The Meaning of Numbers: The Number 39
Part of the meaning of the number 39, which is 3 times 13, comes from its use related to punishment carried out upon oneself or administered by others.
Pontius Pilate was Rome's Prefect over Judea from 26 to 36 A.D. According to first century historian Josephus, Pilate's tenure ended when he was ordered to appear in Rome to answer for the murder of several men in Samaria (Antiquities of the Jews, book 18, chapter 4). He was made to answer for his actions before Emperor Caligula, who began his reign in March 37 A.D.
The fourth century church historian Eusebius (Church History, 2.6.7) writes that church tradition states Pilate committed suicide in 39 A.D. due, in part, to his disgraceful removal as Judea's Prefect.
Appearances of the number thirty-nine
A modern Bible usually contains 66 books, 39 in the Old Testament and 27 in the New Testament. God's word (KJV) contains 1,189 chapters, 31,173 verses, 774,746 words, and 3,566,480 letters.
King Azariah of Judah, at age sixteen, began to co-rule the Kingdom of Judah with his father Amaziah (2Kings 14:21). In 767 B.C., at the age of 39, he ruled as the sole monarch. His total time on the throne, fifty-two years, is the second longest of any of the kings of either Israel or Judah.
Josiah, along with Hezekiah, are arguably the two most righteous kings over Judah after the united kingdom of Israel split in 930 B.C. Josiah began to rule at the tender age of eight (2Kings 22:1). In 609 B.C. he dies at the age of thirty-nine when he attempts to stop the Egyptians from traveling north through Israel in their effort to halt the Babylonians from becoming a world empire (2Kings 23:29 - 30, 2Chronicles 35:20 - 35).
Punishment, hatred and the number 39
One common form of corporal punishment, recorded in both the Old and New Testaments, is the receiving of stripes (also called scourging, Leviticus 19:20). The practice is based on Deuteronomy 25:1 - 3 where up to forty stripes could be administered. Such correction was labeled "forty stripes save one" (2Corinthians 11:24) as Jews limited themselves to carrying out, at most, only 39 stripes.
Jewish religious leaders, especially in the first century, set the maximum number of stripes to 39 because they feared making a mistake and going beyond the proscribed limit. The Romans, however, had no such limit in their law. Christ was scourged by the Romans so many times that it rendered him too weak to carry his crucifixion stake to Golgotha (Matthew 27:26, 32, Mark 15:21, Luke 23:26).
The 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia states that stripes would be administered using a fourfold thong of leather. Commentaries like Gill's, Matthew Henry's and others, however, believe that a three-fold lash or cord was used and thirteen strokes (at most) were carried out to achieve 39 blows.
Jesus warned Christians they could be beaten by religious authorities, who think they are doing God a service, for the truth they taught (Matthew 10:17, 23:34, John 16:2). Such unrighteous abuse happened to the apostles a short time after Christ's ascension. They were arrested by the Sanhedrin and, in spite of the wise counsel of Rabbi Gamaliel, were beaten (likely with 39 stripes, see Acts 5:17 - 41).
God's law allowed, and Jewish tradition upheld, the role of judgment in determining the stripes a criminal received. In this regard, the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia states the following.
"The Talmudic law provides that whenever the infliction of corporal punishment is ordained . . . (it) allows no discretion to the judge except in regard to the number of blows" (article on corporal punishment).
Hatred of the Apostle Paul and his message, however, ran strong among Jewish leadership in Jerusalem and in locations where he evangelized. This distain of the gospel was so pronounced that synagogues, on five separate occasions, justified whipping him with the maximum 39 stripes (2Corinthians 11:24)!
Additional info on Biblical Meaning of 39
In 39 A.D. after Herod Antipas' death, Herod Agrippa I (grandson of Herod the Great) is made ruler over Perea and Galilee. In 41, he is declared king of Judea. Herod is notorious in Christian history as the first person to put to death one of the original twelve apostles. He killed the Apostle James in 44 A.D. Herod himself, in the same year he murdered James, is struck dead by the Angel of the Lord (Acts 12).