Jewish Day (1st Century) explained

by | May 10, 2021 | 02 Library, Background & History, Charts NT

What does the first watch mean? What is the “third hour”? The Jewish day ran from sunset to sunset and was divided in 8 equal parts called watches and hours. Here’s what they mean.

The Watches

  • First watch – sunset to 9pm
  • Second watch – 9pm to midnight; Luke 12:38.
  • Third watch – Midnight to 3am; Luke 12:38.
  • Fourth watch – 3am to sunrise; Matt 14:25; Mark 6:48.

The 1st Century Jewish Day

Jewish TimeRoman TimeEventMentioned in Scripture
1st hourdawn to 8:00 amThe first male lamb of the Tamid
sacrifice was tied to the altar at dawn.
2nd hour8:00 to 9:00 am
3rd hour9:00 to 10:00 amMorning prayer service;
The incense is offered in the Sanctuary.
The first male lamb is sacrificed
as the temple gates open.
Jesus went to the cross at the 3rd hour.
Matt 20:3;
Mark 15:25;
Act 2:15;
Act 23:23.
4th hour10:00 to
11:00 am
5th hour11:00 am to Noon
6th hourNoon to 1:00 pmThe second lamb is tied
to the altar at noon
Matt 20:5;
Matt 27:45;
Mark 15:33;
Luke 23:44;
John 4:6;
John 19:14;
Act 10:9
7th hour1:00 to 2:00 pmJohn 4:52
8th hour2:00 to 3:00 pm
9th hour3:00 to 400 pmThe second Tamid lamb is sacrificed.
The second hour of prayer,
also called the hour of confession.
Jesus gave up his life at the 9th hour.
Matt 20:5;
Matt 27:45-46;
Mark 15:33-34;
Luke 23:44;
Act 3:1;
Act 10:3;
Act 10:30.
10th hour4:00 to 5:00 pm
11th hour5:00 to
6:00 pm
The afternoon service concludes
with the burning of the
incense and priestly benediction.
John 1:39
12th hour6:00 pm to sunsetMatt 20:9


The Jewish day begins at sunset. With the exception of the Sabbath, the weekdays had no names, only numbers.

  • 1st day – sunset Saturday to sunset Sunday
  • 2nd day – sunset Sunday to sunset Monday
  • 3rd day – sunset Monday to sunset Tuesday
  • 4th day – sunset Tuesday to sunset Wednesday
  • 5th day – sunset Wednesday to sunset Thursday
  • 6th day – sunset Thursday to sunset Friday
  • 7th day – Sabbath; sunset Friday to sunset Saturday

Photo by Ann Savchenko on Unsplash