1 Kings 19

5 Then as he lay and slept under a broom tree, suddenly an angel touched him, and said to him, “Arise and eat.” 6 Then he looked, and there by his head was a cake baked on coals, and a jar of water. So he ate and drank, and lay down again. 7 And the angel of the Lord came back the second time, and touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” 8 So he arose, and ate and drank; and he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights as far as Horeb, the mountain of God.

Has Elijah fasted forty days and forty nights?

3 Answers 3


Great observation. It is presumed that this is the case. Consider the parallel with Moses, who did not eat for 40 days (Exodus 34:28; on Mt Sinai, the same mountain as Elijah), and then Jesus, who fasted for 40 days (Matthew 4:2). Then we see the three of them in the transfiguration moment in Matthew 17:3.


Brainardo gave an excellent answer. Here I supply some details.

Moses in Deuteronomy 9:

8 At Horeb you aroused the Lord’s wrath so that he was angry enough to destroy you. 9When 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.

Elijah fasted similarly in 1 Kings 19:

8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God.

Ellicott explains:

Forty days and forty nights.--Unless this time includes, as has been supposed by some, the whole journey to and from Horeb, and the sojourn there, it is far in excess of what would be recorded for a journey of some two hundred miles. It may, therefore, be thought to imply an interval of retirement for rest and solitary meditation, like the sojourn of Moses in Horeb, and the sojourn of our Lord in the wilderness (Exodus 24:18; Matthew 4:2) during which the spirit of the prophet might be calmed from the alternations of triumph and despondency, to receive the spiritual lesson which awaited him. During all that time he went "in the strength" of the Divine food, that he might know that "man doth not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Deuteronomy 8:3).

  • I was once told that the number 40 in the Bible was not meant to be taken literally, rather it was a common metaphor for any unreasonably large number. Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 3:41
  • Did they give you any scriptural supports?
    – user35953
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 13:52
  • It was a long time ago, I don't remember much about it. Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 14:11
  • If there are scriptural supports, I'll put a heavier weight on your comment; if not, a lighter one :)
    – user35953
    Commented Oct 15, 2021 at 14:16
  • I don't blame you - I'm just some rando on the internet, what do I know? I don't think there's anything in scripture specifically, it's just a common idiom from that period that historians would know about. The same way that we might today call a rich person a millionaire, even though it's extremely unlikely that they have exactly a million dollars. I don't think it's a coincidence that the number 40 pops up so often. Commented Oct 16, 2021 at 3:01

Ive heard the same reasoning about the number 40 in the Bible but something magical happens at day 41 after fasting. Miraculous healing occurs and epiphanies. Jesus started his ministry and began healing people. I believe this amount of time detoxes the body of all that is unclean making room for the presence of God. I think 40 days is literal in the Bible.

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