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FORTY TWO


 In recent weeks I was confronted by the number forty two in respect to Biblical application and decided to take a look at what possible significance there is in this number in respect to the Bible.  Now I can hear some saying that this is the number that was the mythical answer to the question /problem of the science fiction story, Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy. As it is a long time since I have watched that movie, I can certainly remember that there was a significance to the number in that story. However, I was quite amazed at the significance of the number in Biblical reference as well and it is on this aspect that I will follow through in this message.

Now there are three aspects to this number. It relates to values, it relates to incidents (similar to value, as you will see) and it relates to time.

Time is further broken down into three values:

    •    Forty two months

    •    Three and a half years

    •    One thousand, two hundred and sixty days

The significance of these three values that relate to forty two cannot be overlooked.

The first mention of the number that I found was in Numbers and it relates to the inheritance that was to be allocated to the tribe of Levi within the land of Israel as the occupation forces moved in to conquer the land.

Six of the towns you give the Levites will be cities of refuge, to which a person who has killed someone may flee. In addition, give them forty-two other towns.
Numbers 35:6

Now, on its own, this passage could hardly be significant but it is certainly interesting once we relate it to other aspects of 42 in other passages. Moses had commanded the Israelites to allocate certain cities to the tribe of Levi because they were not to inherit any land, as were the other tribes. Obviously they needed places to live and, as the direct servants of God to the people of Israel, they needed to be spread throughout the land.

The first allocation was for the six cities of refuge. That is another topic and, apart from being one seventh of forty two, I do not see any real significance.

In the second part of that verse, we see that a further 42 cities were to be allocated to the tribe to provide places for them to live that allowed the Levis (priests and others) to be close to the people. Why 42, you may ask? No reason appears to be given other than the inference in that this was the number God gave to Moses. It may or may not be significant. That is for you to conclude once we look at the rest.

As we look at the history of early Israel, there are a number of references to this value of 42, which again, may not be significant in themselves. In summary they are as follows:

•    Judges 12:6 - 42,000 Ephraimites were killed

•    1 Samuel 13:1 - Saul reigned for 42 years

•    2 Kings 2:24 - Two bears kill 42 youths who were mocking Elijah

•    2 Kings 10:14 - The slaughter of 42 men at the well of Beth Eked

•    2 Chronicles 22:2 - Ahaziah was 42 when he began his reign

Now I recommend that you look at these verses, in context, to see their relevance to anything prophetic.

From this point, we move into the prophetic aspect of this number and, it is here, that we start to see some interesting aspects of the time span. In all cases, the time span for actual prophecy is forty two months, which is 1,260 days or three and a half years, hence the significance of these values in their respective prophetic writings.

The first of these occurs in the prophetic work of Elijah. In the accounts of the prophecy of no rain, which Elijah placed on Israel because of its sin that we find in the scriptures, added to what we know as the Bible, the value of forty two months is not actually given, however, it is significant that both Luke and James mention the specific value as they refer back to this incident as they were writing about it in the New Testament.

I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land.
Luke 4:25

Elijah was a man just like us. He prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.
James 5:17

This clearly suggests that, in the Jewish scrolls, the value is actually mentioned. For this action to take place over that period of time is significant, I believe, as a specific time span. Whether there is something in the value that was very significant to the Jews or whether it was a foretaste of the prophetic value that was to follow (or both) I am not sure, but it has to be significant when we look at further prophetic writings.

The prophet Daniel makes the first significant mention of this value in his visions. It is clear that a number of events are significantly shaped by this value of forty two and, in the following three references, they all refer to this forty two month period.

And he shall speak words against the Most High [God] and shall wear out the saints of the Most High and think to change the time [of sacred feasts and holy days] and the law; and the saints shall be given into his hand for a time, two times, and half a time [three and one-half years].
Daniel 7:25

And he shall enter into a strong and firm covenant with the many for one week [seven years]. And in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and offering to cease [for the remaining three and one-half years]; and upon the wing or pinnacle of abominations [shall come] one who makes desolate, until the full determined end is poured out on the desolator.
Daniel 9:27

And I heard the man clothed in linen, who was above the waters of the river, when he held up his right and his left hand toward the heavens and swore by Him Who lives forever that it shall be for a time, times, and a half a time [or three and one-half years]; and when they have made an end of shattering and crushing the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
Daniel 12:7

These three prophecies appear to be talking about two events, both of which in Daniel’s time were yet to come but for us, the first of these has passed.

The first of those relates to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. Most scholars, though certainly not all, see this event and the related time span as being very literal in the time of the event and its span of happening.

The second relates to the end times, that period of time we have now entered and are living through. As we will see shortly when we look at passages in Revelation, there is a significance in the length of time that certain events will happen as the age draws to a close. Daniel clearly sees that these events will cover a forty two month period of time, which if we consider the horror the prophecies associate with this length of time, is going to appear like an eternity.

Now, it needs to be pointed out that in prophetic writings, a day is written to represent a year. We need to hope that these prophecies are not for 1,260 years because that will be a time of extreme horror for those who are forced to live through it. Three and a half years will be too long, without going to that length of time.

It is also significant to note that three and a half years is just a little shorter (by six months) on the elected political time span in a large number of countries, meaning that the time span is, for example, just short of a US Presidential term. Many western countries have 4 year political terms of office as do others.

Three and a half years of anything is a significant length of time for most events. For ones that are going to bring extreme hardship, this is going to be a very long time.

Now let us turn to the prophetic writings of John in the Book Of Revelation.

But exclude the outer court; do not measure it, because it has been given to the Gentiles. They will trample on the holy city for 42 months.
Revelation 11:2

And I will grant the power of prophecy to My two witnesses for 1,260 days (42 months; three and one-half years), dressed in sackcloth.
Revelation 11:3

And the woman [herself] fled into the desert (wilderness), where she has a retreat prepared [for her] by God, in which she is to be fed and kept safe for 1,260 days (42 months; three and one-half years).
Revelation 12:6

But the woman was supplied with the two wings of a giant eagle, so that she might fly from the presence of the serpent into the desert (wilderness), to the retreat where she is to be kept safe and fed for a time, and times, and half a time (three and one-half years, or 1,260 days).
Revelation 12:14

The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise his authority for forty-two months.
Revelation 13:5

Now there is debate as to whether these time spans refer to the same period or to two successive time periods. Personally, I take the second viewpoint, because there would be a possible clash of events if they were to run concurrently. One passage that certainly supports the two separate time spans is the one mentioned earlier in Daniel 9:27.

The first passage (Rev 11:2) would clearly refer to the second period as the forces of the devil were allowed their final run before the final judgement.

The verse in Rev 11:3 is clearly the lead up period (the first period) when God’s special prophets arrive and condemn the world for it’s decadence and corruption and really make people sit up and take notice. True Christians will welcome these two because they will herald the final countdown and bring to light the terrible state the world is in. During this time, of course, the devil will be mustering his forces to retaliate against the prophets (as Johns tells us will happen in Revelation). When their death (and the subsequent resurrection) takes place, this will herald in the second period where the devil and his followers will run havoc over the world

Clearly, Revelation 12:6 and 12:14 could refer to either of these time spans, though I tend to think towards it being in the second period. However, these two verses (in context especially) are certainly two of the references that point to the possibility of these two periods being the same. I am not sure that one or two periods is that important, but rather, the importance is the length of time these events will take.

Finally, we look at Revelation 13:5, which clearly points to the latter time span of three and a half years when the devil will reign supreme and play havoc with God’s people. This will be a time of trial where many Christians may fall by the way because of the persecution.

Some say that this period is already upon us as we look at places like India and Eritrea where this level of persecution is already very strong. Personally, I believe they are just a glimpse of what is to come, as the prophecies tend to point to the fact that such persecution will be universal and, while we are certainly heading that way at a rapid speed, the two prophets have yet to appear in public. However, I do believe that these two may already be among us, probably still as young children and possibly not even knowing each other at this time. It is just that their time has not yet begun. If they are among us, then the time of the end is rapidly drawing to a close. Don’t, for one minute, believe that we would have to wait until these two are adults. Jesus, Himself, said, “Out of the mouths of children comes perfect praise.” A child with such powers as discussed in Revelation would have a dynamic impression on people. Two children with the wisdom of the prophets and the power assigned to those prophets, would make the world sit up and take notice.

However, this message is not so much about those times but about the significance of the number forty two in Biblical applications. I think you will agree, from what I have said here, that the number forty two, especially as a span of time (in months) has considerable significance.

That is not to say that the number cannot be applied in other areas and times. Forty two is a significant number in God’s overall plan and certainly needs to be carefully looked at in any application or prophecy that may come along.