Dial

DIAL. Properly, a graduated arc intended to mark the time of day by the shadow of a style or shaft falling on it. In modern times the style is generally (and properly) parallel to the axis of the earth. The word occurs twice in KJV (2Kgs.20.11; Isa.38.8), referring to the “sun-dial of Ahaz,” which he may have introduced from Babylonia, where it was used as early as the eighth century b.c. The Hebrew ma‘ŭlâh here translated “dial” is generally “degrees” or “steps” (so niv), from the root meaning “to go up.” It appears that the men of Hezekiah’s day judged time by the shadow of a pillar as it ascended or descended the steps leading to the palace. The miracle recorded in connection with the dial can be compared with the “long day” in Joshua’s time (Josh.10.12-Josh.10.14) and is equally inexplicable on natural grounds.


DIAL (Heb. מַעֲלָה, H5092, a difficult root, one which is cognate to Akkad. mēlû, the maqtal, participial form of the verb elû, to ascend, to go up cognate to Heb. עָלָה, H6590, meaning to go up). The noun thus formed is used for “stairs” and often for a flight of stairs by which the shadow of the pillar or post nearby was measured. The pl., ma’alōwṯ appears in 2 Kings 20:11 and Isaiah 38:8 in the narrative of a sign given to Hezekiah to prove the authenticity of Isaiah’s prophecy that God would heal him of his disease. In the Isaiah text the stairs are called by the name of their builder, “stairs of Ahaz,” and the term is tr. by the word “degrees” as a gradation. Although “dial” (KJV and RSV), strictly speaking, is not correct, “degrees” (JPS) is even less literal. The meaning is actually that of “marks” or “gradations” and should be understood as such.

Bibliography

B. Landsberger, Der kultischer Kalendar der Babylonier und Assyrer, (1915); R. W. Sloley, “Primitive Methods of Measuring Time, with Special Reference to Egypt,” JEA XVII (1931), 166-178; S. Iwry, “The Qumran Isaiah and the End of the Dial of Ahaz,” BASOR, 147, Oct. (1957), 27-33; Y. Yadin, “The Dial of Ahaz,” Eretz-Israel, V sepher Mazar (1958), 83-90 (Heb. with Eng. summary.)