who follow Him.

(1) Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, Second Edition (Grand Rapids, Ml: Zondervan Academic, 2020).

(2) Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, Expanded ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), 1981.