Matthew 6:17

17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;

Matthew 6:17 Meaning and Commentary

Matthew 6:17

But thou, when thou fastest
Christ allows of fasting, but what is of a quite different kind from that of the Jews; which lay not in an outward abstinence from food, and other conveniences of life, and refreshments of nature; but in an abstinence from sin, in acknowledgment and confession of it; and in the exercise of faith and hope in God, as a God pardoning iniquity, transgression and sin; wherefore cheerfulness, and a free use of the creatures, without an abuse of them, best became such persons.

Anoint thine head, and wash thy face;
directly contrary to the Jewish canons, which forbid these things, with others, on fast days:

``On the day of atonement, (say F9 they,) a man is forbidden eating and drinking, (hkyobwhuyxrbw) "and washing and anointing", and putting on of shoes, and the use of the bed.''

And the same were forbidden on other fasts: in anointings, the head was anointed first, and this rule and reason are given for it:

``he that would anoint his whole body, (hlyxt wvar Ko) , "let him anoint his head first", because it is king over all its members F11.''

Anointing and washing were signs of cheerfulness and joy; see ( Ruth 3:3 ) ( 2 Samuel 12:20 ) .


F9 Misn. Yoma, c. 8. sect. 1. & Taanith, c. 1. sect. 4, 5, 6. T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 77. 2. Taanith, fol. 12. 2. Moses Kotsensis Mitzvot Tora, pr. affirm. 32.
F11 T. Bab. Sabbat, fol. 61. 1.

Matthew 6:17 In-Context

15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may be seen of men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward.
17 But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thy head, and wash thy face;
18 that thou be not seen of men to fast, but of thy Father who is in secret: and thy Father, who seeth in secret, shall recompense thee.
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal:
The American Standard Version is in the public domain.