It is evident that the time span of forty days and forty nights has importance in the Bible, being found 24 times throughout scripture. From the 40 days and nights that Moses spent in the wilderness when given the Ten Commandments to the same time span that Jesus spent in the wilderness when tempted by Satan.
Find some Bible quotes of this frequently seen number in the collection below. Read on to discover the meaning and significance of forty days for Christians today!
"40 Days and 40 Nights" in the Bible
"For in seven days I will send rain on the earth forty days and forty nights, and every living thing that I have made I will blot out from the face of the ground." (Genesis 7:4)
"The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth." (Genesis 7:17)
"Moses entered the cloud and went up on the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights." (Exodus 24:18)
"And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God." (1 Kings 19:8)
"And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry." (Luke 4:1-2)
"And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him." (Mark 1:13)
"He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God." (Acts 1:3)
Why Did Jesus Fast for Forty Days?
After Jesus was baptized by the John the Baptist, He immediately left for the wilderness, and undertook a forty-day fast, during which He was tempted by the devil three times:
"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered..." (Matthew 4:1-2)
The Apostle Matthew wrote his gospel largely in order to evangelize and proclaim to the Jews, and thus, he often mindfully indicates to his Jewish audience fulfilled prophesies and typology which reveals Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews.
Before Apostle Matthew recounts the Lord's fasting in the wilderness, he demonstrates how our Lord the Son of God typologically echoes the history of God's other "son," Israel, by connecting the Lord's travel to and from Israel with the exodus of the Jewish people by quoting Hosea 11:1:
"When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son." (Matthew 2:14-15)
The Saviour, Jesus Christ, would fulfill all the commandments, which were often not followed in Israel's history. Their wandering for forty years in the wilderness was because of their waywardness and iniquities, but our Lord spent forty days in the wilderness in complete obedience to the commandments, and in particular, fasting without complaint, whilst the Jews in the wilderness perpetually complained about the food they ate.
Significance of 40 Days in the Church Today
Fr. Charles Nicholas Baz gives a great explanation of the significance of forty days in the lives of Christians today, following the teachings and examples of the Bible, saying:
The period of Forty Days is biblical in essence, for this is where it comes from, and this is why it is observed. As far as explaining the meaning of it, I prefer to use the following definition: “A period of Forty Days signifies the completion in the realization of an event.” ...When something, specifically an event, is practiced and remembered for 40 days, it makes it real and present in our daily lives. It becomes sealed in our works and etched in our memory...
The Season of Advent (November 15TH through December 25TH, inclusive) is observed for forty days, typically, in order to make real the daily presence of Christ in our lives...
There are many other seasons in the Church which are either liturgical or personal which take the shape of forty days... It is simply the process that we call the Sanctification of Time. The Sanctification of Time, when conscientiously practiced, makes real in our daily lives the elements which we celebrate or commemorate. Thus, we can relate better to the Sacred Scriptures and to the Liturgical Life of our Faith.
Following the biblical examples of Moses, Ezekiel, and Jesus Christ, we still use the period of 40 days to prepare for the Nativity of Christ, through Advent, and the Resurrection of Christ, through Lent.
Photo credit: Public Domain/Christ in the Wilderness - Ivan Kramskoy
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