Forty Days/Forty Years

Different numbers in the Bible that show up at significant times indeed mean the number they are, and yet also they seem to have a symbolic value.  One such number is “forty.“

Forty seems to represent a “generation”: Saul reigns for forty years [Acts 13:21], as does David [II Samuel 5:4] and so does Solomon [I Kings 11:42].  In the time of the Judges [3:11; 5:31; 8:28], “the country was quiet for forty years …”; and Israel wanders the wilderness for forty years to remove the generation of the rebels from those who would enter the Promised Land [Deuteronomy 1:35].

Forty is a time of preparation for a coming task: In Exodus, Moses has been forty years in training in Pharaoh’s court when he kills the Egyptian taskmaster to save an Israelite and has to flee for his life, he is forty years trained as a leader of sheep (shepherd) when Jehovah calls him, and he leads Israel for forty years to the Promised Land.  Elijah goes “in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God” [I Kings 19:8], to confront his despair and be sent back into his ministry.  Jesus is forty days in the wilderness [Matthew 4:2; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2] and was with His disciples for forty days after his resurrection [Acts 1:3].

Forty is a time of challenge: Israel is challenged to be the Nation of God, as Moses is forty days and forty nights on Mt Sinai receiving God’s commands [Exodus 24:18]; at the edge of the Promised Land, the first time, the spies spend forty days scouting the Land, upon which much will depend [Numbers 13:25]; Goliath challenges Israel for forty days [I Samuel 4:18]; and Jonah proclaims “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” [3:4].

Forty is a period of cleansing: Genesis 7 recounts the flood, and most are familiar with how it rains “on the earth forty days and forty nights” [v 4]; then forty days after the Ark came to rest, “Noah opened the window of the ark” to send out a raven [8:6].  After the golden calf disaster, Moses returns to Mt Sinai for a second forty days [Exodus 34:28], not just to rewrite the broken tablets of stone, but also to implore the Lord’s mercy [Deuteronomy 9:18,25].  After Israel’s rebellion subsequent to the spies report, the People are condemned to wander the wilderness “for each day you shall bear your guilt one year, namely forty years” [Numbers 14:34].  Rebellious during the time of the Judges, “Jehovah delivered [Israel] into the hand of the Philistines for forty years” [13:1]  Ezekiel is to lie on his right side to “bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days. I have laid on you a day for each year” [4:6]; Egypt will be desolate for forty years, at the end of which God will gather them [29:11-13].

A woman who gives birth to a boy waits seven days until his Circumcision, then waits another thirty-three days – total: forty days – as her time of purification [Leviticus 12:2-4], after the birth of a daughter both amounts are  doubled; David’s forty-year reign is also split 7 years in Hebron, then 33 years in Jerusalem [I Kings 2:11, also I Chronicles 29:27] (it is an interesting side-note in how Jesus’ life spans 33 years).

Forty is a demonstration of God’s faithfulness: Yet “these forty years the LORD your God has been with you; you have lacked nothing” [Deuteronomy 2:7].

It should be no surprise then that “forty years” would show up after Jesus death.  One would assume that the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD ought to be the end of that period, but if Jesus did die in 33 AD as is argued in earlier posts and in my book, Creation’s Ballet for Jesus, then disappointedly that is only a thirty-seven year difference.  One thing that is seen in the Ballet is that there is extraordinary precision to the dance and even then, the difference of three years is just too great to “fudge.

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The day?  Passover, 73 AD – the defenders died forty (Hebrew) years after to within perhaps 12 hours of Jesus’ death.  It should be also remembered that the death of Jesus was the “death” of the Old Covenant as the New was taking effect – perhaps the fall of the Nation of Israel was the completion of the days of purification (as per the birth of a child), the fulfillment of the period of cleansing – or perhaps each of the functions mentioned above.

If we go back to the destruction of the temple in 70 AD, this occurs on the ninth day of the month of Av.  This also is a remarkable day in Jewish history.  Notably, the destructions both of Solomon’s temple and of the post-captivity temple (remodeled by Herod) are mourned on this day.  However those are only part of a string of catastrophes associated with Av 9: it is the day the ten spies returned from the Promised Land with their report of fear [Numbers 13-14]; the Romans crush Bar Kokhba’s revolt with loss of 100,000 Jews in 132 AD; after another siege of Jerusalem, the temple area is plowed in 133 AD; the First Crusade is declared in 1095 (many Jewish communities are destroyed); Jews are expelled from England (1290) and from Spain (1492); World War I breaks out (1914), setting the stage for World War II and the Holocaust; the Jews are deported from the Warsaw Ghetto (1942); and others.

One may wonder if the destruction of the temples were in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophesy to the woman of Samaria at the well that the worship of God would no longer be in a specific location, but rather “in spirit and in truth” [John 4:21-24].

So if we go ahead forty years from Jesus’ death and discover the death knell of the Nation of God, what happens if we go back forty years from the destruction of the Temple?  Will we find ourselves at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry?  That is a possibility.  After all, the Gospels indicate that within Jesus’ ministry there are at least three Passovers, one of which is when He dies, therefore His ministry must span about three years (unless there are one or more unmentioned festivals).  If indeed His ministry began with Av 9 (July 27) in 30 AD, then the ministry would span 2 years and 7 months.

If Jesus is “about” thirty years old [Luke 3:23] when He begins His ministry, then His birth would be late July, 1 BC ( give or take 6 or so months – there is no year “0” in the Julian Calendar).  However, in previous posts the Ballet seems to indicate the birth is about a year earlier – of course, what happens in the sky could be predictive rather than a real time mirror, so that it might indicate what would happen within the next year.  However, what leads the Magi is real time, the tendency is to think that the Ballet is real time as well.

The problem is that the Bible is too general about Jesus’ age as He begins His ministry so that trying to establish when He is baptized and spends His forty days in the wilderness would seem to require too much conjecture.  When we start with the death of Jesus and go forward forty years, we end at the fall of Masada; we are dealing with two known points of time.  Working back forty years from the destruction of the Temple just does not give us a definite second point, and therefore there is hesitation in giving authority to any conjecture

Even so, seeing how the number “forty” plays out in the Bible makes one realize again how even time is simply a tool in the hands of The Creator Jehovah.

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