A Clever Verse for Context
When he had spent everything, a severe famine took place throughout that country, and he began to be in need (Luke 15:14)
Famine (limos) is a common occurrence in biblical storytelling. In Genesis, the repeated occurrence of famine causes the patriarchs and matriarchs to move from place to place, repeatedly leaving the Promised Land of Canaan and going down to Egypt. In the story of Joseph, it is famine which both causes Joseph’s rise to power in Egypt and leads to his reunification and reconciliation with his brothers (Genesis 41-45). In the parable of the lost son, famine forces the younger son to reexamine his life choices and remember the mercy of his father. Whatever form crises may take and however they come about in our own lives, God is with us offering encouragement, instruction, and even transformation.
In Greek the word for famine (limos) is very close in appearance and sound to the word for plague (loimos). The historian Thucydides notes this similarity when he describes a plague which ravages the city of Athens made worse by the ongoing Doric war. Thucydides explains that an often recited prophecy predicted that with the Doric War would come either a plague or famine. It was never certain if the word in question was limos or loimos. Thucydides remarks that “as men suffered, so they made the verse to say. And I think if after this there shall ever come another Doric war and with it a famine (limos), they are like to recite the verse accordingly” (Thucydides, 2.54.3).
Clever Questions for Further Reflection
When have you experienced crises and how has that crises changed how you view your loved ones and God?
How have you made sense of suffering? What has been helpful and what has been harmful?
A Clever Prayer to Close
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer;
and by night, but find no rest.
Yet you are holy,
enthroned on the praises of Israel.
In you our ancestors trusted;
they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried, and were saved;
in you they trusted, and were not put to shame.