Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Famine (2)

FAMINE.—Though the general fertility of Palestine is frequently alluded to in the Bible, yet the country was, as we know, by no means free from the danger of famine, whether brought about by drought or by the devastations of locusts and other pests, or by the destructive hand of man. Our Lord refers to the familiar instance of famine in the days of Elijah (Luke 4:25 f.) In order to illustrate the truth that no prophet is best received in his own country, He reminds His hearers that Elijah was at that time sent not to one of the many widows in Israel, but to the widow of Sarepta in the territory of Sidon.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son, it was ‘a mighty famine’ (λιμὸς ἰσχυρά) in the land of his distant exile that helped to bring the wanderer to his senses (Luke 15:14). He had squandered all his patrimony by the time it arose, and in his distress he had to seek a living by feeding swine. Even thus, food was so scarce with him that ‘he would fain have been filled with the husks that the swine did eat.’

Lastly, in the eschatological discourses of our Lord recorded by the Synoptists (Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11), ‘famines in divers places’ are included among the signs of the end. In St. Luke’s account they are joined with pestilences, and in all three accounts with earthquakes. This portion of the prophecy at all events seems clearly to refer in the first instance to the approaching destruction of Jerusalem by Titus (a.d. 70), and only in a secondary sense, if at all, to the final end of all things. Josephus (BJ v. and vi.) again and again tells us that famine and pestilence were the terrible accompaniments of the city being taken by the Roman army; and these were no doubt in great measure due to its crowded state on account of the many pilgrims who had come up to keep the Passover.

C. L. Feltoe.

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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Famine (2)'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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