Are Famines of “Biblical” Proportions Coming?

The World Food Programme has warned of famines of “biblical” proportions in 2021. Does the Bible prophesy famines? Does it reveal the cause of famines? 

Are Famines of “Biblical” Proportions Coming?

(AP Photo/Ton Koene)

The World Food Programme, a branch of the United Nations, has issued a dire forecast for 2021. They have estimated that 270 million people around the world are facing hunger at crisis levels.

As increasing COVID-19 infections have caused many nations to institute new lockdowns, fears are rising that some nations will not be able to meet the basic nutritional needs of their citizens.

COVID-19 has caused massive disruption to world trade and tourism, vital sources of income for many developed and developing nations.

Many rich nations have racked up debt to maintain lockdowns during the pandemic. Economic issues have led some powerful countries to turn inward to focus on their own national problems, making them less likely to send aid to needy developing nations. The instability in the United States has led to greater uncertainty and lack of confidence around the globe.

On top of these troubling issues, many nations in East Africa have been hit by drought and locust swarms, which have decimated crop yields.

The World Food Programme has predicted the onslaught of famines of “biblical proportions”—a term used to describe terrible calamities.

Yet even though biblical imagery is used to describe the scale of coming famines, the irony is that the solution to famines is “biblical”—meaning it can be found in the Holy Bible. But most ignore it completely. The Bible explains why famines will come and what they mean prophetically.

The black horse of Revelation

One of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse is a “black horse,” and it represents end-time famine. The rider is described as having a “pair of scales in his hand,” and he is told to measure a “quart of wheat” and “three quarts of barley” for a “denarius,” but at the same time to “not harm the oil and the wine” (Revelation 6:5-6). You can learn more about the four horsemen in our article “What Are the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse?

The sale of such small quantities of wheat and barley for a denarius indicate a severe famine, where food is eaten by weight due to its scarcity. According to many commentators, a denarius was roughly the equivalent of a working man’s daily wage. The “quart of wheat” was enough to feed a single person, but not an entire family. The “three quarts of barley” indicates that the inferior and less desirable barley could be bought for a day’s wages—probably to feed a family.

In the future, food will become so scarce that individuals or families will likely have to spend a day’s wage for just one meal.This shows us that in the future, food will become so scarce that individuals or families will likely have to spend a day’s wage for just one meal.

In the Old Testament God warned that one of the national curses for disobedience would be people having to eat bread “by weight” and not having enough to be satisfied (Leviticus 26:26). Beyond that, we also read that even greater disobedience would lead to famines so destructive that people would resort to cannibalism to survive (verses 27-29).

It may be easier to imagine these kinds of conditions occurring in developing nations, but these prophecies apply more directly to the modern-day descendants of Israel (which include the United States, United Kingdom and other wealthy Western nations).

Yes, if these nations don’t repent of their sins and turn to God and His Word, famine of this magnitude will come on them. To learn why, download our free booklet The United States, Britain & the Commonwealth in Prophecy.

Sadly, this won’t be the only kind of famine the world will experience in the end time. The Bible also predicts another type of famine.

A famine of hearing

The Bible prophesies a coming famine “of hearing the words of the LORD” (Amos 8:11). Notice that Amos prophesied of a famine of “hearing” God’s words—not necessarily a famine of availability of God’s words. This may mean that God’s Word will be available, yet people will refuse to hear, read or respond to it.

We are seeing this famine getting worse and worse in our Western societies as people who have easy access to the Bible are increasingly ignorant of it. Studies show that even people who attend church regularly don’t read the Bible regularly. A recent LifeWay survey found only one third of those regular churchgoers read the Bible daily.  

We also see church attendance on the wane and atheism on the rise. When we look closer at the world of Christianity, we see churches that teach doctrines contrary to the Bible. To learn more, read “How to Spot a Counterfeit Church.”

How can you come out of this famine?

Seek God and His Word now

Jesus Christ described a Christian as someone who lives by “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). God’s Word is likened to spiritual food, needed for eternal life (John 6:5163). While in this physical existence we get hungry quite quickly, God wants people who will “hunger and thirst for righteousness”—describing people who seek God’s Word to meet their spiritual needs, just as they seek food and drink to satisfy their hunger and thirst.

This leads true followers of Jesus Christ to live a different way of life. In fact, in the New Testament Christianity is sometimes referred to as “the Way” (Acts 9:2).

Right now, hearing God’s Word and living His way is possible. But there is coming a time when “they shall go to seek the LORD, but they will not find Him; He has withdrawn Himself” (Hosea 5:6).

Now is the time to heed the prophet Isaiah’s encouragement to “seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6).  

Don’t put it off until it’s too late.

Topics Covered: Prophecy, News and Trends, Social Issues

About the Author

Isaac Khalil

Isaac Khalil

Isaac Khalil is husband to his lovely wife, Natasha, and father to son, Eli and daughter, Abigal. He loves to spend time with family and friends doing various things like watching movies, playing chess, playing board games and going out. He enjoys studying biblical topics and discussing the Bible with his friends. He is also a news junkie and is constantly reading and sharing news connected with Bible prophecy.

Read More


Discern is published every two months and is available in digital and print versions. Choose your preferred format to start your subscription.

Print subscriptions available in U.S., Canada and Europe


Please choose your region:


Discern Article Series

Christ Versus Christianity
Walk as He Walked
Christianity in Progress
Wonders of God's Creation
Ask a Question