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Meaning of Numbers in the Bible
The Number 40

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Biblical Meaning of Numbers
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Meaning of Numbers: The Number 40

The word "forty" appears 158 times in the King James translation. The number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. It can also mean or symbolize a generation of man. Moses' life, as an example of trial and testing, can be divided up into three blocks of 40 years.

The first 40 years of Moses' life entails him from growing up in Pharaoh's household and living in Egypt until he slays a man and has to flee to Midian. The second part of his life is spent as a shepherd in the wilderness until God calls him at 80 to save his people. During the last third of his life he leads the Israelites out of Egypt and wanders the wilderness until he dies at age 120.

Moses was also on Mount Sinai, on two separate occasions, for 40 days and nights (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 - 28) in order to receive God's laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25, 14:34).

Appearances of the Number Forty

Because of their sins after leaving Egypt, God swore that the generation of Israelites who left Egyptian bondage would not enter their inheritance in Canaan (Deuteronomy 1). The children of Israel were punished by wandering the wilderness for 40 years before a new generation was allowed to possess the Promised Land.

The book of Exodus, in the King James translation, is the only one that contains 40 chapters.

The chapters Exodus 25, Numbers 29, Judges 6 and 11, 1Chronicles 7, 8 and 12, Job 31, Psalm 37, Jeremiah 23 and 31, John 18, Acts 8, 16 and 21, 1Corinthians 7 and 14, along with Hebrews 11, all have 40 verses in the KJV.

From the time they entered the Promised Land, to the time of King Saul, Israel was sporadically governed by a number of individuals known as Judges. Though they did not rule like a king, they nevertheless had a tremendous influence on the people, as they represented God and were inspired to execute his will. Judges who served 40 years include Othniel, Deborah and Barak, Eli and Gideon.

The first three human kings over the children of Israel, Saul, David and Solomon, each ruled for forty years (1050 to 930 B.C.). After the united kingdom split into two separate pieces, King Joash served this many official years (39 actual years) as one of Judah's better kings.

Abraham tried bargained with God to not destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if forty righteous people were found within in (Genesis 18:29). Both Isaac and Esau were forty years old when they were first married (Genesis 25:20, 26:34).

Period of Trial or Testing

Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb. Jesus was tempted by the devil many times during the 40 complete days he fasted at the start of his ministry in 26 A.D.

After Jesus' resurrection from the dead he appeared to several groups of people over a period of 40 days. When he ascended to heaven on May 18 in 30 A.D., he commanded his disciples to wait ten days (until Pentecost) so that they may receive the power of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:18 - 20, Mark 16:15 - 18, Acts 1:4 - 5).

God flooded the earth by having it rain for forty days and nights (Genesis 7:12). After the patriarch Jacob (Israel) died in Egypt, the Egyptians spent forty days embalming his body (Genesis 50:3).

God allowed the ancient Israelites, from time to time, to be harassed and dominated by certain enemies in order to chastise and humble them for their sins. The Philistines, in the southern and western parts of Israel's land, harassed them from 1105 to 1065 B.C. God's resolution to the harassment was Samson who would become one of Israel's Judges (Judges 13:1, 1Samuel 7:13, 15 - 17).

Number 40 and Prophecy

The prophet Jonah powerfully warned ancient Nineveh, for forty days, that its destruction would come because of its many sins (Jonah 3:4).

The prophet Ezekiel was commanded by God to first lay on his left side for 390 days for the Kingdom of Israel. He was then told to lay on his right side for 40 days for the Kingdom of Judah (Ezekiel 4:1 - 6). This act represented, in years, the length each kingdom would suffer correction for their disobedience to God.

Jesus, just days before his crucifixion in 30 A.D., prophesied the total destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1 - 2, Mark 13:1 - 2). Forty years after his crucifixion the mighty Roman Empire destroyed the city and burned its beloved temple to the ground.

More Info on Biblical Meaning of 40

Number 40 is equal to 2 x 2 x 2 (or 2 cubed) x 5. Both 2 and 5 are primes.

In Gematria, the value of 40 is represented by the 13th Hebrew letter called Mem. It is represented in the Greek alphabet by the letter Mu.

Caleb (who was 40 years old) and Joshua were two of the twelve spies Moses sent to the Promised Land. He and Joshua were the only two to have the faith to encourage the people to take the land God had promised them. Forty-five years later he requested from Joshua the land he was promised for obeying the Lord. He received part of the hill country of Judea which included the cities of Hebron and Debir (Joshua 14:7 - 15).

King Ahaz, who ruled over the Kingdom of Judah from 735 to 715 B.C., died when he was forty years old.

God's law allowed a wrongdoer, in certain cases, to be beaten with 40 stripes (scourging) as part of their punishment (Deuteronomy 25:1 - 3). The Jews would later change this to 39 stripes in order not to exceed this amount per Deuteronomy 25:3. The Apostle Paul was scourged five times by the Jews for preaching the gospel (2Corinthians 11:23 - 24).

The Bible was written by 40 different people. There were 32 writers of the Old Testament and only 8 (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, James, Peter, Jude, Paul) of the New.

Recommended Articles
What Were the Plagues of Egypt?
Was Samson's Strength in His Hair?
Why Did Abraham Try to Save Sodom?
Christ's Ministry after His Resurrection!
Why Were Philistines Israel's Worst Enemy?
Picture of Israel's Wilderness Camp
Can God Learn New Things?
How Many Israelites Left Egypt?

Biblical Meaning of Numbers
Introduction   -   Book of Numbers
Forgiveness Numbers  -  Abraham's Numbers
Apostle Paul's Seven Churches
Infinity   -   Zero
One Tenth   -   One Third   -   One Half
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104   -   105   -   106   -   107   -   108   -   109
110   -   111   -   112   -   113   -   114   -   115
116   -   117   -   118   -   119   -   120   -   121
122   -   123   -   124   -   125   -   126   -   127
129   -   130   -   131   -   132   -   133   -   134
135   -   136   -   137   -   139   -   140   -   143
144   -   145   -   146   -   150   -   152   -   153
155   -   156   -   160   -   168   -   175   -   180
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216   -   220   -   222   -   223   -   225   -   234
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318   -   320   -   321   -   323   -   333   -   345
350   -   365   -   367   -   369   -   390   -   400
404   -   411   -   414   -   420   -   430   -   440
444   -   450   -   456   -   490   -   500   -   516
555   -   600   -   613   -   616   -   666   -   700
711   -   717   -   777   -   800   -   808   -   818
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1001   -   1004   -   1010   -   1111   -   1144
1212   -   1222   -   1234   -   1500   -   2000
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144000   -  500000   -  The Largest!
Prophecy Numbers   -   Numerology
Creation's Numerics   -   Further Study

Series References
Number in Scripture: Its Supernatural
Design and Spiritual Significance

Some information on the
meaning of the number 40 derived from
Holy Bible Faithful Version (HBFV)