The Significance of Today:
After the 40 Day Quarantine
by Dr. Jim Garlow
Sunday, April 26, 2020
- CAUTION: This article is not intended for persons to drop their guard. I am still in my home. I wear a mask, gloves and protective eyewear as needed. I wash my hands often. I am cautious and careful. We all should be.
- THE BEGINNING OF THE END: However, America is beginning to re-awaken. Businesses are – with great discretion and strict protocols – re-opening. Parks and beaches are opening. In phases, America is “coming back to life.”
- SIGNFICANCE: While we have to continue to exercise wisdom and caution, this “season” of quarantine has a symbolic – as well as a literal – meaning.
- THE BEGINNING: When did America begin its quarantine? The first Sunday that churches were closed was Sunday, March 15. Although there is some variation from state to state, the first quarantined weekday that affected a large swath of businesses across America – as nearly as I can tell – is Monday, March 16.
- THE MEANING OF QUARANTINE: Today is the 41st day. Is that significant? Possibly. The word “quarantine” means a state, period or place of isolation designed to stop the exposure to a contagious disease. In Italian quaranta means 40. Quarantina means 40 days. By the mid seventeenth century the word “quarantine” was in common use, from the Italian quarantina. It originated from the Venetian dialect, with the words quaranta giorrni, that is 40 days. Closely related is the French word quarantaine which – not surprisingly – means “a period of 40 days,” coming from the Latin quadranginta, meaning 40.
- BIBLICAL SIGNIFICANCE: The number 40 appears in the Bible often. It has the meaning of “probation,” “judgement,” “trial,” “testing,” “trouble,” or “hardship.”
- It rained 40 days and 40 nights while Noah and family were in the ark (Genesis 7:12).
- Moses fled to the desert for 40 years (referred to in Acts 7:30).
- Moses was on Mt. Sinai for 40 days and 40 nights (Exodus 24:18).
- Moses interceded on behalf of Israel for 40 days and 40 nights (Deut. 9:18, 25).
- The maximum number of lashes a person could receive for a crime was 40 (Deut. 25:3).
- The twelve Israelite spies traveled through Canaan for 40 days (Num 13:25).
- The Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years (Deut. 8:2-5).
- The Israelites were under the Philistines for 40 years (Judges 13:1).
- Goliath taunted Saul and his army for 40 days prior to David’s arrival (1 Sam. 17:16).
- Elijah ran from Jezebel, traveling 40 days and 40 nights (1 Kings 19:8).
- The Ezekiel 4:6 prophecy speaks of 40 days.
- Ezekiel 29:11 speaks of desolation for 40 years.
- Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for 40 days and 40 nights (Matt. 4:2).
- 40 days passed between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension (Acts 1:3)
Conclusion: 40 has significance in the Bible literally, but also symbolically as a season of testing or probation.
- HISTORICAL ITERATIONS OF 40: In addition, the Jews were in Egypt for 400 years. The Turks ruled the Ottoman Empire for 400 years, from 1517 to 1917. The Pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock in America 400 years ago in December of 1620. On a side note, they too faced a contagious outbreak. During the winter of 1620-1621, the passengers remained on board the Mayflower. Tragically, a combination of tuberculosis, pneumonia and scurvy spread among the Pilgrims. Only 53 passengers survived the disease – slightly over half. In addition, half the crew died. In the spring, they went ashore, disembarking from Mayflower on March 21, 1621
- HISTORICAL – THE MIDDLE AGES: The practice of quarantine, while practiced in biblical times with lepers, was formalized during the 14th century, requiring ships arriving at Venice to sit at anchor for 40 days before landing.
- HISTORICAL – AMERICAN QUARANTINE: In early America, state and local governments occasionally imposed a quarantine. With the advent of yellow fever, Congress passed federal quarantine legislation in 1878. With cholera, the law was reinterpreted in 1892, giving the federal government more authority regarding quarantines, with even more legislation the following year. Increasingly, local authorities turned over quarantine power to the federal government. A quarantine system was nationalized in 1921. In 1944, the Public Health Service Act gave the federal government stronger authority.
- HINDSIGHT OVER THE LAST 40 DAYS: Everyone can be a “Monday morning quarterback.” That requires no talent. Therefore, this is not meant to criticize those in leadership, because I believe most – not all, but most – government officials gave superb leadership during this Coronavirus season, with pure motives. However, looking back – based on the hard numbers of high contagion and low percentage of deaths – it might have been better if only those with the classic “underlying conditions” would have been quarantined, possibly 10 or 15% of the population, not the entire citizenry. The nations of the world, including ours, will learn from this and have much to process. The threat is not over, but much as been learned in the last few months.
- TODAY’S SIGNIFICANCE: Starting with March 16 as the first day of the quarantine, the 40th day would have been yesterday, Saturday, April 25. In a sense, today, Sunday, April 26, marks our first day out of “the forty days,” out of “quarantine.” Also, not lost on me is the fact that seven, being significant in Scriptures, is the number of Sundays that America’s churches have been closed. I do not want to make the 40 day period more of a “hard and fast rule” than it is. The times, days, and dates mentioned above might appear a bit arbitrary, and I acknowledge that. But it appears that our nation’s “40 days” are up. I sometimes wonder if “40 days” is about the length of time that we, as humans, can tolerate being in solitude. Americans seem to have “hit the max.” They want out. Now. And it would appear that the citizenry has “served its time.” Certain localities, cities and states are, in fact, opening up. Yes, as noted above, we will need to be diligent in following a protocol to keep the disease from spreading in the proverbial “second wave” about which we have been warned. Yet, in a very real way, the 40 day season has ended. And today is our first day of freedom. Let’s use it wisely. We praise God for it.