Fasting Quotes: Old Testament
The spirit of food prohibition and restrictions in the Old Testament flows from a stream that springs in the Garden of Eden, then flows though the fasting of Moses on Mt. Sinai, into the command for affliction on the Day of Atonement, and the dietary restrictions of the Torah.
Fasting was an implicit adjunct to the covenant between God and the Jewish people by which the prophets and kings of Israel embellished and perfected their obligation to obedience and holiness.
And you shall be holy unto me: for I the LORD am holy, and have separated you from other people, that you should be mine. [Leviticus 20:26].
Adam and Eve in the Garden
And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” [Genesis 2:16-17 (ESV)].
Moses on Mount Sinai
So he was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights; he did not eat bread, and he did not drink water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the ten commandments. [Exodus 34:28].
When I went up the mountain to receive the stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord made with you, I remained there forty days and nights, eating and drinking nothing. [Deuteronomy 9:9].
Then I again fell down before the Lord for forty days and nights; I ate and drank nothing because of all the sin you had committed, doing such evil before the Lord as to enrage him. [Deuteronomy 9:18].
The Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur)
This is to be a lasting ordinance for you: On the tenth day of the seventh month you must deny yourselves and not do any work—whether native-born or a foreigner residing among you—because on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins. [Leviticus 16:29-30].
Dietary Restrictions (Kashrut)
Ye are the children of the LORD your God: ye shall not cut yourselves, nor make any baldness between your eyes for the dead. For thou art a holy people unto the LORD thy God, and the LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth. Thou shalt not eat any abominable thing. [Deuteronomy 14:1-3].
These are the regulations concerning animals, birds, every living thing that moves about in the water and every creature that moves along the ground. You must distinguish between the unclean and the clean, between living creatures that may be eaten and those that may not be eaten. [Leviticus 11:46-47].
The Nazarite Vow
And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried. All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk. [Numbers 6:1-4].
You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son [Samson]. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb…Then the woman went to her husband and told him, “A man of God came to me. He looked like an angel of God, very awesome. I didn’t ask him where he came from, and he didn’t tell me his name. But he said to me, ‘You will become pregnant and have a son. Now then, drink no wine or other fermented drink and do not eat anything unclean, because the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb until the day of his death.’” [Judges 13:3-7 ].
In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son [Samuel], then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.” [1 Samuel 1:11].
And I raised up some of your sons for prophets, and some of your young men for Nazirites. Is it not indeed so, O people of Israel?” declares the Lord. “But you made the Nazirites drink wine, and commanded the prophets, saying, ‘You shall not prophesy.’” [Amos 2:11–12].
Fasting at Times of Grief, Mourning and Fear
So he got up and ate and drank. That meal gave him the strength to travel forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. [1 Kings 19:8].
There, by the Ahava Canal, I proclaimed a fast, so that we might humble ourselves before our God and ask him for a safe journey for us and our children, with all our possessions. I was ashamed to ask the king for soldiers and horsemen to protect us from enemies on the road, because we had told the king, “The gracious hand of our God is on everyone who looks to him, but his great anger is against all who forsake him.” So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer. [Ezra 8:21-23 (NIV)].
Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth and humbled myself with fasting. When my prayers returned to me unanswered . . . [Psalm 35:13 (NIV)].
So all the Israelites, the whole army, went up to Bethel. They wept and sat there before the Lord; they did not eat anything that day until evening. They offered up burnt sacrifices and tokens of peace to the Lord. [Judges 20:26].
They lamented and wept and fasted until evening because Saul, his son Jonathan, the Lord’s people, and the house of Israel had fallen by the sword. [2 Samuel 1:12].
Declare a holy fast; call a sacred assembly. Summon the elders and all who live in the land to the house of the LORD your God, and cry out to the LORD. [Joel 1:14 (NIV)].
Then Samuel said, “Gather all Israel to Mizpah, and I will pray to the Lord on your behalf.” After they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the Lord. They fasted on that day, and they confessed there, “We have sinned against the Lord.” [1 Samuel 7:5-6].
On the twenty-fourth day of the same month, the Israelites gathered together, fasting and wearing sackcloth and putting dust on their heads. Those of Israelite descent had separated themselves from all foreigners. They stood in their places and confessed their sins and the sins of their ancestors. They stood where they were and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day, and spent another quarter in confession and in worshiping the Lord their God.[Nehemiah 9:1-3].
They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem is broken down, and its gates have been burned with fire..” When I heard these things, I sat down and wept. For some days I mourned and fasted and prayed before the God of heaven. [Nehemiah 1:3-4].
Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s journey. And he called out, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.. [Jonah 3:4-5].
The Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife had borne to David, and the child became very ill. Then David prayed to God for the child and fasted. He would even go and spend the night lying on the ground. The elders of his house stood over him and tried to lift him from the ground, but he was unwilling, and refused to eat food with them. [2 Samuel 12:16-17].
When Ahab heard these words, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth, and fasted. He slept in sackcloth and walked around dejected. Then the word of the Lord came to Elijah the Tishbite: “Have you noticed how Ahab has humbled himself before me? Because he has humbled himself, I will not bring this disaster in his day, but I will bring it on his house in the days of his son.”[1 Kings 21:27-9].
So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes. [Daniel 9:3 (NIV)].
Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maidens will fast likewise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law: and if I perish, I perish. [Esther 4:16].
So is it with a man that fasteth for his sins, and goeth again, and doeth the same: who will hear his prayer? or what doth his humbling profit him? [Ben Sira 34:26 (KJV w/Apocrypha)].
When they fast, I will not hear their cry; and when they offer burnt offering and an oblation, I will not accept them: but I will consume them by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. [Jeremiah 14:12 (KJV)].
Then the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying: 13 “This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says: Go and tell the people of Judah and those living in Jerusalem, ‘Will you not learn a lesson and obey my words?’ declares the Lord. 14 ‘Jehonadab son of Rekab ordered his descendants not to drink wine and this command has been kept. To this day they do not drink wine, because they obey their forefather’s command. But I have spoken to you again and again, yet you have not obeyed me. [Jeremiah 35:12-14 (NIV)].
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. It may be they will present their supplication before the LORD, and will return every one from his evil way: for great is the anger and the fury that the LORD hath pronounced against this people . . . And it came to pass in the fifth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, in the ninth month, that they proclaimed a fast before the LORD to all the people in Jerusalem, and to all the people that came from the cities of Judah unto Jerusalem. [Jeremiah 36:6-9 (NIV)].
This is what the LORD Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.” [Zechariah 8:19].
True Fasting Described by Isaiah
“Why have we fasted,” they say, “and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?” Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness[a] will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. [Isaiah 58:3-9 (NIV)].