Matthew 12:38-42 “The Sign of Jonah”

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church Manhattan, KS, 24 Jun 2012


12:38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him saying,

            “Teacher, we wish [want] to see a sign from you.”

12:39 But, He, by way of reply, said to them,

            “It is for a sign that an evil and adulterous generation eagerly seeks,

            but a sign will not be given to it – except for the sign of Jonah the prophet.

              12:40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monster three days and three nights,

                        so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

  12:41 The Ninevite men will stand up in the judgment with this generation

            and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah,

            and, look, something more than Jonah is here.

  12:42 The Queen of the South will be raised up in the judgment with this generation,

            and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon,

            and, look, something more than Solomon is here.

The Pharisees’ demand

12:38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered Him saying, “Teacher, we wish [want] to see a sign from you.”

τοτε απεκριθησαν αυτω[1] τινες των γραμματεων και φαρισαιων λεγοντες διδασκαλε θελομεν απο σου σημειον ιδειν

·         Remember that Jesus had just proved the Pharisees wrong on Him being associated with Beelzebub, then Jesus called them “evil” and a “brood of vipers” in v.34, and implied that they  were hypocrites for trying to hang good fruit on their trees. Now, this is the answer of the Bible scholars and the Pharisees: “We wish to see a sign from you.” Their answer is really quite mild, considering!

·         As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 1:22, it was characteristic of the culture of the Jews to look for signs while Greek culture looked for wisdom to substantiate a message from God.

·         The NIV inserts the word “miraculous,” which is not in the Greek text, to explain what kind of sign they’re talking about. The parallel passage in Luke 11:16 explains it as “a sign from heaven.”

·         Signs are what God and people use to express meaning:

o       If you look at a streambed and see water erosion, you don’t say, “I bet there’s a secret message in the arrangement of the dirt.” Water erosion isn’t a sign of anything except water.

o       But if you see an octagonal metal plate painted red with the letters STOP mounted on a wooden post on the side of the road, you say, “Aha! It’s a sign. Someone put it here to warn me so I don’t hit by a car coming up the other street.”

·         Throughout the Bible, God gave signs:

o       to show that He had been at work in something (Cain’s mark – Gen. 4:15; Sun and moon to signal time and seasons – Gen. 1:4);

o       to warn people (like a stop sign), as was the case of the censors used to offer unauthorized incense and which were kept on the altar as a warning not to break God’s rules again (Num 16:38);

o       Signs were also used to show that a person’s message was truly from God and to call people to obey and worship God. The signs most often referred to in the Bible are the plagues that Moses unleashed upon Egypt to confirm to Pharaoh that his request to “Let my people go” was a demand from the all-powerful God. (Ex. 3:12, 4, 7:9, cf. Deut. 13:1-2, 1 Sam. 10, 2 Ki. 20:8-10, Jer. 44:29, Dan. 6:27, Mk 16:20, Lk. 2:12, Jn. 2:11, 3:2, 6:14, 7:31, 1 Cor. 14:22, 2 Cor. 12:12, Heb 2:4)

o       But, of course, Pharaoh was not convinced by these signs (Ex. 11:9-10) because God had hardened his heart. And, often the people of Israel afterward did not believe the prophets God sent them, even when they performed signs to authenticate their message (Num. 14:11).

o       Signs were also given to encourage God’s people, for example: Saul’s anointing (1 Sam. 10), and God’s encouragement to Isaiah (11:12);

o       they were also used to remind God’s people of His deeds, His law, and of His covenant (Circumcision - Gen. 17:11, Ark of the Covenant - Num. 17:10, The Sabbath Day, and the Passover - Ezek 20:12).

o       Signs were proof of the faithfulness of God to keep His promises (Rainbow - Gen. 9:13, Isa. 38:7, Jer. 44:29)

o       God didn’t mind giving signs when people humbly asked for them so that they would know the right thing to do (Gideon – Judges 6:17, Disciples – Matt. 24:3)

o       We are warned, however, throughout the Bible, that not every miraculous sign comes from God. Signs can be the work of deceivers (Deut. 13:1-2, Isa. 44:25 Matt. 24:24, 2 Thess. 2:9, Rev. 13:13-14, 16:14, 19:20), so we cannot take a miracle by itself as proof that something is from God; we must compare the message to the message God has already given us in the Bible.

·         So, what’s is wrong with asking for a sign?

1.      The Pharisees’ demand emphasizes their will over God’s will. Remember the man with leprosy that Jesus healed in Matthew 8:2? When he came before Jesus he said, “Lord, if you are willing, you could make me clean.” The leper humbly submitted his will to the will of Jesus, saying, in effect, “Of course it would be my will to be cleansed of this disease, but I acknowledge that you are the higher authority, Lord, so I’m asking if would you be willing.” In contrast, the Pharisees use the same verb the leper used (θελω), but instead use it to assert their will, “So you want to argue with us, well, whatever, but you need to bow to our wishes, and what we want you do to right now is to perform a miracle.” This is arrogant pride to tell Jesus that He has to bow to their wishes. God hates pride. (Prov. 6:16-17, 8:13; 15:25) James 4:6 “…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (cf. 1 Pet 5:5).

2.      The Pharisee’s demand also emphasizes their judgment over Jesus’ judgment.

§         The request for Jesus to perform a miraculous sign might be reasonable if Jesus had not already healed the sick, caused the lame to walk, made the blind see, and caused the deaf and mute to hear and speak. It might be reasonable if Jesus had not calmed the seas and storm winds and expelled demons by merely speaking a word to them. It might be reasonable if the hosts of heaven had not already announced to the shepherds of Bethlehem that God was giving them the sign of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. It might have been reasonable if God had not already spoken out of the heavens at Jesus’ baptism and said, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him!” But, since all these signs had already been given, the Pharisees’ demand for a sign could not possibly have been a sincere request for confirmation of Jesus’ teaching. To ask for more was nothing more than an insult and a challenge to Jesus’ identity.

§         This test of Jesus’ identity was the same as the one Satan used, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones to bread… take a flying leap off the temple… bow down to me so that I may approve of you.” Do you see the similarity? “If you are the Son of God, do us a miracle. If you do that, we will evaluate your performance, and if we judge that to be acceptable to us, then maybe we will approve of you and let you keep teaching.” These Pharisees were wanting to sit in the judgment seat over Christ and make Him submit to them by jumping through their hoops!

§         Note that they call Him “Teacher” rather than “Lord.” (I don’t know where the KJV got the idea for translating the word didaskalos as “Master” except maybe in the sense of a “schoolmaster.”) In their judgment, Jesus is no more than any other teacher subject to their authority.

o       “God, I just have to have that purse, that ipod, that puppy, that scholarship, that car, that raise, a husband, a child, you-fill-in-the-blank; I don’t believe you really love me; if you don’t give it to me, I’ll just die!”

o       Or how about this one, “Lord, I’m just having trouble believing in you; if only You would show me a sign that you’re really there and that you care about me, I’ll serve you for the rest of my life!”

o       or, “God, I’m really looking to you to give me guidance on whether or not to marry this guy. My parents say he’s a creep, and my church elders say it’s a bad idea, and I never get to see him anymore since he got thrown in jail, but if it’s not your will for us to marry, would you just give me a sign?”

o       You get the idea. We are sometimes just as unreasonable and arrogant and thickheaded in our prayers sometimes, so let’s not shake our fingers at the Pharisees; let us repent of those same sinful attitudes in our hearts where we want to assert our will rather than submit to God’s will, and where we judge God instead of letting Him be the good judge.

Seeking the Sign, not the Savior

12:39 But, He, by way of reply, said to them, “It is for a sign that an evil and adulterous generation eagerly seeks [cravesNAS, asksNIV], but a sign will not be given to it – except for the sign of Jonah the prophet.

 ο δε αποκριθεις ειπεν αυτοις γενεα πονηρα και μοιχαλις σημειον επιζητει και σημειον ου δοθησεται αυτη ει μη το σημειον ιωνα του προφητου

·         The Gospel of Matthew starts out talking about “generations” of descendents from Abraham to Christ (1:17), and Jesus complains in 11:16 that the “generation” contemporary to Him was confused like children in the marketplace, now He’s saying that they are evil and adulterous – a generation of vipers (v.34), and He will go on to compare them unfavorably to other generations in vs. 41 & 42.

·         It’s possible that Jesus is comparing the Pharisees to Ahaziah who sought signs from the false god Baal: He was the king of Israel who fell off the second-story patio that opened out from his bedroom in his palace in Samaria and apparently had complications to his injuries that became life-threatening. He sent messengers to “seek” (the Greek Old Testament uses the same word Jesus used for seeking signs - επιζητεω) “to seek [a sign] from Baal the fly god of Ekron, as to whether [he] would recover of this sickness.” Of course, Elijah, the prophet of God, intercepts them and says, “Is it because there is no God in Israel, that you go to seek a sign from Baal? You’ll never come down again from your bed upstairs; you will surely die” (2 Kings 1:2-4, LXX).

·         Whatever the case, Jesus places the word “sign” in an emphatic position in the Greek sentence to emphasize that signs, more than anything else, are the object of their eager search.

o       But instead of seeking a sign, they should have been seeking God Himself.

o       The prophet Hosea said that it should be this way with the Jews of Jesus’ day who had resettled Jerusalem after the captivity in Babylon: For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an altar [speaking of the 70 years of captivity in Babylon]... And afterward shall the children of Israel return, and shall seek [a sign? NO!] the Lord their God… then they shall seek my face (Hosea 3:4-5, 5:15b, Brenton) – not just a sign but the face of God Himself, which turned out to be the face of Jesus.

o       So often, in our evil and adulterous generation, we find people seeking existential thrills rather than a personal relationship with God:

§         We would rather watch a movie than watch a sunset;

§         We would rather accomplish a work project than pray;

§         We would rather drown out the silence with music than carry on a conversation;

§         We would rather turn on TV than read our Bible.

§         Americans apparently even want an existential thrill out of brushing their teeth; I’ve found the advertising on toothpaste boxes lately to be amusing, promising “fresh, sparkling” sensations, with “mint zing,” offering the “ultimate” experience in tooth-brushing. It’s the epitome of cheap thrill-seeking which also characterized the Pharisees of Jesus’ day.

§         Standing on a beach under the hot sun with a crowd of people listening to the Maker of the Universe teach about life wasn’t what they were looking for; what they really wanted was a splashy miracle.

o       Jesus already spoke in His sermon on the mount about what we should be seeking: 6:31-33 “Therefore, don’t start caring [too much], saying, ‘What might we eat,’ or ‘What might we drink?’ or ‘What might we wrap up in?’, for all these things are what the nations are eagerly seeking, and your heavenly Father sees that you are in need of every one of these. But continue seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added onto you.”

·         In terms of a conclusive proof that Jesus was God, Jesus, true to His word, never did give such a sign. He taught in parables (Mt. 13:34) and constantly forced His followers to put two and two together to infer that He was God the Messiah (Mt. 9:2ff). Although he received the worship of God (Matt. 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; John 9:38) and did what only God can do (Mark 2:5; John 5:21-23; 14:6; 17:5), still He never came out and said, “I am God.” Jesus’ statement here in Matthew 12:39 is consistent with the way He conducted His ministry: “A sign will not be given to this generation.”

o       Nevertheless, a sign of sorts is offered by Jesus here, and that is “the sign of Jonah.” What is “the sign of Jonah”? Verse 40 explains:

The Sign of Jonah

12:40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the sea monsterNAS [whaleKJV/great(huge) fishNKJ,ESV (NIV)] three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

 ωσπερ γαρ ην ιωνας εν τη κοιλια του κητους τρεις ημερας και τρεις νυκτας ουτως εσται [2]ο υιος του ανθρωπου εν τη καρδια της γης τρεις ημερας και τρεις νυκτας

·         The sign of Jonah is that something analogous to Jonah’s three-day underwater ordeal in the fish would also happen to the Son of Man, speaking of Jesus.

o       The Greek word ketous does not settle the question conclusively as to what sort of creature actually swallowed Jonah.

o       The root of the word seems to mean “gaping,” so it probably had a big mouth.

o       It is the word from which we get cetacean – the order of aquatic animals like whales and dolphins.

o       Apart from this quote by Jesus and the book of Jonah, the word for sea monster/great fish/whale doesn’t show up anywhere else in the Greek scriptures except for a brief mention that God created these animals in Gen. 1:21 and a few oblique references to them as formidable creatures in Job (3:8; 9:13; 26:12).

o       Whatever kind of animal it was, Jesus seems to treat the claims of Jonah matter-of-factly as though they were true history.

o       Jonah was thrown off a Phoenicean ship into the Mediterranean ocean during a storm, was swallowed by a big fish, and survived three days underwater in that fish before being spit out on land.

o       Now, the Hebrews reckoned days from evening to evening (rather than from morning to morning like we do), and it was standard to round up when totalling partial days and report only whole integer numbers when stating a total of days. Thus, Jesus, although He was dead all day Saturday and only a small part of the day before and the day after, was accurately reckoned according to Hebrew culture to have been dead over the course of three days.

o       This sign of resurrection from death on the third day is exactly the sign that Paul picks up on in his preaching of the gospel to the world. To the Greek philosophers in Athens he says, “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which he will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30b-31, NASB).

o       This was prophecied by Hosea 6:2 “…He will raise us up on the third day, That we may live before Him.”

o       And Jesus made much of this sign, speaking of it several times throughout His ministry:

§         John 2:19 “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

§         Matt. 16:21 “…Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem… and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

§         Matt. 17:23 “…they will kill Him, and He will be raised on the third day…”

§         Matt. 20:19 “…they will hand Him over to the Gentiles to… crucify Him, and on the third day He will be raised up.”

§         This teaching was so well known that it was brought up by hostile witnesses in his trial (Mk. 14:58) and the Jewish leaders rightly inferred that Jesus was talking about rising from the dead after being killed, so that’s why they got guards to secure his grave for three days (Matt. 27:64)!

o       Jesus’ literal death and resurrection in three days is the centerpiece of the Gospel, as Paul later related in 1 Corinthians 15: “This is the gospel… Christ died for our sins… and was buried, and was raised on the third day, according to the scriptures.

·         Why was this so important?

o       It shows that death was the penalty for sin and that Jesus paid it on our behalf so that we might have eternal life.

o       It also shows that Jesus’ death was satisfactory payment to God, that is was enough to pay for our sins, so much so that God raised Him back to life.

o       And His resurrection stands to us as a promise that our bodies will be likewise resurrected by God Himself and raised to heaven to live eternally just as Jesus’ body was resurrected and raised to heaven.

·         There is, however, one last issue with the phrase “three days and three nights”: According to the record of the Gospel writers, Jesus’ body was placed in the grave Friday afternoon in time for those who buried him to get away from the unclean place of the tombs before Sabbath eve started (Mark 15:42, John 19:31), so His body continued through that evening, then the day of Saturday, then the evening preceding Sunday, then the morning of Sunday (Mt. 28:1), totaling three days but only two nights. So why does Jesus say “three days and three nights?” The best I can figure is that either:

1.      Jesus was including the night of His capture in the garden of Gethsemane, the midnight trial at Caiphas’ house, and His incarceration before He was crucified on Good Friday, which would add a night. Note that Jesus does not say that He would be dead and buried, but merely that He would be “in the heart of the earth.” This phrase “heart of the earth” does not occur anywhere else in the Bible, so it is somewhat uncertain in meaning and might include the sufferings which immediately led to His death. Perhaps the priests even kept Jesus in an underground prison between the trials and the crucifixion.

2.      Alternately, the phrase “days and nights” could be a figure of speech indicating continuity or literalness. In other words, it was three continuous days that Jesus was buried, day and night, not three separate days on three separate occasions.

§         The phrase “night and day” is used this way in parallel with the word “continuously” in Mark 5:5 to describe the demon-possessed men that Jesus healed in Gadara: “Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones.”

§         Likewise it is also used in Acts 20:31 “…night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”

§         Or, taking the phrase “day and night” in another figurative sense, Jesus was dead over three literal days – day-and-night days. The word “day” is used in some parts of the Bible to mean a space of time that is not limited to 24 hours, such as Jesus’ statement, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day…” (John 8:56) – where the word “day” refers to a whole lifetime. But when the word “night/evening” is added to the word “day,” and, furthermore, numbers are added to the phrase (like it is in Genesis 1), then it is a literary indicator that we’re talking about earth-rotation days, not indefinite stretches of time.

o       So I believe that “three days and three nights” is not a case of Jesus making an erroneous statement. Peter was not wrong when he testified (1 Pet. 2:22) that Jesus “committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth.” The apparent discrepancy can be explained by an expanded understanding of Jesus’ sufferings or by a better understanding of figures of speech.

·         So the sign is that Jesus would be dead for 3 days (according to Hebrew reckoning) and would return to the land of the living with a powerful message from God, just like Jonah did. And that’s exactly what happened.

·         But, as Abraham said in Jesus’ parable of the rich man and Lazarus, there are some people who won’t believe, even if someone should rise from the dead. Such hardened unbelief will be ultimately condemned on Judgment Day.

Hostile Witness #1: Nineveh

12:41 The Ninevite[3] men will stand up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it because they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and, look, something more [greater] than Jonah is here.

ανδρες νινευιται αναστησονται εν τη κρισει μετα της γενεας ταυτης και κατακρινουσιν αυτην οτι μετενοησαν εις το κηρυγμα ιωνα και ιδου πλειον ιωνα ωδε

·         Some 800 years previous, God had sent Jonah to warn the inhabitants of the capitol city of Assyria that God wanted to destroy them. Jonah’s message to the city of Nineveh was, “Fourty Days and Nineveh shall be overturned.” Not much of a message really; just enough to tip them off that it was time to get right with Jonah’s God. But the Ninevites responded radically; they fasted and abstained from even drinking water, they prayed to God for mercy, and they figured out what God considered to be sins and they quit doing those things. Nineveh repented.

·         Fast forward to Jesusday. God sends His own Son to the capitol city of Israel. He spends years doing countless miracles and offering so much teaching about God that people could write whole books about it for millennia to come. And how did most of the Jews respond? “Um, we’re just not convinced; could you maybe do another miracle?”

·         Jesus once again brings up the fact that He will return as the Judge of all mankind and will consider every deed done by every single person in the world. And He will not overlook any moral failure in our lives. If, God forbid, He should happen to commit such an oversight, the rest of mankind could hold Him accountable. In the cosmic courtroom of the last day, the men who lived in Nineveh could rise to speak against the Pharisees and say, “God, don’t cut them any slack. If you do, we will accuse you of injustice. We had to wear sackcloth and fast and research your law and turn away from our sin in order to get right with you. It would be nothing less than unfair of you if you were to allow those Pharisees into heaven when they responded to a much clearer call to repentance by insulting you rather than repenting in sackcloth and ashes like we did. It wouldn’t be fair.” And they’d be right.

·         The nature of the Pharisee’s offense against God is only heightened by the fact that it is not just an­other prophet that they are snubbing; this is God’s own Son. This is something greater than Jonah.

o       This word translated “greater” in your English Bible is the comparative form of the Greek word for “many,” (pollus) and is used just like the comparative form of the Greek word for “big” (megas) in v.6, “…someone bigger than the temple is here.[4]

o       Furthermore, the neuter spelling in the Greek text of this word in v.41 for “greater/more than” has led Bible translators to use a impersonal word (“somethingNAS,ESV/aKJV/oneNIV”) to describe what is being compared to Jonah, so it’s possible that Jesus is referring not so much to His own person as to the gravity of the whole situation. The sin of rejecting Jesus and His message is a bigger deal than it would have been to reject Jonah and his message, but ultimately it’s still because of the person. I mean, I want to catch some time with Jonah and all when I get to heaven, but seeing Jesus is going to be a much bigger deal!

o       Not content to leave things there, Jesus uses a second scenario to drive His point home:

Hostile Witness #2: Queen of Sheba

12:42 The Queen of the South will be raised up in the judgment with this generation and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and, look, something more than Solomon is here.

βασιλισσα νοτου εγερθησεται εν τη κρισει μετα της γενεας ταυτης και κατακρινει αυτην οτι ηλθεν εκ των περατων της γης ακουσαι την σοφιαν σολομων[5]ος και ιδου πλειον σολομωνος ωδε

·         I find it curious that the Greek text indicates that the next witness does not rise on her own to take the witness stand, but is raised up by God to testify against unbelieving Jews. The spelling of egerthesetai is clearly passive voice, so I don’t understand why all the English Bibles translate it in the active voice. Maybe it’s not a big deal, but it’s the sort of thing that bothers me.[6]

·         Anyway, if you go south from Jerusalem until the land ends and you are standing on the edge of the Indian Ocean, you will be in the country of Yemen. I believe that is literally what the Bible means when it says “the ends of the earth.” I have visited Yemen a couple of times, and while I was there, I heard legends of a great queen named Bilqis who lived thousands of years ago and who oversaw the construction of amazing watercourses and temples, the ruins of which still stand today. The people of Yemen say that she travelled to pay a visit to king Solomon in Jerusalem. 1 Kings 10 in the Bible also records this visit, calling her the Queen of Sheba. She came 1,500 miles on the back of a camel because she had heard about Solomon’s wealth, his wisdom, and his God. She was amazed at what she saw and she praised God for what He had done for Israel. Now, if Jesus had lived and ministered in Yemen, how many Pharisees would have come down from Jerusalem to see Him? The earnestness of the Queen of the South to learn more about God and His ways and travel all that way to honor God’s anointed in her day (which was Solomon) puts the unbelieving Jews to shame who did not appear to even want to sit through the entirety of one of Jesus’ teaching sessions when He came through their own town!

·         Again, the rejection of Jesus and His message is a great offense against God because Jesus was greater than Solomon.

o       Solomon may have been the wisest man who ever lived, but it was because God had shared some of His wisdom with Solomon. Not so with Jesus. Jesus IS the wisdom of God; all the fullness of God’s wisdom dwells in Jesus (Col. 2:9), not just a partial share like Solomon had.

o       Jesus may have been Solomon’s descendent, but Solomon’s dad called Jesus his “Lord” in Psalm 110.

o       Jesus is greater than Solomon and deserves more respect than all the magnificent respect that the Queen of the South showed to Solomon.

·         So what can we do about this? The Greek word which starts the last half of this verse is the word ιδου, which is generally translated “behold.”

o       This word is sometimes used as a figure of speech to simply emphasize a point, and the NIV (“now”) and the NKJ (“indeed”) take it that way in vs. 41 & 42,

o       but in this instance, I think it was intended to be taken literally. This Greek word idou is actually an imperative form of the Greek word for “look/eidon.” It’s a command to stop and look at something.

o       Look at something more than the temple, something more than Jonah, something more than Solomon: Jesus was greater than all the priestly things, all the prophets and all the kings of the Old Testament.

o       Look at Jesus. Consider who He claimed to be and the miracles He did, and worship Him as God.

o       Look to Jesus, who died to suffer the punishment for your sin, was raised, and ascended to Heaven where He sits on the right hand of God, and pray for Him to save you.

o       Look to Jesus, the wisdom of God and learn all you can from His Word, the Bible.

o       Let us seek the face of God in the person of Jesus rather than the signs of God or our experiences.


[1] This word is not in Majority, Byzantine Patriarchal, or Textus Receptus print editions of the GNT, but it is included in the Critical Text on the basis of: א, B, C, D, L, N, θ, and f13.

[2] D, L, W and pre-Vulgate Latin manuscripts add the word “also” (kai) here.

[3] The Greek word is “Ninevite,” the Nominative case spelling for an inhabitant of the city of Nineveh; to translate it “of Nineveh” is technically inaccurate, as though it were the word for the city of Nineveh itself and spelled in the Genitive case. This technical inaccuracy in most English translations does not really change the meaning though, since “Ninevite men” and “men of Nineveh” give us the same subject.

[4] Mat 12:6  λεγω δε υμιν οτι του ιερου μειζονB,CRIT μειζωνTR,BYZ,MAJ εστιν ωδε

[5] Textus Receptus inserts a “τ” here and in the following occurrence of Solomon’s name in this verse, but the extra tau is not in the Majority text, the Patriarchal Text, or the Critical Text of the Greek New Testament. There’s no reason to think, however, that the T.R. is referring to a different person; variations in spelling proper names is common.

[6] The only other occurrences of this verb are in Matthew 17:23; 20:19; 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 11:31; 21:10; which boil down to three different statements: 1) the rising of the Queen of Sheba to testify against the unbelieving Jews (translated active in all the English Bibles), 2) the resurrection of Jesus from the dead (translated passive in all English Bibles), and 3) “nation shall rise against nation” (translated active in English Bibles, but no reason why it couldn’t be passive, cf. Hab. 1:6 – where God raised up the Chaldeans against the Jews.)