Moses Fasting for the Idolatry of Israel

Did Moses fast for 81 days straight in Deuteronomy 9:9-18?

I have never noticed this before and all of the times I have read the Bible. It does seem Moses prayed and did an absolute fast for 80 days. The first 40 days were spent on Mount Sinai as he received the 10 Commandments in the two tablets.

It’s most likely in those 40 days God began to give him other laws and the layout of the Temple. Then when he came down off the mountain he found people committing idolatry with a golden calf they had made from the gold the Egyptians gave them when they plundered the Egyptians before they left.

The golden calf was most likely a symbol of strength, perhaps even celebrating the strength of God in freeing them from the Egyptians or what they saw on Mount Sinai when his presence came down. But even if this was the case, they were only worshiping one attribute of God rather than all of them.

This is the problem with idolatry. Anytime we choose to envision one or two of God’s attributes, we neglect the rest of them. All of God’s attributes make up the whole of who he is. We cannot make any image that would resemble God.

First of all, God is Spirit, and he cannot be quantified with any part of his creation. While creation testifies to his power and creativity, nothing he has made resembles him completely. This is why idolatry angers him so much. We must worship the Creator instead of created things.

This was exactly the sin of the Israelites in making the golden calf and worshiping it. This is what angered God so much that he wanted to start over with Moses. So when Moses came down off of Mount Sinai and saw the people violating the first four Commandments, he had the same anger God had.

It seems like he is saying that on the very day he came down from the mountain after 40 days of an absolute fast, not taking in food or water, he began another 40 day absolute fast. This would make a total of 80 days without food and water in an absolute fast.

Absolute fasts are rare even in the Bible. I would imagine we can take literally the Scripture that says man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4). It seems that God somehow supernaturally sustained Moses during these two 40 day fasts.

Absolute fasts are used for extreme circumstances. A long period of absolute fasting is not recommended unless God tells you to do it. He would give the strength and ability for you to accomplish such a fast. Most people use fasts of food but still drink water. The human body can naturally go without water for 3-4 days.

Even Jesus did not do an absolute fast in the wilderness for 40 days. Scripture tells us he was hungry after the 40 days of fasting. But it does not say he was thirsty. We can infer from Scripture that Jesus only fasted food for those 40 days in the wilderness.

When Moses fasted for 40 days on Mount Sinai, he was receiving direct information from God on how to build the tabernacle, as well as receiving the laws of God found in the Torah. He would have to return to the top of Mount Sinai to receive a new set of tablets with the Ten Commandments.

Idolatry so displeases the Lord that we must carefully watch our lives and make sure we do not commit it against him. Moses understood the hot anger of the Lord, and committed himself after spending 40 days in his presence to intercede for Israel so the Lord did not destroy the around 2 million people making up the fledgling nation.

Image by Steve Bidmead from Pixabay

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. God's Kingdom Mobile Mechanics

    Ok so question…Good Morning Family

    Where were the Israelites when they were fasting for their idolatry?

    1. Jonathan Srock

      Hello, Roderick. Welcome to my website. Moses is recounting when Israel met God on Mount Sinai, and then committed idolatry by making the Golden calf and worshiping it. Moses is the one who fasted for the people to keep God from destroying them and starting over. Moses recounts the details in Deuteronomy, his last sermon to the next generation of Israel on the plains of Moab. But Israel committed idolatry at the bottom of Mount Sinai while Moses was on the mountain with God.

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