Bible Dictionaries

Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words


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A. Noun.

Râ‛âb (רָעָב, Strong's #7458), “famine; hunger.” This word appears about 101 times and in all periods of biblical Hebrew. Râ‛âb means “hunger” as opposed to “thirst”: “Therefore shalt thou serve thine enemies which the Lord shall send against thee, in hunger, and in thirst, and in nakedness, and in want of all things …” (Deut. 28:48).

Another meaning of the word is “famine,” or the lack of food in an entire geographical area: “And there was a famine in the land: and Abram went down into Egypt …” (Gen. 12:10—the first occurrence). God used a “famine” as a means of judgment (Jer. 5:12), of warning (1 Kings 17:1), of correction (2 Sam. 21:1), or of punishment (Jer. 14:12), and the “famine” was always under divine control, being planned and used by Him. Râ‛âb was also used to picture the “lack of God’s word” (Amos 8:11; cf. Deut. 8:3).

B. Verb.

Râ‛êb (רָעֵב, Strong's #7456), “to be hungry, suffer famine.” This verb, which appears in the Old Testament 14 times, has cognates in Ugaritic (rgb), Arabic, and Ethiopic. The first biblical occurrence is in Gen. 41:55: “And when all the land of Egypt was famished.…”

C. Adjective.

Râ‛êb (רָעֵב, Strong's #7456, רָעֵב, Strong's #7457), “hungry.” This word appears as an adjective 19 times. The first biblical occurrence is in 1 Sam. 2:5: “… And they that were hungry ceased: …”

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Bibliography Information
Vines, W. E., M. A. Entry for 'Famine'. Vine's Expository Dictionary of OT Words. 1940.

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