Matthew 12:40 states, “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Matthew’s comparison links Jesus’ death and burial with Jonah being swallowed by the fish. But the similarities don’t end here: in light of Matthew’s knowledge of Hebrew, this verse also alludes to Jesus’ resurrection being anticipated in the Book of Jonah.

Although written in Greek, Matthew’s Gospel reflects knowledge of Jesus’ Hebrew name, Yeshua (ישוע). In Matt 1:21, the Gospel provides a Hebrew wordplay to show that Jesus’ name relates to his mission to “save” his people. The Greek reads, “You will call his name Jesus (Ἰησοῦν) for he will save (σώσει) his people from their sins.” While the Greek words for “Jesus” and “save” have no linguistic relationship, the Hebrew words share the same root; in Hebrew the verse would read: “You will call his name Yeshua (ישוע) for he will save (yoshia; יושיע) his people from their sins”—in Hebrew, Jesus’ name indicates his mission of salvation.

With the knowledge that Yeshua’s name comes from the Hebrew word for “salvation” (yeshuah; ישועה), notice Jonah’s final words before the fish vomits him out: “Salvation (yeshuatah; ישועתה) is the Lord’s!” (Jon 2:9). Jonah’s last word before God “resurrects” him from the fish is linguistically related to Jesus’ name in Hebrew. Therefore, Matt 12:40 not only highlights the similarities with Jonah in relation to Jesus’ death; the verse also recalls the relationship between Jesus’ name and Jonah’s words right before he emerges from his own certain death. Just as God raises Jonah after his recognition that “salvation is the Lord’s,” God raises Jesus—the one whose very name proclaims, “The Lord saves!”

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37 COMMENTS

  1. I have never noticed that the place where Jonah called out to the LORD was Hades and the LORD heard him. Our doctrine teaches that the LORD cannot hear us (those who don’t know Jesus) because it is Jesus (died, buried, resurrected) who saves, not the LORD.

  2. Sir, could you please explain where Jesus was during the three days….paradise, hades? What is the Hebrew meaning of “in the heart of the earth”. Commentaries don’t agree. I would very much appreciate your responce. Thank you in advance.

    • Bruce didn’t The Lord Jesus on the cross say to the thief “today you will be with me -IN PARADISE ” . True His body rested in the tomb but his spirit was in Paradise as I read the Word.

      • Thanks Colin, and yes I am aware of that scripture, but my question deprives from Eph4:8-9, 1Peter3:18-22, (4:6, ref. to Psalm 16:10)(Jesus own words in Matt 12:40)27:52-53, Acts2:31, Psalm16:10, Malachi 4:2, Isa9:2, Phil. 2:10

    • Hi Bruce, thanks for your question. Matthew doesn’t comment on Jesus’ whereabouts immediately after death, but assuming that the Gospel holds the same view as the Hebrew Bible with regards to the afterlife, Jesus’ body would have been in the ground, and his embodied spirit (or spiritual body, if you like) would have gone to Sheol (the place where everyone goes after they die according to Hebrew thought) where he would have awaited his bodily resurrection. But it’s tough to be dogmatic on this; yours is a great question — I wish Matthew had been clearer on its precise answer 🙂

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      • Matt. 27:52,53 some came out of their graves & declared what they witnessed in hades ! Satan boasted that he is succeeding in killing Jesus but then Jesus appeared and released the believers (saints) ! Jesus told Mary the first day of the week not to touch Him because He’d not ascended to the FATHER Jn.20:16,17 ; this I gleaned from a book I’ve had “the lost books of the Bible”

        • The Catholic view of purgatory is based on the Hebrew idea of Sheol, but the two are not identical concepts. According to Catholic thought, one can go through a refining process in purgatory (and, in fact, be prayed out of purgatory) in order to move from purgatory to heaven. However, there is no corresponding idea in Hebrew thought of a post-death transfer from Sheol prior to bodily resurrection.

  3. Another commonality between Jesus and Jonah is Jonah was commanded to take salvation to Gentiles. Through Jesus, now we Gentiles are saved.

      • Actually, Jesus came for everyone through His chosen people, the Jews, which was prophesied in several of the OT books to redeem sinners (that included both Jew & Gentile). In Matt. 28:19-20, He instructed His disciples to go to ALL nations. Although Peter and other Apostles were sharing the Gospel with both Jews and Gentiles in Israel, Paul was chosen by Jesus to take it to the Gentiles (all the nations) and he did an incredible job. Gentile Christians need to know and remember this…we got our New Testament fromkI our Jewish roots.

        • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!

      • Hi Arna, thanks for your comment. You’re right that Jesus’ mission was limited to Jews during his lifetime (cf. Mt 10:5-6; 15:24). Jesus also commissioned his disciples to go to “all the Gentiles” after his resurrection (28:19).

    • Thanks for your comment! I agree that there’s a connection between Jonah’s preaching to the Gentiles and Jesus’ commission for his disciples to go to “all the nations/Gentiles” (Mt 28:19). Well noted 🙂

    • Hi Tony; thanks for your question. There are many linguistic connections between Matthew and Isaiah. Which ones did you have in mind? I’d be happy to write a post on this topic for you.

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  4. The Jews were where they were suppose to be. Jesus says He was sent to the lost sheep of house of Israel. Jonah went to Nineveh in Syria who conquered Israel. After JESUS’s resurrection the disciples in the Spirit of Messiah went out to lost house of Israel throughout the nations. After the gospel of repentance & grace was taken to ends of earth then this age ends & the Messianic Age began. The Jews are at right place at right time now- how will they receive the return of Messiah in the hearts of lost tribes of Israel??

  5. Luke 23:43 reads: And Jesus said unto him “Verily I say unto you today you will be with Me in paradise.” In the Greek bible there is no comma. Most translators place a coma before “today”; and some place the coma after “today”. This of course changes the meaning of what Jesus actually said. If the coma is placed before “today”, as you have indicated, please explain Jesus’ request 3 days later in John 20:17 where He asks not to be touched because “I have not yet ascended to the Father”. Thanks.

    • The Father was not in Paradise. Those saved before the resurrection, including Yeshua went to Paradise, those after to heaven where the Father dwelt. Yeshua asked not to be touched later because He’d just been resurrected but had not yet gone up to assume His role as High Priest in heaven. On Yom Kippur the High Priest could not be touched before entering the Holy of Holies lest some contamination be transferred to him. Yeshua was about to assume this role in the heavenly Tabernacle, thus tying the beginning to the end; Pesach to Yom Kippur- salvation before and after.

    • Excellent point! I was also taught the comma goes AFTER ‘today’. Makes all the difference in understanding.

    • Hi, Dave. So I didn’t reference Lk 23:43 in the article, but the question of where to put the “comma” in the verse is an interesting one. Based on Luke’s other uses of “amen, I say to you” (ἀμήν σοι λέγω), in which the comma would go immediately after this phrase each time (4:24; 12:37, 44; 18:17, 29; 21:32), it is likely that the comma should go before “today,” so that 23:43 would read, “Amen, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

    • Hi Kat. In Greek, “Hades” (ᾅδης) would mean something like “without perception” or, more succinctly, “unseen.” Greek-speaking Jews use the term as a translation for the Hebrew “Sheol” (שאול), which is the place where everyone goes when they die according to most strands of ancient Hebrew thought.

  6. I am confused. Tradition places Jesus death on Friday (Good Friday-a misnomer). I this is the case He was in the tomb Friday night and Saturday night and resurrected on Sunday morning. That is 2 nights in the tomb not the 3 nights referred to in Matthew and discussed here. How do we resolve this discrepancy? One way is to make the crucifixion on Thursday as reported in John. Then Maundy Thursday is really Wednesday. I go with John. How do you go?

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    • Re 3 days and 3 nights, to use the phrase again ‘ But the similarities don’t end here!’ there is an answer in scripture, though it’s not in your face. After considerable research, I believe Jesus was actually Crucified Wednesday afternoon. Wed, Thurs, Fri night. Thurs, Fri, Sat day. The key is in John 19:31 which says the upcoming Sabbath was a ‘high day’, in other words, not the regular weekly Sabbath. 2 Sabbaths: Passover & the regular one. Matt. 28:1 says ‘after the Sabbaths’. Also Luke 23:56 and Mark 16:1 give clues too. Nasa data supports Apr25,31AD.

  7. My humble opinion – 3 days & 3 nights = 72 hours. Crucified on Wednesday. Wednesday Sundown to Thursday Sundown = 24 hours. Thursday Sundown to Friday Sundown = 24 hours. Friday Sundown to Saturday Sundown = 24 hours. Saturday Sabbath God’s sanctified, Holy day of rest foreshadows resurrection day. And why Our Dear Lord, was resurrected to everlasting rest with His Father on the Saturday. Good Friday, easter Sunday are pagan devised by satan to draw you away from God’s truth. Failing to observe the Sabbath is breaking one of God’s laws…break one and you break them all! Ooerr!

    • In my opinion, the traditional Jewish day starts at sunset. On the Thursday night the Persecution started with the betrayal and Jesus brought before Pilate, which led to the Crucifixion the Friday. That explains the three day concept.

  8. It AMAZES me of the many, many mysteries that are expressed in the Hebrew! I would have loved to have these lectures many years ago. It makes everything ‘spring’ to life! LOL I love it! Thank you! Shalom!

  9. So enjoy this information. .mind awake, aware and seeking. The discussion on day of crucifixion is one I have tried for 50+ years to have with pastors to no avail..no basis for my rational, except belief that God’s work is exact and real. 3 days and 3 nights are as it is or reference to Jonas would not have been. Thanks for letting me read these articles. Trying to save to take classes. Shalom

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