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Blog Series - The Meanings of NumbersView All Parts
Mem (מ) is water signifying a flow of history or time. Beth (ב) is a house or household. Together, this number for 42 signifies the flow of events until the household is established. The arrival of the son is what establishes a household.
The Hebrew word for “son” is ben, a bough on a tree—in this case, the branch on the family tree. Ben is translated “bough” in Gen. 49:22, “Joseph is a fruitful bough.” Even as every tree needs branches, so also every family needs a son.
The 42nd time that Abram’s name appears is in Gen. 15:13,
13 God said to Abram, “Know for certain that your descendants [“seed, children”] will be strangers in a land that is not theirs, where they will be enslaved and oppressed four hundred years.
This was a prophecy of Isaac’s birth, for God said, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen. 21:12 KJV). This 400-year cycle began, then, with the birth of Isaac, “in a land that is not theirs,” that is, in the land of Canaan, a land under the hegemony of Egypt. Thirty years earlier God covenanted with Abraham. There were 430 years between the covenant with Abraham and the covenant with Moses (Gal. 3:17).
The prophecy itself in Gen. 15:13 showed the lengthy process of creating true sons of Abraham who share his faith (Gal. 3:7). In this case, faith is tested by 400 years of oppression. The oppression in this case ended with the birth of Israel out of Egypt. So Moses was to tell Pharaoh, “Israel is My son, My firstborn” (Exodus 4:22).
The arrival of God’s firstborn son marked the end of 400 years as a “stranger” precisely on the day of Passover, the day they left Egypt. This day signified justification by faith in the blood of the Lamb.
The number 41 (“separation”) is related to 42 (“arrival”) in that the sons of God must be separated before they can arrive. In one sense, they are separated from their mother; in another sense, they are distinguished from the children of the flesh. So Israel was separated from mother Egypt, because God said, “out of Egypt I called My son” (Hosea 11:1). Again, the Israelites, being justified by the blood of the Passover lambs, were then separated from the fleshly Egyptians among whom they had lived for a long time.
Israel, then, had God as their Father and Egypt as their mother. As such, the nation was a spiritual version of Ishmael, whose father was Abram and whose mother was Hagar the Egyptian. They would not be heirs of the promise were it not for the Passover lamb which made them the sheep of His pasture.
Ishmael was “a wild donkey of a man” (pareh awdawm), according to the angel in Gen. 16:12. The firstborn of a donkey was unclean and could not be presented to God. A substitute was needed. So the law tells us in Exodus 13:12, 13,
12 You shall devote to the Lord the first offspring of every womb, and the first offspring of every beast that you own; the males belong to the Lord. 13 But every first offspring of a donkey you shall redeem with a lamb… and every firstborn of man among your sons you shall redeem.
The fact that the Israelites had to be redeemed tells us that they were spiritual donkeys, spiritual Ishmaelites, having Egypt (Hagar) as their mother. Hence, to come out of Egypt and to be presented to God required their redemption with a lamb. It was the Passover lamb that made the difference—not their genealogy.
Therefore, the psalmist could say truthfully in Psalm 100:3, “We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.” All spiritual donkeys, or “children of the flesh” (Rom. 9:8) have the same opportunity to become one of God’s “sheep” (children) in the same manner. It requires faith in the blood of “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). He is our Redeemer. We read in Gal. 4:4-7,
4 But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
By faith in Christ we are “no longer a slave, but a son,” no longer of Hagar the bondwoman but a son of Abraham and an heir of the promise like Isaac (Gal. 4:28).
All of this was illustrated by Israel’s slavery under Egypt until the fullness of time in those days when it was time to leave Egypt and begin their journey to the Promised Land. We too were born as children of flesh to our natural parents, but we have become sons of Abraham and sons of God by faith in the Lamb who has redeemed us. We have been changed from donkeys to sheep, as it were.
The fullness of time is the point of arrival, illustrated by number 42.
So the number 42 (mem-beth) is a flow of history in regard to the household of faith (Gal. 6:10), starting with Abram (later, Abraham), the father of faith (Rom. 4:11). The “sons of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7) are those who share his faith, and these are also called “sons of God” (Gal. 3:26). It is clear, then, that the faithful ones are part of God’s house (household) as the letter beth indicates.
The 42nd time that Abraham’s name appears is found in Gen. 21:11, immediately following Sarah’s demand that Hagar and Ishmael be cast out. Along with verse 10, it reads,
10 Therefore she said to Abraham , “Drive out this maid and her son, for the son of this maid shall not be an heir with my son Isaac. 11 And the matter distressed Abraham  greatly because of his son.
This passage is about sonship. Both Ishmael and Isaac were physical sons of Abraham, but only one could be the heir. The time had arrived when Hagar and Ishmael had to be cast out in order to fulfill the types and shadows that they represented. Hagar represented the Old Covenant, and Ishmael represented the children of flesh, or natural childbirth, who are bound by Old Covenant religion (Gal. 4:22-31).
This teaches us that the sons of Abraham (that is, his heirs) must be born through the New Covenant (“Sarah”). In other words, they must be begotten through their ears by the “seed” of God which is “the living and enduring word of God” (1 Peter 1:23).
It is most significant that 42 speaks indirectly of Sonship (beth = household), because this is the central theme behind the competing claims of Ishmael and Isaac. Ishmael had to be cast out in order to establish Isaac’s claim as the “son.”
The 42nd time that Joseph is mentioned is in Gen. 41:15, coming immediately after the 41st mention of Joseph, where he was separated from the other prisoners and brought into Pharaoh’s presence.
14 Then Pharaoh sent and called for Joseph , and they hurriedly brought him out of the dungeon; and when he had shaved himself and changed his clothes, he came to Pharaoh. 15 Pharaoh said to Joseph , “I have had a dream, but no one can interpret it; and I have heard it said about you that when you hear a dream, you can interpret it.
In this example we see that Joseph’s time had finally arrived after spending 12 years in bondage, most of the time in the dungeon in Egypt. Prophetically speaking, Egypt represents the world. Joseph represents the son, or heir, for he was the holder of the birthright (1 Chron. 5:2). In the verse above, Joseph was presented to Pharaoh, even as Jesus was later presented to the Father after His resurrection from the tomb.
Pharaoh, who quickly put Joseph into the position of authority over Egypt, represents Father-God, whose command is to “Bow the knee!” (Gen. 41:43). So also with Jesus Christ, we read that “every knee will bow” (Phil. 2:10).
In the book of Revelation, we read of the “tribulation” time period of 42 months (Rev. 13:5) before the arrival of the deliverance. This is a prophetic application of the same principle in later history. It is as if one must go through 41 “encampments” in the wilderness before arriving at the Jordan and crossing into the Promised Land. These camps are listed in Num. 33:5-49.
In fact, the 42nd time that Joshua’s name appears speaks of the middle of the Jordan River—which was Israel’s point of arrival to the Promised Land. Joshua 4:5 reads,
5 And Joshua  said to them, “Cross again to the ark of the Lord your God into the middle of the Jordan, and each of you take up a stone on his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Israel.”
Joshua, of course, was a type of Christ who was given the same name (Yeshua).
In the New Testament, we find an interesting “arrival time” in regard to the Holy Spirit being poured out upon the “gentiles.” The 42nd time that Peter’s name is mentioned in the book of Acts is in Acts 10:45,
45 And all the circumcised believers who had come with Peter  were amazed because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out upon the Gentiles also.
One can look at this in two ways. First, the time of the non-Jews had arrived to receive the Holy Spirit. Second, the time had “arrived” when the Jewish Christians finally began to understand that they did not have an exclusive right to the Holy Spirit. In fact, they should have known this already, had this truth not been obscured by the traditions of men. The Feast of Weeks (later called Pentecost) was to be kept not only by the Israelites but by the foreigners as well (Deut. 16:10, 11).
The 42nd time that Paul’s name is mentioned in the book of Acts is in Acts 18:1 KJV,
1 After these things, Paul departed from Athens and came to Corinth.
Here we see a combination of separation (41) and arrival (42). He separated from Athens and arrived at Corinth.
The 42nd time that Jesus is mentioned in the book of Matthew is found in Matt. 9:35,
35 And Jesus  was going about all the cities and the villages, teaching in the synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.
This shows what it means when Jesus arrives. He comes to teach and proclaim the gospel of the kingdom. He comes to heal every disease. Yet because Christ must come twice, Matt. 9:35 also prophesies of His second coming, and this extends also to His body. Recall from the first chapter of Matthew, Jesus is the 41st generation listed, and Christ—that is, the body of Christ—is the 42nd generation.
Christ’s first coming initiated this type of ministry, yet in later years this waned dramatically, almost to the point of extinction. Hence, there is a need for the second coming of Christ, where His body is perfected and can fully perform its calling in Christ. This can be thought of as His “arrival,” and this is the time when the gospel of the Kingdom is more fully proclaimed with healing and restoration.
Blog Series - The Meanings of NumbersView All Parts