Bible Clocks

If you have ever read the Gospels, you have seen it, time indicated by hour of the day instead of the familiar, modern, hour of the clock. All time of day references given in the Bible's original languages are written as hours of the day, not hours of the clock.

So what do you do if you want to understand those references to hours of the day given in the Bible?

You need a clock that tells time measured in hours of the day.

Clocks that tell time that way are called Bible Clocks.

The Tricks

12 hour analog clocks are so familiar most people can read them even when there are no numbers on the clock face at all. picture of clock

By not changing anything about orientation of the hour and minute hands on a 12 hour analog Bible Clock the first "trick" is achieved:

1) Anyone who knows how to tell time using an analog 12 hour clock can read the location of the hour and minute hands on the clock and know the conventional, modern, time measured as the "hour of the clock."

By changing the position of the numbers on the face, from the modern hour of the clock to the biblical hour of the day, a second trick is achieved:

2) The face of a Bible Clock can be used to tell the hour of the day, and thus the biblical time for any time of the day.

Understanding Hours of the Day

The biblical way of reckoning time starts with a calendar day that breaks at sunset instead of the modern calendar day-break at midnight.

Within the calendar day there are two 12 hour periods, 12 hours of darkness, called night, and 12 hours of daylight, called day.

Most biblical references to time at night are given as a reference to 1 of 4 different Watches of the Night. The second ring on 12 hour analog style Bible Clocks marks the start of each of those 4 watches. The starting time for the first watch is at nominal sunset, 6:00 PM, then the second watch at 9:00 PM, the third watch at 12:00 Midnight, and the 4th watch at 3:00 AM.

All biblical references to time during the daylight part of the day are given by the hour of the day. The first hour starts at 6:00 AM, 1/2 way through the calendar day. The seventh hour of the day begins at 12:00 Noon, the 12th hour of the day begins at 5:00 PM.

The Calendar of the Bible puts particular emphasis on the Sabbath cycle, including a weekly cycle, and a Sabbath cycle in the years and in Jubilees. The biblical view of the hours of the day indicates the seventh hour begins at high-noon, which is the normal start for the lunch hour, or siesta, and it marks a mid-day Sabbath.

The Fixed Length of Hours

There are many fixed prophetic ratios of time indicated in the Bible. These ratios provide interpretive keys for mapping parables from one time domain to another. The Night Watch is specifically called out in Psalm 90 as being equal to a 1,000 year period.

Specific applications of that ratio in history are beyond our scope here, but that ratio is very useful in establishing a key point. The 4 watches of the night are a prophetic equal to 4,000 years, and the length of those years never changes so the overall length of 4 watches never changes either. The night time part of a calendar day is thus as invariant as the amount of time in 4000 years which is also completely invariant.

This means that the 12 hours of the daylight part of the calendar day are also fixed in length each day, no matter what the sun might be doing relative to sunrise and sunset times.

This is a long winded way of saying that simple, modern, mechanical clock movements do a reasonable job of indicating biblical hours of the day. There is no reason to resort to astronomical measurements, nor is there any reason to try and calculate daylight hours as fitting between any observed sunrise and sunset times.

In ancient times, even up until the times of early astronomers, the time-of-day was set at high-noon and not at sunrise nor sunset. This is because of the relatively invariant nature of the position of the sun at high noon. For the average man on the street the observation of the sun at high noon would have marked the most important time of the day, the start of the seventh hour, or daily Sabbath.

Time Conversions

One of the most dense series of time references in the Bible is in Jesus' parable of the workers. The parable spans the entire daylight part of a calendar day, with various workers being called to work at various hours.

1"For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire men to work in his vineyard. 2He agreed to pay them a denarius for the day and sent them into his vineyard. Matthew 20:1-23"About the third hour he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. 4He told them, `You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.' 5So they went. Matthew 20:3-5"He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. 6About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, `Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?' Matthew 20:5-67"`Because no one has hired us,' they answered. Matthew 20:7a"He said to them, `You also go and work in my vineyard.' Matthew 20:7b8"When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, `Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.' Matthew 20:89"The workers who were hired about the eleventh hour came and each received a denarius. 10So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12`These men who were hired last worked only one hour,' they said, `and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.' Matthew 20:9-1213"But he answered one of them, `Friend, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to work for a denarius? 14Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?' Matthew 20:13-1516"So the last will be first, and the first will be last." Matthew 20:16 (Matthew 20:1-16 NIV)

Using a Bible Clock we can quickly discover what the modern times were for each group of workers called in the parable:

  • 3rd Hour: 8:00 AM
  • 6th Hour: 11:00 AM
  • 9th Hour: 2:00 PM
  • 11th Hour: 4:00 PM

Of course this begs a question, if the last group is called at 4:00 PM, when there is still 2 hours in the day remaining, why then do they only work 1 hour?

Notice how we could not even ask the question without an accurate Bible Clock.

The answer? The workers are either in town, and must travel an hour to the field, or the evening when the paymaster arrives is not quite at the end of the 12 hour day. Perhaps both.

Other Uses

Bible clocks make an interesting standing witness. Put a Bible Clock on your wall, and it says to all who see it that time is not as it seems. Life is not as it seems. Jesus has left a truth in his word that the world of today does not know and does not acknowledge.