Watchman (נֹצֵר, 2Ki 17:9; 2Ki 18:8; Jer 31:6; "watcher," Jer 4:16; elsewhere "keeper," "preserver," etc.; but usually צֹפֶה or שֹׁמֵר). Even strong walls and double gates would not of themselves secure a city from the enemy. Men were therefore employed to watch day and night on the top of the walls, and especially by the gates. It was thus that the messengers from the army were seen long before they reached the place where David anxiously sat (2Sa 18:24-27). In like manner the watchman of Jezreel saw in the distance the company of Jehu driving furiously (2Ki 9:17-20). So Isaiah, in one of his sublime visions, saw a watchman standing by his tower day and night (Isa 21:5-12). A figurative use of the watchman and his work is beautifully made in Isa 62:6; Eze 33:2,6-7; Hab 2:1. There were others whose duty it was to patrol the streets of the city and preserve order (see Ps 127:1; Song 3:3). There are such in Oriental cities today, and they challenge all persons found abroad after certain hours of the night, arresting those that are not able to give a good account of themselves, and sometimes subjecting them to rough treatment. In Persia the watchmen were obliged to indemnify those who were robbed in the streets, and make satisfaction with their own blood for those who were murdered; which accounts for the vigilance and severity which they display in the discharge of their office, and illustrates the character of watchman given to Ezekiel, who lived in that country, and the duties he was required to perform. If the wicked perished in his iniquities without warning, the prophet was to be accountable for his blood; but if he duly pointed out his danger, he delivered his own soul (Eze 33:5). These terms, therefore, were neither harsh nor severe; they were the common appointments of watchmen in Persia. They were also charged to announce the progress of the night to the slumbering city: "The burden of Dumah; he calls to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? watchman, what of the night? The watchman said, The morning cometh, and also the night" (Isa 21:11). This is confirmed by an observation of Chardin, that, as the people of the East have no clocks, the several parts of the day and of the night, which are eight in all, are announced. In the Indies, the parts of the night are made known, as well by instruments of music, in great cities, as by the rounds of the watchmen, who, with cries and small drums, give them notice that a fourth part of the night is past. Now, as these cries awoke those who had slept all that quarter part of the night, it appeared to them but as a moment. There are sixty of these in the Indies by day, and as many by night; that is, fifteen for each division. They are required not only at each watch of the night, but at frequent intervals in the progress of it, to cry aloud, in order to give the people, who depend upon them for the protection of their lives and property, assurance that they are not sleeping at their posts or negligent of their charge. On these latter occasions, their exclamations are made in a form calculated to enliven the tediousness of their duties, as, "God be merciful to you;" while the other responds, "Blessings be on you likewise." This practice of salutation, when they met, in the form of a set dialogue, was observed also by the ancient officers of this description among the Jews, the watchword being then, as we have seen it is still among the watchmen of the caravans, some pious sentiment, in which the name of Jehovah was specially expressed. Two remarkable instances qf this occur in Scripture. The one is in the prophecies of Isaiah, where, speaking of the watchmen of the Temple, who were always Levites, and among whom the same regulations subsisted as among other watchmen, he addresses them under the poetical description of "Ye that make mention of the Lord," i.e., Ye whose watchword is the name of Jehovah (Isa 42:6). The other instance is in Psalm 134, the whole of which, as is justly observed by bishop Lowth, is nothing more than the alternate cry of two different divisions of the watch. The first watch addresses the second, reminding them of their duty; the second answers by a solemn blessing. The address and the answer seem both to be a set form, which each proclaimed aloud at stated intervals to notify the time of night:
First band of watchmen — "Bless ye the Lord, all ye servants of the Lord, who by night stand in the house of the Lord. Lift up your hands in the sanctuary, and bless the Lord."
Second band of watchmen, answer — "The Lord bless thee out of Zion, the Lord that made heaven and earth."