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The history of the development of various measurements for time, and the making of instruments for determining them, is an interesting one. Before the days of Abraham, the Chaldeans had set up a system of days and seasons and had divided the periods of darkness and light into parts. Their seven-day week had been accepted by Egyptians before the time of Moses. Day and night were determined by the sun. The week, no doubt, was determined by the phases of the Moon. The month was based on the recurrence of the new moon. In order to provide in the calendar for the extra days of the solar year over the twelve lunar months, the Jews added an intercalary month. They had no way of determining an absolute solar year, so the extra month was added every third year, with adjustments to provide seven extra months each nineteen years. It was added after the spring equinox, hence was called a second Adar (the preceding month being Adar). This method of keeping the lunar and the solar years synchronized was probably learned by the Israelites during the Babylonian captivity.
For ages, years were not numbered consecutively as we number them, but were counted for some outstanding event, such as the founding of Rome. The Hebrews had a civil year that began at the vernal equinox, after the custom of Babylon, and a sacred year that began with the harvest or seventh month (
Ancient people had no method of reckoning long periods of time. The Greeks did develop the idea of eras, or connected time elements. The Olympian era dated from 766 b.c.; the Seleucid era from 312 b.c. Their year began on January 1. In Asia Minor the year began with the autumn equinox. It is, therefore, difficult to determine any precise date for events occurring during New Testament days. Luke’s dating of events (
The Hebrews used great and well-known events like the Exodus, the Babylonian exile, the building of the temple, and the earthquake (
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
tim: The basis of the Hebrew measurement of time was the day and the lunar month, as with the Semites generally. The division of the day into hours was late, probably not common until after the exile, although the sun-dial of Ahaz (
1. The Day:
The term "day" (yom) was in use from the earliest times, as is indicated in the story of the Creation (
The night was divided, during pre-exilic times, into three divisions called watches (’ashmurah, ’ashmoreth), making periods of varying length, as the night was longer or shorter (
In the Day). Other more or less indefinite periods of the day and night are: dawn, dawning of the day, morning, evening, noonday, midnight, cock-crowing or crowing of the cock, break of day, etc.we find the Roman division of, etc.). But the use of the word in the indefinite sense, as in the expressions: "day of the Lord," "in that day," "the day of judgment," etc., is far more frequent (see
The weekly division of time, or the seven-day period, was in use very early and must have been known to the Hebrews before the Mosaic Law, since it was in use in Babylonia before the days of Abraham and is indicated In the story of the Creation. The Hebrew shabhua`, used in the Old Testament for "week," is derived from shebha`, the word for "seven." As the seventh day was a day of rest, or Sabbath (Hebrew shabbath), this word came to be used for "week," as appears in the New Testament sabbaton, sabbata), indicating the period from Sabbath to Sabbath (
The monthly division of time was determined, of course, by the phases of the moon, the appearance of the new moon being the beginning of the month, chodhesh. Another term for month was yerach yerach, meaning "moon," which was older and derived from the Phoenician usage, but which persisted to late times, since it is found in the Aramaic inscriptions of the 3rd century AD in Syria. The names of the months were Babylonian and of late origin among the Hebrews, probably coming into use during and after the Captivity. But they had other names, of earlier use, derived from the Phoenicians, four of which have survived in "Abib," "Ziv," "Ethanim" and "Bul."
The Hebrew year (shanah) was composed of 12 or 13 months, the latter being the year when an intercalary month was added to make the lunar correspond with the solar year. As the difference between the two was from ten to eleven days, this required the addition of a month once in about three years, or seven in nineteen years. This month was added at the vernal equinox and was called after the month next preceding, we-’adhar, or the "second Adar." We do not know when this arrangement was first adopted, but it was current after the Captivity. There were two years in use, the civil and the ritual, or sacred year. The former began in the autumn, as would appear from
The return of the seasons was designated by summer and winter, or seed-time and harvest; for they were practically the same. There is, in Palestine, a wet season, extending from October to March or April, and a dry season comprising the remainder of the year. The first is the winter (choreph), and this is the seed-time (zera`), especially the first part of it called yoreh, or the time of the early rain; the second is the summer (qayits, "fruit-harvest," or qatsir, "harvest").
Seed-time begins as soon as the early rains have fallen in sufficient quantity to moisten the earth for plowing, and the harvest begins in some parts, as in the lower Jordan region, near the Dead Sea, about April, but on the high lands a month or two later. The fruit harvest comes in summer proper and continues until the rainy season. "The time when kings go out to war" (
7. No Era:
We have no mention in the Old Testament of any era for time reckoning, and we do not find any such usage until the time of the Maccabees. There are occasional references to certain events which might have served for eras had they been generally adopted. Such was the Exodus in the account of the building of the temple (