A general scarcity of food, resulting as from drought, war, hail, flood, or insects. The land of Canaan is said in the Bible to have been several times afflicted with distressing famine, which is frequently mentioned together with pestilence and the sword of the enemy. David's decision when offered his choice from among these three scourges indicates that pestilence was considered the least terrible of them (II Sam. xxiv. 14-15). The following is a chronological enumeration of the famines recorded in the Bible:
- The famine of the time of Abraham (Gen. xii. 10).
- The famine in the days of Isaac (Gen. xxvi. 1), confined to the land of Canaan.
- The general famine in the time of Jacob. It was first felt in Egypt, and it extended subsequently to the surrounding countries, and lasted seven years (Gen. xli. 54-57).
- The famine "in the days when the judges ruled," which lasted ten years (Ruth i. 1, 6). It was limited to the land ofCanaan, for Elimelech and his family found a refuge in the land of Moab.
- The famine in the days of David, which lasted three years (II Sam. xxi. 1).
- In the time of Elijah, Samaria suffered three years from a famine as a result of drought (I Kings xviii. 1, 2).
- A more terrible famine occurred when Ben-hadad besieged Samaria. An ass's head was sold for eighty shekels and a ḳab of dove's dung for twenty shekels. Mothers ate their own children (II Kings vi. 24-29).
- After a brief respite another famine came upon the land and lasted seven years (II Kings viii. 1).
- In the time of Zedekiah, King of Judah, the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar caused a famine in which mothers again ate their own children (II Kings xxv. 3; Jer. xxxviii. 9, lii. 6; Lam. ii. 20, iv. 10).
- Another famine occurred in the time of the prophet Joel. It was due to locusts, and was followed by drought (Joel i. 4-20).