Biblical significance of the number forty (40)

Forty (40) is a special number in the Bible. Forty is the days of fasting to appease the wrath of God for man’s sins: the fasting proclaimed by Jonah at Nineveh, the fasting of Elijah when Israel worshipped Baal, and the fasting of Christ in the desert with the Devil. Forty is also the number of waiting for the beginning of the new creation: rain poured for forty days during the Great Flood, Moses stayed at Mount Sinai for forty days to receive the Ten Commandments, Israel wandered in the desert for forty years before reaching the Promised Land, and the Jesus stayed on earth for forty days after His Resurrection.

Forty (40) is the sum of two numbers: 33 and 7. Three (3) and seven (7) are both associated with divine perfection. Three (3) is the Trinity, the “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Christ lived for 33 years: 30 years of hidden life and 3 years of public ministry. Seven (7), on the other hand, is the Sabbath Day and the Sabbatical Year for the land to rest. There are also 7 Sacraments, 7 Churches, and and 7 Gifts of the Holy Spirit. Seven (7) squared is 49, which is one year before the Great Jubilee and one day before the Pentecost. The sum 49+3=52. There are 52 weeks in a year.

Forty (40) is also the product of two numbers: 4 and 10. Four (4) means the compass directions: North, South, East, and West. Ten (10) means divine rule: 10 Commandments. Notice that 10 = 7+3 and 4=7-3, so that 40=4×10=(7-3)(7+3)=7^2-3^2=49-9. Therefore, 40 is the difference of the squares of the two divine numbers 7 and 3. So we may interpret 40 as the patience of God:

O the Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, patient and of much compassion, and true, Who keepest mercy unto thousands: who takest away iniquity, and wickedness, and sin, and no man of himself is innocent before thee. Who renderest the iniquity of the fathers to the children, and to the grandchildren, unto the third and fourth generation. (Ex 34:6–9)

About Quirino M. Sugon Jr
Theoretical Physicist in Manila Observatory

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