We read in many parts of scripture, old and new, of events and activities occuring in a period of forrty days and forrty nights, such as the flood, Jesus in the desert, etc. What is the significance of this period of forrty days/nights?
The number forty seems to indicate a time of purification, preparation or penance. For example:
During the Flood, it rained forty days and forty nights (Gen.7:17) -purification
Moses, Elijah, Jesus fasted 40 days (Ex.24:18; 1Kg.19:7-9;Mt.4:2) - preparation
The Israelites wandered 40 years in the desert (Num 32:13)-penance