Recently, I came across a query about Matthew 12:40. What was the significance behind Yeshua’s statement when he said:
"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."
I want to present my thoughts on this by breaking down his statement into four important points:
1. The word SON OF MAN is a reference to a sick man or son of sickness represented by the Aramaic term בר אנוש – bar enosh or in Hebrew בן אדם – ben adam.
2. The term IN is a reference to a house represented by the Hebrew prefix ב – Beyt.
3. The word HEART is a reference to the midst or middle of something or somewhere, represented by the Hebrew word לב – Lev.
4. The word EARTH is a reference to ground or land represented by the Hebrew term אדמה – adamah.
1. SON OF MAN. This is an English concept coming from the Aramaic phrase Bar Enosh or in Hebrew, Ben Adam. Anash means “sickness” and/or “weakness.” In scripture, we can see an example from 2 Samuel 12:15 after King David saw his newborn son (through Bathsheba) become sick. Here, his son’s illness is referred to as anash from the root letters aleph nun sheen – אנש (a-n-sh) referring to a sickly one. Both phrases, bar enosh and ben adam point us to the same idea – a sick son or Adamic son of sickness.
The sickness idea is linked to the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and passed down that toxin through a genetic imprint of Sin and Death; that which came to be mankind’s greatest sickness. Later, the Word of YHVH came to us in Yeshua to heal this long-standing genetic curse that has been plaguing all mankind since the creation. In this, Yeshua came to be Israel’s sick son or son of sickness to fulfil the prophetic word of Isaiah 53 and open our understanding as to why Yeshua said that he must go into the heart of the earth for three days and three nights. His defined mission was to receive upon himself man’s collective spiritual sickness, and with it clinging to him, die a second death which is not of this physical realm; as it is declared in the Torah (YHVH’s Law of Truth) at Genesis 2:17 (from Hebrew), “In dying, you will die.” This declaration refers to the curse of eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In this, Yeshua was scripture’s SON OF MAN and Son of Sickness, to take man’s sickness into the second death so that mankind could be saved and divine justice could be satisfied.
2. IN or INTO. These terms are represented by the Hebrew prefix Beyt – ב. Pictographically, the Hebrew letter ב – Beyt is the ancient symbol of a tent or a house. IN (or into) THE HEART OF THE EARTH directionally amplifies Yeshua’s statement that his assigned mission was to connect our house or tent (see 2 Corinthians 5:1) to his house or tent. Then, with the whole package of our Adamic sickness clinging to Yeshua, The Word committed mankind’s sin-corrupted house or tent to the clear judgment of the court seated in the middle or midst of the land or earth. Scripture calls this court “She’ol” (Jonah 2:2 and Psalm 16:10), a house or hall of interrogation and inquiry (from the Hebrew term lishol, to inquire or ask). This She’ol inquiry happens in a בית המשפט – Beyt Hamishpat, a courtroom. Essentially, one’s soul is put in the hot seat, so to speak, to give an answer to an official interrogation, a battery of questions spoken by the Word of YHVH, the great judge (John 12:48, Daniel 7:10, Revelation 20:12, Luke16:23-24).
3. HEART. This word is represented by the Hebrew letters Lamed ל and Beyt ב. When read right to left (as Hebrew is read), it spells לב – lev. In Hebrew, lev carries meanings that include heart, middle, midst, and from the same parental Hebrew root – a flame. When Yeshua spoke of going into the heart of the earth, it is stunningly accurate according to Psalm 139:15; that when we were first conceived, we were formed in the “lowest parts of the earth.” In other words, we were not formed above, in heaven; we were fashioned below, under the earth, which is why we need to ascend or go up to become reborn or regenerated (see Titus 3:5). Put another way, after our physical death, if we want to see the Kingdom of Heaven and the Land of the Living (Psalm 116:7-9) we need to walk in the Spirit, which is realized by re-entering our mother’s womb; that is, the Ruach haKodesh (the Spirit) above (see Galatians 4:26) and in this, become “born again” — see John 3:3.
With mankind’s Garden of Eden corruption clinging to him - to Yeshua, he took our house or tent and linked it with his house or tent, taking both into the heart of the land or earth – She’ol's courtroom of inquiry. In this judgment, he subjected himself on our behalf to the court’s death decree (according to Genesis 2:17, Daniel 7:10, Revelation 20:12, Luke 16:23-24). This judgment sent him, and by association, each of us, into the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:10), which leads me to the next point.
4. EARTH. The Hebrew term for earth is Eretz – ארץ, also understood as land, territory, or country. Whilst Eretz can mean ground, it is more often an overview type of concept for earth or land. However, there is in Hebrew, another term that is more focused on the idea of ground or soil; the word is אדמה — adamah, which is related to the words red, man, and blood. When Yeshua defined his mission, that he had come to deal with the sick man of Isaiah 53, he said that he would be three days and three nights, “in the heart of the earth.” I am suggesting that we understand “earth,” as Yeshua used it in Matthew 12:40, to refer to the earthen ground of Genesis 3:17-18; that which was given over to Sin and Death. This is why in the kashrut (kosher) laws of the Torah, we are to pour out on the ground the blood of any slaughter (Deuteronomy 12:16 and 15:23), or if you will, to give the blood back to the earth; but never eat of it (Leviticus 17:12).
With Yeshua’s physical death through crucifixion, a dying that delivered him into the heart of the earth for She’ol’s judgment, he was then sentenced to suffer an even greater pain with the second death of condemnation and corruption (Daniel 12:1, John 5:29, Romans 8:1, Revelation 2:11 and many other references too numerous to list here). This was his cross to bear; that our house or tent died with his house or tent and was buried (2 Corinthians 5:2-4), bringing more clarity to the purpose of tevilah or immersion (baptism). In completing his mission, all mankind was now freed to choose between two paths: eternal life in the Land of the Living or eternal death in the sea of the Lake of Fire with the Law of Sin and Death (Deuteronomy 30:19, Revelation 20:14-15)). After three days and three nights in the heart of the earth, the Word (the Logos, Memra, haD'var) reconstituted a new Yeshua, a new Man who emerged from out of the ground like the shoot or stem of a plant that pierces through the soil of the earth as it makes its way up and into life, or if you will, pierces the darkness and reaches up and out into light and life; the Land of the Living (see Psalm 116:7-9).
Through this "aromatic" process – death to death or life to life (2 Corinthians 2:16), the Son of Man (the sick man) was able to rectify the genetic Adamic curse of Genesis 2:17 and to satisfy the Law of Justice in the Torah, therefore, proclaiming victory over mankind’s inherited genetic imprint of Sin and Death (the second death). In this, it was declared:
“O Death, where is your victory, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55 on Hosea 13:14).
In summary, I am suggesting that we understand Yeshua’s statement, "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" to mean three things:
A) To experience the redemption reality of what Yeshua willingly accomplished through his crucifixion on that Roman execution stake – a metaphor of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil with its fruit of Sin and Death; that we can become disentangled from the sickness of that cursed tree of Sin and Death.
B) To understand that Yeshua, like Jonah, entered She’ol (a courtroom of interrogation and inquiry) while facing a second death decree in the name of all mankind. Death to the Son of Man; this was the judgment of the court which was Yeshua's accepted mission when came to be the Son of Man and the Sick One of Isaiah 53; that is, mankind’s Son of Sickness. Therefore, Yeshua could be called YHVH’s salvation.
C) To remember the metaphoric pattern of Jonah. The story begins with physical death. Then, there will be a period of deep sleep until we are called to wake up in that day - the Day of Judgment (Jonah 1:5-6, John 11:25). Then this – our house or tent – is brought into the heart of the earth, which is in the great hall of judgment – She’ol (Jonah 2:2-3). Here, we are subjected to a courtroom interrogation and inquiry (Jonah 2:8-9). The outcome of the judgment goes in one of two ways: a resurrection to life in the Land of the Living (Jonah 2:10, Psalm 16:10, Psalm 116:7-9) or a resurrection of condemnation to the Land of the Dead in the second death (Daniel 12:1, John 5:29, Revelation 2:11, 2 Corinthians 2:16). Thus, it makes sense why Paul could say in 1 Corinthians 15:3-4:
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Messiah died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures….”
These three elements of Matthew 12:40 precisely define what is called “the gospel”; that Yeshua lived to die and died to live again as it was written of him long ago in the testimony of 2 Timothy 1:9-10:
”who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace which was given to us in Messiah Yeshua before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Yeshua HaMashiach, who has abolished death (the second death) and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel."
Yeshua, the Word knew the divine plan and he knew exactly what was to come after his physical death on that Roman crucifixion tree, a metaphor of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. For Yeshua, it was not the crucifixion (gruesome as it was) that sucked the life out of him. For Yeshua, it was his knowing of the pain of the coming second death:
“…And being in agony, he prayed more earnestly. Then his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”
And again, at that time, he prayed:
“O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will” (Matthew 26:39).
Later, as his life ebbed away and he began to breathe his last, and knowing what was going to happen next, a loud and sudden declaration came out of his mouth:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” (from Psalm 22:1).
And yet for those redeemed and saved from the second death (Romans 8:1, 1 Thessalonians 5:9), by accepting and receiving the testimony of Yeshua's death, burial, and resurrection, the Word has boldly declared our blamelessness in She'ol's courtroom of inquiry and interrogation. The declaration of our blamelessness and righteousness is freely given in his name, which is the Name above all names, the name YHVH Yeshua:
"…who himself bore our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for (in) righteousness (Hebrew idea: The Righteous One; the Just One)—by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Peter 2:24 and Isaiah 53).
Avi ben Mordechai