Watchman 101 – What is a Biblical Watchman?

Watchman 101 – What is a Biblical Watchman?

Tsaphah Hebrew: [צָפָה] (tsuh-faw) tsaphah is the most common word translated Watchman in the Bible, appearing over 40 times in the Old Testament. Depending on context, this Hebrew term can mean many things, here are a few of the most common.

to watch (v) – to keep watch, to search. It implies that the watcher is looking for something, not casually observing the scenery, but looking into it, searching for movement or signs of danger. Watchmen look for the enemy, and the return of the King; more the second than the first. Jesus will return as conquering King, Judge, Warrior and Lamb (Revelation 17:14). 

witness (n) to be a witness who stands in agreement with a binding contract or legal transaction. In Genesis 31:49 God bears Witness to the covenant between Laban and Jacob. In the same way, Watchmen are witnesses to God’s faithfulness and to their covenant of salvation, deliverance, protection, blessing, and authority.

watching (v) – earnestly watching with expectancy and a sense of near desperation. Watchmen watch for Someone (the Savior), and something (the Savior’s return). Eli earnestly watched for the Ark of the Covenant to safely return (1 Samuel 4:13). Eli looked for the Ark’s safe return because the Ark represented the visible Presence of God with Israel. Watchmen await His return and that moment we will abide in His Presence once again.

keep watch (v) – Only God is always watching. Human Watchmen need rest, food, and most have other responsibilities: family, work, ministry, and diversions, hobbies or other interests. We’re human, and we need those alternatives to constant watching. God does not need rest, nor is He ever distracted. He keeps watch without interruption. “His eyes keep watch upon the nations…” (Psalm 66:9). “He never slumbers or sleeps.” (Psalm 121:4).

watchmen (n) – plural, Watchmen vs. Watchman; we need each other. This is a difficult, dangerous, wearisome calling. None of us do it alone. We watch our section of the wall, while another watches a different section. We are spread far apart, yet bound eternally together (Nehemiah 4:19,20). 

watching (v) – a continuing action; ever watchful – alert. We do not watch non-stop like God, but we are watching when we are awake. Watchmen are vigilant; wary and careful, not out of fear, out of faithfulness (Proverbs 15:3)

beholding (v) – attentive. Watchmen see what others miss. What seems insignificant to most, a Watchman notes and remembers. Like a spy who is looking for any clue, Watchmen look for the un-obvious, because the most significant is often the least noticeable (Jeremiah 48:19). 

look well (adv) – oversees with authority and care. The Proverbs 31 woman is a Watchwoman. “She looks well to the ways of her household.” She knows what is happening in her house. Nothing escapes her watching eye. It is why she is both virtuous and victorious – she watches well – effectively, actively. 

the lookout (n) – a lookout scouts and reports. Watchmen look with purpose. That purpose is the difference between mere sight and spiritual vision. The Watchman is strategically stationed to observe, and report (Isaiah 21:6). A lookout is not watching the weather (or red moons), they watch the people.

Watchmen watch, not merely because someone should, but because they know they must. As Watchmen, we know that the enemy is watching too and that one fact compels us to stay actively engaged, alert, focused, unwavering. 

We watch. 


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