Many people have asked us about fasting in the bible, so we decided to dedicate an article to helping you understand and interpret these verses. Modern man has an abundance of food thanks to various technological advances. But, with such food abundance, unhealthy eating habits are pushing the population towards obesity at an alarming rate. Obesity is a precursor to many life-threatening diseases like Type-II diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
Scientists and medical professionals are trying to combat these problems by suggesting various fasting methods to help people deal with eating disorders. This practice of using fasting as a medical procedure is nothing new, and there is ample evidence to suggest that even during ancient times, some form of fasting was used to cure certain diseases or suppress specific symptoms.
But does religious fasting correspond to medical science and our body’s overall health? What about our spirituality and religion? What is the significance of fasting, according to the Bible? Let’s closely examine the Bible verses about fasting. Let’s discuss the significant instances of Fasting in the Bible, and what they mean.
Why Do We Fast?
In religion and spirituality, fasting is the voluntary act of abstaining from food and water to get closer to God. The Bible verses about fasting point out several reasons, from pleading for repentance to seeking knowledge and guidance from the Almighty.
Fasting in the Bible – Types of fasting
There are two types of fasting practices in Christianity, as seen in the Bible verses about fasting.
- Partial Fast: In this particular type of fast, one must avoid certain foods, like meat or wine. It is evident in this verse from the Bible – I ate no delicacies, no meat or wine entered my mouth, nor did I anoint myself at all, for the full three weeks. – Daniel 10:3
- Complete Fast: This is the more conventional kind of fast, where people can fast by not eating solid food and only drinking water during the fast. Sometimes, people are allowed to drink juice to support the fast.
Fasting in the Bible – Verses
Let’s take a look at the different verses referring to fasting in the bible, and examine their significance.
Fasting To Seek God’s Guidance
Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.
In the above verse from the Bible, we see how Moses had to fast for forty days on end, and God helped him to get through this duration, which in normal circumstances is pretty impossible to achieve. During this time, Moses gained knowledge about the ten commandments. So, in other words, fasting for such a long time gave Moses God’s guidance and divine wisdom.
Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river Ahava, that we might humble ourselves before our God, to seek from him a safe journey for ourselves, our children, and all our goods.
Here we find Ezra seeking God’s guidance and safety so that he, his men, children, and their belongings can safely cross the Ahava river. The above fasting Bible verse clearly states that we can ask for God’s guidance and protection by fasting during troubled times.
Fasting For Repentance
Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “Return to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, and mourning.
What a wonderful yet powerful verse from the Bible, where God himself declares that people who have sinned should not feel demoralized as he is “slow to anger and abounding in love.” He further suggests a combination of fasting, weeping, and mourning to obtain his forgiveness.
Then I turned my face to the Lord God, seeking him by prayer and pleas for mercy with fasting, sackcloth, and ashes. I prayed to the Lord, my God, and made confession, saying, “O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly, and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules.”
Here we see Prophet Daniel confessing his sins to the Almighty and asking for his forgiveness by fasting and pleading for mercy.
Fasting For Spiritual Freedom
Is not this the fast that I choose: to lose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house? Is it not to cover the naked when you see the naked, to cover him and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
The above verse from the Bible beautifully lays out the real purpose of fasting. It is not just a practice to give up food and water for some time but to rid our soul of its inherent wickedness. It advocates that you should fast and donate food and clothes to the homeless and hungry.
Fasting For God’s Praise, Not For Human Praise
When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly, I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
The verse above, from Matthew’s book, explains general fasting guidelines. The Bible claims that many individuals observe religious fasting as a task, making it highly evident to others to get their praise. But in essence, one should endeavor to keep their fast secret from others and solely fast for the Almighty.
Fasting To Build Inner Strength
After fasting forty days and forty nights, he [Jesus] was hungry.
In this wonderful verse, we see how Jesus also fasted for 40 days and nights, which made him extremely hungry and weak. When Satan comes to him and tries to tempt him, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Here, Jesus realizes that Satan tempted him to go against God’s will. Hence, he refuses Satan’s suggestion and tells him that God does whatever is best for his children. From this verse, we can learn how fasting strengthens our connection with God and how it builds the strength of our minds and souls.
Fasting In Other Religions Of The World
Let’s now look at how fasting is represented in the other prominent religions worldwide.
Islam – Islam, the second largest religion in the world after Christianity, has fasting traditions baked into its different customs. As we all know, it is one of the three Abrahamic religions of the world; hence, it shares a lot of religious traditions and customs with Christianity. Fasting in Islam is considered one of the five essential pillars of the religion. It is almost seen as a form of prayer, as every year during the month of Ramadan, Muslims across the world fast from sunrise to sunset. Unlike Christians, Muslims are not allowed to drink water during their fast, making it essentially a dry fast.
“O you who believe, fasting is prescribed for you as it was prescribed for those before you, that you may develop God-consciousness” – Quran 2:183
Hinduism – In Hinduism, fasting also has immense significance, as Hindus fast to purify their mind and soul, get closer to God, and celebrate certain rituals and traditions.
In the Hindu epic of the Mahabharata, Bheeshma advises Yudhishthira,
“There is no penance superior to abstention from food; do thou practice this vow of superior merit that is not known to all.” Many Hindu manuscripts call fasting a form of “Tapasya.”
Judaism – Just like Islam and Christianity, Judaism is one of the three major Abrahamic religions. Hence, there is an inherent fasting tradition in Judaism. In principle, most Jews are required to observe six fast days every year during Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, four more fast days that memorialize different days when the Jewish temple was destroyed, and a final fast day that marks the Jews’ victory.
Fasting has great significance in the world’s major religions. Fasting in the bible has often be used as a pillar to health and wellness ever since its days of origin. The preceding verses explain the importance of fasting and how we should approach fasting to develop our spirituality, stay away from sin and worldly temptations, and live a healthy life of peace and tranquility.
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