There are many things we may want in life but only two things we really need to sustain life: food and water. A famine takes both away. The famines mentioned in the Bible were typically initiated by a change in climate or a declaration of war. The food and water resources of the Promised Land were based on predictable climatic patterns that brought rain and dew into the region during expected season (Deut 11:10-15). This moisture recharged the springs and wells,

filled the cisterns, made the pastures green, ripened the grain fields, and matured the summer fruit. If the weather pattern was interrupted, then both water supply and food production were imperiled. Given the slim margins that enabled the land to produce food, we read about

famines occurring somewhat regularly from the time of Abraham through the reign of Claudius (Gen 12:10; Acts 11:28). That is why those living in Canaan developed the habit of eating the grain harvested in the previous year and storing away the harvest of the current year as a buffer against famine (Lev 26:10). But if the famines lasted more than two years, the situation became grave (Gen 45:11; 2 Sam 21:1; 24:13; 1 Kings 17:1; 2 Kings 8:1). This is also why we see people migrating from Canaan when a sustained famine occurred (Gen 12:10; Ruth 1:1).

Another cause of famine was war. Rather than expose its soldiers to withering fire while attacking a fortified city, an enemy army could blockade the city and wait for its residents to run out of food and water. The famine caused by such a siege meant that those within would “eat their food in anxiety and drink their water in despaire” (Ezek 12:19). All civility was abandoned as the strong seized food from the weak. In extreme cases, we even read of cannibalism occurring in cities under siege (2 Kings 6:25-29) END OF PART 1.

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