I heartily recommend The King's English blog as an excellent commentary on the various phrases from the King James Bible (also known as the Authorized Version) that have become part of our cultural vocabulary over the last 400 years (although I do not agree with some of the theology). I found this one on the phrase "forty days and forty nights" especially intriguing due to the author's highlighting of the outcomes of these periods of testing and trial. Here is the main point from the blog entry:
There are seven prominent periods of 40 days in the Bible.This just shows that we should not despair if we find ourselves in a long spate of trouble, particularly if we come to realize that it is from God (and not necessarily something we have brought on ourselves by stupidity or rebellion). There is a light at the end of the tunnel, and the world we will see when we finally come out into the sunshine again will be one of great reward. So do not despair! A trial is not forever, and if we pass it in good order, we will really enjoy the result!
The first “40 days” was the time of the flood-waters that fell in judgement on the earth. (Genesis 7:4)
Moses fasted 40 days on the mountaintop before entering God’s presence.
Israel sent 12 men to spy out the land of Canaan. They spent 40 days doing reconnaissance of the promised land.
Goliath taunted Israel for 40 days before David stepped forward to bring victory.
Jonah came to Nineveh with a message – in 40 days the city would be destroyed. But, because they repented, God visited not with judgement but with salvation.
For 40 days Jesus entered the desert (a place of trials and temptations) and emerged victorious.
Finally, there were 40 days between Jesus’ resurrection and the time of His ascension to heaven. It was a time when He proved Himself to His followers, showing them tokens of the resurrection life He promises to all.
40 days seems to be a time of testing and transition. For those who pass the test there is a new world to enjoy:
A world washed clean.Face to face with the LORD.A land of milk and honey.Victory over the enemy.Salvation.The defeat of the devil.The new creation.