FAST—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 Refraining from eating food. The Bible describes three main forms of fasting. The normal fast involves the total abstinence of food. Luke 4:2 reveals that Jesus “ate nothing”; afterwards “He was hungry.” Jesus abstained from food but not from water.
In Acts 9:9 we read of an absolute fast where for three days Paul “did not eat or drink” (HCSB). The abstinence from both food and water seems to have lasted no more than three days (Ezra 10:6; Esther 4:16).
The partial fast in Dan. 10:3 emphasizes the restriction of diet rather than complete abstinence. The context implies that there were physical benefits resulting from this partial fast. However, this verse indicates that there was a revelation given to Daniel as a result of this time of fasting.
Fasting is the laying aside of food for a period of time when the believer is seeking to know God in a deeper experience. It is to be done as an act before God in the privacy of one’s own pursuit of God (Exod. 34:28; 1 Sam. 7:6; 1 Kings 19:8; Matt. 6:17).
Fasting is to be done with the object of seeking to know God in a deeper experience (Isa. 58; Zech. 7:5). Fasting relates to a time of confession (Ps. 69:10). Fasting can be a time of seeking a deeper prayer experience and drawing near to God in prevailing prayer (Ezra 8:23; Joel 2:12). The early church often fasted in seeking God’s will for leadership in the local church (Acts 13:2). When the early church wanted to know the mind of God, there was a time of prayer and fasting.
fasting, practice of
Although fasting is a negative practice, it is not an end in itself but is to be undertaken for a positive purpose.
Fasting is not an end in itself
Fasting as empty ritual is condemned Jer 14:11-12 See also Isa 58:1-7; Zec 7:4-7
Fasting as mere show is condemned Mt 6:16-18 See also Mt 9:14-15 pp Mk 2:18-20 pp Lk 5:33-35 Jesus Christ repudiated fasting for its own sake whilst granting that there is a time and a place for it.
Fasting imposed for false motives 1Sa 14:24-30
Attitudes appropriate to fasting
Humility Ps 35:13 See also 1Ki 21:27-29; Ezr 8:21; Ps 69:10
Repentance 1Sa 7:6 See also Ne 9:1-3; Joel 1:13-14; 2:12-15
Fasting and prayer
Ne 1:4 See also Ezr 8:21-23; Ps 35:13; Da 9:3; Mt 17:20 fn pp Mk 9:29 fn; Lk 2:37; 5:33; Ac 13:3; 14:23; 1Co 7:3-5 The motivation here is similar to that in abstaining from food.
Fasting and worship
Ac 13:2 See also Lk 2:37