To Fast or Not to Fast?
That is the Question…
On the Day of Atonement(s)
Compiled by JS Lowther
Should Israel Fast on the day of atonement?
Some have proposed that soul affliction is not fasting, but is a general casting down of ones self, felt in a spiritual way? Some have proposed that the Sabbath of Rest kept on the 10th day of the 7th moonth is the affliction required; A promotion that asserts not working in servile labor as affliction? As odd as the concept of rest being affliction may be to any but the handicapped, it is an understanding of Leviticus 23:27 and 29 held by some.
So the question then is, What does “ye shall afflict your souls” mean in a biblical context?
The context of Leviticus 23:26-32
26 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying,
27 Also on the tenth day of this seventh month there shall be a day of atonement: it shall be an holy convocation unto you; and ye shall afflict – your souls, and offer an offering made by fire unto the LORD. (here is the Hebrew used FOR “Ye shall afflict” ועניתם < >V’ ONYTh’M, lit. ‘and afflict ye’ the plural suffix ‘M’ is added to ‘ye’ implying that the command is to many ‘ye’ and not one person. and the lit. Hebrew for “your soul” is נפשׁתיכם< >NPS’ ThYKM ‘soul shall be yours’ giving the understanding of ‘and afflict ye (that את) soul shall be yours’. While the English is more comprehensible to us, the Hebrew speaks to the congregation of Israel to afflict them selves in focus of them selves giving a clear command of self affliction of humbling.
28 And ye shall do no work in that same day: for it is a day of atonement, to make an atonement for you before the LORD your God.
29 For whatsoever soul it be that shall not be afflicted in that same day, he shall be cut off from among his people.
30 And whatsoever soul it be that doeth any work in that same day, the same soul will I destroy from among his people.
31 Ye shall do no manner of work: it shall be a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.
32 It shall be unto you a sabbath of rest, and ye shall afflict your souls: in the ninth day of the month at even, from even unto even, shall ye celebrate your sabbath.
The word ONH and ONY may be seen in Strong’s H6030 through H6041 all having the same general meaning and exact root spelling. The below is a good reference to see the composition:
From H6031 (ONH); depressed, in mind or circumstances (practically the same as H6035 subjectively and H6041 objectively): – afflicted, humble`, lowly`, needy, poor.
This word is rooted in the word ON which is seen written OYN, and is the name for the letter ‘ O ‘ which in Hebrew has the meaning of ‘ Eye’ as may still be seen in our modern letter’s symbol, OyN which corresponds to the visage of ones countenance and it’s humbling or casting down.
This is telling as the affliction or humbling mentioned in this case is specified as to be imposed by your own soul.
If the Scriptures do not specify fasting directly, that is the word ‘fast’ is not seen, how have many christians and jews come up with this interpretation?
Indisputably by logic, one can deduce that no eating is a form of affliction of ones soul, as well one could deduce that to do such before God is a humbling of ones soul as well, yet can one eat food to “satisfy his soul” and still thoroughly afflict or humble his soul, depress it or cast it down? Can one drink out of pleasure or eat out of pleasure, especially when they have no NEED of doing so, as they are well fed in general? Reality dictates that when you eat you are not in a state of affliction, unless perhaps you afflict your soul with discussing and awful food?
The Opposite of afflicting the soul is Satisfying the soul.
Beside reason, let us consider Biblical logic on the matter by context:
Pro_6:30 Men do not despise a thief, if he steal to satisfy his soul when he is hungry;
Pro_13:25 The righteous eateth to the satisfying of his soul: but the belly of the wicked shall want.
Consider also: Isa_58:10; Isa_58:11; Eze_7:19. All of which speak of satisfying the soul, which in Hebrew is to literally to fill ones soul (מלא– MLA).
In direct context: The word fast is linked to soul affliction or humbling of the soul many times in the bible:
Psa 35:13 But as for me, when they were sick, my clothing was sackcloth: I humbled my soul with fasting; and my prayer returned into mine own bosom.
Psa_69:10 When I wept, and chastened my soul with fasting, that was to my reproach.
Isa_58:3 Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.
Isa_58:5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
Ezr_8:21 Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our God, to seek of him a right way for us, and for our little ones, and for all our substance.
Regardless of the opinion one may have on the meaning of Isaiah 58 alone,which shal be looked at below, it is obvious that fasting is soul affliction or humbling and afflicting ones soul is contrary to filling ones soul with refreshing food and drink. It is also available to be seen that most of the fasting and soul affliction above is accompanied with other humblings and afflictions to ones every day life, such as sack cloth and dirt and ashes being used to lower ones estate. The sentiment of humbling affliction is beyond a simple fast, but seems to include an absence of enjoyment including the satisfaction of food to the soul.
Now for a conclusive commentary on Isaiah 58:1-14 via Levitcus
1 Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.(Lev_25:9 Then shalt thou cause the trumpet of the jubile to sound on the tenth day of the seventh month, in the day of atonement shall ye make the trumpet sound throughout all your land.)
2 Yet they seek me daily, and delight to know my ways, as a nation that did righteousness, and forsook not the ordinance of their God: they ask of me the ordinances of justice; they take delight in approaching to God.
3 Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.(Lev_16:29 And this shall be a statute for ever unto you: that in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, ye shall afflict your souls, and do no work at all… )4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high.
5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? (Lev 25:10 And ye shall hallow the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof: it shall be a jubile unto you; and ye shall return every man unto his possession, and ye shall return every man unto his family.)
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?( Leviticus 25:11-14 A jubile shall that fiftieth year be unto you: ye shall not sow, neither reap that which groweth of itself in it, nor gather the grapes in it of thy vine undressed. 12 For it is the jubile; it shall be holy unto you: ye shall eat the increase thereof out of the field. 13 In the year of this jubile ye shall return every man unto his possession. 14 And if thou sell ought unto thy neighbour, or buyest ought of thy neighbour’s hand, ye shall not oppress one another:)
8 Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in. ( Leviticus 25:17-22 Ye shall not therefore oppress one another; but thou shalt fear thy God: for I am the LORD your God. 18 Wherefore ye shall do my statutes, and keep my judgments, and do them; and ye shall dwell in the land in safety. 19 And the land shall yield her fruit, and ye shall eat your fill, and dwell therein in safety. 20 And if ye shall say, What shall we eat the seventh year? behold, we shall not sow, nor gather in our increase: 21 Then I will command my blessing upon you in the sixth year, and it shall bring forth fruit for three years. 22 And ye shall sow the eighth year, and eat yet of old fruit until the ninth year; until her fruits come in ye shall eat of the old store. )
13 If thou turn away thy foot from the sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, the holy of the LORD, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words:
( Leviticus 25:4-8 But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard. 5 That which groweth of its own accord of thy harvest thou shalt not reap, neither gather the grapes of thy vine undressed: for it is a year of rest unto the land. 6 And the sabbath of the land shall be meat for you; for thee, and for thy servant, and for thy maid, and for thy hired servant, and for thy stranger that sojourneth with thee, 7 And for thy cattle, and for the beast that are in thy land, shall all the increase thereof be meat. 8 And thou shalt number seven sabbaths of years unto thee, seven times seven years; and the space of the seven sabbaths of years shall be unto thee forty and nine years.
Leviticus 23:2-4 …Concerning the feasts of the LORD, which ye shall proclaim to be holy convocations, even these are my feasts. 3 Six days shall work be done: but the seventh day is the sabbath of rest, an holy convocation; ye shall do no work therein: it is the sabbath of the LORD in all your dwellings. 4 These are the feasts of the LORD, even holy convocations, which ye shall proclaim in their seasons. )
14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.
( Leviticus 25:39-44 And if thy brother that dwelleth by thee be waxen poor, and be sold unto thee; thou shalt not compel him to serve as a bondservant: 40 But as an hired servant, and as a sojourner, he shall be with thee, and shall serve thee unto the year of jubile: 41 And then shall he depart from thee, both he and his children with him, and shall return unto his own family, and unto the possession of his fathers shall he return. 42 For they are my servants, which I brought forth out of the land of Egypt: they shall not be sold as bondmen. 43 Thou shalt not rule over him with rigour; but shalt fear thy God. 44 Both thy bondmen, and thy bondmaids, which thou shalt have, shall be of the heathen that are round about you; of them shall ye buy bondmen and bondmaids. )
While the Context of the 50th year special day of atonement called the Jubile is seen through out the 58th Chapter of Isaiah, we could undoubtedly see some very good context on the attitude YHWH has towards those who fast with out the New Covenant heart and mind.
Yet the specific applications to fasting are undoubtedly proof texts for it being biblical soul affliction, what was the problem in Isaiah’s time?
From the Leviticus commentary inserted into Isaiah 58 it would appear that the day of atonement was no longer holding it’s holy place in the heart and mind of Israel.
Israel asks: Wherefore have we fasted, and thou seest not? Have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge?
Isaiah answers: Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours. 4 Behold, ye fast for strife and debate, and to smite with the fist of wickedness:
Isaiah teaches: ye shall not fast as ye do this day, to make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is it such a fast that I have chosen? a day for a man to afflict his soul? is it to bow down his head as a bulrush, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? wilt thou call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the LORD?
6 Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke?
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
In other words Israel had turned the day of atonement into a vain fast, the people kept the ordinance of personal soul affliction in fasting but they did so with out the heart and mind which YHWH wanted. The soul afflicting and fasting of the seventh year and the jubile where to remind the people of their own sin and need for atonement, a reminder of not oppressing their kin and of forgiveness of debt as their heavenly Father would forgive them. The fast and Sabbath was a memorial of YHWH’s forgiveness and our inability to ever humble our selves enough to atone for our own sin, the best we can do is obey then forgive and help our own people who are in need, pray for our nation and by doing so “build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.”
Every year the 10th day of the 7th moonth is a memorial to Christ’s perfect life he gave in our place, not only to live, but to die in giving us atonement but letting us go by exchange of YHWH’s Choosing.
Jesus Son of Sirach Puts it thus:Sir_(KJV 34:26 or LXX 31:26)
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?
Historical references to fasting
Day of Atonement(s)
It is undoubtedly that the Judeans of the time of Christ fasted at this time as the below tells:
Philo of Alexandria:
Life of Moses II part 1
(23) Again, who is there who does not pay all due respect and honour to that which is called “the fast,
the Special laws I part 3
(186)On the tenth day the fast takes place which they take seriously–not only those who are zealous about piety and holiness, but even those who do nothing religious the rest of the time.
THE SPECIAL LAWS, I – Part 4
THE NINTH FESTIVAL
(193) And after the feast of trumpets the solemnity of the fast is celebrated, (27) Perhaps some of those who are perversely minded and are not ashamed to censure excellent things will say, “What sort of a feast is this where there is no eating and drinking, no troupe of entertainers or audience, no copious supply of strong drink nor the generous display of a public banquet, nor moreover the merriment and revelry of dancing to the sound of flute and harp, and tumbrels and cymbals, and the other instruments of music which awaken the unruly lusts through the channel of the ears?
Special laws II part 1
The eighth is the festival of the sacred moon, or the feast of trumpets.
The ninth(feast) is the fast.
Antiquities Book 3, Ch 10 3. On the tenth day of the same lunar month, they fast till the evening…
Book 18 ch 4 …the very next day after the feast was over. This was the practice at the three yearly festivals, and on the fast day
Dialogue of Justin Martyr with Trypho :
And the two goats which were ordered to be offered during the fast, of which one was sent away as the scape [goat], and the other sacrificed, were similarly declarative of the two appearances of Christ:..
Post Christian Scripture with history’s commentary
The language of Philo and Josephus was used by Luke to explain the time of the year in which the winds change making sailing dangerous, it is in relation to the biblical natural calendar using the 10th day of the 7th moonth as a marker point for this, yet calling it by the popular name of the above writers:
Act_27:9 Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them..
Act 27:12 And because the haven was not commodious to winter in, the more part advised to depart thence also, if by any means they might attain to Phenice, and there to winter; which is an haven of Crete, and lieth toward the south west and north west.
Yet the fast above, may not be, some may say, the fast of the above writers, and that simply it was a fasting Paul was afflicting himself with personally, the afflicting of ones self with fasting would confirm the idiom seen in the a fore mentioned scripture, however when the fact that the winter season is mentioned in the same instance, we know that this is Calendric reference.
Consider Josephus on the feasts and the winter, this reference directly follows the above quote by Josephus:
Antiquities Book 3, Ch 10 vrs 4.
Upon the fifteenth day of the same month, when the season of the year is changing for winter, the law enjoins us to pitch tabernacles in every one of our houses, so that we preserve ourselves from the cold of that time of the year; as also that when we should arrive at our own country, and come to that city which we should have then for our metropolis, because of the temple therein to be built, and keep a festival for eight days…
Thus, evidence is available that Luke made use of the term “the fast” in calling the day of atonement by such as did others in his time, and one with the mention of winter along side it.
So what is the conclusion being offered here from this compilation and study?
- Israel was commanded to keep the Day of Atonement year by year by soul afflictions
- Christian Israel should keep the feasts as part of the New Covenant (Hebrews 8 & Jeremiah 31)
- The Day of Atonement is the 10th day of the 7th moonth is a Christian Israelite festival
- Fasting is a biblically substantiated synonym for the act of soul affliction
- Eating is biblically substantiated as satisfying ones soul and not part of soul affliction
- Fasting is Historically substantiated to be part of the soul affliction on The Day of Atonement
- The title “The Fast” was used during the time of the apostles for The Day of Atonement
- Luke the writer of Acts used the title “The Fast” for the 10th day of the 7th Moonth which happens before winter as a fall festival
Christians who keep the day of Atonement are to imply all of the same reasons for their soul afflictions as did Israel of the tabernacle, as seen in the Law, Histories, Prophets and Wisdom. As Christ has offered himself for us at this present time as our sin sacrifice we should as well afflict our selves with the regrettable truth that National Israel has rejected their King with His Law and Priest with His Sacrifice.
It is only by European Christian’s repentance and prayer; we as our Puritan Kinsmen of old should weep before the alter of Christ, begging for our own forgiveness and our people as a Nation by prayer and fasting!
Giving up food and drink for a day
THE LEAST OF OUR AFFLICTION!
Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of YHWH shall be thy reward.
Then shalt thou call, and YHWH shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And YHWH shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not. And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
Peace and Grace is only in Christ Kinsmen!