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Fasting throughout scripture

A selection of Biblical accounts of fasting.

Exodus

  • WHO​: Moses.
  • WHERE​: Exodus 34:28 / Exodus 24:18
  • WHY: As to why exactly, scripture doesn’t say. What we do know is that during Moses’ time in the mountain, he was FULLY immersed in God’s Presence. When he is in the presence of God on the mountain, he needs no food or drink, because God himself sustains him. Perhaps there isn’t a why, perhaps God displaying Himself as the real source of life, in whose presence even earthly food and water might be unnecessary for a person, if He so chooses.

Leviticus

Numbers

  • WHO: Israel.
  • WHERE: Numbers 29:7
  • WHY: The Day of Atonement,​for the sons of Israel for all their sins once every year.

Deuteronomy

Judges

  • WHO: Israel.
  • WHERE: Judges 20:26
  • WHY: Israel fasted at Bethel in the war against the Benjamites.

1 Samuel

  • WHO: Israel.
  • WHERE: 1 Samuel 7:6
  • WHY:​Israel was in Mizpah, they fasted as Samuel interceded for themduring the Philistine War.
  • WHO: Israel.
  • WHERE: 1 Samuel 31:13
  • WHY: The men of Jabesh-gilead fasted seven days for Saul

2 Samuel

  • WHO: David.
  • WHERE: 2 Samuel 1:12
  • WHY: David and the people fasted for Saul and Jonathan
  • WHO: David.
  • WHERE: 2 Samuel 3:35
  • WHY:​David refuses to eat food until evening when he heard of thedeath of Abner.

1 Kings

  • WHO: Elijah.
  • WHERE: 1 Kings 19:8
  • WHY: Elijah goes forty days on the strength of the food provided to him by an angel.

2 Chronicles

  • WHO: Jehoshaphat
  • WHERE:​2 Chronicles 20:3
  • WHY: Jehoshaphat fasted when threatened by Edom

Ezra

  • WHO: Ezra & Company.
  • WHERE: ​Ezra 8:21
  • WHY: Ezra led a fast when seeking the favor of God toward his returnfrom exile (a journey fraught with danger)
  • WHO: Ezra.
  • WHERE:​Ezra 10:6
  • WHY: Ezra eats and drinks nothing because of his mourning over theunfaithfulness of the exiles.

Nehemiah

  • WHO: Nehemiah
  • WHERE: Nehemiah 1:4
  • WHY: Nehemiah fasted when he heard of the state of Jerusalem

Esther

  • WHO: Jews
  • WHERE:​Esther 4:3
  • WHY: The Jews fasted when they heard that Haman had obtained theking’s decree against them
  • WHO: Esther
  • WHERE: Esther 4:16
  • WHY: Esther and Mordecai fasted before she went before the king
  • WHO: Esther
  • WHERE: Esther 9:31
  • WHY: Purim is established for the Jews with instructions for fastingand lamentations.

Psalms

  • WHO: David
  • WHERE: Psalm 35:13
  • WHY:​David defends his honor by saying that he fasted and prayed whenhis enemies were sick.

Jeremiah

Ezekiel

Daniel

Joel

  • WHO: Israel
  • WHERE: Joel 1:14
  • WHY:​Joel calls for a nation-wide fast because of famine that is destroying the land.
  • WHO:​Israel
  • WHERE:​Joel 2:12 – 15
  • WHY:​YHWH calls the people to return to Him with fasting, rending their hearts, not garments; Joel again calls for a fast.

Jonah

  • WHO: The City of Nineveh
  • WHERE: Jonah 3:5
  • WHY: repenting at the preaching of Jonah

Matthew

  • WHO: Jesus
  • WHERE: Matthew 4:2
  • WHY: Jesus fasts for forty days in the wilderness

Luke

  • WHO: Anna
  • WHERE: Luke 2:37
  • WHY: Anna serves in the temple night and day with fastings andprayers.

Acts

  • WHO: Saul
  • WHERE: Acts 9:9
  • WHY: Saul fasted from food and water for three days after theDamascus Road experience.
  • WHO: People
  • WHERE: Acts 13:2 – 3
  • WHY: Prophets and teachers in Antioch were ministering to the Lordand fasting before and after the Holy Spirit set apart Saul andBarnabas.

1 Corinthians

  • WHO: Saul
  • WHERE: 1 Corinthians 7:5
  • WHY: Paul tells couples not to deprive one another sexually, exceptfor brief periods devoted to prayer and fasting.