What is a Famine?
by Tom Stewart
January 3, 2005
"A measure of wheat for a penny" (Revelation 6:6).
It has been said that the relationship between hunger and famine is the same as that of an economic recession to a depression. The economic decline of a recession is more severe in a depression, while the physical effects of hunger are more pronounced or widespread in a famine. The dictionary defines a famine as a "drastic, wide-reaching shortage of food." Some will call it a recession when someone else has lost their job, and a depression only when they are unemployed. Likewise, they would confess it to be hunger, when someone else's stomach is empty, but a famine, if they should go without. If the PNC can compute the Christmas Price Index for the cost of "The Twelve Days of Christmas"-- costing $12,623 in 1984 and $17,297 in 2004-- then, couldn't we more precisely assess the scope and extent of what is a famine? The Apocalypse or the New Testament Book of Revelation gives us a succinct look at a worldwide famine in the Third Seal Judgment of the upcoming Seventieth Week of Daniel. [See our "Commentary on the Book of Revelation" ---New Window for more background on Revelation 6.] "5 And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine" (Revelation 6:5-6). Along with this discussion, we should remember that the LORD Jesus Christ reminded us that our Heavenly Father is interested in what we eat, drink, and wear. "25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?" (Matthew 6:25-26). Further, He has assured us of His Provision for us, if we will only seek and trust Him. "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6:33). [See Katie Stewart's "Promises for: Provision in the LORD" ---New Window for more encouragement about how God has furnished His children against famine.]
The Apostle John describes a famine in Revelation 6, where all of one's daily labour goes to acquire the bread to survive for that one individual for only that day. "And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure [Greek, choinix] of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine" (Revelation 6:6). In "An Exposition of the Old and New Testament" (1809), John Gill (1697-1771) explains verse 6, thus:
Again, a famine situation exists whenever one's daily labour buys only enough food for the survival of just that individual for just that day. The implication is that all non-wage earners such as spouses, children, and the elderly, would not be able to survive in such an Apocalyptic Famine. Using the framework of Revelation 6:6, it would be possible to arrive at some kind of idea what an Apocalyptic Famine would be like. Let us assume:
Whenever the minimum wage ($ per hour) times 8 (hours in a work day) equals the cost of wheat ($ per pound) times 1.75 (pounds of wheat equivalent to "a measure of wheat" of bread), then you have the famine situation described in Revelation 6:6.
When 8x = 1.75y, then a famine exists.
Where x = minimum wage ($ per hour)
y = cost of wheat ($ per pound)
Also, If 1 measure = 1 quart (Halley's Bible Handbook, Davis Dictionary of the Bible)
If 1 gallon of wheat = 7 pounds (approximate weight of 4 quarts of wheat)
If 1 pound of wheat = 1 loaf of bread (where 3 cups of grain produces 4 cups of flour; and 3 cups of flour yield 1 loaf of bread)
Then, 1 measure of wheat = 1.75 loaves of bread ("about two pounds, and the allowance of a man for a day" -- J. Gill)
Example: If x = $5.15 (minimum wage )
y = $.25 ($ per pound, wheat )
8x = 1.75y
8 ($5.15) = 1.75 ($.25)
$41.20 does not equal $.4375
Therefore, a famine does not exist by this definition, using 2004 minimum wage and 2004 cost of wheat per pound.
However, whenever the scarcity of wheat drives the price high enough, and/ or wages sink low enough, then a famine exists.
In conclusion, "Thank God for a Pre-Tribulational Rapture!" And, "Thank You, LORD, for the promise to 'supply all [our] need according to [Your] Riches in Glory by Christ Jesus' (Philippians 4:19) in the meantime!"
[See our article "Must There Be a Pre-Tribulational Rapture?" ---New Window for the Scriptural evidence for such a hope.]
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