Holman Bible Dictionary
Famine and Drought
Causes of Famine. Drought was the most common cause of famines mentioned in the Bible. Drought caused famines in the time of Abraham (Genesis 12:10 ), Isaac (Genesis 26:1 ), Joseph (Genesis 41:27 ), and the judges (Ruth 1:1 ). Drought and famine also plagued the Israelites in the days of David (2 Samuel 21:1 ), Elijah (1 Kings 18:2 ), Elisha (2 Kings 4:38 ), Haggai (Haggai 1:11 ), and Nehemiah (Nehemiah 5:3 ). At times the coming of droughts and famines was predicted by prophets (2 Kings 8:1; Isaiah 3:1; Jeremiah 14:12; Acts 11:28 ). Other natural forces also caused famines: locusts, wind, hail, and mildew (Joel 1:4; Amos 4:9; Haggai 2:17 ). The Israelites also experienced famines caused by enemies. Occasionally oppressors destroyed or confiscated food (Deuteronomy 28:33 ,Deuteronomy 28:33,28:51; Isaiah 1:7 ). The siege of cities also resulted in famine, such as the siege of Samaria by Ben-hadad (2 Kings 6:24-25 ) and the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:2-3 ).
The famines which Israel experienced were often severe, some lasting for years (Genesis 12:10; Genesis 41:27; Jeremiah 14:1-6 ). During famines, starving people resorted to eating such things as wild vines, heads of animals, garbage, dung, and even human flesh (2 Kings 4:39; 2Kings 6:25,2 Kings 6:28; Lamentations 4:4-10 ).
Famine and Drought as the Judgment of God God created the world as a good environment which would normally provide ample water and food for mankind (Genesis 1:1 ). However, the productiveness of the earth is related to people's obedience to God. For example, the sins of Adam, Eve, and Cain resulted in unfruitfulness of the earth (Genesis 3:17-18; Genesis 4:12 ). Israel's relationship with God also directly affected the fertility of the Promised Land. When the people obeyed God, the land was productive (Deuteronomy 11:11-14 ). However, when they disobeyed, judgment came on the land by drought and famine (Leviticus 26:23-26; Deuteronomy 11:16-17; 1 Kings 8:35 ). Furthermore, the New Testament reports that famine will be a part of God's coming judgment of the earth in the last days (Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:8 ).
While the Bible states that some famines and droughts are the judgment of God (2 Samuel 21:1; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 8:1; Jeremiah 14:12; Ezekiel 5:12; Amos 4:6 ), not all such disasters are connected to divine punishment (Genesis 12:10; Genesis 26:1; Ruth 1:1; Acts 11:28 ). When God did send drought and famine on His people, it was for the purpose of bringing them to repentance (1 Kings 8:35-36; Hosea 2:8-23; Amos 4:6-8 ). Moreover, the Old Testament contains promises that God will protect His faithful ones in times of famine (Job 5:20 ,Job 5:20,5:22; Psalm 33:18-19; Psalm 37:18-19; Proverbs 10:3 ). See Ben-hadad; Jerusalem; Nebuchadnezzar; Samaria; Water .
Bob R. Ellis
These dictionary topics are from the Holman Bible Dictionary, published by Broadman & Holman, 1991. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman & Holman.
Butler, Trent C. Editor. Entry for 'Famine and Drought'. Holman Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hbd/f/famine-and-drought.html. 1991.