Historical Context: Food Availability in Biblical Times

Compared to today, food in biblical times was generally far less plentiful, accessible, and convenient. Fittingly, one reliable source states, “For centuries, agriculture in the Land of Israel was highly dependent on irregular rainfall, making drought and consequent famine of frequent occurrence.” This quote accords with the Bible, where drought and/or famine (Gen 12:10, 26:1, 41:53–57, 43:1; Ruth 1:1; 2 Sam 21:1; 1 Kgs 17:1–16, 18:1–5; 2 Kgs 6:24–29, 8:1–3; Jer 14:1–6; Lam 2:11–20, 4:3–10; Ezek 36:30; Joel 1:10–20; Amos 4:6–8) are frequently described or implied. Additionally, the eating and/or destruction of crops by locusts are depicted in Joel 1:1–10 and Amos 4:9. Crop destruction (and consumption) by insects or droughts lead to a lack of vegetation, which causes starvation (1 Kgs 17:1–12, 18:1–5; Jer 14:1–6; Joel 1:1–20; Amos 4:6–9). Food scarcity was a serious source of anxiety for humans living in biblical times and settings (Matt 6:25, 6:31; Luke 12:22). In contrast, today, the vast majority of humanity in industrialized nations have access to refrigeration, canned goods, supermarkets, and restaurants on every corner, with virtually no worries attached to food accessibility. In summary, today, humanity generally lives with abundant food availability. In contrast, humans in biblical times and locations often lived with food scarcity.