How does washing your face and "anointing your head" hide the fact that you are fasting?

But you, when you fast, anoint your head, and wash your face; (Matthew 6:17)

  • 1
    While the washing involved assumes a cleaning aspect, I believe both the washing and the anointing is referring to the use of oils. The language never specifies what they are washing or anointing with. Still unless you are going to say one is anointing with just water, then the washing involves oils too. Modern world is slowly rediscovering the use of oils for health and they have long been used cosmetically. @MattGutting has the right answer in principle, I'm just specifying what is being referred to.
    – Joshua
    Jan 11, 2016 at 3:30
  • Why do you think it hides that you are fasting?
    – Flimzy
    Jan 11, 2016 at 15:06
  • @Flimzy Presumably because Jesus advises it be done so that no one but God will know you're fasting. Jan 12, 2016 at 0:31
  • 2
    @Flimzy Because it was common when fasting to demonstrate it with sack cloth and ashes. But those whose effort to not just have a normal but to improve their appearance would be washed, clean and using oils to help them appear healthy and even hansom/beautiful. Isaiah 58:5 "Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?"
    – Joshua
    Jan 12, 2016 at 1:31
  • @MattGutting: Some context is needed to make that connection.
    – Flimzy
    Jan 12, 2016 at 6:53

1 Answer 1


It wouldn't, except that people might expect you to be like "The hypocrites":

They neglect their appearance, so that they may appear to others to be fasting.

(Matthew 6:16)

You might expect this dialogue:

Hey Joe, you OK these days? Man, you gotta take care of yourself, you know, shower once in a while, wash the hair, right?

Hey man, lay off, I'm fasting, you know?

Oh, hey, fasting! Well nothing wrong with that, man. Good on you!

And "they have already received their reward". If you look after your appearance, only God, "who sees what is hidden" and will repay you.

  • Esther 2:12 "since this was the regular period of their beautifying, six months with oil of myrrh and six months with spices and ointments for women" definitely being used for appearance.
    – Joshua
    Jan 11, 2016 at 6:19

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