First found in Da 3:6; 4:19,33; 5:5. It is the rendering of the Chaldee shaah, meaning a "moment," a "look." It is used in the New Testament frequently to denote some determinate season (Mt 8:13; Lu 12:39).
With the ancient Hebrews the divisions of the day were "morning, evening, and noon-day" (Ps 55:17, etc.). The Greeks, following the Babylonians, divided the day into twelve hours. The Jews, during the Captivity, learned also from the Babylonians this method of dividing time. When Judea became subject to the Romans, the Jews adopted the Roman mode of reckoning time. The night was divided into four watches (Lu 12:38; Mt 14:25; 13:25). Frequent allusion is also made to hours (Mt 25:13; 26:40, etc.). (See Day.)
An hour was the twelfth part of the day, reckoning from sunrise to sunset, and consequently it perpetually varied in length.
(See DAY.) Ahaz' sundial implies the Jews' acquaintance with hours before the Babylonian captivity. During it, they would certainly meet with that division of time which prevailed for ages at Babylon. The Egyptians too in early times knew it, Lepsius says as far back as the 5th dynasty. Astronomers knew in ancient times the "hour," that is the 24th part of a civil day; its use in common life is said not to have begun until the fourth century A.D. The hour which is the 12th part of the natural day, between sunrise and sunset, is of the same length as the astronomical hour only at the equinoxes. In our Lord's days the Jews must have had dials, and clepsydrae or water hourglasses, as these were long known to the Persians with whom they had been so closely connected. Christ alludes to the day hours, Joh 11:9, "are there not twelve hours in the day?" The 3rd, 6th, and 9th hours are mentioned often as the regular hours of prayer (Ac 2:15; 3:1; 10:9).
Used with various significations in scripture: as
1. An indefinite period, when the word 'time' gives the sense: "the hour cometh when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father." Joh 4:21.
2. A definite point of time, when 'moment' or 'at once' would give the sense. "The woman was made whole from that hour." Mt 9:22.
3. The division of the day into twelve hours, generally considered to be from sunrise to sunset. This varied in Palestine, from ten of our hours in the winter to fourteen in the summer; so that the hours in summer would be nearly half as long again as in the winter. The hours of scripture are now usually reckoned from 6 o'clock A.M. to 6 o'clock P.M., which would make the third hour our 9 o'clock; the sixth hour our 12 o'clock; the ninth hour our 3 o'clock P.M., and so on.
This would be applicable to all the definite hours mentioned in the N.T. except in the Gospel by John. This evangelist followed the plan of reckoning from midnight to midnight. This explains the difficulty found in Joh 19:14, which represents the trial proceeding at the sixth hour, whereas Mr 15:25 says "It was the third hour and they crucified him." A comparison of all the passages shows that the trial commenced early, and our 6 o'clock suits very well; and the crucifixion at 9 o'clock, the third hour of the Jews, agrees with Mark. The other definite times mentioned in John are in Joh 1:39; 4:6,52-53, and the now common method of reckoning the time will agree with all of them.
The ancient Hebrews were probably unacquainted with the division of the natural day into twenty-four parts; but they afterwards parcelled out the period between sunrise and sunset into a series of divisions distinguished by the sun's course. The early Jews appear to have divided the day into four parts,
and the night into three watches,
and even in the New Testament we find a trace of this division in
At what period the Jews first became acquainted with the division of the day into twelve hours is unknown, but it is generally supposed they learned it from the Babylonians during the captivity. It was known to the Egyptians at a very early period. They had twelve hours of the day and of the night. There are two kinds of hours, viz. (1) the astronomical or equinoctial hour, i.e. the 24th part of a civil day, and (2) the natural hour, i.e. the 12th part of the natural day, or of the time between sunrise and sunset. These are the hours meant in the New Testament,
etc., and it must be remembered that they perpetually vary in length, so as to be very different at different times of he year. For the purpose of prayer the old division of the day into four portions was continued in the temple service. as we see from