The Human Messiah Part II
It is commonly understood among Bible scholars that Yonah (Jonah) was swallowed by the big fish and after being three days and three nights in its stomach was vomited out alive. The textual support of this story is that Yonah actually prayed to YHVH from the stomach of the fish as seen in Jon 2:2-9.
But Yehovah appointed a great fish to swallow Yonah. And Yonah was in the stomach of the fish three days and three nights. (Jon 1:17)
Below is the Hebrew text with a word-for-word translation:
וַיְמַן and prepared יְהוָה Yehovah דָּג fish גָּדֹול great לִבְלֹעַ to swallow up אֶת־יֹונָה Yonah
וַיְהִי And was יֹונָה Yonah בִּמְעֵי in the belly הַדָּג of the fish שְׁלֹשָׁה three יָמִים days וּשְׁלֹשָׁה and three לֵילֹות nights
The key word we will examine is בָּלַע bala, to make away with specifically by swallowing; generally, to destroy, devour, eat up. The literal meaning can be seen in such verses as Num 16:32 and Num 26:10, where the earth opened up and physically swallowed בָּלַע bala, Korah and all his household, that is, they were destroyed. Also, in Jer 51:34, the king of Babylon figuratively swallowed Judah up, but literally the Southern Kingdom ceased to exist.
And one more instance where בָּלַע bala, to swallow, is used literally and parallels with the word “to destroy”:
Yehovah has been like an enemy. He has swallowed up Israel, He has swallowed up all her palaces, He has destroyed her strongholds. (Lam 2:5)
Therefore, we see that Yonah actually died and consequently was resurrected in three days and three nights. What is interesting is that the Rabbis teach the same, not without solid arguments, that Yonah did actually die and was raised from the dead. And one can completely agree with them, once we translate correctly Jon 1:17. Only then the prediction Yeshua made referring to Yonah and concerning His own death and resurrection makes a perfect sense:
For as Yonah was three days and three nights in the stomach of the great fish, so shall the Son of Adam be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. (Mat 12:40)
If Yonah the prophet had not died, he would not have been resurrected from the dead. But if he died and raised again, what then would be the meaning of the Messiah’s words in Mat 12:40, but to draw parallel between the two prophetic events?
Having said that, we come to the next verse that will help us understand where Yonah was while praying to YHVH. The word in question in Jon 2:2 is שְׁאוֹל she’ol.
And he said, “I called to Yehovah because of my distress, and He answered me. From the hollow of she’ol I cried, and You heard my voice.” (Jon 2:2)
This is an interesting Hebrew word which sometimes is translated as “hell”, “grave”, or “pit”, but does it really mean all of these words? In order to understand the correct meaning of she’ol, we need to see how this word is used in another Bible story, that of Yoseph. Yoseph was sold by his brothers in slavery and Ya’akov was mourning for him. Notice what word he used to describe where Yoseph was.
And all his sons and all his daughters arose to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted, and he said, “Now let me go down into she’ol to my son in mourning.” (Gen 37:35)
The place Ya’akov believed his son was is the Hebrew she’ol. This word can hardly be translated as “grave” because Ya’akov believed Yoseph was killed by predators. By the same token, it cannot be translated as “pit.” How about “hell”? If Yoseph was in hell, no one of us stands on a safe ground. So, it is not “hell” either. What is it then?
שְׁאוֹל she’ol, comes from the verb שָׁאַל sha’al, which means to inquire, by implication to request, but more literally to ask or to seek what is unknown [Hebrew and Aramaic]. This is the same word usually rendered as “to pray.” So, we see that when Ya’akov wanted to go down into she’ol where he believed his son was, he meant an unknown place, because he did not know where Yoseph was. And this is exactly what she’ol means: an unknown place or the place of the dead as an unknown place. The Hebrew word she’ol is not to be confused with Hades which in Greek mythology is the god of the underworld, brother of Zeus, hence the world of the dead for the Greeks.
Therefore, we may conclude that Yonah died in the stomach of the fish and from the hollow of she’ol he cried for יְשׁוּעָתָה לַיהוָה , “salvation is of Yehovah” (Jon 2:9). What is astonishing is that this is the meaning of Messiah’s name Yehoshua. And in three days and three nights, Yonah was raised from the dead as a precursor of the Messiah’s prophetic three days and three nights.
But, we are not to stop here. Now, let us read the same verse in Hebrew this time starting with letter yud in “nights” and counting every 12th letter in red from left to right,
וַיְמַן יְהוָה דָּג גָּדֹול לִבְלֹעַ אֶת־יֹונָה וַיְהִי יֹונָה בִּמְעֵי הַדָּג שְׁלֹשָׁה יָמִים וּשְׁלֹשָׁה לֵילֹות׃
What did we just read? We read Yeshua; the name of Yehovah’s Messiah encoded in the prophetic verse of Jon 1:17. (In JPS text it is 2:1).
The continuation of the articles concerning the Messiah the Son of YHVH is in “The Transcendent Son Hidden in Elohim“.
May we merit seeing the coming of our Mashiach speedily in our days.