Did Moses fast (without food or water) for 81-days straight in Deuteronomy 9:9-18 | Or did Moses eat & drink in verses 12-17?

  • If the descent from Mount Horeb, destruction of the Golden Calf, and ascension back up Mount Horeb took place in 1-day (Verses 12-17) : Then Moses appears to have an unimaginable fast for 81-days = 40-days (Verses 9-11) + 1-day (Verses 15-17) + 40-days (Verses 18).

NIV | Deuteronomy 9: 9-18

9 When I went up on the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant that the Lord had made with you, I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water.


10 The Lord gave me two stone tablets inscribed by the finger of God. On them were all the commandments the Lord proclaimed to you on the mountain out of the fire, on the day of the assembly.

11 At the end of the forty days and forty nights, the Lord gave me the two stone tablets, the tablets of the covenant.

12 Then the Lord told me, “Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made an idol for themselves.”

13 And the Lord said to me, “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! 14 Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they.”

15 So I turned and went down from the mountain while it was ablaze with fire. And the two tablets of the covenant were in my hands.

16 When I looked, I saw that you had sinned against the Lord your God; you had made for yourselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. You had turned aside quickly from the way that the Lord had commanded you.

17 So I took the two tablets and threw them out of my hands, breaking them to pieces before your eyes.


18 Then once again I fell prostrate before the Lord for forty days and forty nights; I ate no bread and drank no water, because of all the sin you had committed, doing what was evil in the Lord’s sight and so arousing his anger.

  • 3
    Yes. Agreed. I think you are correct. Two, forty day/night fasts, one after the other, as the record states.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 14:41
  • If this is not a miracle then 40 days should have been 4 days and “without drinking water” a later construction of what originally said just “drinking”. Meaning abstaining from all calorie bearing drinks, such as milk and wine. Commented May 7, 2022 at 23:48

7 Answers 7


The passage in Deut 9 records one or possibly two of the many miracles associated with the life of Moses. Fasts of up to 40 days are humanly possible; BUT a fast without any hydration is impossible for only a few days.

Moses was in the presence of God Almighty and obviously needed no physical nourishment. The communion with the divine had been so close that Moses' face shone when he returned to the camp (Ex 34:35)

Obviously, God provided for all of Moses' needs so that no physical nourishment was required. Whether Moses ate anything between these two 40-day periods is not stated but it is not material - Moses was sustained during this time miraculously.


Climbing Mt Sinai is physically demanding especially for Moses who would have been 80 years old at the time. It is testament to the divine miracle that occurred that Moses was capable of doing this after not eating for so long.

  • "a fast without any hydration is impossible for only a few days"? * Does this mean Moses was physically resurrected twice, each time he descended with the Law? Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 20:49
  • @ChurchQuestions - No - it simply means that he was miraculously sustained so that no water and food was necessary.
    – Dottard
    Commented Jan 7, 2021 at 20:51

More detail is given in Exodus 32.

1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods a who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
19When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain. 20And he took the calf the people had made and burned it in the fire; then he ground it to powder, scattered it on the water and made the Israelites drink it.
27Then he said to them, “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Each man strap a sword to his side. Go back and forth through the camp from one end to the other, each killing his brother and friend and neighbor.’ ” 28The Levites did as Moses commanded, and that day about three thousand of the people died. 29Then Moses said, “You have been set apart to the Lord today, for you were against your own sons and brothers, and he has blessed you this day.”

30 The next day Moses said to the people, “You have committed a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.”

There is no mention that Moses ate anything; there is no mention that he fasted either. I assume that he did eat and drink in between the two 40-days fasts.


I don't believe Jesus drank any water either when he fasted 40 days in the desert (being in a desert). It also says that He fasted 40 days AND nights, which makes me wonder if he supernaturally fasted his sleep that whole time as well.

In the book "the Heavenly Man" by Brother Yun, he recounts how God led him to fast with no food and water for 81 or so days in the Chinese communist prison where he was placed for preaching Christ. He said at the end he looked like a skeleton and his own mother did not recognize him when she visited the prison to see him.

In Moses' fast, he seems to be surrounded by so much of the glory of God that he actually got stronger, and maybe why his eyesight and physical strength did not abate him until 120 years of age.


The Bible does say that Moses fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and he did not eat or drink water. (Exodus 34:28) And Jesus also fasted for 40 days and 40 nights and he didn’t eat but I believe maybe he did drink water because the verse says after he was hungry; never says anything about him being thirsty.

In either case, this is a powerful thing and clearly, The Holy Spirit supernaturally sustained and strengthened their bodies, especially being in the very presence of God you know they did not sleep much if not at all.

That is awesome and so amazing! God is glorious!! 🙌🏽❤️🔥🙏🏽


Deuteronomy is an reiteration of past events and God's command to the Israelites, as most of them who were under 40 years old had not experienced those happenings that led to their parents died wandering in the desert.

Did Moses fast for 81 days straight in Deuteronomy 9:9-18? The answer is "NO". It was two separate period of 40 days.

The first period was given in Exodus 24:15 - 32:15. The second period was given in Exodus 34:4-29. In between might have at least three days, and maybe more.

  • The first day, Moses went down the mountain and saw the golden calf. (Exodus 32:15-29)
  • The next day, Moses went back to see the Lord and pleaded for the people of their sin. (Exodus 32:30-35)
  • unspecified period; Dialogue between Moses and the Lord in a tent. (Exodus 33)
  • Last day before the 2nd trip to the mountain, Moses prepared two new stone tablets (Exodus 34:1-2)

Moses did not eat or drink for 40 days, was an allusion to Jesus' fasting for 40 days in the wilderness, tempted by the devil, said “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Note what Jesus's reply in Matthew 4:4

4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (NIV)


Moses was not on the mountain, the people were not at the foot of the mountain. Moses was off in the Mountains. He was exhiled because the officers. of his army were seeking to kill him.

A lengthy time had past. More than 80 days. Just as it was more than 40 years before the Israelites conquered West of the Jordan. The Lord told Abraham in the immediate aftermath of the Battle of 9 Kings. The Battle of Siddim. The slaughter of Chedorlaomer.

After 4 generations in Egypt They shalt get themselves up out of the land and return from whence you came. Ur, the land of the Chaldeans.

The slaughter of Chedorlaomer was the the judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah. They are in Iraq.

The golden calf was fashioned from their earings, symbolic of servitude,that they broke out of their ears at his absence. The golden calf isn't a statue. It's a man. A man who is leading in Moses absence. When he eventually ventured back near, or heard reports from his scouts, he expected the people would be weeping. With the light gone out of their eyes, but when he heard they were dancing... He was wroth...and HE THREW THE TABLETS OUT OF HIS HAND. AND HE BRAKE THEM UPON THE MOUNTAIN. The Bible never promised us the straight truth. Jesus often refused to speak except with parables. When it, the narrative voice, says that Jesus speaks parables to the multitude, but expounds to his disciples, going on to repeat what he spake to them. They were already confused before, but he continues to speak in even more subtle parables. When you hear scripture, be ready and willing to challenge your assumptions.

That's the purpose of scripture. That's what it means to listen. You can't fully listen without fully engaging.

 Genesis 15

18 In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates:

The Kenites, and the Kenizzites, and the Kadmonites,

And the Hittites, and the Perizzites, and the Rephaims,

21 And the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Girgashites, and the Jebusites.

When Sodom and Gomorrah are 

attacked and the King's try to flee and head for the hills. But it says both kings fell there. Then 7 verses later,Abram's talking
to the king of Sodom... and it doesn't sound like a new hastily crowned king either.This is when you need to listen. Not defend! Listen."Speak Lord, for thy servant listens."

"And the Lord said to Samuel, Behold, I will do a thing in Israel, at which both the ears of every one that heareth it shall tingle."

l Musa El 3:11

In Jewish tradition Moses actually fasted for 40 days in 3 concurrent sessions (not 2).

Starting on Pentecost (which was sometime around the 5th, 6th or 7th of the 3rd month (Sivan), he was on Mt. Sinai fasting for 40 days while God was giving him the Ten Commandments. Doing the math, he would have come down right around the 17th of the 4th month (Tammuz) to see the Golden Calf and smash the tablets. in Jewish tradition the 17th is a fast day because of it. (It's called Tzom B'Tammuz).

The Bible then says he fasted for 40 days more to obtain mercy for the Israelites for their sin. And the math tells us if he started a day or 2 after the Golden Calf incident he would have finished right around the end of the 5th month (Av) or the start of the 6th month (Elul).

But then he met with God 40 days more, fasting the whole time, while the replacement Commandments were created. And that takes us to right around the 10th day of the 7th month (Tishri) which is also Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Tradition tells us it is so-named because Moses is said to have presented the Israelites that day a message of atonement with God and the assurance that the Covenant was still in tact.

And the 40 days leading up to Yom Kippur are observeed, too. It is time for the Jewish faithful to make internal preparations and amend their lives for the great day, starting on the 1st day of the 6th month (which is the minor holiday called Rosh Chodesh Elul).

I personally ascribe to this ancient tradition of Moses coming back down the Mountain on Yom Kippur, in that it makes sense of why God established the holiday. But I do not believe Moses fasted 3 times. I think it more likely that he did this only twice as a foreshadowing of Jesus fast twice, once at the start of His ministry (as the Gospels report) and once in secret just prior to the end of His ministry. It would make sense that He would have done this in consideration of what He knew was coming for Him in Jerusalem.And it would also validate the intuition of the earliest Christians who established of 2 seasons of fasting (Advent and Lent). And thirdly it would show that Moses did not upstage Jesus by fasting twice as many days.

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