“Luring the forty years of the journey in the wide wilderness, were uncircumcised: till all they were consumed that had not heard the voice of the Lord, and to whom he had sworn before, that he would not shew them the land flowing with milk and honey.” (Joshua 5:6)
Literal Sense: After coming out of the land of Egypt, the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years due to their disobedience. Because they had not obeyed God, the LORD swore to deny them access into the promised land.
Allegorical Sense: The people of Israel were disobedient to God and were forced to wander in the wilderness for 40 years and were prevented from entering the promised land. However, Christ, the true Israel, after coming out of Egypt, that is the grave, obeyed God and wandered the earth for 40 days after his crucifixion before He entered the promised land, which is a symbol for heaven. (St. Hildegard of Bingen noted in her celebrated Scivias the connection between Israel’s 40 years in the desert and Christ’s 40 days after the resurrection in Scivias, Book Two, Vision One.)
Moral Sense: Now that we have been purchased out of slavery to sin, Satan and the world, we must be careful to not disobey the Lord during our time on earth, lest we too are prevented from entering the promised land, heaven, due to our disobedience.
Anagogical Sense: God purchased the Church out of bondage, symbolized by Egypt, but before He brings the Church militant into the promised land, heaven, He allows it to spend time in the wilderness, as a sojourner on the earth, neither belonging to Egypt, nor yet fully in possession of the promised land.