555 Difficult Bible Questions Answered

15. What Significance Attaches to the Frequent

Use of Forty? It is not merely an arbitrary period or a "round number," but is chosen to convey die sense of fullness. Some of its prominent Scriptural uses are: Moses was forty days on the mount (Ex. 24:18, etc.); Elijah, strengthened by angel food, fasted for forty days (I Kings 19:8) ; the rain of the flood fell for forty days (Gen. 7 :12) ; Noah opened the window of the ark after forty days (Gen. 8:6); the spies spent forty days in searching Canaan (Num. 1325) ; Moses twice fasted and prayed for forty days (Deu. 9:18-25); Ezekiel bore the iniquities of Judah forty days (Eze. 4:6); Nineveh was allowed forty days to repent (Jonah 3 4) ; the Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness (Num. 34:33); Goliath defied Saul's army for forty days (I Sam. 17:16) ; forty days was the period of embalming (Gen. 50:3); the Lord fasted for forty days (Matt 4:2, etc.); the arisen Lord was seen for forty days (Acts 1:3); the Jews were forbidden to inflict more than forty stripes (Deu. 25:3). It is noteworthy that Jerusalem was destroyed forty years after Christ's ascension, and tradition says Jesus was forty hours in the tomb. Lent lasts for forty days, as does also quarantine. St. Swithin betokens forty days' rain, while many ancient laws concerning physicians, knights, husbands, wives, widows, sanctuary privileges, fines, etc., all cluster about this number.