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Number 40 — What’s the Significance in the Bible?

The number 40 is the biblical number of perfection in testing or judgment. Here are several examples:

  • It rained on the Earth 40 days (Genesis 7:12).
  • Moses fled to the desert to attend flocks for 40 years (Acts 7:30).
  • Moses was on Mt. Sinai with God for 40 days (Exodus 24:18).
  • Moses fasted & prayed for the Israelites for 40 days (Deuteronomy 9:18,25).
  • The maximum lashes for a crime was 40 lashes (Deuteronomy 25:3).
  • The 12 Hebrews reconnoitered the Promised Land for 40 days (Numbers 13:25).
  • The Israelites wandered in the desert wilderness for 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).
  • The Israelites suffered under the oppression of the Philistines for 40 years before God raised up Samson (Judges 13:1).
  • Goliath balked at Saul’s army for 40 days before David miraculously slew him (1 Samuel 17:16).
  • Elijah fled from Jezebel for 40 days to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).

Here’s a recent personal example: My wife & I underwent a serious attack last Fall, but I had peace of mind about the trial and therefore had the grace to endure the ramifications of the assault. When it was finally over I was curious to see how long it lasted and so got out the calendar and discovered that it lasted exactly 40 days.

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