We have learned in past articles about paying attention to repetition in Bible verses as these indicate emphasis. We especially learned to watch out for it when Jesus uses repetition.
Well, He did it again here:
"For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights." Matthew 12:40
There is a pattern in Jesus' analogy:
"As Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish...
So I will be in the heart of the earth..."
There is only one phrase that Jesus repeats:
"three days and three nights."
so I will be "three days and three nights."
It should be a no-brainer:
the three days and three nights.
Note as well what Jesus repeats and what Jesus changes in the verse. What He repeats is what is important:
three days and three nights
three days and three nights
in the belly of a huge fish
in the heart of the earth
What is important here?
The three days and the three nights.
“I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me. I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me!" Jonah 2:2 NLT
The Hebrew original uses the phrase "from the belly of Sheol."
The Jewish Encyclopedia tells us this about Sheol: "It connotes the place where those that had died were believed to be congregated."
And here are two examples of the use of the same word, Sheol, in Scripture:
"The Lord brings death and gives life; He sends some to Sheol, and He raises others up." 1 Samuel 2:6
See the pattern there?
"The Lord brings death...
He sends some to Sheol..."
And then the contrast:
"and gives life...
and He raises others up."
Now our second example is different:
"The ropes of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me." 2 Samuel 22:6
In this one we have a repetition of a concept rather than the opposing thoughts of our earlier example:
"The ropes of Sheol entangled me;
the snares of death confronted me."
So we can see from these examples that those who are in Sheol are dead. The same Sheol from where Jonah says he called unto the Lord.
But there is one more very large clue we can draw from more of Jesus' words (italics mine):
"From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day." Matthew 16:21
"They will kill Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.” And they were deeply distressed." Matthew 17:23
"Then they will hand Him over to the Gentiles to be mocked, flogged, and crucified, and He will be resurrected on the third day.” Matthew 20:19
"... saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” Luke 9:22
"... and after they flog Him, they will kill Him, and He will rise on the third day.” Luke 18:33
"... saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’?” Luke 24:7
"He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day..." Luke 24:46
And rise again Jesus did, and on the very day He said He would.
The Apostle Peter testified of this in the Book of Acts,
39 "We ourselves are witnesses of everything He did in both the Judean country and in Jerusalem, yet they killed Him by hanging Him on a tree.
40 God raised up this man on the third day and permitted Him to be seen,
41 not by all the people, but by us, witnesses appointed beforehand by God, who ate and drank with Him after He rose from the dead.
42 He commanded us to preach to the people and to solemnly testify that He is the One appointed by God to be the Judge of the living and the dead." Acts 10
A parting question for you to ponder...
How can "a mere Man" (v. 40) be appointed by God to be Judge of the living and the dead (v. 42)?