This watchman had been posted on the city wall above the gates of Mahanaim to relay news about the battle against Absalom to King David (read 2 Samuel 18:24).
Watchmen were key elements in the defense system of ancient walled cities. This assignment was rotated so fresh watchmen were at their posts around the clock. They sounded the alarm to the city’s defenders when they spotted suspicious activity.
Watchmen are mentioned several times in the Old Testament (2 Kings 9:17-20; Isaiah 21:5-12; 62:6; Ezekiel 33:2, 6-7; Habakkuk 2:1).
The porter’s task was to listen for signals from the watchman and to open and close the gate into the city. In 2 Kings 7:10 this person is called “the porter of the city.” Porters are also mentioned in connection with the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s times (Nehemiah 7:1).