The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Forty
FORTY, a number that has sometimes been regarded as peculiarly significant. The idea may have originated with readers of the Bibles, who notice that Moses was 40 days on the mount; Elijah was 40 days fed by ravens; the rain of the flood fell 40 days, another 40 days expired before Noah opened the window of the ark; 40 days was the period of embalming; Jonah gave Nineveh 40 days to repent; our Lord fasted 40 days. He was seen 40 days after his resurrection, etc.
The weather on Saint Swithin's Day portends, as it is foul or fair, 40 days' rain or dry weather; a quarantine extends to 40 days; 40 days, in the old English law, was the limit for the payment of the fine for manslaughter; the privilege of the sanctuary was for 40 days; the widow was allowed to remain in her husband's house for 40 days after his decease; a knight enjoyed 40 days' service of his tenant; a stranger at the expiration of 40 days was compelled to be enrolled in some tithing; members of Parliament were protected from arrest 40 days after the prorogation of the House, and 40 days before the House was convened.