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Bible Dictionaries

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary

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The Hebrews, in conformity with the Mosaic law, reckoned the day from evening to evening. The natural day, that is, the portion of time from sunrise to sunset, was divided by the Hebrews, as it is now by the Arabians, into six unequal parts. These divisions were as follows:—

1. The break of day. This portion of time was, at a recent period, divided into two parts, in imitation of the Persians; the first of which began when the eastern, the second, when the western, division of the horizon was illuminated. The authors of the Jerusalem Talmud divided

it into four parts; the first of which was called in Hebrew אילת השחר ,

which occurs in Psalms 22:1 , and corresponds to the phrase, λιαν πρωι , in the New Testament, Mark 16:2; John 20:1 .

2. The morning or sunrise.

3. The heat of the day. This began about nine o'clock, Genesis

John 18:1; 1 Samuel 11:11 .

4. Midday.

5. The cool of the day; literally, the wind of the day. This expression as grounded on the fact, that a wind commences blowing regularly a few hours before sunset, and continues till evening, Genesis 3:8 .

6. The evening. This was divided into two parts, ערבים ; the first of which began, according to the Caraites and Samaritans, at sunset, the second, when it began to grow dark. But, according to the rabbins, the first commenced just before sunset, the second, precisely at sunset. The Arabians agree with the Caraites and Samaritans; and in this way the Hebrews appear to have computed, previous to the captivity.

The mention of שעה , hours, occurs first in Daniel 3:6; Daniel 3:15; Daniel 5:5 . They were first measured by gnomons, which merely indicated the meridian; afterward, by the hour-watch, σκιαθερικον; and subsequently still, by the clepsydra, or instrument for measuring time by means of water. The hour- watch or dial, otherwise called the sun-dial, is mentioned in the reign of King Hezekiah, 2 Kings 20:9-10; Isaiah 38:8 . Its being called "the sun-dial of Ahaz," renders it probable that Ahaz first introduced it from Babylon; whence, also, Anaximenes, the Milesian, brought the first skiathericon into Greece. This instrument was of no use during the night, nor indeed during a cloudy day. In consequence of this defect, the clepsydra was invented, which was used in Persia as late as the seventeenth century in its simplest form. The clepsydra was a small circular vessel, constructed of thinly-beaten copper or brass, and having a small perforation through the bottom. It was placed in another vessel, filled with water. The diameter of the hole in the bottom of the clepsydra was such, that it filled with water in three hours, and sunk. It was necessary that there should be a servant to tend it, who should take it up when it had sunk, pour out the water, and place it again empty on the surface of the water in the vase.

The hours of principal note in the course of the day were the third, the sixth, and the ninth. These hours, it would seem, were consecrated by Daniel to prayer, Daniel 6:10; Acts 2:15; Acts 3:1; Acts 10:9 . The day was divided into twelve hours, which, of course, varied in length, being shorter in the winter and longer in the summer, John 11:9 . In the winter, therefore, the clepsydras were so constructed that the water might sink them more rapidly. The hours were numbered from the rising of the sun, so that, at the season of the equinox, the third corresponded to the ninth of our reckoning; the sixth, to our twelfth; and the ninth, to three o'clock in the afternoon. At other seasons of the year, it is necessary to observe the time when the sun rises, and reduce the hours to our time accordingly. We observe, therefore, that the sun in Palestine, at the summer solstice, rises at five of our time, and sets about seven. At the winter solstice, it rises about seven, and sets about five.

Before the captivity, the night was divided into three watches. The first, which continued till midnight, was denominated the commencing or first watch, Lamentations 2:19 . The second was denominated the middle watch, and continued from midnight till the crowing of the cock. The third, called the morning watch, extended from the second to the rising of the sun. These divisions and names appear to have owed their origin to the watches of the Levites in the tabernacle and temple, Exodus 14:24; 1 Samuel 11:11 . In the time of Christ, however, the night, in imitation of the Romans, was divided into four watches. According to the English mode of reckoning they were as follows:

1. The evening, from twilight to nine o'clock.

2. The midnight, from nine to twelve.

3. The cock crowing, from twelve to three.

4. From three o'clock till daybreak. A day is used in the prophetic

Scripture for a year: "I have appointed thee each day for a year,"

Ezekiel 4:6 . See COCK .

Bibliography Information
Watson, Richard. Entry for 'Day'. Richard Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​wtd/​d/day.html. 1831-2.
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