The Meaning of Matthew 12:40 Explained

Matthew 12:40

KJV: For as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale's belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

YLT: for, as Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights, so shall the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

Darby: For even as Jonas was in the belly of the great fish three days and three nights, thus shall the Son of man be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

ASV: for as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

What does Matthew 12:40 Mean?

Context Summary

Matthew 12:38-50 - Opposing Or Doing God's Will
It was an evil and adulterous age. It had no spiritual appreciation, and was intent on getting an outward and sensible sign. Nineveh itself would have condemned it. The queen of Sheba, without the advantage attaching to the Hebrew race, appreciated Solomon; but the people of this generation had no appreciation of the Christ. They were nearing the last days of corruption and reprobation. They were a deserted palace given over to demons. Seven demons possessed them and urged them, as they did the swine in Matthew 8:31, to destruction.
But amid the general apostasy, there were faithful souls who recognized Jesus as the Son of God and drew near to hear His words. They recognized His kinship to the Father and revealed their kinship to Him. Let us not look back to Nazareth and Bethany with longing eyes. See Solomon's Song of Solomon 8:1-2. We are privileged to occupy a closer relationship than that of natural birth. See John 1:12-13; Galatians 4:1-6; Romans 8:16. O Brother Christ, make us more like thee! [source]

Chapter Summary: Matthew 12

1  Jesus reproves the blindness of the Pharisees concerning the Sabbath,
3  by scripture,
9  by reason,
13  and by a miracle
22  He heals a man possessed that was blind and mute;
24  and confronting the absurd charge of casting out demons by Beelzebub,
32  he shows that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit shall never be forgiven
36  Account shall be made of idle words
38  He rebukes the unfaithful, who seek after a sign,
46  and shows who is his brother, sister, and mother

Greek Commentary for Matthew 12:40

The whale [του κητους]
Sea-monster, huge fish. In Jonah 2:1 the lxx has κητει μεγαλωι — kētei megalōi “Three days and three nights” may simply mean three days in popular speech. Jesus rose “on the third day” (Matthew 16:21), not “on the fourth day.” It is just a fuller form for “after three days” (Mark 8:31; Mark 10:34). [source]
The whale [τοῦ κήτους]
A general term for a sea-monster. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Matthew 12:40

Matthew 27:63 Sir, we remember [κυριε εμνεστημεν]
This was the next day, on our Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, the day after the Preparation (Matthew 27:62). Ingressive aorist indicative, we have just recalled. It is objected that the Jewish rulers would know nothing of such a prediction, but in Matthew 12:40 he expressly made it to them. Meyer scouts as unhistorical legend the whole story that Christ definitely foretold his resurrection on the third day. But that is to make legendary much of the Gospels and to limit Jesus to a mere man. The problem remains why the disciples forgot and the Jewish leaders remembered. But that is probably due on the one hand to the overwhelming grief of the disciples coupled with the blighting of all their hopes of a political Messiah in Jesus, and on the other hand to the keen nervous fear of the leaders who dreaded the power of Jesus though dead. They wanted to make sure of their victory and prevent any possible revival of this pernicious heresy. [source]
Luke 11:30 A sign to the Ninevites []
Compare Matthew 12:40. [source]
1 Corinthians 15:4 And that he hath been raised [και οτι εγηγερται]
Perfect passive indicative, not ηγερτη — ēgerthē like rose of the King James‘ Version. There is reason for this sudden change of tense. Paul wishes to emphasize the permanence of the resurrection of Jesus. He is still risen. On the third day (τηι ημεραι τηι τριτηι — tēi hēmerāi tēi tritēi). Locative case of time. Whether Paul had seen either of the Gospels we do not know, but this item is closely identified with the fact of Christ‘s resurrection. We have it in Peter‘s speech (Acts 10:40) and Jesus points it out as part of prophecy (Luke 24:46). The other expression occasionally found “after three days” (Mark 10:34) is merely free vernacular for the same idea and not even Matthew 12:40 disturbs it. See Luke 24:1 for record of the empty tomb on the first day of the week (the third day). [source]
1 Corinthians 15:4 rose []
of the King James‘ Version. There is reason for this sudden change of tense. Paul wishes to emphasize the permanence of the resurrection of Jesus. He is still risen. On the third day (τηι ημεραι τηι τριτηι — tēi hēmerāi tēi tritēi). Locative case of time. Whether Paul had seen either of the Gospels we do not know, but this item is closely identified with the fact of Christ‘s resurrection. We have it in Peter‘s speech (Acts 10:40) and Jesus points it out as part of prophecy (Luke 24:46). The other expression occasionally found “after three days” (Mark 10:34) is merely free vernacular for the same idea and not even Matthew 12:40 disturbs it. See Luke 24:1 for record of the empty tomb on the first day of the week (the third day). [source]
1 Corinthians 15:4 On the third day [τηι ημεραι τηι τριτηι]
Locative case of time. Whether Paul had seen either of the Gospels we do not know, but this item is closely identified with the fact of Christ‘s resurrection. We have it in Peter‘s speech (Acts 10:40) and Jesus points it out as part of prophecy (Luke 24:46). The other expression occasionally found “after three days” (Mark 10:34) is merely free vernacular for the same idea and not even Matthew 12:40 disturbs it. See Luke 24:1 for record of the empty tomb on the first day of the week (the third day). [source]

What do the individual words in Matthew 12:40 mean?

Just as for was Jonah in the belly of the great fish three days and nights so will be the Son - of Man heart of the earth
ὥσπερ γὰρ ἦν Ἰωνᾶς ἐν τῇ κοιλίᾳ τοῦ κήτους τρεῖς ἡμέρας καὶ νύκτας οὕτως ἔσται Υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου καρδίᾳ τῆς γῆς

ὥσπερ  Just  as 
Parse: Adverb
Root: ὥσπερ  
Sense: just as, even as.
Ἰωνᾶς  Jonah 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: Ἰωνᾶς  
Sense: the fifth minor prophet, the son of Amittai, and a native of Gath-hepher and lived during the reign of Jeroboam II, king of Israel.
κοιλίᾳ  belly 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: κοιλία  
Sense: the whole belly, the entire cavity.
τοῦ  of  the 
Parse: Article, Genitive Neuter Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
κήτους  great  fish 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Neuter Singular
Root: κῆτος  
Sense: a sea monster, whale, huge fish.
τρεῖς  three 
Parse: Adjective, Accusative Feminine Plural
Root: τρεῖς 
Sense: three.
ἡμέρας  days 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Plural
Root: ἡμέρα  
Sense: the day, used of the natural day, or the interval between sunrise and sunset, as distinguished from and contrasted with the night.
νύκτας  nights 
Parse: Noun, Accusative Feminine Plural
Root: νύξ  
Sense: night.
οὕτως  so 
Parse: Adverb
Root: οὕτως  
Sense: in this manner, thus, so.
ἔσται  will  be 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Middle, 3rd Person Singular
Root: εἰμί  
Sense: to be, to exist, to happen, to be present.
Υἱὸς  Son 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: υἱός  
Sense: a son.
τοῦ  - 
Parse: Article, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
ἀνθρώπου  of  Man 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Masculine Singular
Root: ἄνθρωπος  
Sense: a human being, whether male or female.
καρδίᾳ  heart 
Parse: Noun, Dative Feminine Singular
Root: καρδία  
Sense: the heart.
τῆς  of  the 
Parse: Article, Genitive Feminine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
γῆς  earth 
Parse: Noun, Genitive Feminine Singular
Root: γῆ  
Sense: arable land.