The 2nd Exodus: The Significance of 40 years

The number 40 appears to have lots of biblical significance. For example, Moses was up on the mountain for 40 days. The first three kings of Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon each reigned for 40 years. Jesus was tested for 40 days in the wilderness and there were 40 days between His resurrection and ascension at the end of His earthly ministry to Israel.

However, there are two 40 year periods of time that few people notice that are significant to Israel’s historical timeline. The 1st 40 year period seems to be a type in the Old Testament, while the 2nd 40 year period is its antitype/fulfilment in the New Testament. [1]

Let’s have a look …

The First 40 Years In The Wilderness – The Type

Moses and Aaron sent 12 spies into Canaan – the Promised Land to see what it was like and who was living there and they were gone 40 days and nights. When the reports came back from the spies about its inhabitants, the people were fearful and refused to cross over. Many of them actually wanted to go back to Egypt! But by this stage, Yahweh was so provoked that He wanted to destroy them all but Moses and Aaron pleaded for the people.

Consequently, Yahweh declared:

30 Surely you shall not come into the land in which I swore to settle you, except Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun. 31 Your children, however, whom you said would become a prey—I will bring them in, and they will know the land which you have rejected. 32 But as for you, your corpses will fall in this wilderness. 33 Your sons shall be shepherds for forty years in the wilderness, and they will suffer for your unfaithfulness, until your corpses lie in the wilderness.

34 According to the number of days which you spied out the land, forty days, for every day you shall bear your guilt a year, even forty years, and you will know My opposition.35 I, the Lord, have spoken, surely this I will do to all this evil congregation who are gathered together against Me. In this wilderness, they shall be destroyed, and there they will die.’” ~ Numbers 14


So the Israelites lived for around 40 years in the wilderness before entering the Promised Land.

  • This was the first 40-year exodus (the type/shadow).

Even after they entered the Promised Land the people still disobeyed Yahweh by not observing 70 sabbath years. As a consequence, Yahweh came in judgment against them. He used the Babylonians to bring that judgment and they destroyed the 1st Jerusalem temple and took the people into exile. As a result, the land could now rest for 70 years to make up for the years that Israel had disobeyed the Mosaic Covenant.

However, even though the people eventually returned from Babylon to build the 2nd temple, Israel was still ‘in exile’. They were not in literal exile as they were back in the land of Israel but they were in bondage to sin. The Ark of the Covenant / Mercy seat was no longer in the new temple and the people were separated from the presence of Yahweh due to their unfaithfulness.

Exiles on The Earth

On my first post in this series: From The Blood of Abel to The Blood Of Zechariah I showed how the early Jewish believers would have known that their Hebrew Bible (a collection of scrolls held in the Temple and local synagogues) finished with the Book of 2 Chronicles.

So when we move into the New Testament, Matthew still refers to Israel as being in exile. He splits up the genealogy of Jesus into three sets of 14 generations.

“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the exile to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the exile to Babylon to the Messiah fourteen generations”  ~ Matthew 1:17


As far as Matthew is concerned they never came out of exile! and I like how Amber Dillon has described it, she writes …

So the return from exile under the leadership of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah didn’t solve the people’s problems. The decree from Cyrus is incomplete because the authors of the TaNaK were still waiting for a real return from exile and the coming of the Messianic kingdom of God. God’s people need a deliverer from a deeper kind of exile than simply being ruled by Babylon. In Chronicles, the literal exile has become an image of Israel’s ongoing “spiritual” exile, their slavery to evil and sin and their inability to obey the Torah. [2]

The 2nd Exodus – The Antitype

Jesus was the Greater Moses and Greater Joshua

Just like Yahweh gave the OT generation, 20 years of age and under, a transitional period of 40 years to prepare them before entering the Promised Land, Jesus gave NT Israel a generational period of 40 years to migrate from the Mosaic Covenant into the New.

Many people consider the second exodus to be a physical exodus, but Ezekiel makes it clear that it’s a transition between the two covenants and the land is the Kingdom of God, the Heavenly Jerusalem, Mount Zion.

As a result, when we try and understand OT prophesies we have to remember that that the OT people did not have the NT realities to lean on. Those OT prophets had to use symbols and concepts that the people would have understood and related to, however incomplete their understanding was. We must not read those OT prophesies without filtering them through the NT narrative.

Paul symbolized the two covenants by calling them mountains. His audience would have related the Mosaic covenant to Mt Sinai and the New Covenant to Mt Zion.

Bible Passages

Two Cities/ Mountains

Two Women

Two Covenants

Galatians 4 21- 31 and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother. 25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia … “Cast out the bondwoman and her son,
For the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free woman.”
For these women are two covenants
Hebrews 12: 18-29 18 For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched (Mount Sinai)  … 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched  … 22 But you have come to … Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant,


The Mosaic Covenant was also symbolized by Hagar who had a son by natural means and the New Covenant by Sarah, who had a son by supernatural means. Hagar symbolized Mt. Sinai or the earthly Jerusalem that was in the apostles day. That earthly Jerusalem was in bondage and soon to be destroyed. While the New Jerusalem, the heavenly Jerusalem above was free and mother of us all.


For the 40 years prior to 70AD the apostles, through the Holy Spirit were to lead the people out of exile, from under the Mosaic Covenant into the Kingdom of God, the New Promised Land – the Heavenly Jerusalem.

Abraham was not looking for a physical land, he was looking for a city Paul called, our mother.

By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he lived as an alien in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, fellow heirs of the same promise; 10 for he was looking for the city which has foundations, whose architect and builder is God. ~ Hebrews 11


The New Covenant was so radically different from the Mosaic Covenant.

Mosaic Covenant

New Covenant

A Physical Temple Building Within each individual believer … a temple not made with human hands
Tablets of Stone/law Christ Himself, living in you and me
Circumcision Circumcision of the heart
Originated at Mt. Sinai Originated from the heavenly Jerusalem
Blessings and punishments were temporal: brought judgment, death, condemnation ~ 2 Corinthians 3:7-9; Romans 3:19-20 Blessings and punishments are eternal: brings eternal life ~ Ephesians 2:1-13; Revelation 20:11-21:4
Restricted access to God ~ Hebrews 9:7-8 Christ opened access to God for all humanity ~ Hebrews 9:15-16


The people were in bondage to the covenant that brought death, the Mosaic Law and Jesus offered the people His solution.

“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” ~ Matthew 28-30



Israel had become spiritually speaking, Babylon, Egypt, and Sodom

Paul compared some of his fellow Jews with Pharoah in regard to their hardened hearts eventually being hardened by Yahweh beyond repentance in Romans 8 & 9. It’s important to note that Yahweh only hardens people’s hearts after they have hardened their own hearts a number of times.

When 70AD arrived, the time for the migration from one covenant to the other was over. Those in Jerusalem still under the Mosiac Law faced the curses of the Law – Yahweh’s wrath which we will look at in a later post. Jesus came in judgment against the Jews that had rejected Him by using the Roman armies to destroy their Temple and city, effectively making the Old Covenant age disappear.
Those Jews that did not migrate were left to face the great and terrible day of the Lord. They perished in the wilderness, as did that first generation who refused to leave Egypt in their hearts and enter the promised land. The type was The Promised Land – Canaan, the antitype was the Kingdom of God.

In conclusion, just as the first exodus was out of Egypt, so the second one was an antitype of the first, the call to come out of spiritual Egypt.

I heard another voice from heaven, saying, “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not participate in her sins and receive of her plagues;  for her sins have piled up as high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.” ~ Rev 18:4.5


In my next blog post, we will look at how the 2nd exodus tied in with the Great Commission. But in the meantime, I’ve written a sub-series on Babylon which ties in with the 2nd Exodus and the links are below:


Further notes: The 2nd Exodus series, co-written with Tony from Passion for Biblical Truth Blog.


[1] A type is an image or representation of something that will come to pass at some future time – a shadow. The antitype is the reality/fulfilment of the thing which the type represents.

[2] What is the real last book of the Old Testament

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