The day is distinguished into natural, civil, and artificial. The natural day is one revolution of the earth on its axis. The civil day is that, the beginning and the end of which are determined by the custom of any nation. The Hebrews began their day in the evening, Le 23:32; the Babylonians at sunrise; and we begin at midnight. The artificial day is the time of the sun's continuance above the horizon, which is unequal according to different seasons, on account of the obliquity of the equator. The sacred writers generally divide the day into twelve hours. The sixth hour always ends at noon throughout the year; and the twelfth hour is the last hour before sunset. But in summer, all the hours of the day were longer than in winter, while those of night were shorter. See HOURS, and THREE.
The word day is also often put for an indeterminate period, for the time of Christ's coming in the flesh, and of his second coming to judgment, Isa 2:12; Eze 13:5; Joh 11:24; 1Th 5:2. The prophetic "day" usually is to be understood as one year, and the prophetic "year" or "time" as 360 days, Eze 4:6. Compare the three and half years of Da 7:25, with the forty-two months and twelve hundred and sixty days of Re 11:2-3.
The Jews reckoned the day from sunset to sunset (Le 23:32). It was originally divided into three parts (Ps 55:17). "The heat of the day" (1Sa 11:11; Ne 7:3) was at our nine o'clock, and "the cool of the day" just before sunset (Ge 3:8). Before the Captivity the Jews divided the night into three watches, (1) from sunset to midnight (La 2:19); (2) from midnight till the cock-crowing (Jg 7:19); and (3) from the cock-crowing till sunrise (Ex 14:24). In the New Testament the division of the Greeks and Romans into four watches was adopted (Mr 13:35). (See Watches.)
The division of the day by hours is first mentioned in Da 3:6,15; 4:19; 5:5. This mode of reckoning was borrowed from the Chaldeans. The reckoning of twelve hours was from sunrise to sunset, and accordingly the hours were of variable length (Joh 11:9).
Reckoned from sunset to sunset by the Hebrew. Ge 1:5; "the evening and the morning were the first day." 2Co 11:25; "a night and a day." Da 8:14 margin. So our fortnight equals fourteen nights. "Evening, morning, and noon" (Ps 55:17) are the three general divisions. Fuller divisions are: dawn, of which the several stages appear in Christ's resurrection (Mr 16:2; Joh 20:1; Re 22:16, "the bright and morning star" answering to Aijeleth Shahar, "gazelle of the morning," Psalm 22 title; Mt 28:1; Lu 24:1); sunrise; heat of the day; the two noons (tsaharaim, Hebrew; Ge 43:16); the cool of the day (Ge 3:8); evening (divided into early evening and late evening after actual sunset).
Between the two evenings the paschal lamb and the evening sacrifice used to be offered. "Hour" is first mentioned Da 3:6,15; 5:5. The Jews learned from the Babylonians the division of the day into twelve parts (Joh 11:9). Ahaz introduced the sun dial from Babylon (Isa 38:8). The usual times of prayer were the third, sixth, and ninth hours (Da 6:10; Ac 2:15; 3:1). "Give us day by day our daily bread" (Lu 11:3); i.e., bread for the day as it comes (epiousion arton).
Besides the ordinary application of the word, it is used in scripture as defining different periods. The term 'that day' often occurs in the Prophets and in the N.T. referring to the Messiah's day, sometimes connected with judgement and sometimes with blessing, the context of each passage showing its application. The subject generally may be divided into:
1. the days of the Law and the Prophets, which extended from the giving of the law until the coming of the Messiah. "At the end of these days God has spoken to us in His Son," as Heb 1:2 should read. This introduced Messiah's Day. But He was rejected and His reign postponed. In the meantime:
2. The Day of Grace supervenes, during which the church is being called out. The Lord Jesus wrought out redemption, ascended to heaven, and sent down the Holy Spirit. Of this time He said "In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you" Joh 14:20 cf. also Joh 16:23,26. The present period is referred to as man's day. 1Co 4:3, margin. These are also 'the last days' in which scoffers would come. 2Pe 3:3; Jude 1:18.
3. Messiah's Day, when He returns in judgement and then to reign. "The day is at hand." Ro 13:12; Heb 10:25. "The day shall declare it." 1Co 3:13. It is also called 'the last day.' Joh 6:39-51; 11:24; 12:48. And it is called 'the great day.' Elijah will come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord. Mal 4:5. The kings of the earth will be gathered to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Re 16:14. It is also called 'the day of Christ' and 'the day of Jesus Christ.' Php 1:6,10; 2:16; cf. 1Co 1:8; 2Co 1:14.
The variable length of the natural day at different seasons led in the very earliest times to the adoption of the civil day (or one revolution of the sun) as a standard of time. The Hebrews reckoned the day from evening to evening,
deriving it from
the evening and the morning were the first day. The Jews are supposed, like the modern Arabs, to have adopted from an early period minute specifications of the parts of the natural day. Roughly, indeed, they were content to divide it into "morning, evening and noonday,"
but when they wished for greater accuracy they pointed to six unequal parts, each of which was again subdivided. These are held to have been --
1. "the dawn."
3. "Heat of the day," about 9 o'clock.
4. "The two noons,"
Ge 43:16; De 28:29
5. "The cool (lit. wind) of the day," before sunset,
so called by the Persians to this day.
6. "Evening." Before the captivity the Jews divided the night into three watches,
viz. the first watch, lasting till midnight,
the "middle watch," lasting till cockcrow,
and the "morning watch," lasting till sunrise.
In the New Testament we have allusions to four watches, a division borrowed from the Greeks and Romans. These were --
1. From twilight till 9 o/clock,
Mr 11:11; Joh 20:19
2. Midnight, from 9 till 12 o'clock,
3 Macc 5:23.
4. Till daybreak.
The word held to mean "hour" is first found in
Perhaps the Jews, like the Greeks, learned from the Babylonians the division of the day into twelve parts. In our Lord's time the division was common.
DAY. 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: