The number 40 is significant in the Bible as it is the number of testing, preparation and leadership, as well as the harbinger of something new.
Why were the spies scouting the land of Canaan for 40 days? Why not 30 or 7?
- In a dramatic new beginning, rain fell for 40 days and nights during the Flood before the waters stopped and the world was repopulated. (Genesis 7:4)
- Moses lived in Egypt for 40 years, was prepared for leadership in Midian for 40 years, and finally led the children of Israel in the wilderness for 40 years as a new nation.
- Moses fasted on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights before he went down the mountain with the Ten Commandments. (Twice)
“Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant — the Ten Commandments.” (Exodus 34:28)
- Goliath challenged the Israelites twice a day for 40 days before David defeated him, which began a great following by the people. (1 Samuel 17:16)
- Yeshua was tested by the devil in the wilderness for 40 days before He began His public ministry.
“Then Yeshua was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.’” (Matthew 4:1–3)
- The period from the resurrection of Yeshua to His ascension was 40 days, a period of preparing the disciples for the work that lay ahead. (Acts 1:3)
“There we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.” (Numbers 13:33)
“I have forgiven them, as you asked. Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times — not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors.No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it. But because my servant Caleb has a different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly, I will bring him into the land he went to, and his descendants will inherit it.” (Numbers 14:20–24)
“Say to them, ‘As I live,’ says the LORD, ‘just as you have spoken in My hearing, so I will do to you: The carcasses of you who have complained against Me shall fall in this wilderness, all of you who were numbered, according to your entire number, from twenty years old and above.” (Numbers 14:28–29)
“According to the number of the days in which you spied out the land, forty days, for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years, and you shall know My rejection. I the LORD have spoken this. I will surely do so to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness they shall be consumed, and there they shall die.’” (Numbers 14:34–35)
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” (Psalm 19:14)
Now in the land that their parents so feared, the next generation of Israelites witness God move and have great faith, being “fully convinced that God is able to do whatever He promises.” (Romans 4:21)
Mentioning 146 times in Scripture, the number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. During Moses’ life he lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 – 28), receiving 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).
The prophet Jonah powerfully warned ancient Nineveh, for forty days, that its destruction would come because of its many sins. The prophet Ezekiel laid on His right side for 40 days to symbolize Judah’s sins (Ezekiel 4:6). Elijah went 40 days without food or water at Mount Horeb. Jesus was tempted by the devil not just three times, but MANY times during the 40 days and nights he fasted just before his ministry began. He also appeared to his disciples and others for 40 days after his resurrection from the dead.
The number forty can also represent a generation of man. 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. Jesus, just days before his crucifixion, prophesied the total destruction of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1 – 2, Mark 13:1 – 2). Forty years after his crucifixion in 30 A.D., the mighty Roman Empire destroyed the city and burned its beloved temple to the ground.
Appearances of the number forty
The book of Exodus, with its 40 chapters and 1,213 verses, is the seventh longest book. The longest is the Psalms.
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 forty years as one of Judah’s better kings.
Abraham tried to bargain with God to NOT destroy Sodom and Gomorrah if forty righteous people were found (Genesis 18:29). Both Isaac and Esau were forty years old when they were first married (Genesis 25:20, 26:34).
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).
How does the number 40 relate to humility?
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 Philistine’s, 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 (see Judges 13:1, 1Samuel 7:13, 15 – 17).
The Bible was written by forty different people. Those called of God NOW are under probation, or judgment, based on how they live by every word of God.
So Please come to Jesus Christ before Your time is up!