The Masonic Trowel

... to spread the cement of brotherly love and affection, that cement which unites us into one sacred band or society of brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist, but that noble emulation of who can best work or best agree ...

[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership Development] [Education] [Masonic Talks] [Masonic Magazines Online]
Articles] [Masonic Books Online] [E-Books] [Library Of All Articles] [Masonic Blogs] [Links]
What is New] [Feedback]

 Masonic quotes by Brothers

Search Website For

Add To Favorites

Help Me Maintain OUR Website!!!!!!

List of Contributors

PDF This File

Print This Page

Email This Site To ...

masonic matters

Forty and Two Thousand

by Ed Halpaus
Grand Lodge Education Officer
Grand Lodge of A. F. & A. M. of Minnesota

"The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it." - Arthur Schopenhauer  

"At twenty years of age the will reigns; at thirty, the wit; and at forty, the judgment." - Brother Benjamin Franklin I

"To be seventy years young is sometimes far more cheerful and hopeful than to be forty years old." - Oliver Wendell Holmes  

Forty and Two Thousand  

Every Freemason knows the story related in Judges 12: 1 - 4, the story tells how Jephthah, led the men of Gilead against the Ephraimites, (who rebelled, because Jephthah had not invited them to fight, and share in the spoils of the war against the Ammonites;) it tells how the victorious men of Gilead first seized the fords, (in the Bible explained as the shallows,) of the River Jordan and intercepted the fleeing Ephraimites attempting to cross back into their own land, who, denying their identity, were required to pronounce a word which they invariably mispronounced. --This all took place about 1100 B.C.E.  

Ephraimites who wanted to escape would simply claim not to be Ephraimites; the Gileadites discovered these imposters by having them pronounce the word written in the Hebrew text as sibbolet, (Judges 12:6)  

The two dialects had different pronunciations for the same word, which is not unusual even today for peoples who speak the same language but are from different locations to pronounce words differently enough to be un able to say it the was asked for; this difference was significant for a pass word used in WW II by the Dutch Resistance.[i] The Bible tells us that the Ephraimites were not able to pronounce a consonant that existed in the Gileadite dialect. It was because of this that the Gileadites we able to detect Ephriamites.  

It is said that at the time of the Ephraimites there fell 40 and 2000. Some people have questioned that it really meant not 42,000 but 40 plus 2000 or 2040, however, while the KJV of the Bible says 40 and 2 thousand, the New International Version, New Living Translation, and the New American Standard Bible all use the total of 42,000. Knowing this is important to keep us from going down the wrong road in understanding, so that we don't get hung up on debating an exact number.  

While biblical scholars tell us what the term forty and two thousand means some will also say that there is more to it than the exact number of 42,000; others will say that the exact number isn't that critical, because knowing the exact number of fighters killed in a battle, which is not as exact as we would like it, even in modern times, was even more difficult in ancient times. The number forty is in itself symbolic.[ii] The number 40 is made up of two important numbers; four and ten, because of this the number 40 was considered sacred. Ancient philosophers considered the numbers 4 and 10 significant. "The number one represented one God the Creator; two was the passive principle, matter on which God, the active principle, acted; three represented the effect of the union of one and two; and four represented the arts and sciences. The addition of the first four numbers gives ten, which was the perfection of all things."[iii]  

It is accepted metaphysical bible scholars that the number forty means sufficient / completeness:[iv] Thus when in the story of Jephthah and the Ephraimites the use of the number forty and two thousand simply means that there was a sufficient number of Ephraimites killed for complete victory.  

One Minister I know when I asked him about the story in Judges 12: 1- 4, who is also very good with numbers reminded me that 42,000 is a multiple of 12, and twelve has a metaphysical meaning of 'fulfillment;' Spiritual fulfillment to be exact meaning that all material things represent spiritual realities. So the 42,000 of the story would mean completeness and fulfillment.  

"We have forty million reasons for failure, but not a single excuse." - Brother Rudyard Kipling  

From volumes of Sacred Law:  

"Then Moses spoke in the hearing of all the assembly of Israel the words of this song, until they were complete." Deuteronomy 31:30 Old Testament NASB - the song or poem can be found in Deuteronomy 32:1-43  

"Let that patience work in you to give the result God wants. Then you will be mature and complete. You will be all that God wants you to be." James 1:4 New Testament - Easy to read version  

"The month of Ramadan in which was revealed the Qur'an, a guidance for mankind, and clear proofs of the guidance, and the Criterion (of right and wrong). And whosoever of you is present, let him fast the month, and whosoever of you is sick or on a journey, (let him fast the same) number of other days. Allah desireth for you ease; He desireth not hardship for you; and (He desireth) that ye should complete the period, and that ye should magnify Allah for having guided you, and that peradventure ye may be thankful." Qur'an Surah 2 al-Baqarah: The Cow (Surah 002:185) Pickthall translation  

"I have recognized the deepest truth, which is sublime and peace- giving' but difficult to understand; for most men move in a sphere of worldly interests and find their delight in worldly desires. The worldling will not understand the doctrine, for to him there is happiness in selfhood only, and the bliss that lies in a complete surrender to truth is unintelligible to him. He will call resignation what to the enlightened mind is the purest joy. He will see annihilation where the perfected one finds immortality. He will regard as death what the conqueror of self knows to be life everlasting. The truth remains hidden from him who is in the bondage of hate and desire. Nirvana remains incomprehensible and mysterious to the vulgar whose minds are beclouded with worldly interests. Should I preach the doctrine and mankind not comprehend it, it would bring me only fatigue and trouble." Buddha, The Gospel, translated by Paul Caras 1894 -The Brahma's Request  

Words to live by: Our five senses are incomplete without the sixth -- a sense of humor.  

"No one as ever completed their apprenticeship." Brother Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe  


[i] In a book by Jonathan Kirsh he recounts the story from World War II in which Dutch Resistance Fighters were able to cull out Nazi infiltrators who couldn't pronounce a particular Dutch Name. The Dutch may have used two names to detect Nazi infiltrators one name is spelled "Scheveningen," the other is spelled " 'S-Gravenhage," which is the Dutch name and pronunciation of a town in the Netherlands we here in the U.S. call "The Hague."

[ii] There are numerous uses of the number 40 in the Great Light of Masonry; a good concordance of the Holy Bible will show them all.  

[iii] Masonic Concordance of the Holy Bible  

[iv] Metaphysical Bible Dictionary

back to top

[What is Freemasonry] [Leadership Development] [Education] [Masonic Talks] [Masonic Magazines Online]
Articles] [Masonic Books Online] [E-Books] [Library Of All Articles] [Masonic Blogs] [Links]
What is New] [Feedback]

This site is not an official site of any recognized Masonic body in the United States or elsewhere.
It is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion
of Freemasonry, nor webmaster nor those of any other regular Masonic body other than those stated.

DEAD LINKS & Reproduction | Legal Disclaimer | Regarding Copyrights

Last modified: March 22, 2014