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Reference: Fast


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

The only other mention of a periodical fast in the Old Testament is in Zec 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. Nu 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. 2Ki 25), the anniversary of the murder of Gedaliah (Jer 41:1-2).

(4.) The fast of the tenth month (comp. Jer 52:4; Eze 33:21; 2Ki 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 (Es 4:16).

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

There were also local fasts. (1.) Jg 20:26; (2.) 2Sa 1:12; (3.) 1Sa 31:13; (4.) 1Ki 21:9-12; (5.) Ezr 8:21-23: (6.) Jon 3:5-9.

There are many instances of private occasional fasting (1Sa 1:1; 20:34; 2Sa 3:35; 12:16; 1Ki 21:27; Ezr 10:6; Ne 1:4; Da 10:2-3). Moses fasted forty days (Ex 24:18; 34:28), and so also did Elijah (1Ki 19:8). Our Lord fasted forty days in the wilderness (Mt 4:2).

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

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