There is a ton of craziness said about the watchers in Christendom today. I would just point out that this story we’re about to read in Daniel 4 is the only reference to the watchers in the Bible. There’s a verse in Jeremiah 4 talking about “watchers come from a far country”who gave “out their voice against the cities of Judah” but I think that references Babylonian soldiers, not angels, or the watchers.
I’d also suggest that you cast out of your minds any preconceived ideas about the watchers and just consider strictly what we’re told about them in Daniel 4.
What we have here is the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, which is interpreted by Daniel. This story is first told to us by Nebuchadnezzar himself. Not only that, but this section was originally in Aramaic. The Book of Daniel was written in two languages. The first chapter is written in Hebrew and so are chapters 8-12. But chapters 2-7 were written in Aramaic, the global language of the eastern empire at the time. Arno Gaebelein in his Daniel commentary would write that “The reason for this is very simple. What concerns these empires is written down in their own language and what concerns the Jews is written in Hebrew. Both languages are evidences that Daniel wrote the Book.” This section of chapters 2-7 was written in Aramaic so that all the world could read and learn in their own language from Nebuchadnezzar himself that Jehovah-God of Israel is the one true God and – warning – He alone rules over the kingdoms of men.
Dan 4:4 I Nebuchadnezzar was at rest in mine house, and flourishing in my palace: Dan 4:5 I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me. Dan 4:6 Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream. Dan 4:7 Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof. Dan 4:8 But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying, Dan 4:9 O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee (again, Nebuchadnezzar had no concept of one true God and at the time believed Daniel was blessed by his own pagan gods), and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof. Dan 4:10 Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. Dan 4:11 The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: Dan 4:12 The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it. Dan 4:13 I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven…
Let’s stop here. I would just point out that Nebuchadnezzar gives a description of a watcher that leaves no doubt that this was a holy angel, one of God’s heavenly host because he “came down from Heaven.” When Nebuchadnezzar says, “a watcher and an holy one”, he’s not talking about two beings, but two descriptions of the same being. He calls this angel a watcher and a holy one, a saint, just as Moses, before he died, spoke of the time when he met the Lord on Mt. Sinai. He said in Deut. 33:2 that “The LORD came from Sinai… and he came with ten thousands of saints...” Were not those “saints” who came with Him angels? Couldn’t be Jewish believers. They’re still in Sheol. So this angel called a watcher came from Heaven and spoke to him.
Look at what he says in Dan 4:14 He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches: Dan 4:15 Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth: Dan 4:16 Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him. Dan 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
This verse tells us everything we can know about the watchers, and this verse flies in the face of so much that we think about angels. We’re going to finish this story and come back to this verse.
Dan 4:18 This dream I king Nebuchadnezzar have seen. Now thou, O Belteshazzar, declare the interpretation thereof, forasmuch as all the wise men of my kingdom are not able to make known unto me the interpretation: but thou art able; for the spirit of the holy gods is in thee. Dan 4:19 Then Daniel, whose name was Belteshazzar, was astonied for one hour, and his thoughts troubled him. The king spake, and said, Belteshazzar, let not the dream, or the interpretation thereof, trouble thee. Belteshazzar answered and said, My lord, the dream be to them that hate thee, and the interpretation thereof to thine enemies. Dan 4:20 The tree that thou sawest, which grew, and was strong, whose height reached unto the heaven, and the sight thereof to all the earth; Dan 4:21 Whose leaves were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all; under which the beasts of the field dwelt, and upon whose branches the fowls of the heaven had their habitation: Dan 4:22 It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth. Dan 4:23 And whereas the king saw a watcher and an holy one coming down from heaven, and saying, Hew the tree down, and destroy it; yet leave the stump of the roots thereof in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts of the field, till seven times pass over him; Dan 4:24 This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king: Dan 4:25 That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. Dan 4:26 And whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.
Dan 4:27 Wherefore, O king, let my counsel be acceptable unto thee, and break off thy sins by righteousness, and thine iniquities by shewing mercy to the poor; if it may be a lengthening of thy tranquillity. Dan 4:28 All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. Dan 4:29 At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. Dan 4:30 The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? Dan 4:31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. Dan 4:32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
Dan 4:33 The same hour was the thing fulfilled upon Nebuchadnezzar: and he was driven from men, and did eat grass as oxen, and his body was wet with the dew of heaven, till his hairs were grown like eagles’ feathers, and his nails like birds’ claws. Dan 4:34 And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation: Dan 4:35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou? Dan 4:36 At the same time my reason returned unto me; and for the glory of my kingdom, mine honour and brightness returned unto me; and my counsellors and my lords sought unto me; and I was established in my kingdom, and excellent majesty was added unto me. 4:37 Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.
Let’s return to the watchers.
Look again at Dan 4:17 This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.
What does this verse say about these angels? Some suggest that watcher was merely the term Nebuchadnezzar chose to describe all angels, which I don’t think is right, because not all angels watch us. Some angels, like Gabriel and the Cherubims stand in the presence of God and serve Him day and night. All their attention is on God. Given what this angel said in vs. 17, I think it’s more likely that we’re looking at a specific group of angels who watch and decree judgments upon men, because the angel when he spoke, he called their group watchers.
Everywhere else in Scripture an angel introduced himself as an angel, but here, the angel said, “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones,” which speaks volumes. I don’t think watchers is a special class of angels, like Cherubims, but watchers merely defined their God-ordained function. It’s a team name. These watchers, this group of angels, kept watch over all nations or perhaps just unbelieving nations, and they were, by their own admission, given liberty by God to decree judgments upon those unbelieving nations or leaders of nations. Not only was this judgment by the decree of the watchers, but this was also the demand by the word, singular, of the holy ones, plural.
The group spoke with a singular voice about what they demanded. The watchers demanded that this decree be done. And yet, Daniel would say in Dan 4:24 This is the interpretation, O king, and this is the decree of the most High, which is come upon my lord the king…
Was this decree given by the watchers or by God? YES.
How does that work?
I can’t help but wonder if this decree by the watchers could be likened to the prayer promises given to the disciples. In Matt. 18:19, the Lord said, “Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” In Luke 11:9-10, the Lord said, “And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.” In John 14:13-14, the Lord said, “And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” When the disciples are resurrected into the kingdom at the Lord’s Second Coming, and they’re operating in perfect righteousness in their resurrected bodies freed from sin with the law written on their hearts filled with the Spirit, anything they ask will be given to them because their desires will be in harmony with the will of God.
I wonder if the same could be said of the watchers. These watchers are holy ones, operating in perfect righteousness, which means that anything they wished to decree as judgment was granted to them by God because their desires were in harmony with the will of God. They were given an administrative role over all or just unbelieving nations to watch and to decree judgments.
There was also this moment in which a voice spoke to Nebuchadnezzar. Dan 4:31 While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. Dan 4:32 And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.
This last expression is telling. This voice from Heaven was not the most High because he references the most High in the third person: “until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” It may be possible, even likely, that one of the watchers or the very same watcher who appeared in his dream spoke to him.
Notice, too, that the voice fell from Heaven. An angel is capable of speaking to man from Heaven just as the Lord spoke to Saul from Heaven on the road to Damascus.
This also means that angels can watch everything from Heaven, too. This, again, illustrates the point that in the spiritual realm distance has no meaning. On the Damascus road, the Lord was able to open Heaven to Paul, reveal His glory, and also speak to Paul as if He was standing right next to him despite such a great distance between Heaven and Earth.
We’ve used that story to make some points about the location of our heavenly seats. When you consider the totality of the age of grace, how many billions of saints will there be in the Body of Christ? They say there are 820 million Christians on the Earth today. Let’s say for all the age of grace there are 10 billion saints in the Body of Christ. With so many saints with seats in Heavenly places, how close will we be literally to the Lord? How close will we be to Him when He reigns on the Earth for a thousand years? Yet, we can learn something from Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus – that no matter where we’re seated in Heavenly places, no matter how many billions of saints and billions of seats there may be throughout the spiritual realm, we will always be near to the Lord. In the spiritual realm distance has no meaning whatsoever. Where does Paul say we’ll be after we die? With the Lord forever. Where will the Lord be during His thousand-year reign? On Earth. Where will we be? In our Heavenly seats. Yet, in the spiritual realm, distance doesn’t matter. We will always be near Him.
The angel that spoke said, “O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken.” Why would the angel say, “O king Nebuchadnezzar”? Why would he address him like that? What did that sound like? I’d suggest that “O king Nebuchadnezzar” shows that the angel addressed him with affection, because he loves Nebuchadnezzar even though he was an evil tyrant.
Why? Because the angels want to see even the worst of men become saved.
Then, the angel told him, The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will. I think the angel spoke to Nebuchadnezzar with love in his voice because that also impacted his change of heart. There was a motive of love behind this judgment to bring Nebuchadnezzar into a loving relationship with God and use him as a testimony to the world. This wasn’t a judgment they demanded to punish him for sin. This was a judgment designed to change his heart and to change the hearts of all the other nations about God. This judgment was designed to produce converts around the globe.
It may also be possible that the watchers were God’s instrument in time past to setting up those whom God had chosen to rule in the kingdom of men.
There are some like Bullinger who would connect these watchers to the Seven Angels who blow the seven trumpets in Rev. 8-10. That may be possible, although I went through Rev. 8-10 and couldn’t find any verses or phrases that connected those Seven Angels to the watchers. In Daniel, we read about THE watchers, which is a group of angels, and in Rev. 8:6, we read about THE Seven Angels. They’re both identified as a very specific group of angels for a purpose related to judgment. What might be the connective tissue between the watchers and the Seven Angels is that the blowing of the trumpets are like decrees of judgment upon the unbelieving nations just as we saw in Daniel 4. The point of these judgments beyond consequence for sin is that all the unbelieving and unrepentant would know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men. The connection between the watchers and the seven angels is circumstantial at best.
Are the Watchers in Operation Today?
2Co 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 2Co 5:19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 2Co 5:20 Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.
What does it mean that God is reconciling the world unto Himself? The answer is in the context. He is reconciling the world unto Himself through the ministry of reconciliation, through His ambassadors who are out in the world begging the lost and dying in Christ’s stead to be ye reconciled to God!
What does it mean that God is not imputing their trespasses unto them? Imputing their trespasses meant that God was charging people for their sins, which meant the He was punishing people on Earth for those sins. But God isn’t doing that today. He’s not reigning fire down upon cities like He did with Sodom and Gomorrah. If He was, Washington, D.C., would’ve have been toast long ago.
Likewise, we’re not having today the watchers demand decrees of judgments upon world leaders today as they did in time past. And why isn’t God doing this today? Because God isn’t imputing anyone’s trespasses today. He’s not charging people for their sins. He is not now punishing people on the Earth for those sins.
Why? Because we live in the age of His grace, and His grace reigns today! God is now longsuffering with the world about sin hoping that more and more souls will embrace His gospel of grace by faith and become saved. The phrase, “not imputing their trespasses unto them” is not the equivalent of forgiveness of sins. It simply means that God is now longsuffering about sin.
All of this means that the watchers are not in operation today.
But they’re way cool.