Matthew 6:17

17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your 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 you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.
16 "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward.
17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face,
18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal;
New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.