hour Summary and Overview
hour in Easton's Bible Dictionary
First found in Dan. 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 (Matt. 8:13; Luke 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 (Luke 12:38; Matt. 14:25; 13:25). Frequent allusion is also made to hours (Matt. 25:13; 26:40, etc.). (See DAY T0000984.) An hour was the twelfth part of the day, reckoning from sunrise to sunset, and consequently it perpetually varied in length.
hour in Smith's Bible Dictionary
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, #Ne 9:3| and the night into three watches, #Jud 7:19| and even in the New Testament we find a trace of this division in #Mt 20:1-5| 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, #Joh 11:9| 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 #Ac 2:15; 3:1; 10:9|
hour in Schaff's Bible Dictionary
HOUR . The term is employed to indicate an indefinite period of time, as in Dan 3:6; Dan 4:19, and Matt 9:22; John 7:30, etc. It also indicates a definite period. At the time of our Lord the Jews reckoned the hours from sunrise to sunset, and divided the night into watches. Six in the morning was counted the first, noon the sixth, and 6 p.m. the twelfth hour of the day. In the parable of the laborers, Matt 20:1-10, this division into hours is clearly shown. The husbandman engages laborers early in the morning, and subsequently during the day at the third, sixth, ninth, and eleventh hours. Jesus was crucified at the third hour, Mark 15:25, or about 9 a.m., and the darkness continued from the sixth to the ninth hour (12-3 p.m.), Matt 27:45. This mode of reckoning is employed in the Acts, as is plainly seen in ch. Acts 2:15. There were thus twelve hours in every day between the sun's rising and setting, and the hours varied in length with the brevity or length of the day. The Romans computed time from midnight to noon, and divided this period into equal portions, whose beginning was indicated by the expressions first, third, sixth, and ninth hour. It is altogether probable, although opinions differ, that John's Gospel observes this method. The tenth hour, therefore, of ch. John 1:39 coincides with 10 a.m.; the sixth hour, ch. Song 4:6, with 6 p.m. The period mentioned for the last scene in the trial of our Lord, John 19:14, as the sixth hour was 6 a.m. The exact expression must be emphasized, "about the sixth hour." If we take into account the necessary delay before arriving at Calvary, an almost exact harmony is made out between John and the other evangelists. See Day.
hour in Fausset's Bible Dictionary
(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, John 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 (Acts 2:15; Acts 3:1; Acts 10:9).