Q: Would you please explain who the "watchers" are that are mentioned in Daniel 4?


A: In Daniel 4, king Nebuchadnezzar tells Daniel about a dream. The king had seen “a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven.” (verse 13). This “watcher” had proclaimed “a decision” that had been made “by the decree of the watchers, And the sentence by the word of the holy ones, In order that the living may know That the Most High rules in the kingdom of men.'” (verse 17). Daniel interprets the dream to the king, explaining to him that because of his pride, he will have to live for seven years with the animals. He states in verse 23, “… the king saw a watcher, a holy one, coming down from heaven… this is the decree of the Most High, which has come upon my lord the king…”

These watchers are holy angels of God. One of them spoke to the king in his dream, as Daniel recognized and confirmed. We are told about another episode in 1 Kings 22:19-23, where God is talking to His angels as to how to bring about a certain outcome: “Then Micaiah said, ‘Therefore hear the word of the LORD: I saw the LORD sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by, on His right hand and on His left. And the LORD said, “Who will persuade Ahab to go up, that he may fall at Ramoth Gilead?” So one spoke in this manner, and another spoke in that manner. Then a spirit [perhaps a demon] came forward and stood before the LORD, and said, “I will persuade him.” The LORD said to him, “In what way?” So he said, “I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.” And the LORD said, “You shall persuade him, and also prevail. Go out and do so.'” Therefore look! The LORD has put [allowed] a lying spirit in the mouth of all these prophets of yours, and the LORD has declared disaster against you.'”

God’s angels watch on the good and the bad, and they report their findings to God. In Revelation 5:6, we read about the Lamb Jesus Christ, “having… seven eyes, which are the seven [s]pirits of God sent out into all the earth.” These “seven spirits” are seven angelic beings. They are also mentioned in Zechariah 3:9; 4:10: “Upon the stone are seven eyes… They are the eyes of the LORD, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

Some of these seven angelic beings are described in Zechariah 6:1-7: “Then I turned and raised my eyes and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of bronze. With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot dappled horses–strong steeds. Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ And the angel answered and said to me, ‘These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the LORD of all the earth. The one with the black horses is going to the north country, the white are going after them, and the dappled are going toward the south country.’ Then the strong steeds went out, eager to go, that they might walk to and fro throughout the earth. And He said, “Go, walk to and fro throughout the earth.’ So they walked to and fro throughout the earth.”

An additional account can be found in Zechariah 1:8-11: “I saw by night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse, and it stood among the myrtle trees in the hollow; and behind him were horses: red, sorrel, and white. Then I said, ‘My lord, what are these?’ So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ And the man who stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, ‘These are the ones whom the LORD has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth.’ So they answered the [a]ngel of the LORD, who stood among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have walked to and fro throughout the earth, and behold, all the earth is resting quiet.”‘

Some of God’s angels are referred to as “eyes of the LORD” or as “watchers” — keeping watch on man. Proverbs 15:3 reads, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping WATCH on the evil and the good.”

Notice, too, an interesting comment by Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, in 1 Corinthians 4:9, “For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle [Lit., a theater] to the world, both to angels and to men.” The Amplified Bible renders this passage in this way, “God has made an exhibit of us… a show in the world’s amphitheater — with both men and angels as spectators.”

God’s angels are watching and observing us. They are giving reports and expressing their feelings to God — participating thereby in God’s decisions and decrees. Angels rejoice when a sinner repents (Luke 15:10). Angels have been assigned to Christians, to watch over them and to protect them. Christ warns us in Matthew 18:10, “Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven THEIR angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.” The early Christians believed that it was possible that “Peter’s angel” could appear to them (Acts 12:15).

Many commentaries agree that the term “watchers” in Daniel 4 refers to God’s holy angels. Jamieson, Fausset and Brown make these insightful comments to Daniel 4:13, “watcher and an holy one — rather, ‘even an holy one.’ Only one angel is intended, and he is not one of the bad, but of the holy angels. Called a ‘watcher,’ because ever on the watch to execute God’s will.”

The Bible includes, of course, many encounters with angels. Sometimes, angels may appear to humans who don’t even recognize them as angels (compare Hebrews 13:2). For a thorough study on the world of angels, you may want to listen to our four-part sermon series on the topic, titled, “Angels–an Unknown World.” The sermons can be found in the Audio section of our Webpage.

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