Meaning of Numbers
in the Bible
The Number 40
The Meaning of Numbers: The Number 40
The number forty has long been universally recognized as an important number, both on account of the frequency of its occurrence, and the uniformity of its association with a period of probation, trial, and chastisement - (not judgment, like the number 9, which stands in connection with the punishment of enemies, but the chastisement of sons, and of a covenant people).
The number 40 is the product of 5 and 8, and points to the action of grace (5), leading to and ending in revival and renewal (8). This is certainly the case where Forty relates to a period of evident probation. But where it relates to enlarged dominion, or to renewed or extended rule, then it does so in virtue of its factors 4 and 10, and in harmony with their signification.
There are 15 such periods which appear on the surface of the Scriptures, and which may be thus classified:
Forty Years of Probation by Trial
Israel in the wilderness, Deuteronomy 8:2-5; Psalm 95:10; Acts 13:18
(the third 40 years of Moses' life, who lived to be 120 years old).
Israel from the crucifixion to the destruction of Jerusalem.
Forty Years of Probation by Prosperity in Deliverance and Rest
under Othniel the judge, Judges 3:11,
under Barak the judge, Judges 5:31,
under Gideon the judge, Judges 8:28.
40 Years of Probation by Prosperity in Enlarged Dominion
under King David, 2Samuel 5:4,
under King Solomon, 1Kings 11:42,
under King Jeroboam II. See 2Kings 12:17,18, 13:3,5,7,22,25, 14:12-14,23,28,
under King Jehoash, 2Kings 12:1,
under King Joash, 2Chronicles 24:1.
Forty Years of Probation by Humiliation and Servitude
Israel under the Philistines, Judges 13:1.
Israel in the time of Eli, 1Samuel 4:18.
Israel under Saul, Acts 13:21.
40 Years of Probation by Waiting
Moses in Egypt, Acts 7:23.
Moses in Midian, Acts 7:30
What are the 8 significant 40 day periods in the Bible?
There are eight of such great periods on the surface of the Bible:
Forty days Moses was in the mount and received the law of God, Exodus 24:18
Forty days Moses was in the mount after the sin of the Golden Calf, Deuteronomy 9:18,25.
Forty days of the spies, issuing in the penal sentence of the 40 years, Numbers 13:26, 14:34.
Forty days of Elijah in Horeb, 1Kings 19:8.
Forty days of Jonah and Nineveh, Jonah 3:4.
Forty days Ezekiel lay on his right side to symbolize the 40 years of Judah's transgression, Ezekiel 4:6.*
* Thus 40 becomes a number closely connected with Judah, as 390 (Ezekiel 4:5) is the number of separated Israel. The significance of this will be seen (on note on number 8), for 40 is a multiple of 8, and 390 is a multiple of 13. It may also be noted that 65 (5x13) is the number of Ephraim, while 70 is specially connected with Jerusalem.
Forty days Jesus was tempted of the Devil, Matthew 4:2.
- For forty days after his resurrection Jesus was seen of His disciples, speaking of things pertaining to God's kingdom, Acts 1:2.
Additional commentary on the Biblical meaning of 40 *
The number 40 is mentioned 146 times in the Bible. The number points to or symbolizes trial and testing, or probation.
How is the number forty related to TRIALS and TESTING?
Jesus Christ was tempted of the Devil 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus was seen 40 days by His disciples after His resurrection. It was 40 years from the crucifixion of Jesus until the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD. Moses was 40 years in Egypt, 40 years in the desert, and 40 years in the wilderness leading the children of Israel. Moses was on Mount Sinai twice with God for 40 days and 40 nights receiving the Law. Twelve spies investigated the Promised Land for 40 days. Elijah was 40 days at Mount Horeb. Jonah preached that judgment was to come to Nineveh in 40 days. Ezekiel laid on His right side for 40 days symbolizing Judah’s sins.
How is the number 40 related to PROSPERITY and PROBATION?
Ancient Israel, for forty years, was judged by Othniel. Israel was also judged for 40 years by Barak and Gideon. A united Israel was also ruled, for forty years each, by King Saul, then King David, the by David's son King Solomon. Joash, considered one of the betters kings of the Kingdom of Judah, reigned for forty years (835-796 B.C.).
The Bible was written by forty different people - which pictures probation. Christians are under judgment now - under probation - based on how they live by every word of God.