40 years and days

The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years. Mary and Joseph took the infant Jesus to the Temple 40 days after his Incarnation (going by Luke at any rate). Then 40 days of temptation in the wilderness and from Easter to the Ascension. Indeed you can say that the Presentation at the Temple was the first occasion where Jesus saved a person and that the good thief was saved 40 days before the Ascension (although this latter does involve some tricky counting).

Obviously the number 40 was important to the ancient Jewish people. Does anyone have an explanation?

Comments

  • As I understand it, 40 days was the common way to express an indeterminate long period of time. Perhaps we might translate it today as "yonks"(??!!).
  • From My Jewish Learning:
    Forty

    Forty appears many times in the Bible, usually designating a time of radical transition or transformation. Among the most famous examples are these: It rained for 40 days and 40 nights during the Flood (Genesis 7). Exodus records that Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God. Forty is the number of years the Israelites were required to wander in the wilderness until they were allowed to enter Canaan. Corporeal punishment in the Torah involved 40 lashes. Elijah fasted for 40 days prior to receiving his revelation on Mount Horeb. Multiples of 40 are also common: 40,000 men rallied to Barak in the book of Judges.

    The Talmud also reports wondrous phenomena occurring in units of 40. It also appears in mystical texts, usually as an element of purification. Thus the Book of the Great Name advises its readers to abstain from sleeping in one’s own bed for 40 days and nights after using the book, mimicking the time Moses spent away from camp while he received the Ten Commandments (Genesis 7; Exodus 24; I Samuel 17:16; I Kings 19:8; Gittin 39b, 40a; Sotah 34a).

    Looks like there's a lot more info online, especially on sites about gematria numerology. I just searched on "judaism 40 numerology".

  • Gee DGee D Shipmate
    Thanks. I certainly think there's more to it than Rufus T Firefly suggests
  • But which came first? The 40 days or the detailed symbolism of 40 days?

    I would argue (but not too vehemently) that to begin with, 40 days (or years) simply meant an indeterminate length of time. Only later was there the development of adding meaning to this number.
  • GalilitGalilit Shipmate
    If you go down the gematria road your brain is in for a very bumpy ride ...
    or maybe it's just me whose brain starts short-circuiting and spitting out sparks when people become "gematriacs" in my presence

    Tangent: Hebrew baby name lists here include gematria when writing about a name's "meaning" as a matter of course
  • balaambalaam Shipmate
    But which came first? The 40 days or the detailed symbolism of 40 days?

    I would argue (but not too vehemently) that to begin with, 40 days (or years) simply meant an indeterminate length of time. Only later was there the development of adding meaning to this number.

    But when was the symbolism put in place? If it was already understood at the time of the Exodus (the first example from the OP) then what Golden Key said about it being a time of transformation is valid.
  • MooMoo Kerygmania Host
    My impression is that originally 'forty' meant 'a large number'. Remember that way back when, they counted 'one' 'two' 'many'. Forty was the name of a large amount of 'many'.
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