The word “famine” was first mentioned in the Bible in Genesis 26:1. Due to that particular famine, Abraham was compelled to travel to the land of Egypt. When we hear the word famine, most of us react negatively. Of course, who wants to starve or be hungry? Even though famine can bring hunger and lead to death, let us remember that even if the world intended it to cause harm, God can bring good from it and accomplish His good will, which saves people (Genesis 50:20).
In Hebrew, the word hunger is pronounced as raw-awb. Some Bible translations available today translate hunger or raw-awb in English as “famine”. The term famine originated from a Latin word, which also means hunger. There are still places on earth today where famine regularly occurs, and there are a number of causes of famine. In Abraham’s time, the cause of famine was drought, but war can also cause famine, as it disables the ability of people or a nation to produce and distribute enough food for the population. If we look at history, the results of famine can be devastating. In fact, there are even groups of starving human beings who have resorted to cannibalism due to famine.
Famine in the Bible
Famine plagued the Israelites not only in the time of patriarchs and judges, but also during David’s time (2 Samuel 21:1). We can also find famine during the time of the prophets—Elijah (1 Kings 18:2), Elisha (2 Kings 4:38), Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:3), and Haggai (Haggai 1:11). Prophets in the Bible have predicted when a famine is going to come to the people, such as in Jeremiah 14:12, Isaiah 3:1, and even in the New Testament in Acts 11:28. Some famines in the Bible occurred due to natural forces, such as wind, locusts, floods, mildew, and hail. There are also famines caused by enemies or wars, such as when the oppressors of Israel destroyed their cities and confiscated all their food supplies (Isaiah 1:7). For example, the people in Samaria have experienced famine because their enemies laid siege to their cities.
Some famines found in the Bible can last for many years (Genesis 41:27, Jeremiah 14:1-6). During famines, people resorted to eating different kinds of things, such as garbage, wild vines, dung, sticks, and as mentioned earlier, even human flesh (2 Kings 4:39, 2 Kings 6:28, and Lamentations 4:4-10).
The sins of Adam and Eve resulted in famine or unfruitfulness of the earth, as mentioned in Genesis 3:17 and Genesis 4:12. The earth was supposed to be a very beautiful place overflowing with food. But because of that first example of disobedience, the judgment of God came upon us human beings. While it is true that some famines in the Bible are caused by the judgment of God, (2 Samuel 21:1, 1 Kings 17:1, 2 Kings 8:1, Jeremiah 14:12, Ezekiel 5:12, and Amos 4:6), it is unwise to say that all natural disasters that happened in the past and continue happening today are connected to divine punishment. We can see in Genesis 12:10, Genesis 26:1, Ruth 1:1, and Acts 11:28 that some famines or disasters that happened were not caused by God’s judgment.
If we carefully study the Bible, we will learn that God sends a famine to His people for the purpose of bringing them to repentance (1 Kings 8:35-36, Hosea 2:8-23, and Amos 4:6-8). However, God is always gracious and merciful, and has promised to protect faithful ones in times of disasters, droughts, and even famine. We can read about the promises of God protecting us from these things in Job 5:20, Psalms 37:18-19, and Proverbs 10:3.
Jesus is Lord Over Famine
The good news is, Jesus is Lord during both feast and famine. If we put our faith in Him, even if we are experiencing famine or hunger in our lives, we know that we will be filled or satisfied by His peace, joy, and love. It is the Holy Spirit who will give us the strength to carry on and endure even the hardest things in life. Remember that it is Jesus who gives us food and keeps us alive. Therefore, whether we are full or hungry, it is essential that we give thanks to Him. Don’t worry about tomorrow, for Jesus is big and generous enough to sustain us.
It is heartbreaking to see people or entire nations suffering from famine. Our hearts are crushed when we see severely thin and malnourished children in the arms of a hopeless mother. However, the most pitiful and perilous famine ever is the famine of not hearing the Word of God. We can go to heaven and enjoy eternal life, even if we experienced famine in this world, but it’s a different story if we suffer from spiritual famine. As Christians, it is critical that we share the good news of Jesus Christ. One cannot have faith and be born again without hearing the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Christians should not only fight and endure hunger for food or famine, but we must also combat spiritual famine. There is no better way for us to fight spiritual famine than reading, knowing, understanding, and sharing the person and the works of Jesus Christ.