Jonah: Three Days and Three Nights


I am a gentile Bible scholar. Scripture says that Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for “three days and three nights.” My Christian pastor quoting Moody Bible Commentary told us that “Jewish people regarded even a part of a day as a day and a night.” In theory, that would mean that Jonah could have been in the fish no more than 25 hours … still a miracle but certainly of a different flavor.

My question is, when Scripture says “3 days and 3 nights”, does it mean “not less than” that amount of time?



  1. It is true that occasionally a part of a day is counted as a whole day. For the most part, the concept is found in the Laws of Mourning, when the last day of the Shivah (the seven days of mourning) is counted as a whole day despite the fact that it ends after the Morning Prayers. However, the phrase “three days and three nights” means three whole days and three whole nights. In general, when the phrase “whole days and whole nights” is mentioned in Tanach, it should be understood in its simple understanding as twenty-four hour blocks of time.

    (By the way, even if your suggestion of a 25 hour period is considered, it could account for the end of day 1, the entirety of day 2 and the beginning of day 3 – but there would not be three nights in the mix.)

    Best wishes from the Team