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Reference: Watches


the periods into which the time between sunset and sunrise was divided. They are so called because watchmen relieved each other at each of these periods. There are frequent references in Scripture to the duties of watchmen who were appointed to give notice of the approach of an enemy (2Sa 18:24-27; 2Ki 9:17-20; Isa 21:5-9). They were sometimes placed for this purpose on watch-towers (2Ki 17:9; 18:8). Ministers or teachers are also spoken of under this title (Jer 6:17; Eze 33:2-9; Heb 13:17).

The watches of the night were originally three in number, (1) "the beginning of the watches" (La 2:19); (2) "the middle watch" (Jg 7:19); and (3) "the morning watch" (Ex 14:24; 1Sa 11:11), which extended from two o'clock to sunrise. But in the New Testament we read of four watches, a division probably introduced by the Romans (Mt 14:25; Mr 6:48; Lu 12:38). (See Day.)

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