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.

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