There is little to say about the number forty-one in the Bible. It is only written five times. Rehoboam was forty-one when he began to reign in Jerusalem. Later, King Asa ruled Jerusalem for forty-one years. Plus, Jeroboam reigned in Samaria for forty-one years.
The number forty-two, on the other hand, holds far more importance. It is, as Douglas Adams wrote in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything. Unfortunately, no one knows what the question is.
Another author to utilise the number forty-two is Lewis Carroll. There were forty-two illustrations in the original publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In the book, Rule 42 is quoted at Alice stating, “All persons more than a mile high to leave the court.”
Forty-two is the atomic number of molybdenum. It is also the angle of a rainbow. There are forty-two laws in a game of cricket.
In Japanese culture, the number forty-two is considered unlucky because it sounds like their word for “dying”. In Egyptian mythology, the dead are asked forty-two questions to determine their fate. In Buddhism, there is a scripture known as the Sutra of 42 Sections. The Guttenberg Bible, the first book to be printed on a printing press, was nicknamed the “42-lined Bible” because there were forty-two lines of text on each page.
Some people believe the number forty-two has a direct connection with the antichrist. His malevolent force is predicted to last forty-two months at the end of time.
Revelation 11:1-2 (NIV) says “I was given a reed like a measuring rod and was told, “Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, with its worshipers. 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.”
Forty-two also crops up in Revelation 13:4-5 (NIV): People worshipped the dragon because he had given authority to the beast, and they also worshipped the beast and asked, “Who is like the beast? Who can wage war against it?” The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise its authority for forty-two months.
Other uses of the number forty-two in the Bible, however, are not related to the coming of the antichrist.
According to the Gospel of Luke, there are forty-two generations between David and Jesus. The Gospel of Matthew, on the other hand, records forty-two generations between Abraham and Jesus.
My final fun fact: the word “star” is written forty-two times in the Old Testament.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon