The Number “40”

by Steve Ray on February 21, 2007

(We will discuss this today on Searching the Word on Relevant Radio and on The Catholic Guy with Lino Ruli on Sirius Satellite Radio.)

Forty is no insiginficant number in the Bible! That is why we have the liturgical season of Lent for forty days which begins with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter. Lent is the primary penitential season in the Church’s liturgical year, reflecting the forty days Jesus spent in the desert in fasting and prayer ( CCC 540, 1095, 1438).

The period of forty days or years is an important one in Scripture and in Jewish tradition. As the church fathers observed, it is most often associated with hardship, affliction and punishment.Notice these significant uses of the number 40 in Scripture and notice what each is associated with: 

–The flood judgment in Noah’s day lasts forty days (Gen 7:4).
–The fasting of Moses (Ex 24:18; Deut 9:9).
–Elijah forty days of fasting while running to Mount Sinai (1 Kings 19:8).
–The generation in the wilderness wanders for forty years (Ex 16:35; Ps 95:10).
–Israel is in the hand of the Philistines for forty years (Judg 13:1).
–Forty days Ezekiel lies on his side to symbolize the punishment of Judah (Ezek 4:6).
–Jonah prophesies that Nineveh will be destroyed in forty days—unless they fast and repent for those 40 days (Jon 3:4).
–Punishment limited to forty stripes — lashes (Deut 25:3; cf. 2 Cor 11:24).
–Forty days between the in the Temple—forty days for Mary’s purification (Lk 2:22-24; Lev. 12:1-8, CCC 583).
–Jesus’ temptation for forty days and nights in the Wilderness (Mt 4:1-2).
–Jesus on earth forty days between resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3).

Have a great Lent and remember, you are not the first to suffer through the number "40."

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