|Afflict Our Souls? How? Why?
Regarding the Day of Atonement, we are told in Leviticus 23:27-32, to "afflict our souls" on this particular Holy Day. Verse 29 informs us that whoever is not afflicted on that day, he shall be cut off from among his people. So we can see that it is very important to Yahweh, and even more so to us, to "afflict" ourselves on this day.
But, because we aren't told here exactly how to do this, a few choose to ignore this instruction from Yahweh. Even though the Jews and others have traditionally fasted to fulfill this requirement, some say that because the word "fast" does not appear in the Torah (the first five books of the Bible), we have no obligation to do so.
Is this thinking valid? Are we bound only by what is specifically mentioned in the first 5 books of Scripture? Or should we look elsewhere in the Bible to see how Yahweh's people fulfilled this order, and then do likewise? What do the Scriptures themselves say? Let's look in both the Old Testament and the New:
Deut. 8:3, "and He humbled thee, and suffered thee with hunger, and fed thee with manna, which thou knewest not, neither did thy fathers know; that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of Yahweh doth man live."
This scripture tells us two things. First, the word "humbled" is the same word that is translated "afflicted" in Lev. 23, and is the Hebrew word, "ANAH," pronounced, AW-NAW. It is #6031 in Strong's Hebrew Dictionary, and means to afflict the self, humble self, chasten self, abase self, deal hardly with. Note that Yahweh "suffered" them to hunger.
Second, he says that man is to live by "every word that proceeds out of the mouth of Yahweh," not just the first five books of the Bible. Therefore, if we believe the entire Bi-ble is inspired by Yahweh, then we look elsewhere in the Scriptures to clear up points that may not be made perfectly clear by just one quote.
Yahshua quoted this same Scripture in Matthew 4:4 and Luke 4:4, "and Yahshua an-swered him, saying, 'it is written, that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of Yahweh'."
The Apostle Paul reiterated the same thought when writing to the young Evangelist, Timothy, II Tim. 3:15-16, "and that from a child you have known the holy Scriptures (Old testament only; remember, the New was just then being written), which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Messiah Yahshua. All Scripture is given by inspiration of Yahweh, and is profitable for reproof, for correction, for instruc-tion in righteousness:"
So, if Lev. 23:29 doesn't tell us exactly how to "afflict our souls," then we are free to search the Scriptures to see how others were inspired to do it.
First, let's go to Isaiah 58:3 (these are evil-doers who are questioning Yahweh), "Why have we fasted, say they, and you (Yahweh) see not? Why have we afflicted our soul, and you take no knowledge? And His answer? Behold, in the day of your fast, ye find pleasure, and exact all your labors.
This word, "afflicted," is Anah, same as in Lev. 23:29. So we see that these people fasted to afflict their "souls." (Incidentally, what is meant by their "souls?" Is this their inner spirit that is "immortal" and floats off to heaven when they die? This is another study, but the short answer is, no, it is their lives, their bodies, their physical selves. This Hebrew word, Nephesh, is also used for animals, and merely means a breathing creature. It has no spiritual meaning.)
Ezra 8:21, "Then I proclaimed a fast there, at the river of Ahava, that we might afflict ourselves before our (Elohim),..." Again this word is Anah.
Psalm 35:13, David writing, "But as for me, I humbled (anaw) my soul with fast-ing; and my prayer returned into my own bosom."
I Kings 21:27-29, "And it came to pass, when Ahab heard these words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the Word of Yahweh came to EliYah the Tishbite, saying, Seest you how Ahab humbleth (anah) himself before me?
Here we have Yahweh's own words saying that fasting is an acceptable way to "af-flict, humble, or chasten" the self.
We find the Day of Atonement referred to in the Book of Acts, where some transla-tions simply refer to it as "the fast," as the King James Version does.
Acts 27:9, Now when much time was spent, and when sailing was now dangerous, because the fast was now already past, Paul admonished them, saying,...."
Paul was a prisoner on his way to Rome to appear before Caesar, and they had spent a lot of time getting to this point. The "fast" (day of Atonement) comes in autumn, when all authorities agree that sailing the Mediterranean sea is dangerous. Paul advised them to stay where they were, but he was overruled. They went on anyway, and shortly encountered a ter-rible storm that wrecked the ship and lost the cargo, but all the people got to shore safely.
Now we know what to do to "afflict our souls," but what constitutes a Biblical fast? Do we go on a soup diet? Drink only water? Or do we abstain from food and drink?
As always, the Scriptures provide the answer. Exodus. 34:28, and he was there with Yahweh forty days and forty nights; he did neither eat bread nor drink water.
Moses did this twice. See Deut. 9:18.
Esther 4:16, "Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day: I also and my maid-ens will fast likewise:..."
So we see that the Biblical example is, when fasting for spiritual reasons, to abstain from both food and drink. The Day of Atonement is the tenth day of the seventh month, the 24 hour period from the "even of the 9th day, from even to even" shall ye celebrate your Sab-bath (Lev. 23:332).
This is the Biblical calendar, and not the Roman calendar we use today. The Day of Atonement falls this year on September 24, so we would start fasting at sunset on the 23rd. Then, after dark on the 24th, we would break the fast by beginning to eat and drink again.
Some say that the Day of Atonement is "done away," since Yahshua's death. He made the ultimate atonement for our sins, and it isn't necessary to keep this day, or to fast. Yet, these same people agree that some of the Festivals are to be kept by us today.
My view is that, like the Ten Commandments, we are not free to pick and choose which ones we will keep and which ones to reject. They are a "package deal." They all fit together to make a cohesive whole, picturing Yahweh's Plan of Salvation for us. Leave one or two out, and you leave gaps in the picture.
Look at Colossians 2:16-17, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect (observance) of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath (days is in italics, meaning it was added by the translators), which are a shadow (foreshadow) of things to come, but the body of Messiah (is was also added. The meaning is, let no uncon-verted man, as in verse 18, judge you, but let the Body of Messiah, the Assembly, judge you in these matters).
Note that all these picture things which are yet to come in Yahweh's plan. If we aren't observing them, then we will misunderstand His plan for us, and just might miss out on salva-tion as a result. Why take a chance? Let's resolve to obey Yahweh in all He commands us to do.
~ Frank Brown
Back to Index
Back to Main