|Noah Webster's Dictionary|
(p. pr. & vb. n.) of Fast.
Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia
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 Samuel 1:7). Violent anger produces the same effect (1 Samuel 20:34). According to 1 Kings 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 Samuel 3:35) by fasting, just as the Psalmist indicated his sympathy with his adversaries' sorry plight in the same way (Psalm 35:13). In such passages as Ezra 10:6 Esther 4:3, it is not clear whether fasting is used in its religious significance or simply as a natural expression of sorrow (compare also Luke 5:33 and see below). This view explains the association of fasting with the mourning customs of antiquity (compare 1 Samuel 31:13 2 Samuel 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 Samuel 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 Kings 21:27 Ezra 8:21 Esther 4:16). Occasionally fasting was proclaimed on a national scale, e.g. in case of war (Judges 20:26 2 Chronicles 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 (Judges 20:26 1 Samuel 14:24 2 Samuel 1:12; 2 Samuel 3:35). In 1 Samuel 31:13 allusion is made to a seven days' fast, while Daniel abstained from "pleasant bread," flesh, wine and anointing for three weeks (Daniel 10:3). Moses (Exodus 34:28) and Elijah (1 Kings 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 (Daniel 10:2). The close connection between fasting and insight-intellectual and spiritual-between simple living and high thinking is universally recognized.
See further under ABSTINENCE; FEASTS AND FASTS.
Nowack, Hebadische Archaologie; Benzinger, Hebadische Archaologie; Robertson Smith, Religion of the Semites.
Fasting (34 Occurrences)
Matthew 6:16 "Moreover when you fast, don't be like the hypocrites, with sad faces. For they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen by men to be fasting. Most certainly I tell you, they have received their reward. (WEB WEY DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 6:17 But thou, when fasting, anoint thy head and wash thy face, (DBY YLT)
Matthew 6:18 so that you are not seen by men to be fasting, but by your Father who is in secret, and your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you. (WEB WEY DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Matthew 15:32 Jesus summoned his disciples and said, "I have compassion on the multitude, because they continue with me now three days and have nothing to eat. I don't want to send them away fasting, or they might faint on the way." (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT)
Matthew 17:21 But this kind doesn't go out except by prayer and fasting." (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS)
Mark 2:18 John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, and they came and asked him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples don't fast?" (WEB ASV DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Mark 2:19 "Can a wedding party fast while the bridegroom is among them?" replied Jesus. "So long as they have the bridegroom with them, fasting is impossible. (WEY)
Mark 8:3 If I send them away fasting to their home, they will faint on the way, for some of them have come a long way." (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT)
Mark 9:29 He said to them, "This kind can come out by nothing, except by prayer and fasting." (WEB KJV DBY WBS YLT)
Luke 2:37 and she had been a widow for about eighty-four years), who didn't depart from the temple, worshipping with fastings and petitions night and day. (Root in WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 10:30 Cornelius said, "Four days ago, I was fasting until this hour, and at the ninth hour, I prayed in my house, and behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, (WEB KJV DBY WBS YLT)
Acts 13:2 While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me, now at once, Barnabas and Saul, for the work to which I have called them." (WEY DBY YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 13:3 So, after fasting and prayer and the laying on of hands, they let them go. (WEY RSV)
Acts 14:23 When they had appointed elders for them in every assembly, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed. (WEB KJV WEY ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Acts 27:21 And there having been long fasting, then Paul having stood in the midst of them, said, 'It behoved 'you', indeed, O men -- having hearkened to me -- not to set sail from Crete, and to save this hurt and damage; (YLT)
Acts 27:33 While the day was coming on, Paul begged them all to take some food, saying, "This day is the fourteenth day that you wait and continue fasting, having taken nothing. (WEB KJV ASV WBS YLT)
1 Corinthians 7:5 Don't deprive one another, unless it is by consent for a season, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer, and may be together again, that Satan doesn't tempt you because of your lack of self-control. (WEB KJV WBS YLT)
1 Kings 21:9 And she wrote in the letters, saying: 'Proclaim a fast, and set Naboth at the head of the people; (See NIV)
Ezra 9:5 And at the evening oblation I arose up from my humiliation, even with my garment and my robe rent; and I fell upon my knees, and spread out my hands unto Jehovah my God; (See JPS RSV)
Nehemiah 1:4 And it cometh to pass, at my hearing these words, I have sat down, and I weep and mourn 'for' days, and I am fasting and praying before the God of the heavens. (YLT NAS RSV)
Nehemiah 9:1 Now in the twenty-fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackcloth, and earth on them. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Esther 4:3 In every province, wherever the king's commandment and his decree came, there was great mourning among the Jews, and fasting, and weeping, and wailing; and many lay in sackcloth and ashes. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Esther 9:31 to confirm these days of Purim in their appointed times, as Mordecai the Jew and Esther the queen had decreed, and as they had imposed upon themselves and their descendants, in the matter of the fastings and their cry. (Root in WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS NIV)
Psalms 35:13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth. I afflicted my soul with fasting. My prayer returned into my own bosom. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Psalms 69:10 When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach. (KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
Psalms 109:24 My knees are weak through fasting. My body is thin and lacks fat. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Isaiah 58:3 Wherefore have we fasted, and Thou seest not? Wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and Thou takest no knowledge?'-- Behold, in the day of your fast ye pursue your business, and exact all your labours. (See NIV)
Isaiah 58:4 Behold, ye fast for strife and contention, and to smite with the fist of wickedness; ye fast not this day so as to make your voice to be heard on high. (See RSV NIV)
Isaiah 58:6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the fetters of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? (See NIV)
Jeremiah 36:6 Therefore go thou, and read in the roll, which thou hast written from my mouth, the words of the LORD in the ears of the people in the LORD's house upon the fasting day: and also thou shalt read them in the ears of all Judah that come out of their cities. (KJV WBS NIV)
Jeremiah 36:9 And it cometh to pass, in the fifth year of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, proclaimed a fast before Jehovah have all the people in Jerusalem, and all the people who are coming in from cities of Judah to Jerusalem; (See NIV)
Daniel 6:18 Then the king went to his palace, and passed the night fasting; neither were instruments of music brought before him: and his sleep fled from him. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV)
Daniel 9:3 I set my face to the Lord God, to seek by prayer and petitions, with fasting and sackcloth and ashes. (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)
Joel 2:12 "Yet even now," says Yahweh, "turn to me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning." (WEB KJV JPS ASV DBY WBS YLT NAS RSV NIV)