Paul said that Jesus “was buried” and “that he was raised the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:5). This section is more difficult to find in the the Old Testament Scriptures. These things are never spelled out for us in a straightforward way like Jesus’ vicarious death for our sins. Some, otherwise conservative scholars, have said that the New Testament writers twisted Old Testament texts to fit their new idea of Jesus resurrection after three days.
Let’s look at some of the interesting ways God prepared us for Jesus’ resurrection after three days. Joseph put his brothers in prison three days and spoke to them on the third day: “Now Joseph said to them on the third day, “Do this and live, for I fear God” (Genesis 42:18). Moses asked Pharaoh to let the people go three days journey into the wilderness to the mountain of God for worship (Ex. 5:3; 8:27). Darkness fell on the land of Egypt for three days (Ex. 10:22). The first major stop after the Red Sea was after three days (Ex. 15:22). Note the time of the journey from the Mountain of God in Numbers 10:33 “Thus they set out from the mount of the Lord three days’ journey, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord journeying in front of them for the three days, to seek out a resting place for them.” Joshua gave the people three days of preparation before going into the land (Josh. 1:11). Rehab told the spies to hide three days (Josh. 2:16, 22; 3:2). Jonathan to,d David to hide for three days (1 Sam. 20:19). Jonah was in the belly of the creature for three days (Jonah 1:17) and preached in the city which was a three days walk (3:17).
The phrase “third day” also occurs very often and in important contexts. Abraham took Isaak for a three days journey to the mountain to sacrifice him and lifted up his eyes to see the place on the third day (Gen. 22:4). Moses told the people that God would finally come down on the third day. He said, “and let them be ready for the third day, for on the third day the Lord will come down on Mount Sinai in the sight of all the people” (Ex. 19:11). In 2 Kings 20:5 Hezekiah was told to go back to the house of the Lord on the third day. The rebuilt temple was completed on the third day of the month of Adar in Ezra 6:15. Finally, Hosea 6:1-2 says, “Come, let us return to the Lord. 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,That we may live before Him.”
These are just a few of the times these two phrases are used. The “third day” events may seem inconsequential to modern readers, but for premodern interpreters this pattern had established not only a three day routine but a third day expectation. So, it would come as no surprise to the people that Jesus would return from his journey into the unseen after three days. In fact, they would have expected him to return after three days. When Jesus did rise after three days, as he prophesied he would, he confirmed to the people that he was the descendent of David who was hidden from his enemies for three days, and the prophet who went into the depths for three days only to emerge preaching and the representative of Israel who was raised on the third day “that we may live before him” (Hos. 6:2).