After Six Days

The transfiguration happened after six days to hint toward another important story in the Bible. Do you recognize the story?

The Transfiguration story depicted on an iconostasis in Constantinople style. Middle of the 12th century, Saint Catherine's Monastery, Sinai (Egypt) / K. Weitzmann: "Die Ikone" (Image: Wikimedia Commons)

When did the transfiguration happen? The gospels of Matthew and Mark both indicate that the revelation on the high mountain happened “after six days.” Six days after something or other, Yeshua took three of his disciples up a high mountain and was transfigured before them:

Six days later Yeshua took with Him Peter and James and John his brother, and led them up on a high mountain by themselves. (Matthew 17:1)

Six days after what? Is there some significance to the six days before the transfiguration?

Some scholars believe that the six days refer to a six-day period of ritual preparation, fasting, and ritual purification. Jewish holy men of the time underwent similar periods of preparation to enter a heightened spiritual state of awareness and obtain a vision or revelation. Likewise, the Master and His disciples may have spiritually prepared themselves by fasting and ritual purification for six days before their ascent up the high mountain.

The Gospel of Matthew does not specify, but it seems to imply that the six days took place beginning with Peter’s confession and the Master’s promise that some among the disciples would see the kingdom before they tasted death. The six days might be related to that idea. “After six days” is the seventh day. The seventh day has Sabbath connotations and end-times implications. The words “after six days” may offer an additional hint about Yeshua’s cryptic promise at the end of the previous chapter, “The Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels …” (Matthew 16:27). For Matthew and his readers, the term “after six days” might allude to the seventh millennium—the one-thousand-year rest of creation. The transfiguration allows the disciples a glimpse of the Son of Man coming in His Father’s glory—the Messiah in the Messianic Age.

“After six days” also alludes to an important story from the Torah: Moses’ ascent up Mount Sinai. When God gave the Torah, he invited Moses to ascend Mount Sinai. For six days the cloud of glory covered Mount Sinai. On the seventh day, the voice of the LORD called from within the cloud, and Moses went higher up the mountain to enter the cloud and stand in the presence of God:

Then Moses went up to the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD rested on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; and on the seventh day He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud … Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain. (Exodus 24:15-18)

After six days, Yeshua (the prophet like Moses) and three disciples climbed the high mountain. Like Moses, the disciples found themselves enveloped in a cloud of glory. Like Moses, they heard the voice of God speaking out of the cloud. Like Moses, the Master began to radiate the glory of God. And who should they encounter while on the Mountain but Moses himself? Elijah—the only other character in the Bible to have also ascended Sinai and heard the voice of God speaking to him from on the top of Sinai—also appeared on the mountain.

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