There are dozens of fasts today on the market but what is the so-called Daniel Fast? Is this a fast that believers can do today and does this have to do with more than losing weight?
The first question is why do believers fast in the first place? Many who are not Christian fast for health reasons. They eliminate toxins and wastes products from the body and they also cleanse the colon by only taking in water. Fasting with or without water can be done but there is nothing wrong with fasting with water but sometimes people fast during times of overwhelming grief, like when David and Bathsheba’s baby was dying David fasted and prayed (2 Sam 12). Others fast during intense trials or trying to overcome temptations or addiction. Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights while being tempted of the Devil in the Wilderness (Matt 4:1-11). Isaiah spoke of proper fasting to break the yoke or bonds of slavery (to sin) but he also spoke of the wrong reasons to fast in chapter 58. Jesus didn’t say if you fast but when you fast try not to tell others and don’t look like you are (Matt 6:16) but notice that Jesus didn’t say if you fast but when you fast so we can see that we ought to fast, at least occasionally because fasting makes us see our total need for God and seems to create an intense hunger for God.
Let’s take a look at Daniel 1:8-16 where this Daniel fast came from and what this included:
“But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank. Therefore he asked the chief of the eunuchs to allow him not to defile himself. And God gave Daniel favor and compassion in the sight of the chief of the eunuchs, and the chief of the eunuchs said to Daniel, “I fear my lord the king, who assigned your food and your drink; for why should he see that you were in worse condition than the youths who are of your own age? So you would endanger my head with the king.” Then Daniel said to the steward whom the chief of the eunuchs had assigned over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see.” So he listened to them in this matter, and tested them for ten days. At the end of ten days it was seen that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food. So the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables.”
Daniel didn’t fast from food; he fasted from the King’s menu that included what was forbidden by the Mosaic Dietary Laws, which are foods that God considered unclean at that time. It was not a total abstinence of food but from defiling foods as defined in the Old Testament diet of the Jews.
What Foods Daniel’s Fast Contained
What Daniel’s fast was not was any meat or dairy products and no alcohol like wine. Daniel was not alone in this so-called fast. Daniel along with Hananiah, Mischael and Azariah all had this strict vegetarian diet. Daniel and his fellow Jews ate nothing but vegetables and drank water and so Daniel and the other men’s diet was what be considered today as a purely vegetarian diet; no meats, no alcohol and no dairy products but only produce from the ground and that was it. They ate anything but what the king’s diet was (Dan 1:5) and in those days a king ate like a king! There were all kinds of cheeses, meats, and every sort of delicacy known to man at the time. If it was available, it would have been available at the king’s table. It is interesting what the names of these men meant; Daniels name means “God is my Judge,” Hananiah’s name means “Yahweh or God is gracious,” Mischael’s name was difficult to find but is close to that of Michael which is Hebrew and means “Who is like God?,” and Azariah’s name means “Yahweh or God has helped.” Here we see that a combination of these men’s names is “God is gracious, a help, a Judge and Who is like God.” God may or may not have blessed these men in their diet but “At that they were better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food (Dan 1:15) and the result was that “the steward took away their food and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables” (Dan 1:16). At first they were somewhat trapped by the king’s assigning them to eat the king’s food, again it was likely to include some unclean foods and so by Daniel’s courage and common sense, he told the chief of the eunuchs “Test your servants for ten days; let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then let our appearance and the appearance of the youths who eat the king’s food be observed by you, and deal with your servants according to what you see” (Dan 1:12-13). They had really risked their lives by indirectly disobeying the king’s assigning their food but ended up obeying God in the end and as it said, they ended up “better in appearance and fatter in flesh than all the youths who ate the king’s food.”
Daniel’s fast proves more than a person can be healthy by eating only vegetable and drinking water and that this is a great way to lose weight because they ended up “fatter” than those who dined on the king’s diet. It was a matter of their obeying God. By the way, the word “fatter” is from the Hebrew word “towb” and it literally means “fairer.” We could even call it fitter and have a true definition so that sentence that says what they were like after the Daniel Fast was that they were “looked better and more fit than all the youths who ate the king’s food” proving that a diet of vegetables and water is healthier but as I wrote earlier, this was not so much about diet as it was obedience. They obeyed God rather than the king by abstaining from the foods that their Law forbids. In the end, they were blessed by God because it is always better to obey God over men, even if that man is the king.
Another Reading on Patheos to Check Out: What Did Jesus Really Look Like: A Look at the Bible Facts
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon