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That the number forty signifies the duration of both temptation and vastation, whether greater or less, is evident in Ezekiel:--

Thou shalt lie on thy right side, and shalt bear the iniquity of the house of Judah forty days, each day for a year have I appointed it unto thee (Ezekiel 4:6).

Forty denotes here the duration of the vastation of the Jewish Church, and also a representation of the Lord's temptation; for it is said that he should bear the iniquity of the house of Judah. Again:--

I will make the land of Egypt wastes, a waste of desolation; no foot of man shall pass through it, nor foot of beast shall pass through it, and it shall not be inhabited forty years; and I will make the land of Egypt a desolation in the midst of the desolate lands, and her cities in the midst of the cities that are laid waste shall be a solitude forty years (Ezekiel 29:10-12).

Here also forty denotes the duration of vastation and desolation; and in the internal sense forty years are not meant, but only, in general, the desolation of faith, whether within a less or greater time. In John:--

The court that is without the temple cast out and measure it not; for it hath been given unto the nations, who shall tread the holy city under foot forty and two months (Rev. 11:2).

[3] And again:--

There was given unto the beast a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and there was given unto him power to make war forty and two months (Rev. 13:5),

denoting the duration of vastation, for any one may know that forty-two months of time is not meant. But the origin of the use of the number forty-two in this passage (which has the same signification as the number forty) is that seven days signify the end of vastation, and a new beginning, and six days signify labor, from the six days of labor or combat. Seven are therefore multiplied by six, and thus give rise to the number forty-two, which signifies the duration of the vastation and the duration of the temptation, or the labor and combat, of the man who is to be regenerated, in which there is holiness. But, as is evident from these passages in the Apocalypse, the round number forty was taken for the not so round number forty-two.

[4] That the Israelitish people were led about for forty years in the wilderness before they were brought into the land of Canaan, in like manner represented and signified the duration of temptation, and also the duration of vastation; the duration of temptation, by their being afterwards brought into the holy land; the duration of vastation, by the fact that all above the age of twenty years, who went out of Egypt, except Joshua and Caleb, died in the wilderness (Num. 14:33-35; 32:8-14). The things against which they so often murmured signify temptations, and the plagues and destruction that so frequently came upon them signify vastations. That these signify temptations and vastations will of the Lord's Divine mercy be shown in that place. Of these things it is written in Moses:--

Thou shalt remember all the way which Jehovah thy God hath led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to afflict thee, to tempt thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep His commandments, or no (Deut. 8:2, 3, 16).

That Moses was forty days and forty nights upon Mount Sinai, likewise signifies the duration of the temptation, that is, it signifies the Lord's temptation, as is evident from his abiding in the mount forty days and forty nights, neither eating bread nor drinking water, supplicating for the people that they might not be destroyed (Deut. 9:9, 11, 18, 25-29; 10:10).

[5] The reason why forty days signify the duration of temptation is, as just said, that the Lord suffered Himself to be tempted of the devil forty days. And therefore-as all things were representative of the Lord-when the idea of temptations was present with the angels, that idea was represented in the world of spirits by such things as are in this world, as is the case with all angelic ideas during their descent into the world of spirits: they being presented representatively. And in the same way the idea of temptation was presented by the number forty because the Lord was to be tempted forty days. With the Lord, and consequently with the angelic heaven, it is the same whether a thing is present or is to come; what is to come is present, or what is to be done is done. From this came the representation of temptations, as also of vastations, in the representative church, by forty.

from AC 730

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Author:  E. Swedenborg (1688-1772). Design:  I.J. Thompson, Feb 2002. www.BibleMeanings.info