What is the significance of the number forty in the Bible?


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The number forty is recorded 146 times in the Bible and it stands for a time of testing, fasting and trial. In the Old Testament, the Scriptures tell us that, Moses spent 40 days on the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments and instructions (Exodus 24:18; Exodus 24:1-28). During that time Moses was without food (Deut. 9:9).

Moses sent the spies, for 40 days, to search the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25). The spies gave an unfavorable report on the possibility of conquering it thus exhibiting lack of faith in God’s power. The people believed their negative report and were sentenced to 40 years of suffering in the wilderness. The 40 literal days thus became prophetic of 40 literal years—one year of remedial wandering about in the desert for each faithless day spent wandering about in the Promised Land “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” (Numbers 14:34). In Eze. 4:6, God told Ezekiel, “I have appointed thee each day for a year,” and in so doing confirmed the principle established in Num. 14:34.

Jonah warned the wicked inhabitants of Nineveh saying, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown” (Jonah 3:4). And the People heeded his warning and were saved. Elijah also journeyed “and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God” (1 Kings 19:8) to communion with God through the wilderness where Israel had spent 40 years.

And in the New Testament, the Scriptures tell us that Satan’s temptations continued during the 40 days of Jesusfast (Luke 4:1,2); the three mentioned in Luke 4: 3-13 represented the climax of the temptations and came at the close of the period. “And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry” (Matthew 4:22). But praise be to the Father, Jesus gained the victory over the devil (John 14:30).

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team


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