Forty is a number with no real significance attached to it. It is not a prime number because it has multiples available, it isn’t a perfect square number, and it isn’t significant in the age of a person, unless you believe that “Life begins at forty.” But for some reason the number forty has real significance in The Bible.
In Genesis 7:4 we’re told that during the Great Flood, that rain fell for 40 days and 40 nights. And even more significant is the fact that this is the first mention of rain falling in The Bible! It may have rained prior to The Flood, but we have no published record of it. The 40 day period of rain that caused The Flood, and the destruction of most of the life on the planet was the most significant disaster to ever strike the planet. And God realized that He could never allow that to happen again. As The Flood was ending, we are told in Genesis 8:5-7 that Noah waited for 40 days after seeing the mountaintops before he released a raven.
Another mention of 40 appears in Numbers 13:2, 25, where we learn that Moses sent spies into the land of Canaan to check out the land. The spies remained in Canaan for 40 days and returned with fruit so large it took two men to carry it. But they also told of giants that lived in the land and caused the people to have great fear of conquering the land, even though God had assured them that they would defeat the enemy.
Which leads us directly into another reference to 40. In Numbers 32:13, we are told that due to the disobedience of the Hebrew people in that they refused to enter the land of Canaan, God caused the Hebrews to live in the desert for 40 years until all the adults of that generation had died, except for Joshua and Caleb, who had tried to convince everyone to follow them into Canaan.
We also learn of rulers who led for forty years: Eli in 1 Samuel 4:18, Saul in Acts 13:21, David in 2 Samuel 5:4 and Solomon in 1 Kings 11:42. These numbers may not be exact, because some scholars claim that the 40 year reign was counting a generation.
The Philistine Giant Goliath challenged the Israelites twice a day for forty days prior to being defeated (and killed) by the future King David according to 1 Samuel 17:16.
For Moses the number 40 showed up numerous times including three separate 40 day and 40 night stays on Mount Sinai. First in Deuteronomy 9:11 when he received the Ten Commandments from God. And then in Deuteronomy 9:25 when he visited with God to beg for forgiveness for His people’s sins (worshipping the golden calf), and finally in Deuteronomy 10:10 when he received atonement of the sins from God.
The prophet Elijah walked 40 days and 40 nights to Mount Horeb according to 1 Kings 19:8. When he came to be with God and gained God’s favour.
As we move into the New Testament, we see references to the number 40 there also. Jesus was tempted by Satan in the desert after he had fasted for 40 days and 40 nights according to Matthew 4:2, Mark 1:13, & Luke 4:2. And even though Jesus was obviously in a weakened state of near starvation, He was able to resist Satan’s temptations.
After the crucifixion of Jesus and His resurrection, Jesus walked on earth among us for 40 days until His ascension to Heaven according to Acts 1:3.
According to Stephen (the Martyr), Moses’ life was separated into three equal 40 year periods. Growing to adulthood, fleeing from Egypt, and returning to leading his people in Acts 7:23,30, 36.
So while 40 has no real significance as a number, God considers it a really important number. The references in scripture are important throughout The Bible. For most of us its just a number, or an age, but it is something that we should really pay attention to.
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Amazing Prophecies: Daniel & Revelation Made Easy
From Daniel: Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, four great beasts and a little horn, the ram and the goat, the Messiah appears. From Revelation: Letters to the seven churches, seven seals opened, seven trumpets, the great red dragon, seven-headed leopard beast, the three angels’ messages, the seven last plagues, the great whore Babylon, victory over Satan, Satan bound for 1,000 years, the New Earth.