Matthew 12:40 (NKJV) For 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.
verse seems to have caused much confusion about how long Jesus was
dead. Matthew recorded six times that Jesus would be raised from dead on
the third day (Mt 16:21, Mt 17:23, Mt 20:19, Mt 27:40, Mt 27:63 &
Matthew also records that Jesus died on a
preparation day (Mt 27:62). Preparation day is the day before a Sabbath.
Matthew tells us Jesus was raised on the first day of the week, the day
after the Sabbath. This would indicate that Jesus died on Friday and
rose on Sunday, the third day. However, this is only two nights. Six
times Matthew correctly said Jesus would rise on the third day. However,
what about our Scripture at the top? It says Jesus would be in the
heart of this world like Jonah for three days and three nights.
is one thing to suggest that different books in the Bible do not agree
with each other, but, this is one author who seems to contradict
himself. Whenever I see an apparent contradiction in the Bible, I know
there is a deeper revelation to be had.
I can give you
two very good explanations for this. One is a simple explanation and it
is very feasible, but the other one I believe is correct.
we know that Jesus was arrested during the night. Matthew says Peter
denied Jesus before the rooster crowed (Mt 26:74). A rooster will crow
at the break of day, they already had Jesus in custody for some time.
His suffering began during the night. Jesus did suffer in the sin of the
world for three nights and three days. However, I believe this verse
has deeper meaning.
The Bible says, "I [Jonah] sank
down to the very roots of the mountains. I was imprisoned in the earth,
whose gates lock shut forever. But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from
the jaws of death!
Jonah 2:6 (NLT). I believe that Jonah died in the belly of the fish. The
Bible says in Hebrews 9:22, "...without shedding of blood there is no
remission." God gave an entire city remission of sin.
According to Strong's Hebrew dictionary (1), the name Jonah means, a dove or pigeon.
A dove or pigeon was sometimes used for a burnt offering (Leviticus
1:14). This would mean that when Jonah died in the belly of the fish, He
became an offering for the people of Nineveh. God then raised Jonah
from the dead.
Tradition tells us Jonah was in the fish
for three days and three nights. This is plausible. However the the
Hebrew words translated as days and nights, can also mean portions of the day and portions of night (2).
In other words, it could be that Jonah was in the fish for three hours
of the day and three hours of the night. This is more likely.
The Bible says in Exodus 29:39, Offerings were to be done at the break of day (morning (3)) or at dusk (even (3)).
Jesus was nailed to the cross about 9:00am using our current time
system (Mk 15:25). Matthew 27:45 tells us at noon, darkness fell over
the land until 3:00pm when Jesus died (using our current time system).
This means that Jesus was on the cross from about 9:00am until
3:00pm---three hours of daylight and three hours of the night.
as the Hebrew words for day and night could also mean portions of the
day or night, The Greek also can be translated the same way (4).
The Old Testament, where we find the story of Jonah was originally
written in Hebrew, while the New Testament, where we find the book of
Matthew, was originally written in Greek.
says Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the cross (1 Pe 2:24). Jesus
was in sin for three hours of daylight and three hours of the night on
the cross. The heart of this world was sin. I strongly believe this is
the meaning of the verse at the top.
(1) Strong’s Greek and Hebrew Dictionary, copyright 1890 by James Strong, MADISON, NJ. Strong’s numbers,Jonah-H3124,H3123
(2) Strong's numbers, Days-H3117, Nights-H3915
(3) Strong's numbers, Morning-H1242,Even-H6153
(4) Strong's numbers, Days G2250, Nights-G3571
Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, By Stephen D. Renn © 2005 by
Hendrickson Publishers, Inc. nyx [νύξ, <G3571>] nyx
is the standard New Testament term for "night." It occurs in
approximately sixty contexts with both literal and metaphorical
connotations. The dominant usage of nyx indicates the sense of "night" (in contrast to "day") in literal context.