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Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature
Watching must have been coeval with danger, and danger arose as soon as man became the enemy of man, or had to guard against the attacks of wild animals. Accordingly we find traces of the practice of watching in early portions of the Hebrew annals. Watching must have been carried to some degree of completeness in Egypt, for we learn from , that the practice had, at the time of the Exodus, caused the night to be divided into different watches or portions, mention being made of the 'morning watch.' Compare . In the days of the Judges () we find 'the middle watch' mentioned. See . At a later period Isaiah plainly intimates (), that there was a watch-tower in Jerusalem, and that it was customary on extraordinary occasions to set a watchman. Watchmen were, however, even at an earlier day, customarily employed in the metropolis, and their post was at the gates (, sq.; , sq.;; ), where they gave signals and information, either by their voice or with the aid of a trumpet (; ). At night watchmen were accustomed to perambulate the city (; ). In the New Testament we find mention made of the second, the third, and the fourth watch (; ). The space of the natural night, from the setting to the rising of the sun, the ancient Jews divided into three equal parts of four hours each. But the Romans, imitating the Greeks, divided the night into four watches, and the Jews, from the time they came under subjection to the Romans, following this Roman custom, also divided the night into four watches, each of which consisted of three hours (). The terms by which the old Hebrew division of the night was characterized are,
the first watch, beginning of the watches ();
'the middle-watch' ();
'the morning-watch' (; ).
The first extended from sunset to our ten o'clock, the second from ten at night till two in the morning, and the third from that hour till sunrise.
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Watch'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature". https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/kbe/w/watch.html.