The Sign of Jonas

Author’s Note: My recent article The 14th Sacrifice  looked at the gospel accounts pertaining to Yeshua’s Passover supper. That article concluded that Yeshua was not crucified on the 14th of Nisan but instead the most plain reading of  the New Testament record shows he was crucified on the feast day proper. (i.e. 15th Nisan, the 1st day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread) My next few articles will look at Yeshua’s Passover week chronology in light of some of the objections which are often raised by those who believe Yeshua was crucified on the 14th of Nisan.


The Deliverance of Jonah – West

The Sign of Jonas

One of the most controversial and challenging aspects of Yeshua’s Passover week chronology is what is known as “the Sign of Jonas (Jonah)”. It is the one part of the Passover week chronology which is most often used as a proof text for a Thursday or even a Wednesday crucifixion. Personally, as far as this subject is concerned, I think the big picture is often overlooked in our perusal of the details. The following are the three passages which mention the Sign of Jonas.

Matthew 12:38-41  8 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee.  39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  40 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 earth41 The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation, and shall condemn it: because they repented at the preaching of Jonas; and, behold, a greater than Jonas is here.

 Matthew 16:1-4  The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven.  2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.  3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?  4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.

 Luke 11:29-30  29 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.  30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also the Son of man be to this generation.

Before I proceed, it is only fair to give my interpretational bias: When looking at chronological information I give greater weight to direct chronological statements than those chronological details found in analogies and parables. Yeshua’s statement concerning the “Sign of Jonas” is an analogy (some consider it a parable) and as such the comparative details of the two stories will not match in every aspect. In order to establish this we will compare the two stories for both their differences and similarities. I believe this effort with allow us to get a better idea of the message Yeshua was trying to convey.

Let”s look at the highlights of Jonah’s story first:

1. YHWH gave Jonah a message of repentance to the Ninevites.
2. Jonah did not want to perform the task so he tried to run. (not the smartest decision)3. Jonah’s destiny met him on a ship in the sea in the midst of a storm.
4. To save the lives of those on the ship, Jonah was cast overboard.
5. Jonah was swallowed by a “whale”.
6. After 3 days & 3 nights Jonah was spit out.
7. Jonah decided to do what YHWH asked. (smart decision)
8. Jonah went to Nineveh and warned them to repent or judgment would fall in 40 days.
9. Nineveh repented from the king on down. The city was saved.
10. Jonah did not appreciate the city’s repentance.

 Highlights of the Yeshua’s Passion:

1. Yeshua came to provide reconciliation for mankind’s sins.
2. He did not try to run but obediently carried out the will of YHWH.
3. To save the lives of Jerusalem and all mankind he was betrayed and crucified.
4. The gospel accounts specifically state (in 14 places) Yeshua rose on the “3rd day”.
5. Yeshua warned Jerusalem to repent. For 40 days after the resurrection he appeared as proof of his resurrection.
6. Jerusalem did not repent and 40 years later it was destroyed.

The above comparisons show that while the Jonah story and Yeshua’s Passion have several analogous events they are by no means a perfect match. Of the three gospel accounts which mention the “sign”,only one provides the comparison between Jonah’s stay in the belly of the whale and Yeshua’s time in “the heart of the earth”.  There are several problems with those who would take this analogy as a literal chronological statement of the time Yeshua spent in the grave.

First, there is no indication that Jonah died. In fact the Biblical account shows that he was very much alive in the belly of the whale. He was separated from mankind but he was not dead.

Second, this analogy cannot be taken as literal without contradicting the other 14 clear chronological statements which show Yeshua rose on “the 3rd day.” (For more on this see my article “The 3rd Day”.) Those who demand this analogy be taken literally, count Yeshua’s time in the grave as follows:

Thursday = day 1
Friday = day 2
Saturday = day 3

Thursday night = night 1
Friday night = night 2
Saturday = night 3

As you can see this creates a problem. The gospel accounts clearly show that Yeshua rose on the 1st day of the week (a.k.a Sunday).  So if the “Sign of Jonas” represented Yeshua’s time in the grave, as many have interpreted, then it places his resurrection on the 4th day thereby contradicting over 14 specific instances where the Bible says he rose on the 3rd day. In my opinion no interpretation of an analogy deserves to be given the same evidentiary weight as a clear statement of chronology much less the ability to undermine 14 clear statements of said chronology.

So is there a solution? I believe there is. Maybe our focus is wrong. Since only one of the gospel accounts mentions “three days and three nights” maybe we are overlooking the bigger picture in pursuit of the details. Could it be that Yeshua’s “sign” was simply a warning that judgment would fall on Jerusalem if they did not repent? That like the Ninevites they only had a certain period of time to repent? That His resurrection from the grave was the catalyst that set the analogous (Ninevite) prophecy in motion? History bares out that indeed Yeshua’s “Sign of Jonas” was a warning to Jerusalem and the inhabitants of Judea. History also records that YHWH was long suffering towards Jerusalem by extending their grace period to 40 years and sending them unmistakable signs that further warned them that judgment was coming. These signs were recorded historically in the Talmudic writings. Interestingly, both the Babylonian and Jerusalem Talmud record strange events during the 40 years before the destruction of Jerusalem. The Talmudists believed these events portended the temple’s destruction.  I think they provide confirmation of Yeshua’s prophecy. Note these events began in 30 AD the year Yeshua was crucified and rose again. Take a moment to read these fascinating accounts:

 “Forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the western light (of the Lamp-stand, the Menorah) went out, the crimson thread remained crimson, and the lot for the LORD always came up in the left hand. They would close the gates of the temple by night and the get up in the morning and find them wide open”. (The Yersuahalmi, p. 156-157)

“Our rabbis taught: During the last forty years before the destruction of the Temple the lot (‘for the Lord’) did not come up in the right hand; nor did the crimson-colored strap become white; nor did the western most light shine; and the doors of the Hekl (Temple) would open by themselves”. (Yoma 39a)

 “forty years before the destruction of the Temple, the Sanhedrin was Banished (from the Chamber of the hewn Stone) and sat in the trading-station (on the Temple Mount). (Shabbat 15a)

“Said Rabban Yohanan Ben Zakkkai to the Temple, ‘O Temple, why do you frighten us? We know that your will end up destroyed. For it has been said, Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars’” (Sota 6:3)(Zechariah 11:1)

Interested in the odds for the above history? See my article What are the Odds?

Luke 11:29-30  29 And when the people were gathered thick together, he began to say, This is an evil generation: they seek a sign; and there shall no sign be given it, but the sign of Jonas the prophet.  30 For as Jonas was a sign unto the Ninevites, so shall also

 Luke 13:34-35   34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!  : and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of YHWH.

Psalm 118:22-27 22 The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.  23 This is YHWH’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. 24 This is the day which YHWH hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.  25 Save now, I beseech thee, O YHWH: O YHWH, I beseech thee, send now prosperity. 26 Blessed be he that cometh in the name of YHWH: we have blessed you out of the house of YHWH.  27 God is YHWH, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar.

Joel 2:30-32  0 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.  31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of YHWH come.  32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of YHWH shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as YHWH hath said, and in the remnant whom YHWH shall call. 

Yeshua showed proof of his resurrection for 40 days
Jerusalem was destroyed 40 years later
Our generation is living in the 40th Jubilee

40 days > 40 years > 40 jubilees
(For more on the significance of the Jubilees as described above
see my article The Jubilee Code)

In summary it is my opinion that the “sign of Jonas” was meant to be a warning by Yeshua to Jerusalem that they should repent or face judgment. By its own construction the analogy cannot be taken in a totally literal sense without creating more chronological problems than it solves. Like Jonah, Yeshua’s authority as a prophet was not confirmed by the length of time he spent in the grave (or the belly of the whale) but rather in the fact that he rose again from the grave. His resurrection was indeed the event which began the countdown to the destruction of Jerusalem 40 years later.

*    *    *

 For those of you who demand a solution to Yeshua’s statement of “three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” I believe there may be one; Frankly it may not totally satisfy any of us, but it is the only way that I have found to render the passage without at least some further complications. If Jonah’s stay in the belly of the whale was to be truly illustrative of Yeshua, then it was not death that was pictured, but physical or spiritual separation and a future resurrection.

I draw your attention to an unusual statement by Yeshua the night of the 15th of Nisan while he was in the garden:

John 17:1-11  These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee….  11 And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

Mark 14:32-41  32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane:……  34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death (thanatos): tarry ye here, and watch.………  41 And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.

Matthew 26:38   38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death (thanatos): tarry ye here, and watch with me.

2288 thanatos {than’-at-os}
Meaning:  1) the death of the body 1a) that separation (whether natural or violent) of the soul and the body by which the life on earth is ended 1b) with the implied idea of future misery in hell 1b1) the power of death 1c) since the nether world, the abode of the dead, was conceived as being very dark, it is equivalent to the region of thickest darkness i.e. figuratively, a region enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and sin 2) metaph., the loss of that life which alone is worthy of the name, 2a) the misery of the soul arising from sin, which begins on earth but lasts and increases after the death of the body in hell 3) the miserable state of the wicked dead in hell 4) in the widest sense, death comprising all the miseries arising from sin, as well physical death as the loss of a life consecrated to God and blessed in him on earth, to be followed by wretchedness in hell

Jonah’s “three days and three nights” began when he was cast overboard for the saving of the rest of the ship. Based upon John 17, Mark 14, and Matthew 26 above, Yeshua, at the time of his betrayal, experienced physical/spiritual separation from the rest of mankind, even to the point his own disciples denied him.

If there is any validity to this line of reasoning then we have:

* Friday night (beginning the15th) and day of the 15th
* Saturday night (beginning the16th) and the day of the 16th
* Sunday night (beginning the 17th) and part of the day of the 17th

That’s the best I can do. I encourage you to do your own do diligence as a Berean.

*    *    *

Authors Note: This chart shows the chronology described above. For those looking to search this out for yourself you will find Scriptural references provided for each event. I know this is a little different format than most are use to but it helped me organize the events in a way which allows me to take the New Testament events at face value in their most natural and plain reading.

Click on the Image to enlarge:


For more on Yeshua’s Passover Week chronology please see the following articles:

* The 14th Sacrifice
* “The Feast Day”: Judas’ Betrayal
* Defiled on the “Passover”
* The “Preparation” Day
* The “3rd Day”

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8 thoughts on “The Sign of Jonas

  1. Richard

    Dear Brother I’m incline to believe with you. As I had uttered the same like knowledge to a friend in a chat room over six months ago. However it was many years earlier that I had came to these conclusions after doing my, do. Unto that I see the sign of jonas as when he was the living word of God spewed out of fish. No one could see him as a sign before that moment. So no sign in belly or in hell but rather it was the coming out that was the first and real sign. Unto these I also see the ‘sign of the fish’ as a sign of jonah. As it also testifies of Jesus Christ being the saviour, and a sign to an evil generation seeking a sign. Amen

  2. Harold bruce

    Question: it looks like to me you believe Jesus was in the grave approximately 36 hours? Is this so or am I reading your chart incorrectly. Thanks having a great time reading your material!

    1. William Struse Post author

      Hi Harold,
      The only way I could reconcile the events is for Yeshua to be placed in the grave sometime before the Sabbath (sundown Friday night) and His subsequent resurrection on the first day of the week (Sunday) sometime in the early morning hours.
      Happy to hear you are enjoying the articles. To me YHWH’s word is a wonderful treasure hunt!

      Warm regards in Yeshua,

  3. Chip

    The scriptures don’t say that Jesus rose on the 1st day of the week. That is only when the his followers arrived at the tomb. Also, the day after the crucifixion was a high holy day. In other words, it was one of the annual Sabbaths which were observed several times throughout the year. Jesus was crucified on Wednesday.

    While Church tradition commemorates the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, there are many debates over which day of the week Jesus died. Did Jesus really die on Friday – or did he die on Wednesday evening, or Thursday?
    The Friday view is based on the wording of Mark 15:42, which says that Christ’s crucifixion occurred on the day of preparation, “the day before the Sabbath”. Since the Hebrew Sabbath is on Saturday, the Church traditionally held that Jesus was crucified on Friday. However, Jesus prophesied that he would be dead for three days and three nights before his resurrection: “For as Jonah 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.” (Matthew 12:40). There are obviously not three days and three nights between Friday evening and Sunday morning.
    The problem appears easily resolved by a clarification of what Mark meant by “Sabbath”. Along with the weekly Sabbath day, the Jews had other “Sabbaths” throughout the year, marking “High” Holy days. In Matthew 28:1, the Greek should be translated, “at the end of the Sabbaths” – a plural word – noting that there had been more than one Sabbath the previous week. The first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread was also considered a “Sabbath” (Lev. 23:6,7). This Feast is celebrated on Nisan 15, the day after the Passover (Lev. 23:5-6). Jesus was crucified on the Passover and Mark 15:42-43 notes that Joseph of Arimathea desired to take Christ’s body down from the cross before the “High” Sabbath began.
    [Luke 22:1 and Matt 26:17 create confusion. Denotatively, the two Feasts are separate days. Connotatively, the entire period from Passover through the 7 days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread is considered “Passover”.]
    If Passover, the 14th of Nisan, fell earlier in the week, the 15th could have been any day prior to Saturday, the weekly Sabbath. “When the Sabbaths were past” would, of course, be Sunday (actually, Saturday after sundown), in accordance to the Feast of First Fruits. (Some hold to a Thursday crucifixion on a similar basis.)
    John 12:1 mentions that Jesus traveled to Bethany six days before the Passover. Hebrew days are reckoned from sundown to sundown, so that each “day” begins at sundown the evening before. These six evening-to-morning periods are important to our understanding of the fulfillment of Old Testament Feasts, particularly the Feasts of Passover, Unleavened Bread and First Fruits. We will track these days and see how they match the pattern set down for us in the book of Leviticus.
    The 9th of Nisan
    We know from Luke 19:1 and Mark 10:46 that Jesus was in Jericho prior to traveling to Bethany. Jesus would have had to be in Bethany before sundown on Friday, since at sundown the Sabbath would start, and long-distance travel was not permitted on the Sabbath.
    DAY TWO – SATURDAY (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) –
    The 10th of Nisan
    “On the next day much people that were come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” – John 12:12-13
    This is Jesus’ Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, commemorated on Palm Sunday (in accordance with the Friday view, which put it 5 days before the crucifixion). However, it appears it occurred on a Saturday. Jesus went into the Temple and threw out the money changers shortly after this. He then taught daily in the Temple until the Passover (Luke 19:45-48, Mark 11:15-17).
    His entry into Jerusalem on the 10th day of Nisan also corresponds with Exodus 12:3-6, in which a lamb was separated from the flock and put on display as the lamb destined to be sacrificed on Passover. On this day, Jesus was put on display as he proceeded from Bethany down the Mount of Olives toward Jerusalem. While the People welcomed Jesus as the Messiah, the King, his primary purpose at that time was to die, as he explains in John 12:23-33.
    DAY THREE – SUNDAY (sundown Saturday to sundown Sunday) –
    The 11th of Nisan
    During this time, the “Lamb of God” was on public display in and around Jerusalem, teaching the people many things. Some of Jesus’ most well-known parables and prophecies were made during these next several days.
    DAY FOUR – MONDAY (sundown Sunday to sundown Monday) –
    The 12th of Nisan
    A quiet day at Bethany – Matt 26:2-6 (spent in the house of Simon the Leper).
    DAY FIVE – TUESDAY (sundown Monday to sundown Tuesday) –
    The 13th of Nisan
    DAY SIX – WEDNESDAY (sundown Tuesday to sundown Wednesday) –
    The 14th of Nisan
    The Last Supper took place at the Passover meal (Luke 22:15-20, John 13-17). Jesus offered his disciples the broken bread and the wine as representing his own body and blood. He washed their feet and taught them many last things before his death.
    – He was arrested in the Garden after Judas’ betrayal.
    – After several trials, he was beaten and finally crucified on Wednesday afternoon.
    – The preparations for burial were made before sundown (Mark 15:42-43).
    DAY ONE – THURSDAY (sundown Wednesday to sundown Thursday) –
    15th of Nisan
    Leviticus 23:5 designates the 14th of Nisan to be the day for observing Passover. Jesus was placed in the tomb just prior to sundown on Wednesday and spent his first full night and day in the tomb beginning on the 15th of Nisan, the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Unleavened bread was pure bread. Jesus was pure and undefiled and without sin. During the Jewish observance of this feast, some of the unleavened bread was to be hidden away by the father for a time, only to be brought out and eaten later.
    DAY TWO – FRIDAY (sundown Thursday to sundown Friday) –
    16th of Nisan
    DAY THREE – SATURDAY (sundown Friday to sundown Saturday) –
    17th of Nisan
    Jesus’ body lay in the grave for the third night after his crucifixion. Sometime after sundown Saturday evening (the start of Sunday), Jesus rose from the dead. Thus, he had been in the grave three days and three nights as prophesied. [Some argue from Luke 24:20-21 that Jesus must have been crucified on Thursday, which would have had him in the grave Thursday night and Friday, Friday night and Saturday, Saturday night and Sunday morning.]
    On Sunday morning, when the women went to the tomb with burial spices, they found the tomb empty. Sunday, as the “morrow after the Sabbath” after Passover was the Feast of First Fruits (Lev 23:10-11; 1 Cor 15:20-23). In rising from the dead, Jesus became the first-fruits of all those who die and yet will be resurrected to live forever.
    Jesus is our umbrella in a hailstorm of sin.

    1. William Struse Post author

      Good evening Chip,

      Thank you for your comments. This is such a wonderful subject to dig into. Many of the points you’ve raised I’ve already address in articles linked at the bottom of this blog post, so I won’t address them again here. I did want to address a couple point though.

      Regarding your statement that the, “The scriptures don’t say that Jesus rose on the 1st day of the week.” I must respectfully disagree. Mark 16:9 does make that very claim. I’ve quote several translations to show it is a pretty consistent translation of the verse.

      KJV Mark 16:9 Now when Jesus was risen early the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven devils.

      NAS Mark 16:9 Now after He had risen early on the first day of the week, He first appeared to Mary Magdalene, from whom He had cast out seven demons.

      NJB Mark 16:9 Having risen in the morning on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary of Magdala from whom he had cast out seven devils.

      YLT Mark 16:9 And he, having risen in the morning of the first of the sabbaths, did appear first to Mary the Magdalene, out of whom he had cast seven demons;

      The “sign of Jonas” must be weight in the context of a simile and the other 13 or 14 references in the gospels which clearly state Yeshua rose “on the 3rd day”.

      I think it is important to note that the Scripture never calls Passover or the Feast of Unleavened bread a “Sabbath”. This makes sense because work related to the preparation of food was allowed.

      I wish I had more time to go through each of your points but I encourage you to take a look at my other articles where I’ve already addressed them.

      Warm regards,

  4. EliyahuK

    Hi, when one considers this topic in totality, much comes to bear on it, much of which is ignored by those who offer a premature view of things. I reserve my comments to offer but one. The Third Day in scripture is always the third day of the week. Beyond that, the phrase that gets translated as “first day of the week” is in error, three times per occurrence: 1) the word day is altogether absent in the Greek, which is why it is italicized in English translations; 2) the word sabbatwn in Greek is plural, not singular; and 3) the word translated as ‘first’ in Greek is mia, which means one, not first; the difference being between the cardinal and the ordinal. Any chronology that does not take this information into account, or attempts to refute it, is proven false in the balance of the scriptural evidence for it. Thank you

  5. William Struse Post author

    Hi EliyahuK,

    Thank you for your comments. Regarding your statement on that the “Third Day” always being the 3rd day of the week I can’t agree if I understand you correctly. Luke 24:1-21 shows that the “third day” of Luke 24:21 was the first day of the week as per Luke 24:1.

    Additionally here are some references for mia sabbaton. Matt 28:1; Mark 16:2; Luke 13:10; 24:1; John 20:1, 19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor 16:2 Fascinating discussion for sure.


    Now upon the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they came unto the sepulchre, bringing the spices which they had prepared, and certain others with them. Luke 24:1

    But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done.Luke 24:21


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