As Karina Williamson notes: "The leading signification of Watching here is the Vigil, originally a nocturnal service of prayer held before certain Church festivals, esp. Easter <...>. But three other senses are embraced in the hymn: keeping alert against temptation (lines 1—2); guarding against enemies (9—12, 18— 20); and looking forward to (12—22)".
- 2. See Mark. 14:38, Christ's injunction to his disciples in the garden of Gethsemane: "Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak".
- 8. Printed "fear?" (ed. 1786); "fear." (ed. 1771, 1772, 1772a, 1775).
- 9—12. See Matt. 24:43—4: "43 But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. 44 Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh." This Christ's parable was a warning to his disciples to watch for the Christ's second coming.
- 13—16. Peter slept instead of keeping watch in the garden of Gethsemane, and then denied Jesus.
- 18. Holofernes was beheaded by Judith during his sleep. See Judith 13.
- Jael's murder of Sisera, see Judg. 4:18—22.
- 21—24. See Mark. 13:33—7; Rev. 22:7: "Behold, I come quickly: blessed is he that keepeth the sayings of the prophecy of this book".