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The Famines Of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob

The Biblical Hebrew word pronounced raw-awb means hunger. Most English translations of the Holy Scriptures translate it as "famine," a word that originated from a Latin word which also meant hunger.

Famines can have a number of causes. War, which disables the ability of a nation to produce or distribute sufficient food for its population, is the most common non-natural (unless one regards "human nature" as "natural") cause of famine. During severe famine, starving people have resorted to cannibalism, as in this horrendous example during a military siege in which the food supply was cut off.

"28:55 So that he will not give to any of them of the flesh of his children whom he shall eat: because he hath nothing left him in the siege, and in the straitness, wherewith thine enemies shall distress thee in all thy gates. 28:56 The tender and delicate woman among you, which would not adventure to set the sole of her foot upon the ground for delicateness and tenderness, her eye shall be evil toward the husband of her bosom, and toward her son, and toward her daughter, 28:57 And toward her young one that cometh out from between her feet, and toward her children which she shall bear: for she shall eat them for want of all things secretly in the siege and straitness, wherewith thine enemy shall distress thee in thy gates." (Deuteronomy 28:55-57 KJV)

"There was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham"

The other major cause of famine is drought. Abraham, Isaac and Jacob all experienced that sort of famine that forced them to relocate for a time. For Abraham, it involved a stay in Egypt, whereby he left far richer than when he entered (see also The Exodus Prophecy).

The Holy Scriptures

"12:10 And there was a famine in the land: and Abram [see Abram and Sarai] went down into Egypt to sojourn there; for the famine was grievous in the land. 12:11 And it came to pass, when he was come near to enter into Egypt, that he said unto Sarai his wife, Behold now, I know that thou art a fair woman to look upon: 12:12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. 12:13 Say, I pray thee, thou art my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee.

12:14 And it came to pass, that, when Abram was come into Egypt, the Egyptians beheld the woman that she was very fair. 12:15 The princes also of Pharaoh saw her, and commended her before Pharaoh: and the woman was taken into Pharaoh's house [Note: the term "pharaoh" originally meant the palace of the Egyptian king; the term later came to be used for the king himself]. 12:16 And he entreated Abram well for her sake: and he had sheep, and oxen, and he asses, and menservants, and maidservants, and she asses, and camels.

12:17 And the LORD plagued Pharaoh and his house with great plagues because of Sarai Abram's wife. 12:18 And Pharaoh called Abram, and said, What is this that thou hast done unto me? why didst thou not tell me that she was thy wife? 12:19 Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way. 12:20 And Pharaoh commanded his men concerning him: and they sent him away, and his wife, and all that he had." (Genesis 12:10-20 KJV)

The next great famine occurred a generation later, in the time of Abraham's son Isaac. While Isaac apparently intended to go to Egypt as his father had done, the LORD (see 'Before Abraham Was, I AM' to understand the vital truth that the Messiah was "the God of the Old Testament") commanded him to go to the adjacent Philistine territory. Like his father, Isaac emerged from the time of famine far wealthier than he entered.

"26:1 And there was a famine in the land, beside the first famine that was in the days of Abraham. And Isaac went unto Abimelech king of the Philistines unto Gerar. 26:2 And the LORD appeared unto him, and said, Go not down into Egypt; dwell in the land which I shall tell thee of: 26:3 Sojourn in this land, and I will be with thee, and will bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will give all these countries, and I will perform the oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father; 26:4 And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; 26:5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws. 26:6 And Isaac dwelt in Gerar:

26:7 And the men of the place asked him of his wife; and he said, She is my sister: for he feared to say, She is my wife; lest, said he, the men of the place should kill me for Rebekah; because she was fair to look upon.

26:8 And it came to pass, when he had been there a long time, that Abimelech king of the Philistines looked out at a window, and saw, and, behold, Isaac was sporting with Rebekah his wife. 26:9 And Abimelech called Isaac, and said, Behold, of a surety she is thy wife: and how saidst thou, She is my sister?

And Isaac said unto him, Because I said, Lest I die for her.

26:10 And Abimelech said, What is this thou hast done unto us? one of the people might lightly have lien with thy wife, and thou shouldest have brought guiltiness upon us.

26:11 And Abimelech charged all his people, saying, He that toucheth this man or his wife shall surely be put to death.

26:12 Then Isaac sowed in that land, and received in the same year an hundredfold: and the LORD blessed him." (Genesis 26:1-12 KJV)

Fact Finder: Where did Jacob go to escape the great famine in his generation?
See The Goshen Refugees; also Why Were The Israelites Made Slaves In Egypt?


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