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Watchtower

WATCHTOWER. A feature of all neolithic and later settlements in the ancient Near E is the remains of high fortified positions, watchtowers or block houses. In the oldest settled townships of Iraq and the early levels of Jericho the remains of such fortifications have been excavated. No single noun for “watchtower” exists in Heb. The OT usually employs the term מִצְפֶּה, H5205, “lookout,” “observation point” in this sense although the term has no obvious etymology. It occurs in Isaiah 21:8 and elsewhere. The common term for a masonry tower, Heb. מִגְדָּל, H4463, also is used in this sense. In the same context, of a “watchtower” (Isa 21:5), the difficult phrase, צָפֹ֥ה הַצָּפִ֖ית, is tr. variously by the VSS, KJV, “watch in the watch-tower,” RSV, “they spread the rugs,” JPS, “they light the lamps.” The etymology is so obscure as to render the passage presently untranslatable.