Famine of the Word

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What does the phrase "famine of the word" mean? Where did it come from? When will it take place? What will cause this type of famine to occur? Who does it adversely affect?

The minor prophet Amos foretold of a time commonly referred to as a famine of the word.

"Behold, the days come," says the Lord God, "that I will send a famine in the land; not a famine of bread nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.

"And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east; they shall run to and fro to seek the Word of the Lord, and shall not find it." (Amos 8:11 - 12, HBFV).

Amos' prophecy of famine describes a time when people around the world will actively pursue insight and understanding concerning God's will. They will zealously search for those divinely inspired by the Lord (true Christians) but will be unable to find them.

When Will it Take Place?

The famine prophecy of the minor prophet takes place prior to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

"And it shall be in that day," says the Lord God, "I will cause the sun to go down at noon, and I will darken the earth in the light of day." (Amos 8:9, HBFV).

The lack of sunlight during the day parallels events that will occur, in the near future, during the 42 month Great Tribulation period.

And I will show wonders in the heavens and in the earth - blood and fire and pillars of smoke. The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord (Joel 2:30 - 31, HBFV).

Now in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give its light; And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken (Mark 13:24 - 25, HBFV, see also Revelation 8:12).

According to one Biblical commentary, the Jews expect the Messiah will make his triumphal appearance on earth during a famine of the word.

"This (the preaching of the truth), even according to the Jews, was one proof of the days of the Messiah: for they acknowledged that in his time there should be a great famine of the word of God; and thus they understood Amos, Amos 8:11" (Adam Clarke's Commentary on Matthew 4:25).

Causes of Famine

The Apostle Paul taught that sometime prior to Christ's return there would be a mass rejection of God's truth by those who previously professed faith in him. This apostasy will start the process of the famine as there will be less people spreading the gospel (Romans 10:13 - 14).

Now we beseech you, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ . . . Do not let anyone deceive you by any means because that day will not come unless the apostasy shall come first . . . (2Thessalonians 2:1, 3, HBFV).

The famine of the word will become severe, however, when God allows Satan a free hand to openly and without hindrance deceive the world (Revelation 12:12). The devil will first enforce a "mark" delineating those who choose to worship him. He will then easily hunt down and murder all those without the mark (true Christians) causing the depth of the famine.

And they worshiped the dragon, who gave his authority to the beast. And they worshiped the beast . . . And he was given power to make war against the saints, and to overcome them; and he was given authority over every tribe and language and nation (Revelation 13:4, 7, HBFV, see also verse 15 and 12:17).


The famine of the word is a time when, in the near future, there will be a dearth of Christians around the world able to spread the gospel. This situation will begin to manifest itself when countless people begin to abandon their faith in God. It will reach a crescendo, however, when all those who obey God (Revelation 12:17, 14:12, 22:14) are murdered.

List of All Terms in
Dictionary of Biblical Words

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