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Abstention from food. In the OT there are two kinds of fasting, public and private. Public fasts were periodically proclaimed (2Chr 20:3; Ezra 8:21-23; Neh 1:4-11; Jer 36:9). The fasts were always accompanied by prayer and supplication and frequently by wearing sackcloth as a sign of penance and mourning (Neh 9:1; Dan 9:3; 1Macc 3:47). In the tragic days surrounding the fall of Jerusalem, four fast days were proclaimed (Zech 7:5; Zech 8:19). “Denying oneself,” synonymous with “fasting,” is required on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:31-34). Public fasts ordinarily lasted a day, and offerings of various sorts were made (Lev 16:1-5; Judg 20:26; Jer 14:11-12). The prophetic writings contain strong warnings against abusing the fasting rituals (Isa 58:1-9; Jer 14:11-12; Zech 7:3-5; Zech 8:18-19). Private fasts were observed as acts of penance (2Sam 12:15-23; 1Kgs 21:27; Ps 69:1-15), when others became sick (Ps 35:13-14), and when one was accused and scorned (Ps 109:4-21). In the NT Jesus stresses that fasting be sincere and not merely for show (Matt 6:16-18), and he fasted at the outset of his ministry (Matt 4:2). He does not, however, enjoin his disciples to fast as did John the Baptist (Mark 2:18-20). In the early church fasting accompanied prayer prior to the consecration of teachers and elders (Acts 13:2-3; Acts 14:23) and during times of severe trial (Acts 27:1-38).