IS IT REALLY WITHOUT FOOD AND
WITHOUT WATER ?
Some are saying that fasting in the Bible may not have always
been without having any water or drink, maybe no food they say,
but not always without water. So, I suppose the argument is, or
I suppose these people are trying to teach that when Christians
"fast" as Christians should do according to Jesus (for Jesus
said: "WHEN you fast" not "IF you fast"), they need not stop
There are some today who doubt that anyone has fasted without
food and water for very long, before being at death's door. Now,
if you believe the Bible is INSPIRED, then you will believe
Exodus 34 where it is written that Moses was up in a mountain
with the Lord for 40 days and forty nights and that "he did
neither eat bread nor drink water...." verse 28.
It would seem that Elijah was able to do the same as Moses. See
1 Kings 19:7,8.
Are we to imagine that Jesus Christ could not, and did not, do
the same as Moses and Elijah, in His fasting for 40 days and
nights? See Matthew 4:2. I say Christ was able and that He did
exactly what Moses and Elijah did, fasted for forty days and
forty nights WITHOUT food and water!
I am certainly not implying or trying to teach that anyone on
earth day should try to do what these three men are recorded in
being able to do, go for forty days without food and water. They
were in many ways special men, who no doubt were given special
strength from the Eternal to do something that no other men/women
have ever been recorded doing, fasting for forty days and forty
nights without food and water. Most today could hardly make it
through four days without food or water. True, we do hear now and
again of some adult or even a child surviving in an earthquake,
trapped without food or water for 6,7,8,9 days......but most of
us going on a voluntary fast of no food or water could last that
long without serious side effects.
Some want to call "heath fasting" a fast. That is, going on a
strict liquid diet for a week or two or more is to them a "fast."
And if looking at it only from what some doctor or health
practitioner or clinic want to interpret as a "fast," a liquid
fast, then so be it for them. But as Christians who want to let
the Bible interpret itself as to what the Bible calls a "fast"
then we can ONLY have the Bible as our interpreter as to what is
fasting as taught in the Bible.
Hence, we look up all the verses where the words "fast" or
"fasting" are used. We search the Scriptures and let the Word of
the Lord teach us about the meaning of "fast" as used in the
whole Word of God, the Bible.
The word "fast" is used 41 times. The word "fasted" is found
and used 15 times. The word "fastest" is used one time. We find
the word "fasting" used 17 times. And the word "fastings" is used
4 times. All this from the KJV and Strong's Concordance of the
The VAST majority of times these words are used as words in a
verse relating that someone or some group or nation of people
simply fasted, period. No other information is added. No other
definition is given as to what is fasting as used in these
majority of verses. We have only a FEW verses in the entire Bible
that nails down for us a Bible interpretation as to what is
"fasting" as used in the Word of God, the Bible.
I will give you those verses very shortly.
We can find that fasting in the Bible is often connected with
mourning, affliction, sorrow, anguish, and of course with
sackcloth and ashes. Apart from sackcloth and ashes some would
argue that all the rest of the words connected with fasting could
be taken as MENTAL, within the mind, and of course that is true.
Hence Psalm 35:13 and the word "humble" or "afflicted" connected
with the soul or life in fasting could be mental more than
But, there is really no way of "getting around" Psalm 109:24
which reads: "My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh
faileth of fatness." Now, I personally have done a "health" fast
(liquids only) a few times (once for 7 days) in my life time, and
I can tell you that after or in the third day of such a health
fast, the body is swept clean and the energy and engine of the
body just runs like a race horse. I never felt my knees weak at
any time. A health fast of various kinds of natural liquids and
juices does not make the knees go weak. If you are basically in
good health, going on a water only fast for a few days will not
make your knees go weak.
I submit that David's knees were weak through fasting BECAUSE
he was doing a Bible definition fast, a "spiritual" fast, a fast
WITHOUT food or water. Actually the Bible is silent on any
so-called "health fast." Just does not talk about it. So, all
the passages that use the word "fast" or the others I gave above,
are only relating to us the only "fast" the Bible is concerned
with, the spiritual fast, or fasting for spiritual intent and
reasons. Hence, we are then back to having the Bible define for
us "fast" or "fasting."
And here are the only TWO sections of Scripture using the word
"fast" that DEFINE for us the word "fast" as used in the Bible.
"Go, gather together all the Jews.....and FAST you for me, and
neither EAT nor DRINK three days, night or day: and I also and my
maidens will FAST likewise......" (Esther 4:16).
"So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast,
and put on sackcloth.....For word came unto the king of
Nineveh.....And he caused it to be proclaimed and published
through Nineveh....saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor
flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water....."
There it is. The only two passages of the Holy Scriptures that
define for us "fast" as used in the Bible. But, define the word
it does, very clearly fasting as used in the Bible was and is
always having no food and no water, no liquids.
Oh, there is the argument that it is said of Jesus that "He was
hungry" after His forty days of fasting, for it is written, "He
was afterwards an hungred" (Mat.4:2 KJV). They say, "He was
hungry, hence had not ate any food for 40 days, but it does not
say, He was thirsty, so He probably did drink water during those
forty fasting days."
Why does it leave out anything about "thirsting" after those
forty days? Very simple. When Jesus had determined to break the
fasting, after doing what Moses and Elijah had done for 40 days
and nights, He could have easily reached a water supply out in
those hills. A nearby spring, a running brook, or a small
stream. He no doubt had wandered by a few of them during those
40 days. And coming off a fast of that length of time, water
would have been the first desire for the human body, and from a
stream it would have been obtained. But good wholesome, full of
vitamins and minerals fresh baked brown bread.....well that just
was not behind the bush or desert tree, unless He commanded the
stones to turn into that great smelling wholesome stuff. And
that is just what the Devil tempted Him to do, turn the stones
into loaves of bread. But Jesus would control His power, and
wait till He was in the town with friends to eat food. The water
would have already been there in the form of a stream or brook
for Him to enjoy, the bread not yet. And He would not misuse His
power to satisfy His hunger.
TWO PASSAGES LEFT TO UNDERSTAND
Some have seen two passages in the Gospels (one really as it is
one account of the same event recorded by both Matthew and Mark)
that they seem to think and believe teaches that fasting in the
Bible may not always mean you cannot drink water. So, I guess to
them, you can fast a spiritual fast by deleting only food but not
This passage we are here concerned with is found in Matthew
15:29-39 and Mark 8:1-10.
We note some important points. (1) Jesus, His disciples, and
the multitude, were up in a mountain, Mat.15:29. (2) It was also
a wilderness, Mat.15:33; Mark 8:4. (3) They all had been together
3 days, Mat.15:32; Mark 8:2. (4) Some had come from far away,
Mark 8:3. (5) The disciples did have some food with them, for
Jesus asked them "how many loaves have YOU?" And it was THEY who
answered Him what they had, Mat.15:34; Mark 8:5.
We need to first use some natural logic. The disciples of
Jesus did have some food, they did bring some along with them.
They were used to their Master going off into some wilderness
place and staying for a time in such a location, so they would
have learnt from experience to take along food for a few days at
least. Would it not be reasonable to assume that at least some
of the multitude, which included women and children (Mat.15:38),
would also have brought some food and water with them, at least
for a day or two? I suggest it was more than likely by many that
they so did. We need to note CAREFULLY that in verse 32 of
Matthew's account and verse 2 of Mark's, we do not find such a
sentence as, "they continue with me now three days and have had
nothing to eat" or "for the three days they have continued with
me they have had nothing to eat."
This is important, because we can often read into words a
meaning that is not there at all. In both Matthew's and Mark's
accounts of this event, the words "have nothing" is in the
PRESENT INDICATIVE tense. Jesus was actually saying, "and have
presently nothing to eat" or "at this present continuous time
they have nothing to eat."
Jesus did not say that they had nothing to eat for three days.
We are frankly not told HOW LONG they had gone without food, only
that at the present time when Jesus was talking to the disciples
and for WHATEVER length of that present time was, the multitude
had not eaten food.
Had some not eaten for three days? Maybe! For it is quite
something to behold how the human body can go on fired up
adrenalin and excitement of some great spectacular event such as
they were observing and part of, that is, Jesus healing many and
doing fantastic miracles. Many under such a situation would not
even be thinking about food, and not even water, I dare to say,
especially if you were someone who had brought with you a lame,
bind, dumb, or maimed person etc. to be healed. You would have
been too preoccupied in getting them before Jesus to be healed.
Well, whatever the case was, by the time Jesus spoken to His
disciples on the third day about food for the multitude, they had
presently been without food for a time period, not specifically
given to us, but long enough that if sent away without food, some
would have fainted by the way, for some were from afar, so Mark
Had they been also without water? The accounts do not tell us,
but I think we can say with some reasonability, that being in the
wilderness water may have also been a problem, once whatever
supply brought with anyone had been used up.
To argue that they all had water, but no food, is to argue
without proof, for the accounts clearly do not mention water at
all. It is just not talked about or commented on period. Hence to
argue either way, they had water or they did not have water is
speculative at best, given we say fasting can be understood as
only no food eating with water being allowed. Then if we say, we
shall go with the Bible's interpretation in the two passages we
have already considered above, as to what is fasting, we then
would say Jesus by using the word "fasting" was telling us the
multitude for some length of time had been without both food and
Why was Jesus concerned with food for the multitude and water
is not mentioned? Again we could speculate, but it would only be
speculation, as the reason for no water mentioning is not given.
But, once more looking at it from the human fellowship and host
politeness of Jesus' day and I would add, our time today, it is
the custom of a caring host, looking after people for some length
of time, to provide them with food before they depart.
Under this situation, of having to walk back home, and for some
that was a far distance, and not having food for above the normal
amount of time that humans eat food, Jesus classified it as
"fasting" and knew some would be weak in the knees, and probably
faint by the wayside before reaching their homes, hence as a good
host wanted to make sure they ate food to strengthen them for
their journey homeward.
Water is wonderful to break a fast, but solid food gives you
the needed sugar energy and fuel for the muscles to hold up and
sustain the body, when a possible long walk back home is having
to be undertaken.
So, we see here, the emphasis in the two accounts is on FOOD,
and not on water, after fasting for some length of time.
A POSSIBLE EXCEPTION
The Bible often contains many BASIC rules or NORMS, and then
gives now and again, some EXCEPTION to the norm or rule. Could
this account in Matthew and Mark be a possible exception to the
Yes, it is indeed a possibility!
I say it MAY be possible, for once more let me repeat, we
cannot know for sure if the multitude had water to drink, either
brought with them, or from a stream, they were remember in the
mountain wilderness. But, for the sake of the argument, we shall
say they did have access to water, but had used up any food they
had brought with them. So, IF that was the case, then Jesus uses
here the word "fasting" in a loose sense, a "food" fast,
possibly, as some "health" practitioners, health and diet books,
and people who often go on "juice" fasts, call their no food
intake, a "fast" or "fasting."
Be that as it may, and if it was so here with Jesus, there is
still one VERY IMPORTANT point to note in all this mountain
wilderness situation. The three day event was NOT undertaken by
Jesus or His disciples, as a DELIBERATE and planned "fasting"
to "draw nigh to God" experience. It was NOT for the purpose of
getting close to God in some "religious" vain, as was the fasting
for Esther and the Jews, and also for the people of Nineveh when
Jonah was sent to tell them they faced utter destruction if they
did not change their ways.
Jesus was here in the mountain doing a "healing ministry." He
was serving and helping and working miracles for people. It was a
hard three days work for Him, for He often had to go away by
Himself alone to re-store His batteries so to speak, after
undertaking such long healing services, so it is written
elsewhere in the Gospels.
Whatever fasting this was by the people, and remember the
disciples did have some food left, when Jesus inquired of them,
they were fasting BECAUSE of a situation THAT WAS TO SOME EXTENT
out of their control. A circumstance they happened to find
themselves in at the time, in the excitement of the time. In
other words, they had not sat down and with planned forethought
said to themselves, "Well, we shall go to Jesus in the mountain
for a day or more, with our loved one to be healed, and we will
take along nothing to eat or drink, for we shall fast."
It was not that situation at all, but one that came up on them,
and they and Jesus found they were fasting whether they liked it
So, here is the IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE. The only two examples we
have in the Bible where the word "fast" is used, and so gives us
a Bible interpretation as to a "fast" that is planned with
forethought, and that is DESIGNED with GOD in MIND, to DRAW
CLOSE to Him, to PETITION Him for some reason, to get into a
"spiritual mind set" and to see our human weakness and so the
Mighty and Holiness and Righteousness and Power of the Eternal
God to hear and help and serve us in that particular spiritual
need that we are fasting for,is CLEARLY shown for us to be a fast
that is WITHOUT FOOD AND WITHOUT WATER!
Such a spiritual fast is to humble us, relate to us that we are
but human flesh and blood, it is to afflict our soul or life, to
give us a little or great "weak in the knees" experience. And
nothing does that better than to go without food and water for a
day or more. Oh, how we soon know that everything we have to
sustain us in this physical life comes to us and is given to us
by our heavenly Father.
Nearly every verse in the Bible (one exception is this account
in Mat.15) that uses the word "fast" or "fasting" is in the
context of "religious fasting" in a spiritual mode to mind
set oneself to draw close to God for a purpose that could be for
a specific reason or just to change the direction of life, in
yourself or in a community of persons. This we saw in the first
study on this subject.
So, for this "fasting" unto the Lord, a planned and "religious"
mind set towards the Eternal God, we should then cover our mouth,
delete from our body BOTH food AND water or liquids. Many may to
be reasonings and arguments to try to allow the drinking of water
during a religious mind set fasting period to the Lord, but I
think they all fall short when we take into account the whole
Bible and the examples given to us for undertaking a "spiritual"
Of course, we can be close to the Lord and grow in spirituality
each and every day, as we eat and drink. Jesus knew that, just
as He said God always heard Him for He always did His will and
was yielded to the Father at all times, but that still does not
"do away" with the fact that Jesus often went by Himself into the
mountain or wilderness to pray and draw close to God in a special
way that really did have mental benefit.
And, yes, although while Jesus was with His disciples, they did
not fast, as the Pharisees complained to Christ concerning this
fact, the answer Jesus gave clearly showed that when He was no
longer going to be with them, then they would fast.
As Jesus said to His followers, it was not "IF you fast..."
BUT it was "WHEN you fast...."
Jesus expected His brother and sisters to FAST from time to
time. And what a wonderful experience for the spiritual mind it
can be, to humble ourselves and draw close to the Father with a
fast that is BOTH without food and water.
Written September 1999
All articles and studies by Keith Hunt may be copied, published,
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