Fasts in Smiths Bible Dictionary
1. One fast only was appointed by the Mosaic law, that on
the day of atonement. There is no mention of any other
periodical fast in the Old Testament except in Zec 7:1-7;
8:19 From these passages it appears that the Jews, during
their captivity, observed four annual fasts, --in the
fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months.
2. Public fasts were occasionally proclaimed to
express national humiliation and to supplicate divine favor.
In the case of public danger the proclamation appears to
have been accompanied with the blowing of trumpets. Joe 2:1-
15 (See 1Sa 7:6; 2Ch 20:3; Jer 36:6-10 ) Three days after
the feast of tabernacles, when the second temple was
completed, "the children of Israel assembled with fasting,
and with sackclothes and earth upon them," to hear the law
read and to confess their sins. Ne 9:1
3. Private occasional fasts are recognized in one
passage of the law -- Nu 30:13 The instances given of
individuals fasting under the influence of grief, vexation
or anxiety are numerous.
4. In the New Testament the only reference to the
Jewish fasts are the mention of "the fast" in Ac 27:9
(generally understood to denote the day of atonement) an the
allusions to the weekly fasts. Mt 9:14; Mr 2:18; Lu 5:33;
18:12; Ac 10:30 These fasts originated some time after the
5. The Jewish fasts were observed with various
degrees of strictness. Sometimes there was entire abstinence
from food. Es 4:16 etc. On other occasions there appears to
have been only a restriction to a very plain diet. Da 10:3
Those who fasted frequently dressed in sackcloth or rent
their clothes, put ashes on their head and went barefoot.
1Ki 21:27; Ne 9:1; Ps 35:13
6. The sacrifice of the personal will, which gives
to fasting all its value, is expressed in the old term used
in the law, afflicting the soul.
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