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What is the importance of the number 40 in the Bible?


Does the number 40 have any special significance?

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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). It 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, Deut 8:2-5; Psa 95:10; Acts 13:18 (the third 40 of 
       Moses' life, 120 years).
  • Israel from the crucifixion to the destruction of Jerusalem.
  • Forty Years of Probation by Prosperity in Deliverance and Rest:
  • under Othniel, Judg 3:11,
  • under Barak, Judg 5:31,
  • under Gideon, Judg 8:28.
  • Forty Years of Probation by Prosperity in Enlarged Dominion:
  • under David, 2 Sam 5:4,
  • under Solomon, 1 Kings 11:42,
  • under Jeroboam II. See 2 Kings 12:17,18, 13:3,5,7,22,25, 14:12-14,23,28,
  • under Jehoash, 2 Kings 12:1,
  • under Joash, 2 Chron 24:1.

Forty Years of Probation by Humiliation and Servitude:

  • Israel under the Philistines, Judg 13:1.
  • Israel in the time of Eli, 1 Sam 4:18.
  • Israel under Saul, Acts 13:21.
  • Forty Years of Probation by Waiting:
  • Moses in Egypt, Acts 7:23.
  • Moses in Midian, Acts 7:30 

FORTY DAYS - There are eight of such great periods on the surface of the Bible:

  • Forty days Moses was in the mount, Exo 24:18; and to receive the Law, Exo
       24:18.
  • Forty days Moses was in the mount after the sin of the Golden Calf, Deut 
       9:18,25.
  • Forty days of the spies, issuing in the penal sentence of the 40 years, Num
       13:26, 14:34.
  • Forty days of Elijah in Horeb, 1 Kings 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.*
  • Forty days Jesus was tempted of the Devil, Matt 4:2.
  • Forty days Jesus was seen of His disciples, speaking of the things pertaining 
       to the kingdom of God, Acts 1:2.

* Thus 40 becomes a number closely connected with Judah, as 390 (Eze 4:5) is the number of separated Israel. The significance of this will be seen (on p. 215), 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.

Here is a link to the source of this information, an online version of E.W.  Bullinger's book Number in Scripture:

http://philologos.org/__eb-nis/default.htm

I hope you have found this helpful.

God bless,
Mike
www.thisisyourbible.com

 
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