Forty: The Number of Probation
Forty: A Significance Number in the Bible
Forty is a very significant number and is seen throughout the Bible. After all, it is mentioned 146 times. It is the number of probation as well as the number for testing and trials.
The number is associated with many biblical people as they went through forty-day periods of probation, testing, and trials.
Noah's Forty Days and Forty Nights
God instructed Noah to build an ark at the time when it didn't rain from above as it does today. After it rained for forty days and forty nights, Noah and his family were safe inside the ark. It took that long for God to purge the earth of sin.
Moses' Forty Years
Moses fled from Egypt after he killed an Egyptian when he was forty years old. His probationary period was while he was tending Jethro's sheep on the back side of the mountain in Median. After forty years, God called him to deliver the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt. That meant Moses had to return to the place where he had fled from eighty years before.
Moses received the Ten Commandments after spending forty days on Mount Sinai. with God. When he came down from the mountain, he was angry with the Israelites. He threw the two tablets on the ground and broke them. Then he had to go back on the mountain for another forty days.
Moses was with the Hebrews for forty years as he led them through the Red Sea and into the wilderness. Moses died at age 120. One can clearly see that Moses’ life was divided into three distinct periods of forty years each.
Jesus' Forty Days
Jesus fasted forty days before starting His ministry. After His resurrection, he walked the face of the earth forty days before ascending to His Father.
Here is a list of some of the other periods of forty in the Bible.
- It rained for forty days and forty nights during the flood after Noah built the ark. (Genesis 7:12)
- Sarah died when her son, Isaac was forty years old. Then he married Rebekah and spent their wedding night in her bedroom. (Genesis 25:20)
- The twelve spies tested the land for forty days. (Numbers 13:25)
- Moses' life is divided into three 40-year periods. He killed an Egyptian when he was forty years old and fled from Egypt. Stephen gave an account of Moses' forty-years segments. (Acts 7:23-36)
- God called Moses out of the burning bush when Moses was eighty years old after having been in Midian for forty years. (Acts 7:30)
- The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for forty years. (Deuteronomy 8:2-5)
- Moses fasted and was on Mount Sinai for forty days receiving the Ten Commandments from God. (Exodus 24:18)
- Moses returned to Mount Sinai for another forty days to fast and get a new set of tablets from God after he threw down the first set and broke them on the ground. (Exodus 34:28)
- Moses died at the age of 120. His life was divided into three periods of forty years each. (Deuteronomy 34:7)
- The exodus in the wilderness took forty years. Ideally, it should have taken only eleven days. (Joshua 5:6)
- Goliath challenged the Israelites twice a day for forty days before David defeated him. (1 Samuel 17:16)
- God told Ezekiel to lie on his side forty days to symbolize the punishment for Judah. (Ezekiel 4:6)
- Elijah fasted for forty days while he was hiding from Jezebel. (1 Kings 19:8)
- Jesus fasted forty days before starting His ministry. (Matthew 4:2)
- After Jesus' resurrection, He walked the face of the earth forty days before ascending to His Father. (Acts 1:3)
Forty Days in Our Own Lives
People are still tested today. It might be on their job, in their marriage, or even their ministry. The test is not a punishment but a time to grow. So, if you are experiencing a trial or a test, know that it may be a way to see how strong your faith is.
If a forty is in your future, know that it is a way to strengthen you as you go through your probationary period and your time of testing.