The famine (Lk 15:14-15:14)

“When he had spent

Everything he had,

A severe famine

Took place

Throughout that country.

He began

To be in need.”

 

δαπανήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ πάντα ἐγένετο λιμὸς ἰσχυρὰ κατὰ τὴν χώραν ἐκείνην, καὶ αὐτὸς ἤρξατο ὑστερεῖσθαι.

 

This long parable story about the prodigal son can only be found in Luke, not in any of the other gospel stories.  Luke indicated that Jesus said that when this young prodigal son had spent everything that he had (δαπανήσαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ πάντα), a severe famine took place (ἐγένετο λιμὸς ἰσχυρὰ) throughout that country (κατὰ τὴν χώραν ἐκείνην).  He began to be and feel needy (καὶ αὐτὸς ἤρξατο ὑστερεῖσθαι).  Having dissipated his wealth, he was broke in a foreign land, where there was a famine.  He really began to feel like he needed help.  Have you ever felt like you needed help?

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They did not obey (Bar 2:24-2:26)

“But we did not obey

Your voice.

We did not serve

The king of Babylon.

You have carried out

Your threats

That you spoke

By your servants,

The prophets.

The bones of our kings,

The bones of our ancestors

Would be brought out

Of their resting place.

Indeed

They have been

Thrown out

To the heat of day

And the frost of night.

They perished

In great misery,

By famine,

By sword,

By pestilence.

You have made

The house

That is called

By your name

As it is today,

Because of the wickedness

Of the house of Israel,

Of the house of Judah.”

However, they did not obey the voice of the Lord to serve the Babylonian king. Then God carried out the threats that he spoken through his prophetic servants. Thus the bones of their kings and their ancestors were brought out from their graves. They were exposed to the elements of the weather, the heat of day and the frost at night. Meanwhile, they all perished in great misery by either of the 3 famous ways of dying in Jeremiah, the famine, the sword, or the pestilence.  The Temple or the house of God was torn down because of the wickedness in the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

The shameful sinful behavior (Bar 2:3-2:5)

“Some of us

Ate the flesh

Of their sons.

Others

Ate the flesh

Of their daughters.

He made us subject

To all the kingdoms

Around us.

We were

An object of scorn.

We were a desolation among

All the surrounding people,

Where the Lord

Has scattered us.

We were brought down.

We were not raised up.

Because our nation

Sinned

Against the Lord,

Our God,

In not heeding

His voice.”

Once again, there is allusion to the cannibalism of people, eating their sons and daughters as food because of the famine in Jerusalem, as was mentioned in Lamentations, chapters 2 and 4, as well as Jeremiah, chapter 19. They were no longer a nation, because now they obeyed all the other countries around them. They had become an object of scorn and a desolation among all the people and the countries where they were scattered into. They were brought down, not raised up. They had sinned as a nation. Thus they were punished as a nation. They had not listened to the voice of God, their Lord.

The famine (Jer 52:6-52:6)

“On the ninth day

Of the fourth month,

The famine was

So severe

In the city

That there was

No food

For the people

Of the land.”

Once again, this is word for word from 2 Kings, chapter 25.  The famine in the city of Jerusalem was so severe, that there was no food for the people there, after a mere 4 months.

After the pestilence (Jer 21:7-21:7)

“Says Yahweh.

‘Afterward,

I will give King Zedekiah

Of Judah,

With his servants,

As well as the people in this city,

Those who survived

The pestilence,

The sword,

The famine,

Into the hands

Of King Nebuchadnezzar

Of Babylon.

They will be given

Into the hands

Of their enemies,

Into the hands

Of those who seek their lives.

He shall strike them down

With the edge of the sword.

He shall not pity them.

He shall not spare them.

He shall not have compassion.’”

Jeremiah has Yahweh speak to them with this oracle. If the king and his servants, as well as the people of Jerusalem survived the pestilence, the famine, and the sword, then they would be given into the hands of King Nebuchadnezzar and their enemies. They would be stricken down with the edge of a sword. There would be no pity, no sparing them, and no compassion.

Elijah (Sir 48:1-48:3)

“Then Elijah arose.

He was a prophet,

Like a fire.

His word burned

Like a torch.

He brought a famine

Upon them.

By his zeal

He made them

Few in number.

By the word of the Lord

He shut up the heavens.

Three times also

He brought down fire.”

Sirach seems to be relying on the Elijah cycle of stories from 1 Kings, chapters 17-18. This 9th century BCE northern prophet, Elijah, from the east side of the Jordan River in the town of Tishbe, the Gilead, went to the king of Northern Israel, King Ahab (874-853 BCE). Elijah was like a fire as his words were like a flaming torch. He foretold the famine that reduced the number of people in Israel. He foretold this famine, not brought as Sirach said. Elijah was able to control the heavens with his prayers, so that he could bring an end to this drought. He also had a faceoff with the 450 Baal priests or Jezebel’s prophets when he confronted the practices of King Ahab and his wife. Elijah then had Yahweh send down fire on his wet wood. Although the original story did not mention how many times the fire came down, Sirach mentions that it was 3 times.

Joseph (Ps 105:16-105:22)

“When he summoned a famine against the land,

He broke every staff of bread.

He had sent a man ahead of them,

Joseph.

He was sold as a slave.

His feet were hurt with fetters.

His neck was put in a collar of iron.

His oracle came to pass.

As the word of Yahweh tested him.

The king then sent for him.

The king released him.

The ruler of the peoples

Set him free.

He made him

Lord of his house.

The king made him

Ruler of all his possessions.

Jospeh was to instruct

His officials at his pleasure.

He was to teach his elders wisdom.”

Here we find the story of Joseph as told in Genesis, chapters 37-50, but without the details of how he was betrayed by his brothers. Yahweh brought the famine that led Jacob and his sons to go to Egypt. Joseph hd gone ahead, but not voluntarily. He was sold as a slave or more precisely turned over by his brothers into slavery. While in Egypt, he was in jail. His dreams came through so he was released when they were found to be true. He was tested by Yahweh. Finally the king or pharaoh released him and put him in charge of his household and all his possessions. Jospeh then instructed the other officials in Egypt as he taught them wisdom. He made the correct preparations for the famine to come.