The number “40” is found often in Scripture in relation to DAYS or YEARS. We will look at some examples (from the NKJV) and in doing so, I believe we will clearly see that the number “40” usually speaks of the “TESTING of man,” and in some cases of the “JUDGMENT of God” (because of man’s SIN).

1) In Genesis 7:4 we read, “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. In verse 12 the JUDGMENT of God is fulfilled, “And the rain was on the earth FORTY DAYS and FORTY NIGHTS.” Why did God judge man? You can read the answer in Genesis 6:5-7 where we learn that “the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth…so the LORD said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth’.” It was man’s SIN that brought God’s JUDGMENT!

2) Exodus 24:18 says, “So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain FORTY DAYS and FORTY NIGHTS.” What was Moses doing on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights? He was receiving the Ten Commandments which God would use to TEST MAN to see if they obey Him or sin against Him. What were the Israelites doing during those 40 days and 40 nights? We get the answer to that in Exodus 32:1, “Now when the people saw that Moses delayed coming down from the mountain, the people gathered together to Aaron, and said to him, ‘Come, make us gods that shall go before us; for as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him’.” The people were being TESTED during those 40 days and they FAILED THE TEST by committing idolatry!

3) In Numbers 13:21 & 25 we read, “So they went up and spied out the land…and they returned from spying out the land after FORTY DAYS.” Shortly after Israel received the Ten Commandments they sent 12 spies into Canaan. In this too, God was TESTING MAN; for He had promised to give them “the land flowing with milk and honey” (see Exodus 3:8) and the spies were to bear witness to that fact. The spies returned with a mixed message; they testified of the richness of the land but how there were also GIANTS in the land. Ten of the twelve spies were convinced they could never conquer them. The people trembled at this report and refused to enter into the land, thus THEY FAILED THE TEST!

4) Deuteronomy 8:2 states, “And you shall remember that the LORD your God led you all the way these FORTY YEARS in the wilderness, to humble you and TEST YOU, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.” We know that Israel FAILED THIS TEST too, for they continually rebelled against God and His commandments throughout their 40 years of wandering.

5) 1st Samuel 17:16 presents another TEST: “And the Philistine drew near and presented himself FORTY DAYS, morning and evening.” Most everyone is familiar with this story. The “Philistine” was GOLIATH, another GIANT that terrified the children of Israel. He defied Israel for 40 days with these words in verse 10, “Give me a man, that we may fight together.” Verse 11 makes it clear that they FAILED THE TEST: “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.”

6) Matthew 4:1-2 reads, “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted FORTY DAYS and FORTY NIGHTS, afterward He was hungry.” We know from verses 3-11 that Jesus was TESTED three times and each time He PASSED THE TEST! Why? Because He is the only Perfect Man that ever walked the earth and thus HE COULD NOT SIN! The apostle Peter said this of the Lord Jesus in 1st Peter 2:22, “Who committed no sin.” The apostle Paul states emphatically in 2nd Corinthians 5:21, “Him who knew no sin.” And the apostle John added his testimony as to the impeccability of Christ in 1st John 3:5 by saying, “in Him there is no sin.” He was tested time and time again throughout His life and because of His holy, spotless, perfection He NEVER SINNED! What a Savior we have, dear fellow-believers! And how good to know the truth of Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He didn’t sin THEN; He doesn’t sin TODAY; He won’t sin EVER!  (205.1)  (DO)