304 – 40 Days – Part 1
I usually avoid topical devotional posts, preferring to work through a biblical book from start to finish when possible. However, I was asked something like, “There’s Moses in the wilderness for 40 years, Jesus fasted for 40 days, the flood was 40 days and 40 nights of rain. Is there significance to the number 40 in the Bible?” The question seemed to me to be an insightful one. I’m always encouraging others to slow down and make observations, which includes asking lots of questions about the passage we are studying. Of course, we don’t ask all of those questions to leave them unanswered. Due diligence demands we go on fact-finding missions to get answers to our questions.
This is the type of question that seems tailor-made for an internet search. However, as I see it, there are three main problems with starting there. First of all, it can be difficult to verify the accuracy of an internet source. Secondly, getting quick answers without doing the detective work yourself will deprive you of the process of learning the answer. One benefit of doing the work yourself is you tend to remember what you’ve Learned. If you want to consult the Internet I would suggest you keep that as the last step in the observation stage—after you have done the work yourself.
Let’s engage the question and see where it leads us. The first thing I would do is search the Bible for all the references for “40 days”, of course, keep in mind that if there are other references to the number forty they may influence our understanding. For example, the Bible references 40 years, which is related to 40 days, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. I searched for “40 days” and found 22 hits in 22 verses. We won’t look at every verse, but let’s look at the first one.
Genesis 7: 4 (NKJV)
4 For after seven more days I will cause it to rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and I will destroy from the face of the earth all living things that I have made.”
This is the first reference in the Bible to forty days. We want to be careful to look at the verses above and below to see if they indicate Why forty days instead of some other number of days. I looked at several verses above and several verses below and saw no explanation. The next three search results confirm YHWH’s word to Noah. Genesis 7:12, 17, and 8:6 all confirm it did indeed rain for forty days just as YHWH foretold. The only thing we can conclude at this point is that forty days of heavy rains contributed to a global flood where all created things below the water were destroyed by YHWH.
The next “forty day” reference we come to in the Bible is Genesis 50:3 (read starting from verse one to get the context). This verse explains that Joseph had the Egyptians embalm his father Jacob. The embalming process took forty days. I am doubtful, because it was a pagan practice, that the number of days, in this case, has any intended biblical significance.
On to the next verse in our search results. Exodus 24:18 reveals to us Moses was on the mountain with YHWH “forty days” and “forty nights”. Exodus 25:1 informs us,
“Then the [YHWH] spoke to Moses…”
The surrounding text still does not explain why forty. Next in our search results is Exodus 34:28. The backdrop of this verse is Moses in a fit of rage over Isarael’s sin had broken the two tablets on which were written what we call the ten commandments. He’s up on the mountain for the second time in Exodus chapter thirty-four where YHWH writes replacement tablets and establishes a covenant with Israel, after which Exodus 34:28 records for us the following:
28 So he was there with [YHWH] forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He [YHWH] wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.
Let’s be careful to not read past this verse. Moses didn’t eat or drink water for forty days and forty nights! Obviously, Moses was supernaturally sustained in the presence of YHWH because a man can only live a few days without water. Not only did he live, but Moses suffered no dehydration and no kidney damage in the presence of YHWH without water.
Upon reading this verse I was immediately reminded of Matthew chapter four where we see Jesus fasting for forty days and forty nights. Twice Moses fasted for the same length of time as Jesus when he received the law. Then Jesus fasts for forty days and forty nights and quotes the law to Satan. As an aside, If you’re looking for another fascinating study look into all of the similarities between the life of Moses and the life of Jesus. Just remember, this doesn’t put Moses on the same level as Jesus by any stretch of the imagination. What you will see though is that Moses was a type or foreshadowing of Christ.
We have only looked at seven of the twenty-two places where our phrase can be found in the Holy Scriptures. We haven’t yet discovered whether or not there is any significance to “forty days” or not, but I can tell you YHWH always includes the details He wants us to see. If for no other reason than that we can thank Him for explicitly revealing the exact number of days in these passages.
YHWH is so very, very, very good! He truly is worthy of all Praise, Worship, Adoration, Obedience, and Service!