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Follow up on watchman?

Submitted: 1/7/2010
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Question: I don't see in Hebrew the word 'shomer' translated as 'watchman.' The word watchman in the book of Ezekiel is tsaphah, which means to lean forward, i.e. to peer into the distance; by implication, to observe,(strongs 6822). A shomer is a Jewish legal guardian, entrusted with the custody and care of another's object. I don't see this definition in scripture, especially in the book of Ezekiel.

Answer: You are right. Mea culpa. The word 'shomer' is translated 'watchman' other places in the Bible, but not in Ezekiel. As you said, the correct word is 'tsaphah.' Nevertheless, the idea is the same. A tsaphah is one who carefully watches over a city and alerts it when dangers come, which is one of the tasks of spiritual shepherds (the city represents a local assembly). This is not to say that this is their only work or that the task is exclusively theirs. Other can alert the local assembly of dangers as well. I suspect that you are concerned about this matter because you have seen leaders use their roles as watchmen to oppress or otherwise mistreat people on the pretext that they are protecting them. Feel free to ask about any specific situation you have observed.