The forty day fast (Lk 4:2-4:2)

“For forty days,

Jesus was tempted

By the devil.

He ate nothing

At all

During those days.

When these days

Were over,

He was very hungry.”

 

ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου. Καὶ οὐκ ἔφαγεν οὐδὲν ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις, καὶ συντελεσθεισῶν αὐτῶν ἐπείνασεν.

 

This text is like Matthew, chapter 4:2, almost word for word, indicating a common source, perhaps Q.  Luke said that Jesus was tempted (πειραζόμενος) for 40 days (ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα) by the devil (ὑπὸ τοῦ διαβόλου).  During this time or in those days (ἐν ταῖς ἡμέραις ἐκείναις), Jesus did not eat anything at all (Καὶ οὐκ ἔφαγεν οὐδὲν), since he was fasting.  When the 40 days were over or completed (καὶ συντελεσθεισῶν αὐτῶν), Jesus was really hungry or famished (ἐπείνασεν).  There was a symbolism in this fast of 40 days.  Luke did not mention 40 nights, like Matthew.  Fasting was a common Hebrew exercise, while 40 was the same number of years that the Israelites were in the wilderness during the Exodus.  Jesus was really hungry at the end of his 40 day fast.  The devil, the personification of evil, tempted Jesus.  Mark, chapter 1:13, has an abbreviated description of the temptations of Jesus compared to Matthew, and Luke.  All 3 synoptics agreed that Jesus was in the wilderness 40 symbolic days.  All agreed that Jesus was tempted by Satan or the devil, the adversary or the accuser.  This concept of the adversary showed the Persian influence on the Israelites after the exile.  The older devil concept was considered a fallen angel without all the powers of God, but nevertheless very strong.  Mark said that Jesus was with the wild beasts, but this remark was not found in the other longer detailed descriptions of Matthew and Luke.  Mark made it seem like the temptation was physical, like the fear of wild animals, as he then said that the good angels ministered to Jesus, waiting on him and taking caring for him.

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Temptations in the wilderness (Mk 1:13-1:13)

“Jesus was

In the wilderness

Forty days.

He was

Tempted by Satan.

He was

With the wild beasts.

The angels

Ministered to him.”

 

καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ, καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων, καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ.

 

Mark has an abbreviated description of the temptations of Jesus compared to Matthew, chapter 4:2-11, and Luke, chapter 4:2-13.  Jesus was in the wilderness 40 days (καὶ ἦν ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ τεσσεράκοντα ἡμέρας).  All 3 synoptics agree on the 40 days, since there was a symbolism to this number with the 40 years that the Israelites were in the wilderness during the Exodus.  All agree that Jesus was tempted by Satan or the devil (πειραζόμενος ὑπὸ τοῦ Σατανᾶ).  Satan was the adversary or the accuser after the Persian influence on the Israelites after the exile.  The older devil concept was considered a fallen angel without all the powers of God, but nevertheless very strong.  Sometimes the devil was referred to as the personification of evil.  Why was Jesus tempted?  God, the Father, Yahweh, often tested the righteous ones and the prophets in the Hebrew Bible.  Luke and Matthew are very similar with their detailed account of these 3 temptations.  Mark does not mention Jesus fasting or any of the 3 specific detailed temptations that are in Luke and Matthew.  Jesus was with the wild beasts (καὶ ἦν μετὰ τῶν θηρίων), but this remark was not found in the longer detailed descriptions of Matthew and Luke, only here.  Mark makes it seem like the temptation was physical or like the fear of wild animals.  Then the angels ministered to him (καὶ οἱ ἄγγελοι διηκόνουν αὐτῷ).  This is somewhat similar to Matthew, chapter 4:11, but there were no angels ministering to Jesus in Luke, chapter 4:13.  Here, a number of angels came, as in 1 Kings, chapter 19:4-8, where an angel came to help Elijah when he was in the desert, as the shadow of Elijah appeared in many of these gospel stories.  These angels came to wait on and care for Jesus.

Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights (Mt 4:2-4:2)

“Jesus fasted

Forty days

And forty nights.

Afterwards,

He was hungry.”

 

καὶ νηστεύσας ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα καὶ τεσσεράκοντα νύκτας ὕστερον ἐπείνασεν.

 

Once again, this text is like Luke, chapter 4:2, word for word, indicating a common source, perhaps the Q source.  There was a symbolism in this fast of 40 days (ἡμέρας τεσσεράκοντα) and 40 nights (καὶ τεσσεράκοντα νύκτας).  Fasting (νηστεύσας) was a common Hebrew exercise, while 40 was the same number of years that the Israelites were in the wilderness during the Exodus.  This was a real fast, not one that ended when the sun went down, since it included a night fast also.  Jesus was really hungry of famished (ἐπείνασεν) at the end of this time. (ὕστερον).

Go into exile (Ezek 12:1-12:3)

“The word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Son of man!

You are living

In the midst

Of a rebellious house!

They have eyes to see,

But they do not see!

They have ears to hear,

But they do not hear!

They are

A rebellious house!

Therefore,

Son of man!

Prepare for yourself

An exile’s baggage!

Go into exile

By day

In their sight!

You shall go

Like an exile

From your place

To another place

In their sight.

Perhaps

They will understand,

Though they are

A rebellious house.’”

Here is another oracle of Yahweh to Ezekiel, the son of man, filled with symbolism about the exile. Yahweh told Ezekiel that he was living in the middle of a rebellious house. These people had eyes to see, but they did not see. They had ears to hear, but they did not hear. Thus Ezekiel was going to prepare himself to go into exile with the baggage of an exile. He was to leave in plain sight during the day. He was to go from one place to another, so that everyone could see it. Perhaps the people of this rebellious house might understand what was going on.

The faces of the four living creatures (Ezek 1:10-1:11)

“As for the appearance

Of their faces,

Each had

The face

Of a human being

In front.

Each had

The face

Of a lion

On the right side.

Each had

The face

Of an ox

On the left side.

Each had

The face

Of an eagle

At the back.

Such were their faces.

Their wings

Were spread out above.

Each creature

Had two wings.

Each wing

Touched the wing

Of another.

The two wings

Covered their bodies.”

Each creature had the face of a human being in front. Then there was a face of a lion on the right side with a face of an ox on the left side. In the back was the face of an eagle. Interesting enough this is similar to the idea of cherubim in Assyrian and Babylonian times. They had a statue of a god who had the head of a human, the body of a lion, the paws of an ox, with wings. This same symbolism was later taken up as the symbols of the four Christian evangelists, as well as the 4 creatures of the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation. There is also the interpretation that these animal heads symbolize mobility, intelligence, and strength. Their wings were spread out above each of these creatures, so that they touched each other. Thus these wings covered the bodies of these creatures.

Yahweh and the defeat of Egypt and Ethiopia (Isa 20:3-20:5)

“Yahweh said.

‘Just as my servant Isaiah

Has walked naked and barefoot

For three years,

As a sign against Egypt,

As a portent against Ethiopia,

So shall the king of Assyria

Lead away the Egyptians as captives.

The Ethiopians also will be exiles,

Both the young and the old,

The naked and the barefoot,

With buttocks uncovered,

To the shame of Egypt.

They shall be dismayed.

They shall be confounded

Because of Ethiopia,

Their hope,

As well as Egypt

Their boast.’”

Now we have the oracle of Yahweh, via Isaiah. The prophet Isaiah had been naked for 3 years, as a sign against Egypt and Ethiopia. Now, the Assyrian king would capture Egypt and Ethiopia. They will be lead away as captives and exiles. No one will be saved. The young and the old will all be captured naked and barefooted. Thus the symbolism of Isaiah will actually happen to the Egyptians and Ethiopians as their naked butts will bring them shame. They will be dismayed and confused. Their hope and their boast about Egypt and Ethiopia will come to an end.

Enoch (Sir 44:16-44:16)

“Enoch pleased the Lord.

He was taken up.

He is an example

Of repentance

To all generations.”

It is interesting that the first famous holy man mentioned is Enoch. He first appeared in chapter 5 of Genesis. He was among the 12 patriarchs before the flood. In fact, he was the lucky 7th one. Enoch was the son of Jared and the great grandfather of Noah, via Methuselah and Lamech. Although he was a descendant via Seth, son of Adam and Eve, he has the same name as Cain’s son in chapter 4 of Genesis. However, what made Enoch unique among these early patriarchs was that he does not seem to die. Instead God “took him up” when he was merely 365 years old. Perhaps there is some symbolism here. There were 3 apocryphal Books of Enoch written from the 3rd century BCE to after the time of Jesus Christ. In fact, there are a few mentions of Enoch in the New Testament writings. Thus Sirach would not have been out of place talking about him as he was one of the first people not to die, but go to heaven or “be taken up.” Thus there was a certain fascination about Enoch. He certainly pleased the Lord. Somehow, he was an example of repentance. He had some kind of special relationship with God. Interesting enough, Enoch has had a role in the Dead Sea Qumran community, Rabbinic Judaism, early Christianity, and Islamic thought, as well as the Latter Day Saints, or Mormons.