The Daniel Fast: is it biblical?

Our journey towards better health is equally as spiritual as it is physical. God’s word is an excellent tool to both encourage and strengthen our relationship with Him. There are specific diets throughout scripture that are used by God’s people because in following those diets, they are remaining obedient to Him (sounds familiar with why I’m on the primal diet right?!) Along with the Maker’s Diet I posted about last semester (click here,) the Daniel Fast is another biblical based diet where people have experienced excellent spiritual and health results. However, I am a bit skeptical about the Daniel Fast because I’m not sure if I would consider it biblical.  
The book of Daniel
So for those of you who are not familiar with the book of Daniel, Daniel is an Israelite who is raised in Babylonian captivity. King Nebuchadnezzar wanted some Israelites from the royal family on his court, so Daniel was one of the people chosen by him. Throughout the book Daniel interprets dreams and visions for King Nebuchadnezzar as well as other kings. The most common story told from the book of Daniel is when he survives staying overnight in a lion’s den. You can read the story here if you want to know more about it.

So the part of the story where Daniel fasts is actually in the first chapter of Daniel before the Bible states he is gifted in dream interpretation. When Daniel is chosen by King Nebuchadnezzar to serve on his court, King Nebuchadnezzar raises him and the other chosen men on his royal food and wine. However, this is Daniel’s response in Daniel 1: 8-16 to King Nebuchadnezzar’s diet plan: 

   Daniel  was determined that he would not defile himself with the king’s food or with the wine he drank. So he asked permission from the chief official not to defile himself. God had granted Daniel favor and compassion from the chief official, et he said to Daniel, “My lord the king assigned your food and drink. I’m afraid of what would happen if he saw your faces looking thinner than those of the other young men your age. You would endanger my life with the  king. 

   So Daniel said to the guard whom the chief official had assigned to Daniel  Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, “Please test your servants for 10 days. Let us be given vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then examine our appearance and the appearance of the young men who are eating the king’s food, and deal with your servants based on what you see.” He agreed with them in this matter and tested them for 10 days. At the end of 10 days they looked better and healthier than all the young men who were eating the king’s food. So the guard continued to remove their food and wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables. 

Daniel Fast guidelines

So the Bible says Daniel avoids the king’s food but does not specify the type of food other than wine (which is a drink!) The only other clues we really have is in Daniel 10:2 when Daniel is mourning about the foreshadowing of destruction:

In those days I, Daniel, was mourning for three full weeks. I didn’t eat any rich food, no meat or wine entered my mouth, and I didn’t put any oil on my body until the three weeks were over. 

So from these Bible verses, we can conclude Daniel ate a vegetarian diet. However, when I researched more about this diet, people added other foods that were not in the Bible. If you want some resources about the diet you can click here and here, but basically the guidelines are:

  • All fruits and vegetables
  • All whole grains (quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat, etc.) 
  • All legumes
  • All nuts and seeds
  • Water 
  • Soy 
  • Tofu
  • Unsweetened drinks such as almond milk 

Avoid

  • Animal products (meat, dairy, etc. ) 
  • Sweeteners (including honey)
  • Leavened bread and yeast
  • All processed foods

I’m not sure this is biblical

I briefly researched the Daniel Fast before but now that I’ve done a more in depth study of it, I’m a bit confused how this diet is biblical. I like to stick as close to scripture as possible when I refer to the Bible. According to the verses above, the Daniel Fast should technically be vegetables and water for 10 days. However, people have added other foods such as fruit and whole grains which is not stated anywhere in scripture. People have also made the fast 21 days instead of 10. In one of the website links I posted above, the writer of the website said that when the Bible says “vegetables” it means fruit and vegetables. While I’m not too knowledgeable about the historical context of the Bible, I’m unsure how someone would know that is what the Bible really means when it says vegetables. I’m also aware our culture is different than the culture in the Bible which is probably why people are lenient towards adding foods such quinoa, legumes, etc. However, I am a very “all or nothing” type person and I think if we are going to do a fast based on the Bible, we should take the diet literally. According to scripture Daniel ate vegetables and drank water. Despite cultural differences, it’s not as if we are unable to do this diet in modern day society. We all have access to water and vegetables. 

I’m not at all trying to discourage people from trying the Daniel Fast nor am I saying the Daniel Fast is an incompetent diet (although I disapprove their use of soy and tofu.) I know people who experienced positive health and spiritual results.I just don’t know if I can say it is a “biblical based diet,” when scripture makes it clear Daniel’s diet was water and vegetables, not grains, legumes, soy, etc. 

The spiritual side of fasting

So while we’re on the subject of fasting, I think it is important to pay attention to our motives for fasting. I know I’ve probably made your ears bleed by how much I’ve said this, but our motives of going on a diet should not be for results. We shouldn’t want to go on a diet only to lose weight, clear our skin, or even to receive answers to questions we have for God. We should go on a diet because it is what God wants for us. We go on a diet to remain obedient to the Lord. Through our obedience we will receive results and become closer with Him. Not saying we have to do “good works” in order to become closer to God, but I’ve noticed my relationship with Him strengthening when I do things out of obedience.

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