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To write forty-one in Hebrew, they wrote two letters: mem (מ) and aleph (א). Mem is water, and aleph is an ox.
The Hebrew numbers from 41-49 are all signified by water (mem) in some way. When paired with the aleph, the ox signifies either strength or that which is first or primary. In this case it indicates a strong flow, as in a rushing stream, which can separate people on either side of the river. In the series of numbers from 40-49, however, the underlying meaning has to do with a flow of events in the space of time.
So we read in Rev. 17:15 that “the waters are peoples and multitudes and nations and tongues.”
The 41st time that Noah’s name appears in Scripture is found in Gen. 10:32,
32 These are the families of the sons of Noah . . . and out of these the nations were SEPARATED on the earth after the flood.
In this verse we see both the idea of separation as well as the flood of water mentioned. This implies that nations are separated through the flow of time.
The 41st time that Abraham’s name appears is in Gen. 21:10,
10 Therefore she [Sarah] said to Abraham, “Drive out this maid [Hagar] and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac.”
Again, the central focus in this verse is that of separation. As with Noah’s example, we see how nations were being separated. In this case, Hagar and her son represented the water carrying them to Arabia, which was to be Ishmael’s inheritance.
The 41st time that Isaac is mentioned is in Gen. 26:18,
18 Then Isaac dug again the wells of water which had been dug in the days of his father Abraham, for the Philistines had stopped them up after the death of Abraham; and he gave them the same names which his father had given them.
Stopping the wells of water separated the water from Isaac and his household. This also brought about a conflict that separated (or divided) the Philistines from the clan of Isaac.
The 41st time Joshua’s name appears is in Joshua 4:4, where he calls for the twelve princes of the tribes who had been elected and separated for service. It reads,
4 So Joshua called the twelve men whom he had appointed from the sons of Israel, one man from each tribe.
To appoint these twelve meant that they were distinguished and separated from the main body of people.
The 41st time that David’s name appears is in 1 Sam. 17:54, where it references the fact that Goliath’s head had been separated from his body:
54 Then David took the Philistine’s head and brought it to Jerusalem, but he put his weapons in his tent.
The 41st time that Jerusalem is mentioned is in 2 Sam. 20:3,
3 Then David came to his house at Jerusalem, and the king took the ten women, the concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and placed them under guard and provided them with sustenance, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up until the day of their death, living as widows.
When David was overthrown by Absalom, he left these ten concubines in Jerusalem to maintain the house. However, Absalom publicly raped them, so when David returned, he separated himself from them.
The 41st time that Paul is mentioned is in Acts 17:33, “So Paul went out of their midst.” He separated himself.
The 41st time that Peter is mentioned is in Acts 10:44,
44 While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who were listening to the message.
This overcame the problem of separation between Jews and Gentiles, as we see with Peter’s explanation later in Acts 11:17. By this, Christ tore down “the dividing wall” (Eph. 2:14) to create “one new man.”
There is no question, then, that 41 carries the meaning of separation. In that the Hebrew number is also written with a mem (water), we must connect it to the “water of separation” that was used to purify men after touching a dead body. Num. 19:13 says,
13 Anyone who touches a corpse, the body of a man who has died, and does not purify himself, defiles the tabernacle of the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from Israel…
Death itself was seen as separation from life (or the land of the living). Touching a dead body in those days rendered men unclean, and they had to remain separated from the public for a full seven days. On the third day and the seventh day, they were required to be sprinkled with the water of separation in order to be pronounced clean.
Also, by reading Num. 33:5-49, where all the encampments of Israel are listed during their wilderness sojourn, we find that there were 41 encampments listed prior to their crossing the Jordan River into the Promised Land. Their 42nd encampment was in the plains of Jericho. Once again water is significant in this theme, for in this case the Jordan River separated the Israelites from the Promised Land at their 41st camp in the plains of Moab.
In the New Testament, the genealogy of Jesus is given in the first chapter of Matthew. There are three sets of 14 generations listed.
17 Therefore all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations; and from the deportation to Babylon to the time of Christ fourteen generations.
Of course, three sets of fourteen generations ought to bring us to 42 generations, but only 41 are on the list from Abraham to Jesus Himself. The 42nd generation is the Body of Christ, linking 41 to 42, even as the Head is linked to the Body. Meanwhile, however, while the Body is yet forming, there is a separation between the Head and the Body, during which time Jesus has “gone to a far country” (Matt. 21:33; 25:14).
We now await His return as Joshua the Ephraimite to take the Kingdom.
These examples show us that there is a distinct relationship between number 41 and 42, for as we will see shortly, 42 is the number of arrival. Arrival resolves the problem of separation, even as 42 follows 41.