In Exodus 24:18 (NASB)

Then Moses entered the midst of the cloud as he went up to the mountain; and Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

According to those who support numerology, what significance does 40 have in this passage?

Note that there's another question considering this passage but totally different, and that this kind of questions was discussed in Meta.

  • 1
    Good question. Up-voted +1.
    – Nigel J
    Jan 28, 2021 at 0:11

2 Answers 2


Ten is completeness (ten fingers, and the decimal system of numbers); four is the earth (north, south, east and west) so forty denotes something that is (usually) a duration on earth that is complete in itself and an extension, or a repetition, to that duration would achieve no more.

In the situation of a trial (Jesus' temptation) the prolonging of the trial beyond forty days and nights would prove nothing more than had already been proved : his faithfulness to God, tested to extremity.

It need neither be extended nor repeated.

In the situation of Moses, the period was as long as it needed to be to convey to him all that God wished to reveal. Prolonging the time would be pointless. The period of time, and the supernatural preservation (neither food nor water) indicate that something was achieved, completely, on the earth, and that it need neither be extended nor repeated.

(Those who have attempted to write further - in effect, alternative - "scripture", pretending to some sort of repetition of Moses' experiences should have taken note of what the forty number indicates.)


A duration of 40 units is used often in the Bible, and has a strong association with periods of testing, trial, probation, or preparation. https://www.gotquestions.org/40-days-Bible.html

FWIW, my best guess is this is a trope used to designate a significant period, and then as mentioned has overtones related to spiritual preparation and so on. So when Jesus goes into the desert for 40 days, this immediately brings to mind similar periods of testing or preparation in the mind of a typical reader familiar with the Old Testament, while also meaning he was there for a significant number of days.

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