THE THIRD DAY: Yom ha-sh’lishi.
Hebraic script: י֥וֹם שְׁלִישִֽׁי (yom sh’lishi).
Sounds like: yohm ha-sh’lishi.
For the first time I have decided to tackle a phrase rather than a single word. I don’t like to make exceptions, but I think this phrase warrants great consideration. If you identify as a Christian, or as a Messianic Jew, then there is one thing on which your belief rests: Jesus, or (in Hebrew) Yeshua, died and on the third day He rose again.
Without this miracle, there would be no divinity of the Messiah. Without rising out of the grave and defeating death, YHWH’s plan of Salvation would remain unfulfilled. Yeshua would just be a celebrated prophet, a wise man, a philanthropist monk, a Jewish rabbi who said strange and confusing things, a social rebel, and a convicted loser.
As a believer in Yeshua I have an overwhelming curiosity about this resurrection event. Why rise on the third day? Why not come off the cross and immediately rise? Or why not wait a week? A month? A year? And why mention what day it was at all? Is there something significant about the third day?
I think this question needs months of in depth study… something beyond what I can do in a week. I don’t have the time to address this question to the fullest, so for your own studies here is a list of each time the phrase “on the third day” shows up in the Tanakh:
- Genesis 22:4
- Genesis 31:22
- Genesis 34:25
- Genesis 40:20
- Genesis 42:18
- Exodus 19:11
- Exodus 19:16
- Leviticus 7:17
- Leviticus 19:6-7
- Numbers 7:24
- Numbers 19:12
- Numbers 19:19
- Numbers 29:20
- Joshua 9:17
- Judges 20:30
- 1 Samuel 20:12
- 1 Samuel 30:1
- 2 Samuel 1:2
- 1 Kings 3:18
- 1 Kings 12:12
- 2 Kings 20:5
- 2 Kings 20:8
- 2 Chronicle 10:12
- Ezra 6:15 (Aramaic)
- Esther 5:1
- Hosea 6:2
As we can see, the term “on the third day” has a significant footprint in the scriptures… showing up at least 26 times (if I counted correctly)! These are what Dr. Tim Mackie calls Biblical hyperlinks. When specific words or phrases appear in the Biblical narrative they are often connected. The author was using these words to link different passages together. It’s a way of seeing the interconnectedness of Scripture. The prophets did this a lot in their writing, usually linking back to passages in the Torah to make their point. So tracing a phrase such as “on the third day” helps us to see what the Bible, as a whole, was trying to say.
If we look at Yeshua’s ministry, one of the earliest mentions of the phrase (“on the third day”) can be found in His first miracle:
On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.”
Although He gives His mother a hard time about it, He does go on to preform the miracle of turning water into wine. This was the first recorded miracle of Yeshua; it took place “on the third day”, and it was the beginning of a long string of miracles which culminated in the greatest miracle of all: Yeshua rising from dead… on the third day… full circle!
Rising up and Giving Life
So let’s take a look at a few Hebrew passages where the phrase “on the third day” occurs, starting with the third day of creation:
Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. God called the dry land earth, and the gathering of the waters He called seas; and God saw that it was good. Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. There was evening and there was morning, a third day.
…Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years; and let them be for lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so.
The third day of creation set up the world for humans to inhabit. It was the day that the dry land appeared and vegetation flourished… fruit trees, and seeds, and plants to sustain human life. This all happened before humans inhabited the planet. These things rose up out of the ground to give life and nourishment!
And just after the third day, God put the great lights in the sky to separate light from darkness, day from light. On the third day life rose up, just before the sun and moon rose into the sky to put order to everything. Yeshua mirrored the creation story, rising up on the third day, allowing us to see the light.
This is what Yeshua did for us. He rose up and gave us life… and then the warmth of the Son shone upon us. From a literary standpoint, it’s poetic, it’s beautiful, and it’s what the Bible does really well, again and again. It used the phrase (“on the third day”) as a reminder of the crux of the Biblical narrative: the Messiah saves! He rises up and He saves humanity!
On the Third Day God will Provide the Solution
In the famous story where Abraham was called by God to sacrifice his only son, Isaac, the phrase “on the third day” made a prophetic appearance:
Now it came about after these things, that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you.” So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him and Isaac his son; and he split wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. On the third day [ba-yom sh’lishi] Abraham and saw the place from a distance. Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go over there; and we will worship and return to you.” Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son, and he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So the two of them walked on together. Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” And he said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Abraham said, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for the burnt offering, my son.” So the two of them walked on together.
It was on the third day that Isaac took his son up the mountain to be a sacrifice. But just as he was about to drop the knife onto his son, the Angel of YHWH stopped him:
But the Angel of YHWH called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Do not stretch out your hand against the lad, and do nothing to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” Then Abraham raised his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him a ram caught in the thicket by his horns; and Abraham went and took the ram and offered him up for a burnt offering in the place of his son. Abraham called the name of that place YHWH Will Provide, as it is said to this day, “In the mount of YHWH it will be provided.”
Death wasn’t the solution… Life was. The Angel of YHWH stopped Abraham and Abraham raised his eyes, and looked. And then he saw it… a ram was provided in his son’s place. It was a sacrificial male lamb. “I will provide the lamb”, said God. There was a much bigger sacrifice coming. YHWH would provide His Anointed One, the Messiah, to be the sacrificial lamb for all humanity.
Yeshua, as Messiah, was the sacrificial lamb who conquered death and on the third day could not be found in his grave:
But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [the women] came to the tomb [of Jesus] bringing the spices which they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men suddenly stood near them in dazzling clothing; and as the women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living One among the dead? He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”
And they remembered His words, and returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now they were Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James; also the other women with them were telling these things to the apostles.
It wasn’t long after this that the risen Yeshua stood amongst the people, proving He had conquered death:
Luke 24:13-23, 30-31
…And behold, two of them were going that very day to a village named Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. And they were talking with each other about all these things which had taken place. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus Himself approached and began traveling with them. But their eyes were prevented from recognizing Him. And He said to them, “What are these words that you are exchanging with one another as you are walking?” And they stood still, looking sad. One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?” And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him. But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened. But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive…
…When He had reclined at the table with them, He took the bread and blessed it, and breaking it, He began giving it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight.
They couldn’t see Yeshua until He broke bread and blessed it in their presence. This symbolic act made everything come into focus. Afterwards Yeshua spoke to them, and other disciples, about being witnesses of the third day:
…Now He [Jesus] said to them, “These are My words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things which are written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and He said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.”
Levitical Laws and the Third Day
Jewish laws also had third day connections:
Leviticus 7:15-18 (See also Leviticus 19:5-8)
Now as for the flesh of the sacrifice of his thanksgiving peace offerings, it shall be eaten on the day of his offering; he shall not leave any of it over until morning. But if the sacrifice of his offering is a votive or a freewill offering, it shall be eaten on the day that he offers his sacrifice, and on the next day what is left of it may be eaten; but what is left over from the flesh of the sacrifice on the third day [ba-yom ha-sh’lishi] shall be burned with fire. So if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace offerings should ever be eaten on the third day [ba-yom ha-sh’lishi], he who offers it will not be accepted, and it will not be reckoned to his benefit. It shall be an offensive thing, and the person who eats of it will bear his own iniquity.
Clearly this had significant health repercussions. Meat, by the third day, could very well be spoiled, and to eat spoiled meat was gross and offensive. By the third day, even if just for safety reasons alone, meat was to be burned, not consumed. By the third day a corpse, also, would have started to decay. The Psalmist was quick to point out that this would not affect the forthcoming Messiah (YHWH’s “Holy One”):
I have set YHWH continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life…
By conquering death Yeshua also did not decay… and all who put their hope in Yeshua would also not be abandoned to the grave. They would walk the path of life, as God intended them to, and when their day was done, they would rise up to face their Creator.
The People see YHWH on the Third Day
We hold onto a peaceful hope that we will one day come face to face with YHWH. While the Hebrew people roamed the desert, YHWH presented Himself to His people:
Exodus 19:10-11, 16-17
YHWH also said to Moses, “Go to the people and consecrate them today and tomorrow, and let them wash their garments; and let them be ready for the third day [la-yom ha-sh’lishi], for on the third day [ba-yom ha-sh’lishi] YHWH will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people…
…So it came about on the third day [ba-yom ha-sh’lishi], when it was morning, that there were thunder and lightning flashes and a thick cloud upon the mountain and a very loud trumpet sound, so that all the people who were in the camp trembled. And Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain.
We have the opportunity to meet God on the third day. Before Yeshua’s death we could not see God, face to face. But when Yeshua conquered death, everything changed. We could now meet God because Yeshua paid the debt we owed, for the sins we committed. Salvation came at a cost (the death of His Son) and we reaped the benefits.
On the Third Day you will go to the House of YHWH
We all face death. Hezekiah, king of Judah, was told by God that he would face death imminently, but Hezekiah pleaded for his life with prayer and weeping. God heard his prayers, and saw his tears, and healed him:
2 Kings 20:1-11
In those days Hezekiah became mortally ill. And Isaiah the prophet the son of Amoz came to him and said to him, “Thus says YHWH, ‘Set your house in order, for you shall die and not live.’”
Then he [Hezekiah] turned his face to the wall and prayed to YHWH, saying, “Remember now, O YHWH, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly. Before Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of YHWH came to him, saying, “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says YHWH, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day [ba-yom ha-sh’lishi] you shall go up to the house of YHWH. I will add fifteen years to your life…
…Now Hezekiah said to Isaiah, “What will be the sign that YHWH will heal me, and that I shall go up to the house of YHWH on the third day [ba-yom ha-sh’lishi]?” Isaiah said, “This shall be the sign to you from YHWH, that YHWH will do the thing that He has spoken: shall the shadow go forward ten steps or go back ten steps?” So Hezekiah answered, “It is easy for the shadow to decline ten steps; no, but let the shadow turn backward ten steps.” Isaiah the prophet cried to YHWH, and He brought the shadow on the stairway back ten steps by which it had gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.
YHWH instructed Hezekiah to go the the Temple on the third day, at which point he would gain 15 years to his life. A miracle would point to his healing: a shadow would go the opposite way a shadow was supposed to go. Instead of declining down the stairs it would turn and go back up the staircase. It would rise and not fall, just as Hezekiah would rise up and not fall to the grave.
The Temple would be raised on the third day
After the Babylonian invasion, the Temple of YHWH was rebuilt. It was completed on the third day of the final month (Adar) of the Hebrew ecclesiastical calendar:
Ezra 6:14-15 (original passage is in Aramaic)
And the elders of the Jews were successful in building through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they finished building according to the command of the God of Israel and the decree of Cyrus, Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. This temple was completed on the third day [day three- yom t’latah] of the month Adar; it was the sixth year of the reign of King Darius.
The Temple was YHWH’s dwelling place on earth. This newly rebuilt House of YHWH was the Temple that Yeshua knew and loved in His day. It was where He taught and preached to the people while He was in Jerusalem. It was a sacred space to every Jew… wherever they lived, they traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate the Feasts, and get as close as they could to God’s dwelling place. The Temple was an incredibly elaborate building and the centrepiece of Jerusalem, which made Yeshua’s following statement all that more shocking:
The Jews then said to Him [Jesus], “What sign do You show us as your authority for doing these things?”
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
The Jews then said, “It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. So when He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had spoken.
Yeshua wasn’t speaking about a man-made building; He was talking about himself. Destroy my body on the cross and in three days it will rise again.
He will Raise us up and we will Live!
Jesus was sent to earth with a mission… He was the Saviour, the Anointed One, the One who would redeem the people, the One who would pay the entrance fee so we could see YHWH at the end of our days. Yeshua knew He had a mission and He was prepared to face it:
Just at that time some Pharisees approached, saying to Him [Jesus], “Go away, leave here, for Herod wants to kill You.” And He said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I reach My goal.’”
The 8th century BC prophet, Hosea, announced a third day prophecy:
“Come, let us return to YHWH. For He has torn us, but He will heal us; He has wounded us, but He will bandage us.
He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day [ba-yom ha-sh’lishi], that we may live before Him.
So let us know, let us press on to know YHWH. His going forth is as certain as the dawn; and He will come to us like the rain, like the spring rain watering the earth.”
Hosea made it very clear: God will raise us up on the third day so that we may live before Him. The Messianic promise of a Saviour was our only hope. Hosea implored us to get to know YHWH, the One who, with certainty, would save us.
Humans cannot get to the throne room of God without the Messiah first paying the entrance fee. He had to overcome death, so that we could do the same. And Yeshua wasn’t quiet on the subject; He consistently talked about it, referring to Himself as the Son of Man:
And while they were gathering together in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men; and they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day.” And they were deeply grieved.
Matthew 20:17-19 (See also Luke 18:31-34)
As Jesus was about to go up to Jerusalem, He took the twelve disciples aside by themselves, and on the way He said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem; and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn Him to death, and will hand Him over to the Gentiles to mock and scourge and crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”
This was His mission; it was the goal He was sent to accomplish… and He walked Himself to the cross to do it.
And so let’s go back to the Tanakh (the Old Testament). The third day was associated with rising up and overcoming decay, through something or someone that God would provide.
We have a decision… Do we want to rise up when our day on earth is over? Do we want to defeat death, rot, and decay? And will we accept what God provided?
Where are you going, on the Third Day?
There’s one more story we need to look at… Joseph, the son of Jacob, was celebrated in Egypt as a dream interpreter. Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker were in trouble. They had disappointed Pharaoh and found themselves in his jail. One night they each had strange dreams and Joseph was requested to interpret them:
So the chief cupbearer told his dream to Joseph, and said to him, “In my dream, behold, there was a vine in front of me; and on the vine were three branches. And as it was budding, its blossoms came out, and its clusters produced ripe grapes. Now Pharaoh’s cup was in my hand; so I took the grapes and squeezed them into Pharaoh’s cup, and I put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand.”
Then Joseph said to him, “This is the interpretation of it: the three branches are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head and restore you to your office; and you will put Pharaoh’s cup into his hand according to your former custom when you were his cupbearer. Only keep me in mind when it goes well with you, and please do me a kindness by mentioning me to Pharaoh and get me out of this house. For I was in fact kidnapped from the land of the Hebrews, and even here I have done nothing that they should have put me into the dungeon.”
When the chief baker saw that he had interpreted favourably, he said to Joseph, “I also saw in my dream, and behold, there were three baskets of white bread on my head; and in the top basket there were some of all sorts of baked food for Pharaoh, and the birds were eating them out of the basket on my head.” Then Joseph answered and said, “This is its interpretation: the three baskets are three days; within three more days Pharaoh will lift up your head from you and will hang you on a tree, and the birds will eat your flesh off you.”
Thus it came about on the third day [ba-yom sh’lishi], which was Pharaoh’s birthday, that he made a feast for all his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants. He restored the chief cupbearer to his office, and he put the cup into Pharaoh’s hand; but he hanged the chief baker, just as Joseph had interpreted to them. Yet the chief cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him.
According to Joseph’s interpretation, after three days one of Pharaoh’s employees (the cupbearer) would be lifted up and restored to life, the other (the baker) would be hung on a tree and fall to the grave.
What is the third day? There is the day we are born, the day we live, and the day we die… the third day. Where are you going when that day is done… will you fall down to the depths and rot? Or will you rise up and face your Creator?
Next week: Burden/Oracle