Forty days may seem like a very long time if one is striving to truly become closer to God. In the Holy Scriptures the number 40 appears over and over. We are not trying to read any particular meaning into this number, but it does spark an interest as we look throughout the Bible to see what was happening during a 40 day or 40 night period of time or how it relates to the season of Lent.
Let’s take a look at this and try to answer the question, “What is the significance of ‘40 days’ in the Bible?”:
“The number 40 shows up often in the Bible. Because 40 appears so often in contexts dealing with judgment or testing, many scholars understand it to be the number of “probation” or “trial.” This doesn’t mean that 40 is entirely symbolic; it still has a literal meaning in Scripture. “Forty days” means “forty days,” but it does seem that God has chosen this number to help emphasize times of trouble and hardship.
Here are some examples of the Bible’s use of the number 40 that stress the theme of testing or judgment:
- In the Old Testament, when God destroyed the earth with water, He caused it to rain 40 days and 40 nights (Genesis 7:12).
- After Moses killed the Egyptian, he fled to Midian, where he spent 40 years in the desert tending flocks (Acts 7:30).
- Moses was on Mount Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18).
- Moses interceded on Israel’s behalf for 40 days and 40 nights (Deuteronomy 9:18, 25).
- The Law specified a maximum number of lashes a man could receive for a crime, setting the limit at 40 (Deuteronomy 25:3).
- The Israelite spies took 40 days to spy out Canaan (Numbers 13:25).
- The Israelites wandered for 40 years (Deuteronomy 8:2-5).
- Before Samson’s deliverance, Israel served the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1).
- Goliath taunted Saul’s army for 40 days before David arrived to slay him (1 Samuel 17:16).
- When Elijah fled from Jezebel, he traveled 40 days and 40 nights to Mt. Horeb (1 Kings 19:8).
- The number 40 also appears in the prophecies of Ezekiel (4:6; 29:11-13) and Jonah (3:4).
- In the New Testament, Jesus was tempted for 40 days and 40 nights (Matthew 4:2).
There were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).
Whether or not the number 40 really has any significance is still debated. The Bible definitely seems to use 40 to emphasize a spiritual truth, but we must point out that the Bible nowhere specifically assigns any special meaning to the number 40.
Some people place too much significance on numerology, trying to find a special meaning behind every number in the Bible. Often, a number in the Bible is simply a number, including the number 40. God does not call us to search for secret meanings, hidden messages, or codes in the Bible. There is more than enough truth in the plain words of Scripture to meet all our needs and make us “complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16).
(From Got Questions.org )
What is the meaning 40 days as it relates to the season of Lent?
- “The Lent period reflects when Jesus fasted and suffered in the desert for 40 days and 40 nights, before he started his ministry.
- According to the Bible, he was tempted by Satan during this time, but each time he managed to refuse his temptations.
- People follow Jesus’ example and give up vices in a bid to grow closer to God as Easter approaches.” (Taken from The Sun)
Some Christians take this period very seriously. Others may joke about “giving up chocolate or other tempting treat, smoking, alcohol or some other vice that may have a hold on the believer etc” We would hope that it would be a conscientious effort to find something deeper within one’s self… a spiritual connection to the sufferings of our Lord Christ and a goal to become a better Christian because of the Lenten meditation and soul searching. Here are a few suggestions for self-control that reach further into the soul than denying one’s self something to eat:
When one is truly being serious about changing some of the things listed above, he or she may find that there is a spiritual struggle going on. This would not be any different than Jesus felt when he went for 40 days and nights into the desert to be close to His Father and to pray about what would soon happen to him with His sacrifice on the cross. Read the passage below and find out how difficult it was for Him:
Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. The tempter came to Him and said, “If You are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” But Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” Then the devil took Him to the holy city and set Him on the pinnacle of the temple. “If You are the Son of God,” he said, “throw Yourself down. For it is written ‘He will command His angels concerning You, and they will lift You up in their hands,so that You will not strike Your foot against a stone.” Jesus replied, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. “All this I will give You,” he said, “if You will fall down and worship me.” “Away from me, Satan!” Jesus declared. “For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only.” Then the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him. (Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13)
Perhaps a special time to sit down in a quiet place to reflect and pray would be a good start for self-examination, as you listen to this music. ( Turn up sound)