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Bible Encyclopedias

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

Night-Vision

(חֲזיֹן לִיְלָה, Isaiah 29:7, etc.; Chald. חֶזְוָא דַּיאּלֵילְיָא, Daniel 2:19, etc.). The perplexing but fascinating subject of the visions of sleep has in all ages attracted observation and speculation; but the laws which govern the countless images and fancied experiences of this realm of dream" are even now imperfectly understood. The subject owes its importance, in Biblical studies, to two facts: first, that these visions were often made the means of divine revelation; and, second, that even when uninspired, they were highly valued and diligently studied by many characters in Scripture history. On the immediate cause of dreaming, however, the views of the ancients were various, and generally absurd. The first really rational explanation seems to be that of Aristotle, who taught that the impression produced by perception remains after the object is removed, and affects the perceptive faculties during sleep.

Al opinion much more general among the heathen, and revived and supported with much acuteness in England by Baxter (Essay on the Phenomenon of Dreaming, 3d ed. 1745), was that spiritual beings have access to the mind during sleep, and fill it with dreams. But the theory generally followed by English writers is that of Dugald Stewart (Elements of the Philosophy of the Human Mind, 1:328 sq.), who explains dreams as caused by the natural and spontaneous action of the mental faculties, freed from obedience to the will, but subject to their own usual laws of association. Some find a strong analogy between dreaming and insanity. Dr. Abercrombie states the difference to be that the erroneous impression, in the one case, is permanent, and affects the conduct, but in the other is temporary, and vanishes on awaking. But the distinction is really far wider; for in dreams the will is simply at rest, while in insanity it is a slave to the diseased action of the mental faculties or active powers. (See DREAM).

In regarding dreams as of great importance the Jews agreed with all other ancient nations (Otho, Lex. Rabb. p. 316 sq.). It was the general belief that by means of them, and especially of those which occurred in the last hours of the night, or "morning dreams" (Odyss. 4:839 sq.; Mosch. 2:2, 5; Hor. Sat. 1:10, 31 sq.; Cic. Div. 1:51), they could obtain a knowledge of the future (comp. Genesis 37:5 sq.; Genesis 41:11 sq.; Judges 7:13 sq.; Wisdom of Solomon 18:19; Matthew 27:19; see Il. 1:63; Herod. 1:34; Philostr. Apoll. 8:7, 5; Theophr. Char. xvii; Macrob. Somn. Scip. 1:3; Curt. 3:3, 2; Arvieux, Nachr. 4:325 sq.). The ancient philosophers taught various doctrines as to the significance of dreams (see Herod. 7:16; Cic. Div. 2:58-62). At a very early period dreams became a medium of divine revelation (Genesis 20:3; Genesis 31:10; Genesis cf., 24; Genesis 46:2; 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Kings 3:5; Job 33:15; Jeremiah 23:25 sq.; comp. Josephus. War, 3:8,3), and they are especially associated with prophetic visions (Numbers 12:6; Joel 3:1; Daniel 7:1); yet they are not prominent in the written prophecies until after the captivity (Daniel 8; Daniel 4 Esdras 11). The false prophets, also, gloried in their prophetic dreams (Jeremiah 23:25; Jeremiah 23:27; Jeremiah 23:32; Zechariah 10:2; comp. Deuteronomy 13:1; Deuteronomy 13:3; Deuteronomy 13:5). But revelation, when communicated in dreams, came sometimes by a peculiar divine utterance of audible exhortation, warning, or instruction (see Genesis 20:3; Genesis 20:6; Genesis 31:24; Matthew 1:20 sq.; Matthew 2:13; Matthew 2:20;. comp. 1 Samuel 28:6; 1 Samuel 28:15; Pausan. 9:23, 2; Liv. 2:36; 21:22; Xen. Cyrop. 8:7, 2), sometimes by visible images and symbols (Genesis 37:7; Judges 7:13; Job 33:15; comp. Herod. 3:124; v. 56; Curt. 3:3, 3; Josephus, Ant. 17:12, 3; Xen. Anab. iii, l, 11), and sometimes by both together (Genesis 28:12 sq.). In each case the vision needed an interpreter. Accordingly, interpreters (in Greek ὀνειροπόλοι, ὀνεὶροσκόποι, ὀνειροκριταί ) who professed to be able to explain visions (comp. Judges 7:13 sq.) were highly esteemed (Genesis xli; Daniel 5:12), and this power was considered a distinguished gift of God (Daniel 1:17). Princes and generals kept such men near them (Arrian, Alex. 2:18, 2; Curt. 4:2). The Chaldee interpreters were especially famous (Daniel 2:2 sq.; Daniel 4:3 sq.; Daniel 4:12; see Diod. Sic. 2:28); while among the Jews the Essenes seem to have cultivated the art with the utmost diligence (Josephus, Ant. 17:12, 3). This profession was a means of support (Plutarch, Aristid. p. 27; Juvenal, 6:547). When dreams of fearful import occurred, the Greeks and Romans offered sacrifices (Aristoph. Ran. 1338 sq.; Martial, 11:51,-7). The whole subject of the divination of the ancients by visions is presented with tolerable completeness by Artemidorus, in the 2d century (Oneirocritica, five books), and Synesius in the 5th (Logos peri enupnion). (See DIVINATION).

The Hebrew word נְצוּרַים in Isaiah 65:4 is explained by the Sept. and Jerome as an allusion to the heathen custom of passing the night in the temples of the gods, in order to receive prophetic dreams from them, and especially revelations of the means of curing the sick (comp. Diod. Sic. 1:25; Cic. Divinat. i. 43, 96); but this is an error (see Gesen. Comment. ad loc.).' It appears from Josephus (Ant. 17:6, 4) that the later Jews were very attentive to dreams and visions (comp. also War, 3:8, 3). Much value is still ascribed to them in the East. (See Tavernier, Reisen, 1:271; comp. also Knobel, Prophetism. d. Hebraer, 1:174 sq.; Schubert, Reise in das Morgenl. 1:402; Ennemoser, Gesch. d. Magie, 1:112 sq.) (See VISION).

Night-watch (אִשְׁמֻרָה, ashmurah', Psalms 63:6; Psalms 119:148, a watch, as elsewhere rendered; so the Gr. φυλακή ). The Israelites, Greeks, and Romans divided the night into parts of several hours each, at the expiration of every one of which a change of guards took place (Dissen, De partib. noctis et diei, in his Kleinen Schriften, p. 127 sq.; Suidas, s.v. φυλακή ). The ancient Hebrews, before the captivity, divided the night into three watches, like the Greeks. The first, which continued till midnight, was denominated ראֹשׁ אִשְׁמֻרוֹת rosh ashmurdth (Lamentations 2:19); the second was denominated אִשׁמֹרֶת הִתַּיכוֹנָה, ashmdreth hat-tikondlh, and continued from midnight till the crowing of the cock (Judges 7:19); the third, called אִשׁמֹרֶת הִבּקֶר, ashmoreth hab-bdker, the morning watch, extended from the second watch to the rising of the sun (Ideler, Chronol. 1:486). These divisions and names appear to have originated in the watches of the Levites in the tabernacle and Temple (for these, see Middoth, 1:1 sq.; Exodus 14:21; 1 Samuel 11:11). During the time of our Savior the night was divided into four watches of three hours each (Jerome, On Matthew xiv), a fourth watch having been introduced among the Jews from the Romans, who derived it from the Greeks (Lipsius, Deuteronomy 3 Milit. Romans p. 123; Veget. De Re Mil. 3:8; Censorin. c. 24; Pliny, v. 18). The Romans announced the beginning of each by the sound of a trumpet. This division became so familiar to the Jews that Josephus (Ant. v. 6, 5) makes Gideon (Judges 7:19) lead out his army in the fourth watch. The second and third watches are mentioned in Luke 12:38; the fourth in Matthew 14:25; and the four are all distinctly mentioned in Mark 13:35 : "Watch, therefore, for ye know not when the master of the house cometh; at even (ὀψέ, or the late watch), or at midnight (μεσονύκτιον ), or at the cock- crowing (ἀγεκτοροφωνία ), or in the morning (πρωϊ v, the early watch)." Here the first watch was at even, and continued from six till nine; the second commenced at nine, and ended at twelve, or midnight; the third watch, called by the Romans gallicinium, lasted from twelve to three; and the morning watch closed at six. (See COCK-CROWING).

Talmudists, however, reckon only three night-watches (Babyl. Berachoth, 1:1, 6; Otho, Lex. Rabbin. p. 468 sq.), calling the fourth the morning: of the next day. But this was perhaps merely for the purpose of preserving nominally the ancient custom of the Hebrews (but Lightfoot, Hor. Hebr. p. 364). The Roman custom was certainly in use among the soldiers of Herod (as is plain from Acts 12:4; comp. Fischer, Prolus. de Vit. Lexic. p. 452; Wetstein, N.T. 1:416 sq.; Carpzov, Appar. p. 347 sq.). It is still customary in the East to divide the night by the crowing of the cock, which is tolerably regular (Schubert, 1:402 sq.). The city watchmen are mentioned in Song of Solomon 3:3; Song of Solomon 5:7; comp. Psalms 127:1. (See WATCH).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Night-Vision'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/n/night-vision.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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