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Fausset's Bible Dictionary [1]

Ma'Alot , "degrees" or "steps" ( Isaiah 38:8). The sun dial arid the division of the day into 12 hours were Babylonian inventions. As Ahaz copied the altar at Damascus ( 2 Kings 16:7;  2 Kings 16:10) so he probably copied the sun dial 700 B.C. But the division into 12 hours is not implied in the Old Testament day. (See Day .) The "degrees" were "steps" ascending to his palace (Josephus). The shadow of a column or obelisk fell on a greater or less number of steps according as the sun was high or low.

The dial was of such a size and so placed that Hezekiah, when convalescent, could witness the miracle from his chamber; probably "in the middle court," the point where Isaiah turned back to announce to Hezekiah God's answer to his prayer ( 2 Kings 20:4;  2 Kings 20:9;  Isaiah 38:21-22). Ahaz' intimacy with Tiglath Pileser would naturally lead the "princes of Babylon to inquire of the wonder done in the land," which shows that the miracle of the recession of the shadow on the dial was local, perhaps produced by divinely ordered refraction, a cloud denser than the air being interposed between the gnomon and the "degrees" or "dial."

People's Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Dial. It was on the "dial of Ahaz" that the miraculous sign given to Hezekiah for bis recovery from sickness showed itself.  2 Kings 20:8-11;  Isaiah 38:7-8. It is uncertain what the "dial" of Ahaz was. The word so translated is elsewhere rendered "degrees," "steps," E.G.,  Exodus 20:26. Some have imagined it a hemispherical cavity in a horizontal square stone, provided with a gnomon or index In the middle, the shadow of which fell on different lines cut in the hollow surface; some think that it was a vertical index surrounded by twelve concentric circles; while some, with perhaps greater probability, believe it an obelisk-like pillar, set up in an open elevated place, with encircling steps, on which the shadow fell. Ahaz appears to have had a taste for curious things,  2 Kings 16:10, and might have borrowed this dial from Assyria. The inquiry from Babylon in regard to it would seem to imply that the miracle was heard of, but not witnessed there.  2 Chronicles 32:31.

Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary [3]

is not mentioned in Scripture before the reign of Ahaz. Interpreters differ concerning the form of the dial of Ahaz, 2 Kings 20. The generality of expositors think that it was a staircase so disposed, that the sun showed the hours upon it by the shadow. Others suppose that it was a pillar erected in the middle of a very level and smooth pavement, on which the hours were engraven. According to these authors, the lines marked in this pavement are what the Scripture calls degrees. Grotius describes it as follows: "It was a concave hemisphere, and in the midst was a globe, the shadow of which fell on the different lines engraven in the concavity of the hemisphere; these lines were twenty-eight in number." This description answers pretty nearly to that kind of dial, which the Greeks called scapha, a boat or hemisphere, the invention (rather introduction) of which, Vitruvius ascribes to Berosus the Chaldean. It would seem, indeed, that the most ancient sun dial known is in the form of a half circle, hollowed into the stone, and the stone cut down to an angle. This kind of dial was invented in Babylon, and was very probably the same as that of Ahaz.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [4]

DIAL (  2 Kings 20:11 ,   Isaiah 38:8 ). The Heb. word commonly denotes ‘steps’ (see   Exodus 20:26 ,   1 Kings 10:20 ), and is so rendered elsewhere in this narrative (  2 Kings 20:9-11 ,   Isaiah 38:8; AV [Note: Authorized Version.] ‘degrees’). The ‘steps’ referred to doubtless formed part of some kind of sun-clock. According to Herod, ii. 109, the Babylonians were the inventors of the polos or concave dial, the gnomon , and the division of the day into 12 hours. The introduction by Ahaz of a device for measuring the time may be regarded as a result of his intercourse with the Assyrians (  2 Kings 16:10 ff.), but it is uncertain what kind of clock is intended. See also art. Time.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [5]

Dial. An Instrument For Showing The Time Of Day From The Shadow Of A Style Or gnomon On A Graduated Arc Or Surface; rendered "steps" in Authorized Version,  Exodus 20:26;  2 Kings 10:19, and "degrees,"  2 Kings 20:9-11;  Isaiah 38:8, where, to give a consistent rendering, we should read with the margin the "degrees" rather than the "dial" of Ahaz.

It is probable that the dial of Ahaz was really a series of steps or stairs, and that the shadow, (perhaps of some column or obelisk on the top), fell on a greater or smaller number of them according as the sun was low or high. The terrace of a palace might easily be thus ornamented.

Webster's Dictionary [6]

(1): ( n.) A miner's compass.

(2): ( n.) The graduated face of a timepiece, on which the time of day is shown by pointers or hands.

(3): ( n.) An instrument, formerly much used for showing the time of day from the shadow of a style or gnomon on a graduated arc or surface; esp., a sundial; but there are lunar and astral dials. The style or gnomon is usually parallel to the earth's axis, but the dial plate may be either horizontal or vertical.

(4): ( v. t.) To measure with a dial.

(5): ( v. t.) To survey with a dial.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [7]

An instrument much used before the invention of clocks, to tell the time of day by the progress of the sun's shadow. The dial of Ahaz,  2 Kings 20:11   Isaiah 38:1-9 , seems to have been peculiar either in structure or size, and was perhaps borrowed from Babylon or Damascus,  2 Kings 16:10 . The causing the shadow upon it to go back ten degrees, to assure king Hezekiah of his recovery from sickness, was probably effected not by arresting and turning backwards the revolution of the earth, but by a miraculous refraction of the sun's rays, observed only in Judea, though the fame of it reached Babylon,  2 Chronicles 32:31 .

King James Dictionary [8]

DIAL, n. An instrument for measuring time, by the aid of the sun being a plate or plain surface, on which lines are drawn in such a manner, that the shadow of a wire, or of the upper edge of another plane, erected perpendicularly on the former, may show the true time of the day. The edge of the plane, which shows the time, is called the stile of the dial, and this must be parallel to the axis of the earth. The line on which this plane is erected, is called the substile and the angle included between the substile and stile, is called the elevation or highth of the stile. A dial may be horizontal, vertical, or inclining.

Easton's Bible Dictionary [9]

 2 Kings 20:11 Isaiah 38:8 Exodus 10:19 2 Kings 20:9,10,11 Ma'aloth

Probably the sun-dial was a Babylonian invention. Daniel at Babylon (  Daniel 3:6 ) is the first to make mention of the "hour."

Holman Bible Dictionary [10]


Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature [11]

Fig. 146—Sundial

The invention of the sun-dial belongs most probably to the Babylonians. The first mention in Scripture of the 'hour,' is made by Daniel, at Babylon . The circumstances connected with the dial of Ahaz , which is perhaps the earliest of which we have any clear mention, entirely concur with the derivation of gnomonics from the Babylonians. Ahaz had formed an alliance with Tiglath-pileser, king of Assyria , and that he was ready to adopt foreign improvements, appears from his admiration of the altar at Damascus, and his introduction of a copy of it into Jerusalem . 'The princes of Babylon sent unto him to inquire of the wonder that was done in the land' . Hence the dial also, which was called after his name, was probably an importation from Babylon. Different conjectures have been formed respecting the construction of this instrument. On the whole it seems to have been a distinct contrivance, rather than any part of a house. It would also seem probable, from the circumstances, that it was of such a size, and so placed, that Hezekiah, now convalescent , but not perfectly recovered, could witness the miracle from his ch

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [12]

Bibliography Information McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Dial'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/encyclopedias/eng/tce/d/dial.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.