That’s the usual description of the Daniel Fast which you can find on Daniel fast websites, yes, there are so many of them in our days:
“The Daniel Fast is a 21-day partial fast based upon Daniel’s own experiences as recorded in the Bible. The purpose is to restrict commonly enjoyed foods as an act of worship and consecration to God. Someone who chooses to undergo a Daniel Fast demonstrates a physical commitment that reflects a deep spiritual desire for a more intimate relationship with the Lord. On one occasion, Daniel was greatly concerned for his people and sought the Lord’s wisdom during a 3-week time of prayer and fasting. Daniel 10:2-3 says, “At that time I, Daniel, mourned for three weeks. I ate no choice food; no meat or wine touched my lips.” The meaning of “choice food” is not clear; however, most commentaries conclude that he ate no bread or sweets. The Message translation sums up Daniel’s eating habits during that time: “I ate only plain and simple food.” (source http://www.ultimatedanielfast.com/)
First of all, it says that it’s not clear what that “choice food” means, but in Hebrew it does not say “choice food”- it says- “pleasant (or desirable) bread” (lehem hamudot), also it does not say in this verse anything at all if Daniel was in fact eating something during his fast- we only can see what he says he did not eat. But it can be understood from how Daniel says about what he did not eat by stating it twice that he did not eat neither bread nor meat. How can we come to a conclusion that he was eating something at all- that’s a stretch to me. Because in no place in Bible before or after there is no other mentioning of any “partial” fasts that Jewish people performed. The only true fast was abstaining from all foods. It is even more amazing to me how on basis of just one verse in Bible people can develop a whole doctrine of “Daniel fast”, I’m talking about numerous modern Daniel fast promoters. Please note that chapter One of Daniel does not speak about any fast at all, it talks about Daniel and his friends being obedient to God and not “defiling” themselves with foods of heathens and polytheists who worshiped other gods. Polytheists usually prayed over their meats and wines to dedicate them to their various gods. They also used for food the flesh of unclean creatures, particularly pork, fat and blood, which were forbidden by law of Moses and so Daniel and his friends wanted to avoid eating it all otherwise they would defile themselves in a ceremonial sense. So here we do not see a description of a fast, this chapter simply describes Daniel’s faithfulness to follow requirements which God gave to Jewish people.. Daniel refused to eat meat or drink wine from King’s table not because he thought it would be good to do that for health reasons but simply because he wanted to please his God and obey God’s commandments. But many “Daniel fast” promoters take those verses as a basis for their “good for you” food guidelines. One of those websites states :”So, a Daniel fast is eating only fruits and vegetables for a certain amount of time and abstaining from meat products”.(source http://www.gotquestions.org/Daniel-fast.html ) Another site states that “The Daniel Fast is a very healthy way to eat! ” (source http://daniel-fast.com/about.html ) Some websites promote it as ” 10-day Detox and weight loss plan”. (source http://www.danielsdiet.com/daniels_diet.htm )
When I go to those Daniel fast websites- there are so many recipes- they have a long lists of foods to eat and foods to avoid during their 21 day of fasting! If that was me I would be more destructed by suggested “food guidelines” during such fast than in my regular life. I dont think if I follow all guidelines I would have much time left for prayer, meditation on God’s word and on humbling my own heart which I think are the main points of the fast but instead I’ll be preoccupied with absolutely different things. I simply can not imagine that Daniel, during his mourning time for Israel, during his supplication before God would also spend time cooking special recipes and deciding which bread is pleasant and which is not, or shall he cook today ‘Green bean casserole” or have ” Sweet potato hash browns” instead. There are dozens upon dozens of “great tasting recipes” that I found on those websites and I just could not help but imagining Daniel waking up in the morning on his 12th day of “mourning’ and thinking shall I have “Tropical Fruit Salad” or “Blueberry Mango Smoothie” or may be “Nutty Fruit Cereal” -sorry for sarcastic tone but those were few of the hundreds recipes posted just on one of the sites of so called Daniel fast followers and that’s what they suggest you eat during 21 days of “Daniel fast “..
Sorry but no,that is absolutely not what I read in book of Daniel-he was mourning for his people, for his nation, he set aside his time to be in God’s presence to plead for his people. Please read Dan 10:2 “In those days, I, Daniel, was mourning three full weeks”. Does it seem that Daniel decided to take it easy this time and not to follow what he said previously as described in Dan. 9:3 “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes”. That is how Daniel humbles himself before his God in order for his prayer to be heard -he did it in FASTING,in SACKCLOTH and ASHES! Chapter 9 describes what that pleading looked like, we read Daniel’s prayer for his people as he was presenting his supplication for whole nation of Israel. Would he change that pattern when he mourned for full 3 weeks for sins of Israel few years later as it is described to us in Dan.10? We read in Dan 10 from verse 10 about Daniel’s encounter with messenger from Heaven, Dan.10:12 says “Then he continued, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them.” It says there that Daniel set his mind to gain understanding and to humble himself when he decided he would mourn for his nation Israel for three full weeks. That is what true fast is- when we humble ourselves before God. In Hebrew “humble” -“lehitanot” from root “anah” is one of the words which is also used for “fast” or “afflict soul or self “. I simply can not imagine Daniel setting his mind on something as important as eternal life and salvation of his fellow countrymen and then at the same time wasting his time to cook and eat some special menu or drink some special juices as some of those sites advise! Well, that’s very stretching for me to think that Daniel has such mind set here in chapter 10 – “I will mourn and by the way -I will benefit from it by cleansing my body from toxins??” Further in Dan10:13 we read that this messenger from Heaven tells Daniel about demonic armies opposing God’s purposes, we read “But the prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me one and twenty days: but, lo, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me; for I had remained there with the kings of Persia.” One and twenty days -which was just the time Daniel had been engaged in mourning and fasting. So here in this chapter we learn about the battle in heavenliest that occurred during the time when Daniel was humbling his heart and praying for his nation.
Even though I feel like I want to say: Well, if some people wish to hold so called “partial” fast and cleanse their body while coming closer to God and growing spiritually if that’s how they understand they could also honor their God, it’s fine with me but anyway, it is not what we can call “Daniel fast”! We can call it a diet or healthy living. How there can be so much emphasis on food when people talk about fast? I am so sad that this one verse in Bible which describes simply Daniel’s humbleness, the only verse in Bible by reading which we can not even say with certainty if Daniel indeed ate any food during his fast, is taken as the basis for creating and spreading all those “good for you” Daniel menus and recipes and cookbooks. I only started to Google phrase Daniel Fast today and I did not even finish typing it as I got suggestions that Google gave me as search options ,those automatic suggestions were phrases like Daniel fast Desserts, Daniel fast Breakfasts, Daniel fast Snacks, Daniel fast Pasta recipes and etc. I was shocked! Is that what most people search for on internet ??
Introduction for one of the Daniel fast cookbooks says: “A cookbook on the topic of fasting may sound like an oxymoron, but this eating plan modeled in the biblical account of the life of Daniel, often called a Daniel Fast, is actually loaded with fresh, delicious, health-promoting foods. “The Daniel Fast Made Delicious” includes more than 175 recipes, many of which are 100 percent gluten free and dairy free.” Well, if it looks like oxymoron then it definitely is oxymoron.
Most commonly used Hebrew word for fast is “tzom” which literally means “cover your mouth over”, so Jewish people covered their mouth over to food while fasting.. I read numerous commentaries on Daniel 10:2-3 and ,yes, many of them interpret it as “partial” fast but why never before or after in Bible that “partial” kind of fast is mentioned ?? In all other examples of fasting it would be no food at all. As in Esther 4:16 ” ..fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day..” So Dan 10:3 is the only verse there is to suggest that there could be a possibility that someone “covered over the mouth” partially but then was he also mourning partially, humbling himself partially or afflicting his soul partially?
In Lev. 23:27 it says “Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict your souls and present a food offering to the LORD.” This verse is talking about the fast that was commanded by God himself to Jewish nation,we know it as Yom Kippur. Other translations instead of “afflict your souls or self” also use-“deny yourself”, “humble yourself” (same as used in Dan 10:12 ) and the definition of the word “souls” here includes: self, life, creature, person, appetite, mind, living being, desire, emotion, passion. You fast it ALL when you fast! I believe that by commanding His people to fast God wanted them to be less pre-occupied with their fleshly needs so that they would spend more time seeking the true Bread which comes from Heaven and that His people will be reminded that God is the source and supplier of all what they need.
Here is a quote from the article (posted further) – “Daniel said, “I ate no pleasant bread,” by no means meant he ate unpleasant bread. The meal consists of meats, food other than meats and drink (wine). Matter of fact, “bread” is a generic way of saying he ate no food as distinct from meats. The statement Daniel made, “Neither came flesh nor wine in my mouth,” merely emphasized his first statement. He is making a distinction because bread is food and meat is food also so, no flesh meaning no meats. So Daniel is saying he had nothing to eat whether bread or meat or wine, nothing. This is similar to “fish and loaves” in (Matthew 14:17). Please understand the language and its connotations.” I so agree with that!!! And even if those other commentaries that state Dan.10:3 talks about partial fasting are right- I still take it very sceptically because there is simply no such thing as partial mourning. And that’s what Daniel said he was doing during whole three weeks- mourning. I dont see him squeezing juices in the midst of it ,so again I say-lets not call that thing that is so much promoted by various churches in our days a “Daniel fast” ,just call it dieting.
And dieting is good for you, of course, that’s what diets for, they can help you to better your health, sure! It even can heal from certain illnesses, sure! But it’s not what biblical fasting is about!
Another thought – God gave us example in Isaiah about a false fast and false humbleness when He addresses that warning to His nation Israel,we can read it in Isaiah 58: 1-14. He talks here about people who thought they fasted and afflicted their souls but He told them that they did that for wrong reasons and that this is not a fast that will cause God to hear His people because their self denial was false. God calls them to do what would really please Him and Isaiah 58:13(b) says “And shall honor Him, not doing your own ways, nor finding your own pleasure, nor speaking your own words”. That what honors God-when we don’t do it “our way”..but His. In example of Daniel he truly and sincerely humbles himself before God and God honored that. So can we say that one of the purposes of Daniel’s humbling himself was to better his health? In the light of what we just read in Isaiah those Daniel fast recipes and cookbooks seem ridiculous. That verse in Dan 10:3 is taken out of such an important context and so misused by healthy life style promoters. We really need to ask ourselves what is behind our motives for following such things as ‘Daniel fast” of modern days. I am sure that many christians sincerely want to come closer to their God and serve Him better but.. lets have discernment and not let spiritual things and things that “better our overall health issues” be mixed together. Yes, examples from Old testament show us how Word of God was distorted and misused for purposes of people’s own pleasure and gain. Is church doing the same thing today? That’s how it seems to me.
The only instruction that we have from our Lord Jesus in New Testament about fasting is the one in Matthew 6:16-18 “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” As we know when our Lord spoke about prayer He gave much more guidelines about how to pray , but about fasting that’s all He said. And it is obvious that emphasis which He makes here is on that God “sees what is done in secret”, and Jesus assures us that He will “reward” us. The times for fasting are not appointed here neither He does mention how often we are supposed to fast or for how long..
Romans 14:17,19 tells us that ” the kingdom of God is not food and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit… Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another”. So if a person engages in a fast “for some wrong motivations such as to participate in promoted activity from their church leadership, or as a weight loss plan, or as a healthy lifestyle, then it is a fad of no worth!” (quote from http://the-end-time.blogspot.com/2011/11/daniel-fast-and-jentezen-franklin.html) It’s interesting that Paul says in Romans 14:2 that those who are “weak eat only vegetables”. He also says not to look down on such people because we are not to judge or despise each other for what we eat or do not eat and he says that we are “not to put a stumbling block or cause to fall in our brothers way”. So by no means we are to judge anyone for what they want to eat or not but here we are talking about people who create whole new doctrine of ‘Daniel fast’ with multiple good for you dietary restrictions which many churches follow- I again will quote Paul “But kingdom of God is not eating and drinking”..
True worship glorifies God, not the person who proposes to seek Him. Jesus illustrates that point with three examples: giving, praying, and fasting in Matthew 6. He does not want us to fast from food and feed our pride. Col 2:20-23 says “Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch! These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence”. So here we see that Paul urges Colossians who put too much emphasis on what they were eating or not eating not to follow legalism and asceticism that was being forced on them because such exercises deny Christ supremacy and sufficiency, rob Christians of their liberty and are of no value against the indulgence of our flesh.
So all that what we just read again reminds us of what really matters- the condition of our heart.
Here is an excerpt on the Daniel Fast and fasting in the New Testament from John MacArthur’s site, Grace To You. I want to finish those thoughts of mine with quotes from his site:
“What’s sad is the effect these self-appointed authorities have on those who follow them. They bind consciences with false guilt. Setting themselves up as judges of what goes into your mouth, they oppose our Lord Jesus Christ, who declared all foods clean and said that nothing should be rejected if it is received with gratitude (Mark 7:19; 1 Timothy 4:1-5).
“The New Testament leaves the details of fasting to the discretion of the believer and even de-emphasizes fasting in the progress of revelation. When Jesus taught against hypocrisy in Matthew 6:1-18, he taught us to give, pray, and fast privately. If you do, your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
[As opposed to praying, fasting is a] “Different approach altogether. Yes, he tells those who fast to fast in secret (Matthew 6:18). But he does not say, “Fast, then, in this way.” He does not give any instruction on fasting. He does not address frequency. He does not address diet. He does not address drinking liquids while fasting. He most certainly does not address whether the starchy endosperm in semolina vitiates the purpose of the fast!”
“His silence shows that Jesus de-emphasized fasting in comparison to prayer. If you needed such details to live your Christian life, He would have given them (cf. 2 Timothy 3:16-17). His silence shows you shouldn’t preoccupy yourself with the matter. Teachers today should not regulate fasting or elevate it to prominence when Jesus left it in the shadows.”
Here are some more articles that also address this issue.