the periods into which the time between sunset and sunrise was
divided. They are so called because watchmen relieved each other
at each of these periods. There are frequent references in
Scripture to the duties of watchmen who were appointed to give
notice of the approach of an enemy (2 Sam. 18:24-27; 2 Kings
9:17-20; Isa. 21:5-9). They were sometimes placed for this
purpose on watch-towers (2 Kings 17:9; 18:8). Ministers or
teachers are also spoken of under this title (Jer. 6:17; Ezek.
33:2-9; Heb. 13:17).
The watches of the night were originally three in number, (1)
"the beginning of the watches" (Lam. 2:19); (2) "the middle
watch" (Judg. 7:19); and (3) "the morning watch" (Ex. 14:24; 1
Sam. 11:11), which extended from two o'clock to sunrise. But in
the New Testament we read of four watches, a division probably
introduced by the Romans (Matt. 14:25; Mark 6:48; Luke 12:38).