A Watcher

In Daniel 4:13 we are introduced to a mysterious person that has caused many a debate about his identity. The Scripture reads, “I was looking in the visions in my mind as I lay on my bed, and behold, an angelic watcher, a holy one, descended from heaven.” (NASB)

Okay, many of you may think this isn’t such a mystery by a simple reading of the text. It may even surprise you to learn about the debate that has continued for decades regarding the identity of this watcher. It should be noted that the original text does not state “an angelic watcher” but rather just “watcher”. We will explain this and the suggestions put forward as to his identity. However, I will state here that all but one of the suggestions we will review have been created by those who question Scripture and promote a liberal viewpoint. Christian liberalism was birthed during the late 1700’s and can be traced back to Germany. Several German scholars promoted a new interpretation of the Scriptures that would allow more emphasis on human emotion and imagination. Many of these men who found their way into positions of responsibility with Universities, such as Friedrich Schleiermacher who was often called the “Father of Modern Liberal Theology”. He was certainly one of the early leaders of Christian liberalism and rejected orthodox Christianity. On the subject of hermeneutics, Schleiermacher advocated for a shift away from specific methods of interpretation such as interpreting known text, to a way in which a person understood the text in general. Wilhelm Martin Leberecht de Wette became friends with Schleiermacher and they were fellow teachers at the University of Berlin. In one of de Wette’s works, he promoted the idea of ‘myth’ as a category of Bible exegesis which would eventually lay the groundwork for such false Biblical interpretation that had its beginnings in the 19th century. (Others who held the same or similar views were Ferdinand Christian Baur, Friedrich Bleek, August Neander, and Johann Gottfried Herder.) All of these early adopters and, subsequently, many who adopted their teachings, led to much of what we see in the arguments of those who today argue for a rejection of exegesis and promote eisegesis for interpretation of the sacred text of Scripture.

Much debate has occurred inferring that because Nebuchadnezzar was writing what we read in Daniel chapter four that he was not referring to what any true reader of Scripture can clearly see as an angel of God. Carl Friedrich Keil, despite being a conservative Christian, wrote that “The conception…in not biblical, but Babylonian heathen”.  Keil’s thought, though wrong, suggested that Nebuchadnezzar, in terms of his Babylonian beliefs, viewed this watcher in the Babylonian custom which was that several pagan deities watched over the world.

Another argument promoted is that the word “angel” is not used. This is flimsy at best and holds no weight. The Aramaic word for watcher is eer which means waking or watchful. This term accurately denotes an angel as being ever watchful and awake in the service of God. We should not forget that despite Nebuchadnezzar’s pagan beliefs, he acknowledged the fact that God had sent His angel to deliver the three young Hebrews out of the furnace back in Daniel 3:28.

Nebuchadnezzar may well have appeared to use the term “watcher” as it related to his pagan understanding due to his lack of understanding with regards to angels.

There can be no ambiguity or confusion that what is described in Daniel 4:13, although written by the king, meant none other than an angel of God. Further proof of this fact is the accompanying words in the sentence. The watcher is described as a holy one, descended from heaven. Another point to remember is that Daniel would have taken no part in ascribing this watcher to be anything other than God’s messenger.