The ninth hour is the same as our 3 p.m. – it was the time of the Jews’ daily evening sacrifices and prayers and the time of Jesus’ death on the cross.
The Hebrew method of telling the time is quite simple. The day would start at 6 a.m. (hour zero) and they would count from there. So noon would be at the sixth hour and the day would end at 6 p.m. (the twelfth hour). So the ninth hour corresponds to our 3 p.m.
We know that numbers can carry great significance in the Bible. So what’s up with the ninth hour?
The most significant mention of the ninth hour in the Bible is the death of Jesus Christ. Three of the gospels make note of the time of Christ’s death. Understanding that according to Jewish tradition, evening sacrifices and prayers took place at the ninth hour, is truly remarkable and no coincidence.
The Ninth Hour in the Bible
Some pretty significant, often miraculous, things happen in the ninth hour in the Bible. In fact, in almost every instance where it is mentioned, something amazing was about to take place. Let’s take a closer look.
Sacrifices at the Ninth Hour
Exodus 29:38-39 ESV “Now this is what you shall offer on the altar: two lambs a year old day by day regularly. One lamb you shall offer in the morning, and the other lamb you shall offer at twilight.”
There were two daily sacrifices that took place in the Jewish temple. According to Jewish tradition, the morning sacrifice was at 9 a.m. and the evening sacrifice was at 3 p.m. Twice a day, the shofar would blow, a lamb would be sacrificed, and the Jewish people would be reminded of their sin and their need for atonement.
Mark 15:25 ESV And it was the third hour when they crucified him.
Luke 23:44 – 46 ESV It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last.
When it comes to Jesus’ death, the timing alone was enough to grab the Jews’ attention. Jesus was nailed to the cross in the third hour – the time of the morning sacrifice – and He died in the ninth hour – the time of the evening sacrifice. The Lamb of God was nailed to the cross and later took his last breath as the sound of the shofar echoed across the land – wow!
Prayers and Miracles in the Ninth Hour
There are significant events in scripture that involve prayers of individuals at the time of the evening sacrifice, or the ninth hour, where God responded in miraculous ways.
In the Old Testament, Elijah, the prophet, zealous for God and determined to demonstrate His superiority over the false god, Baal, drenched an altar and then prayed to the self-existent God to consume it. This took place at the time of the evening sacrifice. And what did God do?
1 Kings 18:38-39 ESV Then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.”
Ezra, a priest, bowed before the Lord at the time of the evening sacrifice, confessing, seeking forgiveness, and interceding for God’s people and an incredible revival took place amongst the Israelites almost immediately. (Ezra 9:5)
In the New Testament, the first miracle by the apostles took place at the ninth hour, also known as the hour of prayer, when Peter and John healed the lame beggar in Acts 3 without procrastination.
We also see the miraculous vision of Cornelius, a Roman in Acts 10:3. An angel appeared in a vision and told him to send for Peter who would show him the way to salvation. This vision appeared to him in the ninth hour.
We already know that Christ died on the cross in the ninth hour but it is worth mentioning his own prayer – “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 27:46). God could not answer his prayer. The Holy God had turned His face away, unable to look on sin.
But that doesn’t mean He wasn’t at work. Some pretty incredible, life-changing miracles took place in those moments.
Matthew 27:51-53 ESV And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many.
The curtain that tore in the ninth hour was the curtain that separated sinful man from the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctum of the temple that represented the presence of God. This barrier was thick (about 4 inches), high, and extremely heavy. Christ’s death destroyed this barrier and made a way for man to enter into God’s presence. What a beautiful illustration of salvation.
Living in Light of the Biblical Ninth Hour
Every aspect of Christ’s sacrificial death right down to the timing and the prayer he cried out pointed to Him being the Lamb of God, the perfect sacrifice, who came to take away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
Those who trust in Christ’s death and resurrection for salvation are to live in light of the ninth hour, in awe and humbled by the miracle of a God who took on flesh, lived a perfect life as a man, and died a cruel death to pay for the sins of all the world.
Christian, the curtain was torn for you! You can approach the throne of grace, you are reconciled to the One who made you, and you can anticipate forever with Him!