Cockcrowing was the third watch of the four watches introduced by the Romans. (See WATCHES.) The Jews originally had but three. The first ended at 9, the second at 12, the third or" cockcrowing" at 3, and the fourth at 6 o'clock a.m. (Mr 13:35). The second cockcrowing (Mr 14:72), which marked Peter's third denial of Jesus, was probably at the beginning of the fourth watch between 3 and 4 in the morning, not long before the first day dawn, just when our Lord was being led bound to Caiaphas across the court where Peter was standing. The Mishna, states that "cocks were not bred at Jerusalem because of the holy things."
But Peter could easily hear their shrill crow on mount Olivet, only a half-mile off from where he was in the porch of the high priest's palace, in the stillness of night. Moreover, the restriction could only apply to the Jews, not to the Romans who used fowl for food. The first crowing being fainter in the distance did not awaken his slumbering conscience; but the second with its loud sound was the crowing which alone is recorded by Matthew (Mt 26:34), Luke (Lu 22:34), and John (Joh 13:38), being that which roused him to remember bitterly his Lord's neglected warning.
Mt 26:34,74; Mr 13:35; 14:30,72; Lu 22:34,60-61; Joh 13:30; 18:27. Cocks and hens were probably unknown in Palestine until from two to three centuries before Christ's time. In the famous painted tomb at Marissa (see Mareshah), a work of about b.c. 200, we have the cock depicted. Cocks and hens were introduced from Persia. The absence of express mention of then from the Law, and the fact that it is a 'clean' bird, have made it possible for the Jews for many centuries to sacrifice, these birds on the eve of the Day of Atonement
Mentioned only in connection with the denial of Peter, Mt 26:34,74-75; and with the 'cock crowing,' a division of time at which the Lord may come, Mr 13:35: this corresponds to the third watch of the night, and would be about 3 o'clock, A.M.
etc. The domestic cock and hen were early known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and as no mention is made in the Old Testament of these birds, and no figures of them occur on the Egyptian monuments, they probably came into Judea with the Romans, who, as is well known, prized these birds both as articles of food and for cock-fighting.
COCK, ???????, a well known domestic fowl. Some derive the Greek name from ?, and ???????, a bed, because the crowing of cocks rouses men from their beds; but Mr. Parkhurst asks, "May not this name be as properly deduced from the Hebrew ??? ????, the coming of the light, of which this 'bird of dawning,' as Shakspeare calls him, gives such remarkable notice, and for doing which he was, among the Heathen, sacred to the sun, who in Homer is himself called ????????" In Mt 26:34, our Lord is represented as saying, that before cock-crow, Peter should deny him thrice; so Lu 22:34, and Joh 13:38. But according to Mr 14:30, he says, "Before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny me thrice." These texts may be very satisfactorily reconciled, by observing, that ancient authors, both Greek and Latin, mention two cock- crowings, the one of which was soon after midnight, the other about three o'clock in the morning; and this latter being most noticed by men as the signal of their approaching labours, was called by way of eminence, the cock-crowing; and to this alone, Matthew, giving the general sense of our Saviour's warning to Peter, refers; but Mark, recording his very words, mentions the two cock-crowings.
The rabbies tell us that cocks were not permitted to be kept in Jerusalem on account of the holiness of the place; and that for this reason some modern Jews cavil against this declaration of the Evangelists; but the cock is not among the birds prohibited in the law of Moses. If there was any restraint in the use and domestication of the animal, it must have been an arbitrary practice of the Jews, and could not have been binding on foreigners, of whom many resided at Jerusalem as officers or traders. Strangers would not be willing to forego an innocent kind of food in compliance with a conquered people; and the trafficking spirit of the Jews would induce them to supply aliens, if it did not expressly contradict the letter of their law. This is sufficient to account for fowl of this kind being there, even admitting a customary restraint. The celebrated Reland admits that it was not allowed to breed cocks in the city, but that the Jews were not prohibited from buying them to eat, and that therefore the cock mentioned in the Gospel might be in the house of a Jew who designed to kill it for his own table; or may have been kept in the precincts of Pilate, or of a Roman officer or soldier.
During the time of our Saviour, the night was divided into four watches, a fourth watch having been introduced among the Jews from the Romans, who derived it from the Greeks. The second and third watches are mentioned in Lu 12:38; the fourth, in Mt 14:25; and the four are all distinctly mentioned in Mr 13:35: "Watch, therefore; for ye know not when the master of the house cometh; at even," ???, or the late watch, "or at midnight," ???????????, "or at the cock-crowing," ??????????????, "or in the morning," ????, 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.