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NAVE: Fasting
EBD: Fast
Farm | Farmer | Farming | Farthing | Fashion | Fasting | Fasts | Fasts And Feasts | Fat | Fat (Vat) | Father'S House, Fathers' House


NET Glossary: abstaining from food and/or drink

Fast [EBD]

The sole fast required by the law of Moses was that of the great Day of Atonement (q.v.), Lev. 23:26-32. It is called "the fast" (Acts 27:9).

The only other mention of a periodical fast in the Old Testament is in Zech. 7:1-7; 8:19, from which it appears that during their captivity the Jews observed four annual fasts.

(1.) The fast of the fourth month, kept on the seventeenth day of Tammuz, the anniversary of the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; to commemorate also the incident recorded Ex. 32:19. (Comp. Jer. 52:6, 7.)

(2.) The fast of the fifth month, kept on the ninth of Ab (comp. Num. 14:27), to commemorate the burning of the city and temple (Jer. 52:12, 13).

(3.) The fast of the seventh month, kept on the third of Tisri (comp. 2 Kings 25), the anniversary of the murder of Gedaliah (Jer. 41:1, 2).

(4.) The fast of the tenth month (comp. Jer. 52:4; Ezek. 33:21; 2 Kings 25:1), to commemorate the beginning of the siege of the holy city by Nebuchadnezzar.

There was in addition to these the fast appointed by Esther (4:16).

Public national fasts on account of sin or to supplicate divine favour were sometimes held. (1.) 1 Sam. 7:6; (2.) 2 Chr. 20:3; (3.) Jer. 36:6-10; (4.) Neh. 9:1.

There were also local fasts. (1.) Judg. 20:26; (2.) 2 Sam. 1:12; (3.) 1 Sam. 31:13; (4.) 1 Kings 21:9-12; (5.) Ezra 8:21-23: (6.) Jonah 3:5-9.

There are many instances of private occasional fasting (1 Sam. 1:7: 20:34; 2 Sam. 3:35; 12:16; 1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 10:6; Neh. 1:4; Dan. 10:2,3). Moses fasted forty days (Ex. 24:18; 34:28), and so also did Elijah (1 Kings 19:8). Our Lord fasted forty days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:2).

In the lapse of time the practice of fasting was lamentably abused (Isa. 58:4; Jer. 14:12; Zech. 7:5). Our Lord rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical pretences in fasting (Matt. 6:16). He himself appointed no fast. The early Christians, however, observed the ordinary fasts according to the law of their fathers (Acts 13:3; 14:23; 2 Cor. 6:5).

Fasting [NAVE]

Observed on occasions of public calamities, 2 Sam. 1:12; afflictions, Psa. 35:13; Dan. 6:18; private afflictions, 2 Sam. 12:16; approaching danger, Esth. 4:16; ordination of ministers, Acts 13:3; 14:23.
Accompanied by prayer, Dan. 9:3; confession of sin, 1 Sam. 7:6; Neh. 9:1, 2; humiliation, Deut. 9:18; Neh. 9:1; reading of the Scriptures, Jer. 36:6.
Habitual: by John's disciples, Matt. 9:14; by Aa, Luke 2:37; by Pharisees, Matt. 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 18:12; by Cornelius, Acts 10:30; by Paul, 2 Cor. 6:5; 11:27.
In times of bereavement: of the people of Jabesh-gilead, for Saul and his sons, 1 Sam. 31:13; 1 Chr. 10:12; of David, at the time of Saul's death, 2 Sam. 1:12; of his child's sickness, 2 Sam. 12:16, 21-23; of Abner's death, 2 Sam. 3:35.
Prolonged: for three weeks, by Daniel, Dan. 10:2, 3; forty days, by Moses, Ex. 24:18; 34:28; Deut. 9:9, 18; Elijah, 1 Kin. 19:8; Jesus, Matt. 4:2; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1, 2.
See: Humiliation; Humility.
Unclassified Scriptures Relating to
Ezra 8:21-23; Psa. 35:13; Psa. 69:10; Isa. 58:3-7; Jer. 14:12; Dan. 10:2, 3; Joel 1:14; Joel 2:12, 13; Zech. 7:5; Zech. 8:19; Matt. 6:16-18; Matt. 9:14, 15; Matt. 17:21; Acts 27:9, 33, 34; 1 Cor. 7:5 Instances of: Of the Israelites, in the conflict between the other tribes with the tribe of Benjamin, on account of the wrong suffered by a Levite's concubine, Judg. 20:26; when they went to Mizpeh for the ark, 1 Sam. 7:6.
Of David, at the death of Saul, 2 Sam. 1:12; during the sickness of the child born to him by Bath-sheba, 2 Sam. 12:16-22; while interceding in prayer for his friends, Psa. 35:13; in his zeal for Zion, Psa. 69:10; in prayer for himself and his adversaries, Psa. 109:4, 24.
Of Ahab, when Elijah prophesied the destruction of himself and his house, 1 Kin. 21:27; with verses 20-29. Of Jehoshaphat, at the time of the invasion of the confederated armies of the Canaanites and Syrians, 2 Chr. 20:3.
Of Ezra, on account of the idolatrous marriages of the Jews, Ezra 10:6.
Of Nehemiah, on account of the desolation of Jerusalem and the temple, Neh. 1:4.
Of the Jews, when Jeremiah prophesied against Judea and Jerusalem, Jer. 36:9; in Babylon, with prayer for divine deliverance and guidance, Ezra 8:21, 23.
Of Darius, when he put Daniel in the lions' den, Dan. 6:18.
Of Daniel, on account of the captivity of the people, with prayer for their deliverance, Dan. 9:3; at the time of his vision, Dan. 10:1-3.
Ninevites, when Jonah preached to them, Jonah 3:5-10.
By Paul, at the time of his conversion, Acts 9:9.
Of the disciples, at the time of the consecration of Barnabas and Saul, Acts 13:2, 3.
Of the consecration of the elders, Acts 14:23.


FAST; FASTING - fast, fast'-ing (tsum; `innah nephesh, "afflict soul or self," i.e. practice self-denial; nesteia, nesteuein): It is necessary to get rid of some modern notions associated with fasting before we can form a correct idea of its origin and significance in the ancient world. For instance, in the case of many ailments the dieting of the patient is an essential part of the remedy. But we may readily assume that originally fasting was not based on the salutary influence which it exercised on the health of the subject. Considerations of therapeutics played no part in the institution. The theory that fasting, like many other ancient customs, had a religious origin, is in favor with scholars, but we must not assume a religious origin for all practices which in process of time came to be associated with religion.

Many customs, purely secular in their origin, have gradually obtained a religious significance, just as purely religious customs have been dissociated from religion. It is also possible and, in the light of some usages, probable, that different motives operated in the association of fasting, as of some other customs, with religion. Scholars have been too ready to assume that the original significance of fasting was the same in all countries and among all nations. Robertson Smith in his Religion of the Semites advanced and defended theory that fasting was merely a mode of preparation for the tribal meal in which sacrifice originated, and came to be considered at a later stage as part of the sacrificial act. This hypothesis apparently accounts for the otherwise strange fact that both fasting and feasting are religious acts, but it does not give a satisfactory explanation of the constant association of fasting with the "wearing of sackcloth," the "putting of ashes on the head," and other similar customs. It is obvious that very different motives operated in the institution of fasting and of feasting religious observances.

It is a matter of common observation and experience that great distress causes loss of appetite and therefore occasions abstinence from food. Hannah, who was greatly distressed on account of her childlessness, "wept, and did not eat" (1 Sam 1:7). Violent anger produces the same effect (1 Sam 20:34). According to 1 Ki 21:4, Ahab, "heavy and displeased" on account of Naboth's refusal to part with his estate, sulked and "would eat no bread." Fasting, originally the natural expression of grief, became the customary mode of proving to others the inner emotion of sorrow. David demonstrated his grief at Abner's death (2 Sam 3:35) by fasting, just as the Psalmist indicated his sympathy with his adversaries' sorry plight in the same way (Ps 35:13). In such passages as Ezr 10:6; Est 4:3, it is not clear whether fasting is used in its religious significance or simply as a natural expression of sorrow (compare also Lk 5:33 and see below). This view explains the association of fasting with the mourning customs of antiquity (compare 1 Sam 31:13; 2 Sam 1:12). As fasting was a perfectly natural and human expression and evidence of the subject's grief, it readily claimed a place among those religious customs whose main object was the pacification of the anger of God, or the excital of His compassion. Any and every act that would manifest the distressful state of the suppliant would appeal to the Deity and move Him to pity. The interesting incident recorded in 2 Sam 12:16-23 suggests the twofold significance of fasting as a religious act or a mode of appealing to the Deity and as a funeral custom. David defends his fasting before and not after the child's death on the ground that while the child was alive David's prayer might be answered. His fasting was intended to make his petition effectual (compare also 1 Ki 21:27; Ezr 8:21; Est 4:16). Occasionally fasting was proclaimed on a national scale, e.g. in case of war (Jdg 20:26; 2 Ch 20:3) or of pestilence (Joel 1:13 f). Fasting having thus become a recognized mode of seeking Divine favor and protection, it was natural that it should be associated with confession of sin, as indisputable evidence of penitence or sorrow for sin.

Fasting might be partial, i.e. abstinence from certain kinds of food, or total, i.e. abstinence from all food as well as from washing, anointing, sleeping. It might be of shorter or longer duration, e.g. for one day, from sunrise to sunset (Jdg 20:26; 1 Sam 14:24; 2 Sam 1:12; 3:35). In 1 Sam 31:13 allusion is made to a seven days' fast, while Daniel abstained from "pleasant bread," flesh, wine and anointing for three weeks (Dan 10:3). Moses (Ex 34:28) and Elijah (1 Ki 19:8) fasted for 40 days. It is probable that these last three references presuppose a totally different conception of the significance of fasting. It is obvious that dreams made a deep impression on primitive man. They were communications from the departed members of the family. At a later stage they were looked upon as revelations from God. During sleep there is total abstinence from food. It was easy to draw the inference that fasting might fit the person to receive these communications from the world of spirits (Dan 10:2). The close connection between fasting and insight--intellectual and spiritual--between simple living and high thinking is universally recognized.



Nowack, Hebadische Archaologie; Benzinger, Hebadische Archaologie; Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites.

T. Lewis

Also see definition of "Fasting" in Word Study

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