The Spiritual Significance of Numbers in Scripture – Forty, The Number of Trials

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Spiritual Significance of Numbers in Scripture – Forty, The Number of Trials

[These notes were missing from the Numbers series covered about ten years ago, and with this posting complete the set of audio with notes.]

We’re going to be looking at the spiritual significance of the number forty, and forty is the number in scripture that denotes trials in our lives. We are going to cover the number forty, then the number fifty next week. We don’t need to cover every number mentioned in scripture, or we would never get out of studying numbers. I want to hit on the numbers which are more recognized and used. Lastly, I will give a talk on what the multiple of all these numbers mean.

We will start in the Old Testament as we normally do.

Gen 7:4  For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made will I destroy from off the face of the earth.

We were created for one reason – to have an evil experience in the flesh (Ecc 1:13). This evil experience is used to humble mankind.

Jer 18:4  And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.

This vessel was not marred after it ate of the tree of good and evil. No, it was marred during the creation process – in the potter’s hand. When the Lord formed it of the dust of the ground, it was a marred vessel. Making it “again another vessel” is the process He is putting mankind through to conform all flesh into the image of His Son.

So the eighth will be of the seven (Rev 17:11). We must go through the flesh to get to the spirit. That flesh is there for the purpose of having its evil experience, then being destroyed. Flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

1Co 15:50  Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption.

This flesh can be likened to a scaffold which is used when building a house.  Scaffolds are ugly and just clutter up a house, but they are necessary to getting the house built. God is finishing us to inherit His kingdom, and in order to do that He has to use this scaffold called ‘evil’.

Forty has a lot to do with the evil which goes on in our lives.

Gen 8:6  And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made:
Gen 8:7  And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

The flood of Noah had come and gone, and God had destroyed every living thing He had made from off the face of the earth. This is a type of what must be done in our lives.

Peter says that the flood is a type of baptism. Being a type means it is just a shadow of it. It foretells the destroying, the death of self, the dying daily, the falling into the ground and dying. All of that is what forty foreshadows.

Gen 8:7  And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth.

The raven did not come back to Noah.

Gen 8:8  Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground;
Gen 8:9  But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.

The dove came back to Noah when it at first found ‘no rest’. Later on, after vegetation was found to be growing on the earth (Gen 8:11), he sent out the dove again, and it did not return.

The olive twig the dove had brought back before was symbolic of God once again working with His people. He calls Israel His olive tree (Psa 52:28, Jer 11:16, Hos 14:6, Rom 11:24).

Gen 25:20  And Isaac was forty years old when he took Rebekah to wife, the daughter of Bethuel the Syrian of Padanaram, the sister to Laban the Syrian.

Gen 26:34  And Esau was forty years old when he took to wife Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bashemath the daughter of Elon the Hittite:

Exo 16:35  And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan.

When the initial trials stop, the spiritual warfare begins.

Deu 29:5  And I have led you forty years in the wilderness: your clothes are not waxen old upon you, and thy shoe is not waxen old upon thy foot.

We are miraculously provided for during this time of trials in our journey. It seems that every need is met. And we don’t want to lose that manna and fight those spiritual giants, but we must.

Exo 24:15  And Moses went up into the mount, and a cloud covered the mount.
Exo 24:16  And the glory of the LORD abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud.
Exo 24:17  And the sight of the glory of the LORD was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel.
Exo 24:18  And Moses went into the midst of the cloud, and gat him up into the mount: and Moses was in the mount forty days and forty nights.

Here is what happens during this time of trial:

Exo 34:28  And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments.

Deu 4:13  And he declared unto you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone.

This is the time of dying daily. This is the beginning of the dying to the flesh.

Num 13:25  And they returned from searching of the land after forty days.

Num 14:1  And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night.
Num 14:2  And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said unto them, Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would God we had died in this wilderness! 
Num 14:3  And wherefore hath the LORD brought us unto this land, to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? were it not better for us to return into Egypt?
Num 14:4  And they said one to another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt.

Num 14:26  And the LORD spake unto Moses and unto Aaron, saying,
Num 14:27  How long shall I bear with this evil congregation, which murmur against me? I have heard the murmurings of the children of Israel, which they murmur against me.
Num 14:28  Say unto them, As truly as I live, saith the LORD, as ye have spoken in mine ears, so will I do to you: 
Num 14:29  Your carcases shall fall in this wilderness; and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from twenty years old and upward, which have murmured against me,
Num 14:30  Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning]which I sware to make you dwell therein, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.

Our children are what we produce in our walk in the forty years of wilderness trials.

The first Adam produces both the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman: “Come out of her my people;” The first Adam produces both Cain and all who died in the flood, as well as Enoch and Noah. It is all “of Him.”

Rom 11:36 seeing that out of Him and through Him and for Him is all: to Him be the glory for the eons! Amen! (CLV)

Num 14:31  But your little ones, which ye said should be a prey, them will I bring in, and they shall know the land which ye have despised.
Num 14:32  But as for you, your carcases, they shall fall in this wilderness. 
Num 14:33  And your children shall wander in the wilderness forty years, and bear your whoredoms, until your carcases be wasted in the wilderness. 
Num 14:34  After the number of the days in which ye searched the land, even forty days, each day for a year, shall ye bear your iniquities, even forty years, and ye shall know my breach [#H8569] of promise.

Job 33:10  Behold, he findeth occasions [H8569] against me, he counteth me for his enemy,

Ecc 1:13  And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things]that are done under heaven: this sore travail [evil experience] hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised [humbled] therewith.

The dying of the flesh is a humbling experience. It is humiliating to be humbled.

Num 14:36  And the men, which Moses sent to search the land, who returned, and made all the congregation to murmur against him, by bringing up a slander upon the land,
Num 14:37  Even those men that did bring up the evil report upon the land, died by the plague before the LORD.

They, too, are types of us.

1Co 10:1  Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea;
1Co 10:2  And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea;
1Co 10:3  And did all eat the same spiritual meat;
1Co 10:4  And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.
1Co 10:5  But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
1Co 10:6  Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
1Co 10:7  Neither be ye idolaters, as [were] some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play.
1Co 10:8  Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand.
1Co 10:9  Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents.
1Co 10:10  Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer.
1Co 10:11  Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.
1Co 10:12  Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.

Our fathers are symbolic of us at an earlier part of our walk.

Abraham is us in our initial faith, followed by Isaac, the son of faith, basking in faith, followed by Jacob who represents us in lives of service to God, followed by Benjamin and Joseph in us.

But do not think along the way that Ishmael and Esau and Joseph’s brothers are not also typical of Adam in each and every one of God’s elect.

Eph 2:3 (among whom we also [God’s elect] all behaved ourselves once in the lusts of our flesh, doing the will of the flesh and of the comprehension, and were, in our nature, children of indignation, even as the rest), (CLV).

Eph 2:3  Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. (KJV).

“Our [wicked] fathers” typify us at a certain point in our walk.

1Co 10:1 For I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, that our fathers all were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea,
1Co 10:2 and all are baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea,
1Co 10:3 and all ate the same spiritual food,
1Co 10:4 and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they drank of the spiritual Rock which followed. Now the Rock was Christ.”
1Co 10:5 But not in the majority of them does God delight, for they were strewn along in the wilderness.”
1Co 10:6 Now these things became types of us, for us not to be lusters after evil things,
1Co 10:7 according as they also lust. Nor yet be becoming idolaters, according as some of them, even as it is written, “Seated are the people to eat and drink, and they rise to sport.”
1Co 10:8 Nor yet may we be committing prostitution, according as some of them commit prostitution, and fall in one day twenty-three thousand.”
1Co 10:9 Nor yet may we be putting the Lord on trial, according as some of them put Him on trial, and perished by serpents.”
1Co 10:10 Nor yet be murmuring even as some of them murmur, and perished by the exterminator.”
1Co 10:11 Now all this befalls them typically. Yet it was written for our admonition, to whom the consummations of the eons have attained.”
1Co 10:12 So that, let him who is supposing he stands beware that he should not be falling.”

Who is the Lord’s anger kindled against? It is kindled against all who come out of Egypt. They typify us when we first come out of Egypt.

Num 32:13  And the LORD’S anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the  sight of the LORD, was consumed.

1Co 10:6 (a) Now these things became types of us,…

1Co 10:11 Now all this befalls them typically. [“of us”].

But Caleb and Joshua are, like Benjamin, words “proceeding from the mouth of God”, and they, too, typify us as we die to the flesh. We live “every word” in us – is, was and will be.

Mat 4:4  But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

The New Testament

Are God’s elect shielded from temptation? The Lord’s elect are not spared the suffering of the cross. Is Job a type of God’s elect? God’s elect are spared nothing but the dishonor of being rejected of Christ at the first resurrection. And yes, Job does typify God’s elect, who must have all pride burned out of them.

Job 27:1  Moreover Job continued his parable, and said,
Job 27:2  As God liveth, who hath taken away my judgment; and the Almighty, [who] hath vexed my soul;
Job 27:3  All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils;
Job 27:4  My lips shall not speak wickedness, nor my tongue utter deceit.
Job 27:5  God forbid that I should justify you: till I die I will not remove mine integrity from me.

Job 27:6 My righteousness I hold fast, and will not let it go: my heart shall not reproach me so long as I live.

Mat 4:1  Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
Mat 4:2  And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
Mat 4:3  And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.

This is exactly what happened to Israel. They may not have fared as well, but nevertheless “they typify us.”

Mar 1:13  And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

When does this occur for His body?

Act 1:3  To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

“After His passion” means after we are “sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints… yet carnal” in our walk as were the apostles at this time.

It is only “after forty years of trials” that we are healed of our spiritual lameness.

Act 4:22  For the man was above forty years old, on whom this miracle of healing was shewed.

Act 3:1  Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the hour of prayer, being the ninth hour.
Act 3:2  And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple which is called Beautiful, to ask alms of them that entered into the temple;
Act 3:3  Who seeing Peter and John about to go into the temple asked an alms.
Act 3:4  And Peter, fastening his eyes upon him with John, said, Look on us.
Act 3:5  And he gave heed unto them, expecting to receive something of them.
Act 3:6  Then Peter said, Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.
Act 3:7  And he took him by the right hand, and lifted him up: and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength.
Act 3:8  And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking, and leaping, and praising God.
Act 3:9  And all the people saw him walking and praising God:
Act 3:10  And they knew that it was he which sat for alms at the Beautiful gate of the temple: and they were filled with wonder and amazement at that which had happened unto him.

Only after a “full forty years” do we even want to begin our service to our God:

Act 7:23  And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.

But “forty years” just leads to another “forty years” of even greater trials which our first forty could never have endured: and the second forty is followed by a third forty:

Act 7:30  And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

Deu 34:7  And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

It is not mere coincidence that after forty years in the wilderness Joshua began his campaign with “forty-thousand prepared for war.”

Jos 4:13  About forty thousand prepared for war passed over before the LORD unto battle,  to the plains of Jericho.

And that is the lesson of the number ‘forty.’ each trial we endure prepares us to endure the next trial:

Joh 15:2  Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

Act 7:23  And when he was full forty years old, it came into his heart to visit his brethren the children of Israel.

Act 7:30  And when forty years were expired, there appeared to him in the wilderness of mount Sinai an angel of the Lord in a flame of fire in a bush.

Act 13:18  And about the time of forty years suffered he their manners in the wilderness.

Deu 34:7  And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.

This is the outcome of maturity in our thrice-tried spiritual walk.

Other related posts