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A sundial is a natural clock that indicates hours of daylight time by means of the sun's shadow cast upon a marked surface. Sundials are very ancient (the English word hour is derived from the Latin and Greek hora, which in turn originated from the ancient Egyptian hor, meaning the sun's path, named from their "god of the dawn" Horus). Beginning with crude sticks, poles and upright rocks, ancient people all around the world eventually developed very intricate, and accurate, sundials. A sundial is composed of two parts, the precisely-calibrated dial (because the earth's surface is globular, the shadow does not move at a uniform rate during the day, and therefore the hour spacing must be corrected for one's specific location), and the gnomon (which must be set at the same angle as the local latitude) that casts the shadow.

Sundial Hezekiah's Sundial

A sundial is mentioned specifically only once in Bible History, in reference to a miraculous sign from God.

"In those days Hezekiah [see Kings of Israel and Judah] became sick and was at the point of death. And Isaiah the prophet [see Prophets] the son of Amoz came to him, and said to him, "Thus says The Lord, 'Set your house in order; for you shall die, you shall not recover.'"

"Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall, and prayed to The Lord, saying, "Remember now, O Lord, I beseech thee, how I have walked before Thee in faithfulness and with a whole heart, and have done what is good in Thy sight." And Hezekiah wept bitterly."

"And before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of The Lord came to him: "Turn back, and say to Hezekiah the prince of My people, Thus says The Lord, the God of David your father: I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you; on the third day you shall go up to the House of The Lord [see "My Father's House"]. And I will add fifteen years to your life. I will deliver you and this city out of the hand of the king of Assyria [see Ancient Empires - Assyria], and I will defend this city for my own sake and for my servant David's [see King David] sake."

"And Isaiah said, "Bring a cake of figs. And let them take and lay it on the boil, that he may recover."

"And Hezekiah said to Isaiah, "What shall be the sign that The Lord will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of The Lord on the third day?"

"And Isaiah said, "This is the sign to you from The Lord, that The Lord will do the thing that He has promised: shall the shadow go forward ten steps, or go back ten steps?"

"And Hezekiah answered, "It is an easy thing for the shadow to lengthen ten steps; rather let the shadow go back ten steps."

"And Isaiah the prophet cried to The Lord; and He brought the shadow back ten steps, by which the sun had declined on the dial of Ahaz." (2 Kings 20:1-11 RSV)

Fact Finder: What was another incident in Israelite history when God affected daylight time?
See Joshua's Long Day

Bible History Index | Daily Bible Study Home Page

This Week's Bible Quiz

Who was the brother or sister?

1. The sister of Moses who followed the infant's basket in the Nile River?

2. The brother of Moses who because Israel's first high priest?

3. The sister of Jacob's 12 sons?

4. Eliab's youngest brother who replaced Saul as king of Israel?

5. The brother of Isaac who became the ancestor of the Arab people?

6. The brother of Jacob who sold his inheritance for a bowl of soup?

7. Rachel's sister who also married Jacob?

8. Adonijah's younger brother who succeeded their father David as king of Israel?

9. Judah and Levi's oldest brother of the twelve sons of Jacob?

10. Judah and Levi's youngest brother of the twelve sons of Jacob?

For the answers to this January 15 2002 quiz, see the Bible Quiz Answers Page

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