: The sole fast required by the law of Moses was that of the great Day of Atonement (which see), Leviticus 23:26-32. It is called "the fast" (Acts 27:9).
The only other mention of a periodical fast in the Old Testament is in Zechariah 7:1-7; 8:19, from which it appears that during their captivity the Jews observed four annual fasts.
- The fast of the fourth month, kept on the seventeenth day of Tammuz, the anniversary of the capture of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans; to commemorate also the incident recorded Exodus 32:19. (Comp. Jeremiah 52:6,7.)
- The fast of the fifth month, kept on the ninth of Ab (comp. Numbers 14:27), to commemorate the burning of the city and temple (Jeremiah 52:12,13).
- The fast of the seventh month, kept on the third of Tisri (comp. 2 Kings 25), the anniversary of the murder of Gedaliah (Jeremiah 41:1,2).
- The fast of the tenth month (comp. Jeremiah 52:4; Ezekiel 33:21; 2 Kings 25:1), to commemorate the beginning of the siege of the holy city by Nebuchadnezzar.
There was in addition to these the fast appointed by (Esther 4:16).
Public national fasts on account of sin or to supplicate divine favour were sometimes held.
- 1 Samuel 7:6;
- 2 Chronicles 20:3;
- Jeremiah 36:6-10;
- Nehemiah 9:1.
There were also local fasts.
- Judges 20:26;
- 2 Samuel 1:12;
- 1 Samuel 31:13;
- 1 Kings 21:9-12;
- Ezra 8:21-23:
- Jonah 3:5-9.
There are many instances of private occasional fasting (1 Samuel 1:7:20:34; 2 Samuel 3:35; 12:16; 1 Kings 21:27; Ezra 10:6; Nehemiah 1:4; Daniel 10:2,3). Moses fasted forty days (Exodus 24:18; 34:28), and so also did Elijah (1 Kings 19:8). Our Lord fasted forty days in the wilderness (Matthew 4:2).
In the lapse of time the practice of fasting was lamentably abused (Isaiah 58:4; Jeremiah 14:12; Zechariah 7:5). Our Lord rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocritical pretences in fasting (Matthew 6:16). He himself appointed no fast. The early Christians, however, observed the ordinary fasts according to the law of their fathers (Acts 13:3; 14:23; 2 Corinthians 6:5).