Deliverance is not Guaranteed by Fasting

by Frank Jones


"The three-day fast called by Mordecai at Esther’s request in 4:15–16 is best understood in terms of a related, but significantly different, belief on the part of the Jews. It is quite distinct in character from the ‘fasting, weeping and wailing’ which are mentioned at the beginning of the same chapter (4:1–3). That was a spontaneous response to bad news. This fast, in contrast, is ‘called’ by Esther and Mordecai, and therefore takes on the character of a ritual act. Furthermore, it is specifically ‘for’ Esther (4:15), who is about to take her life in her hands by approaching the king unbidden; it has an intercessory aspect to it. The Jews apparently do not believe that particular events have a fixed character; but neither do they think that the way they turn out is entirely due to natural causes. The fasting here implies belief in a higher power who may be induced to intervene in a favourable way. The fast in question appears to be a religious act which it is hoped will induce him to do so on this particular occasion. But the outcome is not guaranteed by the act. There is no mechanical connection between ritual and result. The power who is appealed to remains free and sovereign: ‘If I perish, I perish’ (4:16)." (Webb, Barry. Five Festal Garments, 121-122.)