Journal of the American Scientific Affiliation 32.4 (Dec. 1980) 193-202.

          Copyright © 1980 by American Scientific Affiliation, cited with permission.




  Ancient Ecologies and the Biblical Perspective


                                by Edwin M. Yamauchi

                                   History Department

                                     Miami University

                                  Oxford, Ohio 45056


   The word "ecology" was first coined in 18731 but men in

ancient times were at least partially aware of "the inter-

relationships of living things to one another and their sur-

rounding environment."2  Today we understand much

more clearly the delicate balances involved in the relation-

ships between nature and man's activities.  But even now we

do not always foresee all the results of constructing a pro-

ject like the Aswan Dam in Egypt.3

   Although we may comprehend the causes and processes,

we are still unable to do much more than the ancients to

prevent such natural disasters as droughts and locust

plagues.  In recent years disastrous droughts caused by the

failure of the summer monsoon rains affected twenty

million people in the Sahel region of Africa.4

   Periods of drought kill the predators of locusts and

grasshoppers, and also leave cracks in the ground which

provide good nesting areas.  If such periods are followed by

moist seasons, conditions are ripe for the formation of

plagues of such swarming insects.  In the summer of 1978,

33 locust swarms were reported over Ethiopia and 17 over

Somalia, some covering up to 40 square miles.5  At the same

time huge infestations of grasshoppers have been reported

attacking the fields in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska,

Oklahoma, and Texas.6  Such swarms of hoppers, so thick

that they obstructed the view of the sun, devastated Kansas

in 1873 and in 1919.7

   In the following study I examine how the peoples of the

ancient world viewed such calamities.  I compare the view-

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           194a


points of the pagans and those of Jews and Christians,

noting both similarities and differences.  Such a study raises

questions which I consider in the conclusion.



   The lands of the Bible include for the Old Testament

period Palestine, Phoenicia (Lebanon), Syria, Egypt, and

Mesopotamia (Iraq); for the New Testament period we

have in addition the lands to which the Gospel was carried:

Anatolia (Turkey), Greece, and Italy.  Almost all of these

areas border the Mediterranean Sea and are affected by the

climatic conditions associated with it with, of course, local

variations.  The chief features of the common "Mediterra-

nean" climate are: (1) a prolonged summer drought, (2)

heavy winter rains, and (3) a relatively small range of

temperatures.8 Throughout the entire area, with few excep-

tions, rain water was precious and was conserved by




   The land "between the rivers," the Tigris and the

Euphrates, was irrigated by two of the four streams

associated with the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:14).  At the

northern edge of the Fertile Crescent sufficient rain fell on

the "hilly flanks" of the Zagros Mountains, which divide

the alluvial plains of Mesopotamia from the upland plateau

of Iran, to make this area Robert J. Braidwood's candidate

for the first area to develop the Neolithic "revolution" of

agriculture.10 As for the central area of Mesopotamia itself,

M. A. Beek observes:


   Because of the dryness of the climate the soil of Mesopotamia is hard

   and nearly impenetrable.  Consequently, when the heavy rainfall in

   the northern areas coincides with the melting of the snow in the

   Taurus and Zagros Mountains, the rivers wreak destruction. . . .11


   The Mesopotamian floods are not only destructive but

they are highly unpredictable.  They come in the spring

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           194b


rather than in the summer when the water is most needed.

Especially swift are the flood waters of the Tigris, whose

Akkadian name Idiglat (cf. Hebrew Hiddeqel, Gen. 2:14)

means "Arrow."  The people of Mesopotamia, however,

were able to use the waters of the rivers through canals for

irrigation purposes, though this demanded the combined

efforts of communities as constant attention was required

to maintain the dikes and canals.12  In times of war, the

canals would be neglected and the weeds would grow in

them.  In his lamentation over Ur, a poet cried out: "Your

river which had been made fit for the magur-boats-in its

midst the. . . -plant grows."13



   In striking contrast to Mesopotamia is the felicitous

situation of Egypt.  The statement of Herodotus that Egypt

was "the gift of the Nile" still holds true today.  Fed by the

tropical rains of central Africa, the White Nile and the Blue

Nile from Ethiopia join together near Khartoum to flood

with such regularity that the Egyptians were able to regulate

their calendars by the annual floods.14  The flooding also

came at the most propitious time for agriculture.  The four

months of inundation (June to September) were called

Akhet "Flood," followed by Perit "Coming Forth" (Oc-

tober to January) and by Shemou "Deficiency" (February

to May).15

   The Egyptians could tell how high the Nile would rise by

a Nilometer which they had carved at the island of Elephan-

tine near Aswan.  A low Nile would mean that not enough

fields would be irrigated and that famine would ensue.  On

the other hand, a Nile that was too high might mean the

destruction of dikes.  Ordinarily Egypt had a sufficient

surplus to supply starving bedouins from Palestine such as

the biblical patriarchs (cf. Gen. 12:10 ff., 26:1 ff., 43:1

ff.).16  Down through the period of the Roman Empire

Egypt served as the most important "bread basket" of the



Edwin M. Yamauchi                           194c


   By the 14th cent. B.C. the Egyptians had invented the

shaduf, a weighted lever to lift the water.  The saqiya, the

animal-drawn water wheel, was introduced only in Persian

or Ptolemaic times (5th to 3rd cent. B.C.).17  Archimedes

(287-212 B.C.) is credited with the invention of the

hydraulic screw.

   Apart from the coastal region, rain rarely falls in Egypt.

According to H. Kees:


   At the present day Alexandria enjoys annually about 25 to 30 days of

   rain with a rainfall of about 8 inches, while Cairo and its environs

   has on the average, mostly in January 1 ½ to 2 inches.  In the upper

   Nile valley on the other hand for as far back as our knowledge

   reaches, rain has always been an exceptional phenomenon, the ac-

   companiment of occasional storms and less a blessing than a

   catastrophe, associated in people's minds with the dangerous powers

   of the desert.18



   Greece enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate with a

rainless summer from the middle of May to the middle of

September.  The stormy weather of winter generally

brought sailing and fighting to a halt.  As the prevailing,

winds are from the west, three times as much rain falls in

the west as falls in the east, for example, in Corcyra (Corfu)

as compared to Athens.19

   In 1966 Rhys Carpenter offered a climatological explana-

tion for the fall of the Mycenaean kingdoms c. 1200 B.C. in

place of the traditional view of a Dorian invasion.20  His

theory was criticized by E. Wright, who pointed out that

pollen samples from northwestern Greece from this period

indicated no drought.21  But climatologists have shown

from records for 1955 that the climatic pattern which

Carpenter posited, with an extensive drought for the

Peloponnese but not for northwest Greece or for Athens, is

quite possible.22  Whether or not such a drought caused the

Mycenaean decline is still a moot point.23  It is more likely

that a combination of factors, including drought and

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           194d


famine followed by the dislocations of such groups as the

Dorians and the Sea Peoples, caused the Mycenaean col-

lapse and the beginning of the Greek Dark Age.24








   Meteorological Factors.

   Several factors produce the characteristic weather of

Palestine.  The country lies between 33' 15" and 31' 15" N

as far south as Beersheba, which is the same latitude as the

southernmost section of California.  It is therefore on the

northern margin of the subtropical region.  The presence of

the Mediterranean to the west, and the deserts to the south

and the east play a major role, as does the great variety of

topographical features.

   The following regional generalizations may be made: (1)

temperature decreases with height and increases with depth

below sea level. (2) The temperature ranges increase as one

moves away from the moderating influence of the sea. (3)

Rain tends to decrease from north to south. (4) Rain

decreases from west to east. (5) Rain increases as heights are

encountered. (6) As the prevailing moisture bearing winds

are from the west, rain precipitates on the western slopes,

leaving the eastern slopes in a "rain shadow."26



    During the summer Palestine lies midway between a

monsoon low over the Persian Gulf and a high pressure

area in the Atlantic.  It therefore enjoys steady NW Etesian

winds and a sunny almost rainless summer, as there are no

frontal storms of cold air clashing with warm air masses.  In

the winter, however, cold maritime air pushes south into

the Mediterranean where it clashes with warm tropical air

masses, creating wet and stormy weather (Job 37:9).28

   In the winter season the moisture bearing winds from the

W and SW precipitate rains as they encounter colder land

and air masses (I Kgs. 18:44; Lk. 12:54).  But during the

summer the drier NW winds encounter only warm land and

air masses and do not precipitate any rain.  The winds do,

however, mitigate the heat of the day.  The westerly winds

reach the Transjordanian plateau about 3 p.m.  These

regular winds are used for the winnowing of grain (Ps. 1:4)



even to this day.

   North winds are relatively rare.  There are two types.

Chiefly in October a cold dry wind seeps over the mountain

barriers from Central Asia (Sirach 43:20).  In March a surge

of polar air across the Balkans may produce heavy rains

(Prov. 25:23).

   The scorching desert wind (sirocco, khamsin) from the E,

SE, or S was and still is a dreaded phenomenon.  It strikes

for three to four days in the transitional seasons.  A sirocco

will produce the hottest temperatures of the year, often 20

degrees above the average (Jer. 4: 11).  What makes matters

worse is the fact that it is an exceedingly dry wind, dropping

relative humidity by 30-40%, fraying tempers, and

debilitating energies.  The air is filled with a fine yellowish

dust which veils the sun and reduces visibility.  The siroccos

of the spring are particularly devastating, withering the

winter vegetation in a few hours (Ps. 103:15-16; Isa. 40:6-8;

Ezk. 17:10, 19:12; Hos. 13:15; Jon. 4:8).  The fullest fury of

the sirocco is experienced in the Transjordan, the Negev,

and the Rift Valley.  In coastal regions the sirocco winds

may pour down the slopes at 60 miles per hour, shattering

ships in the harbors (Ps. 48:7; Ezk. 27:26).



   The Rainy Season.  The exact commencement of the

rainy season is not predictable but in general the rainy

season runs from mid-October to mid-May.30  The rainy

season includes, but is also more extensive than our winter

months (cf. Song 2:11).  In this season three to four days of

heavy rain alternate with dry days during which cold desert

winds blow from the east.31

   The Early and the Latter Rains.  The Bible refers

repeatedly to the early (RSV "autumn") and the latter

(RSV "spring") rains (Deut. 11:14; Jer. 5:24; Joel 2:23),

giving the average reader the impression that rains fall only

at the beginning and the end of the rainy season.  As a mat-

ter of fact most of the heaviest rains fall in the middle of the

season (Lev. 26:4; Ezra 10:9, 13).  These initial and final



rains are stressed because they are crucial for agriculture.

The early rains come in October before plowing and sow-

ing.  The latter rains fall in March and April and are needed

to make the grain swell for a good harvest (Hos. 6:3; Zech.


   Drought and Unseasonable Rains.  If the high pressure

areas over Europe and Asia in the north link up with the

high pressures over Africa and Arabia, this blocks cyclonic

storms from arriving through the trough of low pressure in

the Mediterranean.  In this case rain is sometimes delayed

until as late as December; in some years rain amounts to

only 50 to 75% of the average.  A catastrophic drought that

lasted 3 1/2 years is recorded for Elijah's day (I Kgs. 17:1;

Lk. 4:25; Jas. 5:17. Cf. Deut. 28:23-24; I Kgs. 8:35; Jer.


   If the thermal difference between the warm and cold air

masses is not great, rainless clouds float by (Prov. 25:14;

Jude 12).  On rare occasions a late surge of cold Atlantic air

penetrates into the area of Palestine in the summer, bring-

ing unseasonable rain (I Sam. 12:17; Prov. 26:1).

   The Distribution of Precipitation.  As Amos 4:7 in-

dicates, there are considerable local differences in the

distribution of rainfall in Palestine.33  Galilee receives the

greatest amount of rain from 28" to 40".  Haifa on the

coast receives an average of 24", Tiberias 16-18", and

Beth-shean in the Jordan Valley only 12".  In Judea the

foothills receive 16-22".  Rainfall at Jerusalem generally

fluctuates from 17" to 28", with an average of 25".34

Jericho receives an average of 4-6"; in the very wet winter

of 1944 it recorded 13".35  The southern end of the Dead

Sea receives only 2".

   The steppe region around Beersheba receives between

12" to 16"; areas in the Negev to the south receive less than

8". In the Hellenistic and early Roman era, the Nabataean

Arabs by a careful conservation of water by terraces were

able to raise wheat, barley, legumes, grapes, figs and dates

in the Negev.36  Modern Israeli researches have attempted to

reduplicate their feats.37

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           196a


   Dew.38  The summer drought was not due to the lack of

humidity, which is in fact twice as intense in the summer as

in the rest of the year.  The lack of rain storms is due to the

absence of frontal clashes between warm and cold air

masses.  The summer humidity manifests itself in the dew

that condenses as the ground cools during the night. At

Gaza with its extremes of temperatures dew may form as

many times as 250 nights per year.  Gideon was able to col-

lect a bowl full of water from the fleece which he had set

out (Jud. 6:38).

   Dew is vital for the growth of grapes during the summer

(Zech. 8: 12).  It was indeed a calamitous drought when not

even dew was available (II Sam. 1:21; I Kgs. 17:1; Hag.

1:10).  Its value may be seen in the numerous comparisons

of God's grace and goodness to the benefaction of dew

(Gen. 27:28; Isa. 18:4; Hos. 14:5; Mic. 5:7; Sirach 43:22).






   Among the early Sumerians (3rd millennium B.C.) the

bringing of rain and subsequent flooding was attributed

either to Enlil, the leading god of the pantheon, or to Enki,

god of water and wisdom.  Without Enlil "in heaven the

rain-laden clouds would not open their mouths, the fields

and meadows would not be filled with rich grain, in the

steppe grass and herbs, its delight would not grow."39

    For the later Babylonians (2nd-1st millennium B.C.) the

pre-eminent rain god was the Syrian god Adad (Hadad).  In

the Atrahasis Epic, the full text of which was discovered

only in 1965, we have the following developments

preceding the catastrophic Flood.  When Enlil is disturbed

by the clamor of proliferating mankind, he orders:


Cut off supplies for the peoples,

Let there be a scarcity of plant life to satisfy their hunger.

Adad should withhold his rain,

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           196b


And below, the flood should not come up from the abyss.40


Let the wind blow and parch the ground,

Let the clouds thicken but not release a downpour, (II.i.9-l6)41


   People sought to placate Adad with gifts of loaves and

offerings, so that "he may rain down in a mist in the morn-

ing, and may furtively rain down a dew in the night."

(II.ii.16-17)42  But "Adad roared in the clouds," and sent

not just rain but the Deluge.

   From the Gilgamesh Epic we learn that when the Flood


(Even) the gods were terror-stricken at the deluge,

They fled and ascended to the heaven of Anu;

The gods cowered like dogs. . . .43


   Important mythological concepts regarding fertility

centered on the Mesopotamian cult of Inanna (Ishtar) and

her consort Dumuzi (Tammuz). In the text of the famous

myth, "The Descent of Inanna (Ishtar)," the goddess

descends into the Underworld and is slain by her sister.

Upon her death procreation among animals and humans

ceases only to be restored with her resurrection.44  The

Mesopotamians practiced a hieros gamos or "sacred mar- "

riage" rite between the king representing Dumuzi/Tammuz

and a sacred prostitute representing Inanna/Ishtar to en-

sure the fertility of the land by sympathetic magic.45



   The Egyptians honored the Nile River as the god Hapy;

whom they depicted as a well nourished man with pen-

dulous breasts.  Thousands of miniature figures of this god

were made and offered to him in temples prior to the

flooding of the river.46  The most important god of the

Egyptians apart from the sun god was Osiris, the god of the

underworld.  As early as the Old Kingdom (3rd millennium

B.C.) Osiris was identified with the life-giving waters. Ac-

cording to Breasted:

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           196c


   It was water as a source of fertility, water as a life-giving agency with

   which Osiris was identified.  It is water which brings life to the soil,

   and when the inundation comes the Earth-god Geb says to Osiris:

   "The divine fluid that is in thee cries out, thy heart lives, thy divine

   limbs move, thy joints are loosed," in which we discern the water

   bringing life and causing the resurrection of Osiris, the soil.47



   The seasonal cycle of fertility and drought is most vividly

depicted by the Greek myth of Demeter and her daughter

Persephone, who was abducted by Hades.  While Demeter,

the goddess of grain, mourned for her missing daughter,

the entire land was afflicted with infertility.48  After she was

discovered, Persephone still had to spend four months each

year in the Underworld because she had eaten four

pomegranate seeds there.  The mysteries of Demeter and

Persephone were celebrated at Eleusis, just west of


    Because of the regularity of the seasons in Greece, it was

seldom necessary to pray for rain.  According to Nilsson:


   On Mount Lykaion (in Arcadia) there was a well called Hagno.

   When there was need of rain the priest of Zeus went to this well, per-

   formed ceremonies and prayers, and dipped an oak twig into the

   water.  Thereupon a haze arose from the well and condensed into

   clouds, and soon there was rain all over Arcadia.50


Syria and Palestine

   The climate of Syria and Palestine played an important

role in the development of Canaanite religion. Baly and

Tushingham describe the situation as follows:


    Precariousness, indeed, is everywhere the dread companion of rain-

fed agriculture in the Middle East, and especially toward the south

and inward from the seacoast.  Over very large areas it is impossible

to exaggerate the sense of desperate insecurity which accompanies

the farmer upon his rounds.  . . . Almost the whole of Canaanite

religion was built around this desperate anxiety, this passionate long-

ing for a fertile earth, . . . .51

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           196d


Our understanding of the Canaanites has been greatly

advanced by the discovery of Ras Shamra (ancient Ugarit)

on the coast of Syria, and the subsequent publication of

Ugaritic texts.  These reveal that the Canaanite Baal or

"Lord" par excellence was Hadad, the god manifest in

storms and rains.52  Millard comments:



   Controlling the rains, mist, and dew, Hadad held the keys of good

   harvests, so the existence of a myth describing his battles with death,

   barrenness, and threatening flood waters among the texts of Ugarit

   is no surprise.53


   As in Mesopotamia the vitality of the king was linked

magically with the fertility of the land.  When the legendary

"king Kret was sick, nature likewise languished.  When

prince Aqhat died, a great drought ensued:


   Thereupon Danel the Rephaite prayed (that) the clouds in the heat

   of the season, (that) the clouds should rain early rain (and) give plen-

   tiful dew in summer for the fruits.  Baal failed for seven years, the

   rider on the clouds for eight (years, leaving the land) without dew,

   without showers. (Aqhat I.i.38-44)54


   Many scholars have supposed, in analogy with Greek

mythology, that Baal died annually and rose to life, sym-

bolizing the rainless summer and the rainy winter.  But the

epic does not speak of an annual event but of a prolonged

drought.  As Gordon points out, the summer is normally

dry and what was dreaded were dewless summers and

rainless winters.55

   The priests of Baal, who were confronted by Elijah (I

Kgs. 18), tried to arouse their god to produce rain not only

by their prayers but also by magical rites such as leaping

about the altar and shedding their blood-but in vain.56

Patai has suggested that Elijah also used magical gestures.

But it is quite clear that when Elijah had water poured on

the offerings, he was not making a libation but was

demonstrating the supernatural power of God by making

the ignition more difficult.57




   Though some have blamed the Judeo-Christian tradition

of man's relation to nature as expressed in Gen. 1:28's com-

mand "to replenish the earth and subdue it" as the grounds



for our present ecological crisis,58 further reflection

demonstrates that this is not a sound conclusion.  As John

Black notes, the Hebrews evolved "a concept of man's

responsibility to God for the management of the earth, a

concept which was duly carried over into Christianity,

becoming part of the western heritage."59  Commenting on

Judeo-Christian theology, Glacken observes:


   Most striking for our themes, is the idea of the dominion of man as

   expressed in Genesis, and repeatedly expressed in other writings,

   notably Psalm 8.  But one must not read these passages with modern

   spectacles, which is easy to do in an age like ours when "man's con-

   trol over nature" is a phrase that comes as easily as a morning

   greeting. . . . Man's power as a vice-regent of God on earth is part of

   the design of creation and there is in this fully elaborated conception

   far less room for arrogance and pride than the bare reading of the

   words would suggest.60


   It is man's sinful exploitation of the universe, his con-

tempt for God's creation, which has led to our present

ecological crisis.  As E. M. Blaiklock writes:


   The ravaged world, the polluted atmosphere, the poisoned rivers,

   dead lakes, encroaching desert, and all the irreversible damage to

   man's fragile environment comes from treating the globe we live on

   with contempt.  Modern man is arrogant and domineering.  Man was

   put in a garden, says the old Hebrew account in Genesis "to tend



   If blame must be placed, we might well consider our

western heritage from the Romans.  From his survey of the

ancient world and ecology, Hughes concludes:


   Our Western attitudes can be traced most directly to the secular

   businesslike Romans.  Today the process of dominating the earth is

   seen not as a religious crusade following a biblical commandment

   but as a profitable venture seeking economic benefit.  In this, we are

   closer to the Romans than to any other ancient people, and in this we

   demonstrate to a great extent our heritage from them.62



The Blessings of Rain (Citations are from the RSV.)

   According to Deut. 11:10-11, 13-14, the Lord said to the

children of Israel:


   For the land which you are entering to take possession of it is not like

   the land of Egypt, from which you have come, where you sowed

   your seed and watered it with your feet, like a garden of vegetables;

   but the land which you are going over to possess is a land of hills and

   valleys, which drinks water by the rain from heaven, . . . And if you

   will obey my commandments. . . (I) will give the rain for your land

   in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in

   your grain and your wine and your oil.


   Jeremiah proclaims that it is only the Lord rather than

the pagan gods who sends rain (Jer. 14:22): "Are there any

among the false gods of the nations that can bring rain?  Or

can the heavens give showers?  Art thou not he, O Lord our

God?  We set our hope on thee, for thou doest all these

things."  But the wayward children of Israel fail to

recognize this (Jer. 5:24): "They do not say in their hearts,

'Let us fear the Lord our God, who gives the rain in its

season, the autumn rain and the spring rain, and keeps for

us the weeks appointed for the harvest.' "


   Elihu, Job's friend, declares:


   Behold, God is great, . . . .

   For he draws up the water, he distils his mist in rain which the skies

   pour down and drop upon man abundantly. Can anyone under-

   stand the spreading of the clouds, the thunderings of his pavilion?

   (Job 36:26-29)


   Among the questions which the Lord Himself posed as

He spoke out of the whirlwind to Job are the following:


   Who has cleft a channel for the torrents of rain, and a way for the

   thunderbolt, to bring rain on a land where no man is, on the desert

   in which there is no man; to satisfy the waste and desolate land, and

   to make the ground put forth grass?  Has the rain a father, or who



   has begotten the drops of dew? (Job 38:25-28)


   God has promised rain as a blessing for obedience: "If

you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments

and do them, then I will give you your rains in their season,


Edwin M. Yamauchi                           198a


and the land shall yield its increase, and the trees of the

field shall yield their fruit." (Lev. 26:3-4)


The Judgment of Drought

   Conversely for disobedience the Lord has threatened



   Take heed lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve

   other gods and worship them, and the anger of the Lord be kindled

   against you, and he shut up the heavens, so that there be no rain,

   and the land yield no fruit, and you perish quickly off the good land

   which the Lord gives you. (Deut. 11:16-17)


   The most famous instance of drought as a judgment of

God is the three and a half year drought called down by Eli-

jah in the reign of Ahab in the 9th cent. B.C. (I Kgs. 17;

Sirach 48:2-3; Luke 4:25; Jas. 5:17).  In the early 6th cent.

B.C. when Judah forsook the Lord, Jeremiah called upon

the heavens to be appalled, literally "be exceedingly dried

up" (Jer. 2:12).  Cf. Jer. 14:1-6 for a vivid description of

drought conditions.

   Still later in the 6th cent. after the Exile, the Jews return-

ed from Mesopotamia and were challenged to rebuild the

temple.  When they were less than dedicated to the task, the

prophet Haggai rebuked them with a paronomasia or play

on words.  He proclaimed that because the Lord's house

had remained in "ruins" (hareb, Hag. 1:4,9) the Lord

would bring a "drought" (horeb, Hag. 1:11) upon the


   On the other hand, as a sign of God's displeasure Samuel

called down rain during the late wheat harvest (June), when

rain was not expected:


   "Is it not wheat harvest today?  I will call upon the Lord, that he may

   send thunder and rain; and you shall know and see that your

   wickedness is great, which you have done in the sight of the Lord, in

   asking for yourselves a king."  So Samuel called upon the Lord, and

   the Lord sent thunder and rain that day. . . . (I Sam. 12:17-18)

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           198b


Prayers for Rain

   When a drought was prolonged, the remedy lay in repen-

tance and in prayer as we see from Solomon's famous in-

tercession (I Kgs. 8:35-36):


   When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned

   against thee, if they pray toward this place, and acknowledge thy

   name, and turn from their sin, when thou dost afflict them, then

   hear thou in heaven, and forgive the sin of thy servants, thy people

   Israel, . . . and grant rain upon thy land, which thou hast given to

   thy people as an inheritance.


   The most dramatic instance of the prayer of a godly man

to end a drought was, of course, Elijah's intercession in his

contest with the priests of Baal (I Kgs. 18; Jas. 5:17).  Joel

called for a fast along with repentance to end the double

calamity of drought and locust swarms in his day (Joel

1:14-20).  Zech: 10:1 encourages such prayer: "Ask rain

from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the

Lord who makes the storm clouds, who gives men showers

of rain. . . ."

   Problematic is the interpretation of M. Dahood that

Psalm 4 is actually a prayer for rain.  His interpretation is

based on rendering the Hebrew word tob "good" in verse 7

as a word for rain by comparing Jer. 17:6, Deut. 28:12, etc

where it is clear that "good" means "rain."63




   In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus commended the

benevolence of God in that He "makes his sun rise on the

evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the

unjust" (Mat. 5:45).  He further cited the heavenly Father's

care over the birds of the air (Mat. 6:26), the lilies of the

field (Mat. 6:28), and the grass of the field (Mat. 6:30) as

ample reasons trusting in God's provisions and for eschew-

ing anxiety.

   In his sermon to the pagan Lycaonians of Lystra, Paul

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           198c


adduces God's provision in nature as evidence that He had

not left the pagan nations without a witness (Acts 14:17):

"yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did

good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons,

satisfying your hearts with food and gladness." Cf. Rom.

1:19, 20.64

   As an example of the effective prayer of a righteous man

James cites the example of Elijah who first prayed for a

drought and then ended it (Jas. 5:17-18): "Elijah was a

man of like nature with ourselves and he prayed fervently

that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it

did not rain on the earth.  Then he prayed again and the

heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth its fruit."  In

the Apocalypse the two witnesses of Rev. 11 "have power

to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of

their prophesying" (Rev. 11:6).

   A number of droughts and famines are recorded by

Roman historians for the New Testament era.  In 22 B.C. a

mob shut up the Roman Senate in the Curia building and

forced them to vote Augustus the dictatorship so that he

could deal with the food situation.  In his autobiographical

Res Gestae (5.2) Augustus boasted: "I did not decline in

the great dearth of grain to undertake the charge of the

grain supply, which I so administered that within a few days

I delivered the whole city from apprehension and im-

mediate danger at my own cost and by my own efforts."65

There was a later famine in his reign in A.D. 6.

   During the reign of Claudius a noteworthy series of

droughts and poor harvests culminated in a widespread

famine during the procuratorial administration of Tiberius

Julius Alexander over Judea (A.D. 46-48).  Josephus

reports (Antiq. III.320 ff.; XX.51-53, 101) that Queen

Helena of Adiabene, a recent convert to Judaism with her

son Izates, sent aid to the Jews in the form of monetary

gifts, grain from Egypt, and figs from Cyprus.  This is the

same drought which was predicted by Agabus, a prophet

from Jerusalem, to the church at Antioch (Acts 11:27-30):

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           198d


   Now in these days prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch.

   And one of them named Agabus stood up and foretold by the Spirit

   that there would be a great famine over all the world; and this took

   place in the days of Claudius.  And the disciples determined, every

   one according to his ability, to send relief to the brethren who lived

   in Judea; and they did so, sending it to the elders by the hand of Bar-

   nabas and Saul.




Kenneth S. Gapp correlates the famine under Claudius

with an unusually high Nile in the year A.D. 45 when grain

prices doubled.66  He concludes that "the evidence of of-

ficial documents among the papyri from Egypt and of in-

dependent sources.  Pliny and Josephus, so supports Luke's

account of the universal famine that the accuracy of the

statement can no longer be challenged."67  Gapp makes the

acute observation that in the ancient world famine was

essentially a class famine:


   Since the poor and the improvident never had large reserves either of

   money or of food, they suffered immediately upon any considerable

   rise in the cost of living. The rich, on the other hand, had large

   reserves both of money and of hoarded grain, and rarely, if ever, ex-

   perienced hunger during famine. Thus, while all classes of society

   suffered serious economic discomfort during a shortage of grain, the

   actual hunger and starvation were restricted to the lower classes.68


   Christ taught that one should be satisfied with one's

"daily bread."69  In view of the disparity of wealth, the

"Christian ethic inspired sharing with those in need” (Acts

4:34, 6:1; II Cor. 8:8-15; Jas. 2:14-16; I John 3:17.)70





   The Jewish rabbis of the first three centuries of the com-

mon Era (lst-3rd cent, A.D.) elaborated upon biblical

precepts, sometimes by fanciful exegesis.


      Rabbi Simeon ben Yohai said: Three things are equal in their

   value: Earth, Man and Rain, R. Levi bar Hiyya said: And all the

   three are of three letters. . . . , to teach you, that if there is no earth,

   there is no rain, if there is no rain, there is no earth, and without

   both of them no man can exist.71


   In the early 2nd cent, A.D. the rabbis attributed a

gradual diminution in rain to the sins of the people.  Rabbi

Eleazar b. Perata (fl. A.D. 110-35) said: "From the day the



Temple was destroyed the rains have become irregular in

the world.  There is a year which has abundant rains and

there is a year with but little rain."72


   To assure the coming of rain the rabbis laid stress on the

feast of Sukkoth (Tabernacles) on the basis of Zech.

14:16-17.  They also laid down elaborate regulations for the

observation of fasts in times of drought in the Mishnah

(Ta'anith 1.2-7).  If by the seventh of Marheshvan (around

November) there has been no rain, one begins praying for

rain.  If none has fallen by the 17th, public fasts are ordered

on Mondays and Thursdays all through the winter season.73

   Commenting on Eccl. 10:11, "If the serpent bite before it

is charmed, then the charmer (lit. whisperer) hath no ad-

vantage," Rabbi Ami said: "If you see a generation over

whom the heavens are rust-colored like copper and do not

let down dew or rain, it is because there are no 'whisperers'

(i.e. people who pray silently) in that generation."74

   One sage, Honi the Rainmaker, had a legendary gift for

calling down rain.  It is said that he drew a circle, and stand-

ing in the middle of it said:


   "Lord of the world! . . . I swear by your great name that I shall not

   move from here until you will turn merciful unto your children."

   When the rain began dripping he said: "Not thus did I ask but a rain

   for cisterns, pits and caves."  Then the rain began to fall violently

   and Honi said: "Not thus did I ask but a rain of mercy, blessing and

   generosity."  Then the rain fell as it should fall.75


   Even in such calamitous times as droughts there were

always the unscrupulous few who tried to exploit the situa-

tion for their own advantage.  The rabbis denounced the

wealthy who hoarded up large stocks of grain, wine and oil

to sell them at inflated prices by quoting Amos 8:4-7.  In the

days of Rabbi Tanhuma, the people came to him and asked

him to order a fast for rain.  "He ordered a fast, one day, a

second day, a third day, and no rain came.  Then he went to

them and preached:  'My sons, have compassion on each



other and the Holy One blessed be He will also have com-

passion on you.'"76




   During the early Roman Empire the pagans sought to

blame the Christians for any unnatural disaster.  As Ter-

tullian so pungently expressed it: "If the Tiber reaches the

walls, if the Nile does not rise to the fields, if the sky

doesn't move or the earth does, if there is famine, if there is

plague, the cry is at once: 'The Christians to the lion.'"77

The pagan Symmachus blamed the famines of A.D. 384

upon the Christians.

   Arnobius, a Christian apologist (fl. A..D. 300), in his

work, Against the Heathen, asks:


   What is the ground of the allegation, that a plague was brought

   upon the earth after the Christian religion came into the world, and

   after it revealed the mysteries of hidden truth?  But pestilences, say

   my opponents, and droughts, wars, famines, locusts, mice, and

   hailstones, and other hurtful things, by which the property of men is

   assailed, the gods bring upon us, incensed as they are by your wrong-

   doings and by your transgressions. . . . For if we are to blame, and

   if these plagues have been devised against our sin, whence did anti-

   quity know these names for misfortunes?78


Augustine likewise responded by pointing out that such

calamities had occurred long before the conversion of Con-

stantine and the Christianization of the Empire: "Let those

who have no gratitude to Christ for His great benefits,

blame their own gods for these heavy disasters."79

   Finally, Christians turned the accusation against pagans,

Jew, Samaritans, and heretics, blaming them for unsea-

sonable calamities.  In the Novellae Theodosiani 3.1.8 (4th

cent. A.D.) we read the following denunciation:


   Shall we endure longer that the succession of the seasons be

   changed, and the temper of the heavens be stirred to anger, since the

   embittered perfidy of the pagans does not know how to preserve



   these balances of nature? For why has the spring renounced its ac-

   customed charm? Why has the summer, barren of its harvest,

   deprived the laboring farmer of his hope of a grain harvest?  Why has

   the intemperate ferocity and the winter with its piercing cold

   doomed the fertility of the lands with the disaster of sterility?  Why

   all these things, unless nature has transgressed the decree of its own

   law to avenge such impiety?80



   As noted in the introduction, periods of unseasonable

heat and drought are sometimes accompanied by plagues of

locusts.  The Canaanite texts speak of the dreaded succession

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           200a


of dry or locust years.81  Their frightening numbers made

them an image of frequent appearance in the ancient texts.

In the Sumerian lamentation the possessions of Ur are

devoured as by a "heavy swarm of locusts."82  In the

Ugaritic Keret Epic (I.iv.29-31) the soldiers of an army are

said to have "settled like locusts on the field(s), like hop-

pers on the fringe of the wilderness."83

   At the end of treaties a frequent curse which was invoked

upon those who might be tempted to break the agreement

was the locust plague.  In the Aramaic Sefire treaty of north

Syria (8th cent. B.C.), we read: "For seven years may the

locust devour (Arpad), and for seven years may the worm

eat. . . ."84 A similar curse is found in the treaty between

the Assyrian king Esarhaddon (7th cent. B:C.) and his Me-

dian vassals: "Like locusts devour. . . may they cause your

towns, your land (and) your district to be devoured."85

   There are nine Hebrew words which designate locusts in

the Old Testament.86  Akkadian recognizes 18 names and

the Talmud 20 names for locusts.  Of the many Hebrew

words arbeh is used most frequently, 24 times.  The word is

probably derived from the root raba "to become

numerous."  It occurs in Akkadian as erebu, arbu, and in

Ugaritic as irby.

   The arbeh plague (Deut. 28:38) is listed as one of the

divine curses which would befall the Israelites if they

disobeyed God's commands.  The arbeh is one of the

plagues which Moses called down upon Egypt (Ex. 10:4 ff.;

Ps. 78:46, 105:34).87

   Locusts are used in similes of vast numbers in Jud. 6:5,

7:12; Jer. 46:23; Nah. 3:15.  Though they had no leader yet

their mass movements are coordinated (Prov. 30:27). Rest-

ing at night, they stir with the heat and disappear (Nah.

3:17).  Job is asked whether he can make the horse "leap

like a locust" (Job 39:20).

   Locusts belong to the order of the Orthoptera "straight-

winged" insects.  With the grasshoppers they belong to the

sub-family, Saltatoria, "leapers," which were considered

edible (Lev. 11:21-22).88  Locusts belong to the Acridiidae

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           200b


family of "short-horned grasshoppers."  Of the 91 species

found in Palastine only the desert locust (Schistocerca

gregoria or Acridium peregrinum) has served to plague the

Near East from time immemorial.  It was only in 1929 that

the phase change from solitary green grasshoppers to the

larger, yellow gregarious phase was first observed.  Accord-

ing to Baron:


   Basically, the Desert Locust is a winged big brother of its fellow-

   acridid, the familiar grasshopper of English meadows, and quite

   often leads much the same sort of life.  Like other species of locusts,

   however, it has the peculiarity of being able to change its habits-to

   live two lives, as it were--and it is this characteristic that makes it so

   great a potential menace.89


   At maturity the desert locusts are two and a half inches

long.  They have two sets of wings and an enlarged pair of

legs for jumping.  Their appearance has been compared to

horses (Joel 2:4; Job 39:20; Rev. 9:7; cf. German

Heupferd, Italian cavallette.)


   Desert locusts are phenomenal travelers.  They are able to

fly for 17 hours at a time and have been known to travel

1500 miles.  The sound of their wings can be compared to

the sound of chariots (Joel 2:5; Rev. 9:9).  Their route of

travel is determined by the prevailing winds (Ex. 10:13, 19).

In the 1915 plague the locusts came to Jerusalem from the

northeast (cf, Joel 2:20).90

   The Bible does not exaggerate when it speaks of swarms

of locusts covering the ground (Ex. 10:5).  According to



   We know from modern measurements of swarm areas and volumes

   that the descriptions repeatedly given in the Bible and elsewhere, of

   the sky being darkened and the sun eclipsed, are literally correct.  For

   instance, during the plague that continued from 1948 to 1963,

   several swarms were recorded as exceeding a hundred square miles;

   and one is said to have been the size of London.91

Edwin M. Yamauchi                           200c


A truly large swarm may contain ten billion locusts!  What

is devastating is that each insect eats its own weight every

day; a large swarm may weigh up to 80,000 tons.92

   The four words used by Joel (1:4, 2:25) in his vivid

description of the locust plague evidently represent stages

of the locusts' development (RSV) rather than separate

species of insects (KJV).93  In Joel 2:25 we have first the

arbeh, the mature locust which deposits the eggs.94  The

yeleq may be the larva as it emerges from the egg.95  The

hasil may be the intermediate instar (stage between moults):

The gazam may be the ravenous nymph who strips the bark

from trees,

   To remove such insect plagues pagans resorted to prayer

and to magical spells.  From Sultantepe in northwest

Mesopotamia we have "an incantation to remove cater-

pillar, devourer. . . cricket, red bug, vermin of the field

from the field."96  The Greeks prayed to Apollo Parnopios

(Locust) to obtain aid against locusts, just as they prayed to

Apollo Smintheus (Field Mouse) against the plague.  To get

rid of caterpillars the Roman writer Columella "directs that

a young menstruous girl should walk three times round the

garden with bare feet and loosened hair and garments."97

   In contrast to the pagans, the Israelites resorted to

fasting, repentance, and prayer in cases of locust plagues

and other kinds of pestilences (I Kgs. 8:36-37; II Chr. 6:28).

In the midst of a devastating locust plague the prophet Joel

called the people to fasting and prayer (Joel 1:14, 2:15-17),

and promised that the Lord would see their repentance and

bless them (Joel 2: 18-32).  The later Jewish rabbis also

prescribed the blowing of the ram's horn to announce a

fast: "For these things they sound the shofar in every place:

blasting or mildew, locust or caterpillar, wild beasts or the

sword.  They sound the shofar in that they are an overrun-

ning affliction." (Ta'anith 3.5)98


Edwin M. Yamauchi                           200d




   1. How is the biblical revelation different from pagan


   Unlike materialistic naturalism the biblical perspective

shares with the ancients a belief in the supernatural.  But it

differs radically from contemporary mythologies in



upholding a single, omnipotent God, who though He may

be depicted in human similes, wholly transcends man and

nature--in contrast to the pagan gods who were crudely an-

thropomorphic and who were intrinsically a part of the

natural order.99  The Babylonian gods, for example, sent the

Flood in capricious annoyance at man's rambunctious

noisiness.  Jehovah sent the Flood as a judgment against

man's wickedness.


   2.  Why was God's revelation given where it was?

   Certainly the local geographic and climate conditions of

the Holy Land have qualified the human reception of the

Lord's revelation.  The sovereign God chose Palestine as the

location for His revelation, a land whose climate made the

Hebrews very conscious of their reliance upon God for rain

and food.


3.  Now that we know the causes of droughts and the

progression of locust plagues are they any less the works of


   Such a conclusion may be reached by unbelievers, but

believers can only stand in greater awe as they learn more of

the marvels and intricacies of God's creation.  He is the God

who uses the hurricane but also the lowly worm (Jonah 4:6)

to reveal His power and purpose.  As C. S. Lewis has

remarked, "Each miracle writes for us in small letters

something that God has already written, or will write, in

letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole can-

vas of Nature."100


   4. Why do natural disasters occur?  Are they judgments

of God?

   Natural disasters remind us that we do not live in a

Paradise, and that the Creation itself groans for its redemp-

tion (Rom. 8:19-22).  We cannot comprehend the reason for

each tragedy but can realize that we live in a flawed

universe.  Though any given calamity may not be a specific

judgment for sin (cf. John 9:1-3), each reminds us of our



creaturely weakness and the fragility of our life.  From the

divine perspective death is not the ultimate tragedy but

rather a life lived without recognizing the Creator (Rom.

1:19-21.101  If we are not thankful for His daily provision

Jas. 1:17; I Tim. 4:3), He may get our attention by more

drastic events.


    5. If God works through Nature, ought we do anything

to interfere with it?

   Some extreme Calvinists opposed the introduction of

anaesthesia in the light of Gen. 3:16.  Within the past year

members of a Dutch Reformed group have refused inocula-

ions as an interference with God's natural order.  But God

does not call us to the passive fatalism of some Muslims

who say to everything, In sha'Allah "If Allah wills," and

then do nothing.  Rather He has called us into partnership

with Him as stewards of His grace and creation.  Times of

disaster provide us with opportunities for sharing and even

witness as organizations like World Vision have

demonstrated in our day.



1Lynn White, "The Historical Roots of Our Ecologic Crisis," Science

155 (1967), 1203.

2J. Donald Hughes, Ecology in Ancient Civilizations (Albuqueque: Univer-

sity of New Mexico, 1975), 2 ff.; Clarence J. Glacken, Traces on the

Rhodian Shore (Berkeley: University of California, 1967).

3Time, 105 (Jan. 25, 1971), 31; idem, 109 (May 5, 1975), 65.

4R. A. Bryson and T. J. Murray, Climates of Hunger (Madison:

University of Wisconsin, 1977), pp. 95, 104-105.

5Time, 112 (June 19, 1978), 36; The Cincinnati Enquirer (July 7, 1978),


6Time, 112 (July 24,1978),19; idem, 112 (Aug. 28,1978), 20.

7Lawrence Svobida, An Empire of Dust (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Printers,

            1940), pp. 15, 17.

8Marion I. Newbigin, The Mediterranean Lands (London: Christophers,

1924); Ellen C. Semple, The Geography of the Mediterranean

Region (New York: Henry Holt, 1931); Erwin R. Biel, Climatology

of the Mediterranean Area (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1944);



Michael Grant, The Ancient Mediterranean (New York: Charles

Scribner's Sons, 1969).

9T. J. Jones, Quelle,  Brunnen und Zisterne im A.T. (Leipzig: Morgenland.

Texte und Forschungen, 1928); Cyril E. N. Bromehead, "The Early

History of Water Supply," Geographical Journal 99 (1942), 142-51;

J. G. D. Clark, "Water in Antiquity," Antiquity 18 (1944), 1-15.

10Robert J. Braidwood, The Near East and the Foundations for Civilization

(Eugene, Oregon: Oregon State System of Higher Education, 1962),

pp. 11-13.  Two other areas that independently developed the

domestication of crops are Thailand and Mexico.  See Edwin M.

Yamauchi, "Problems of Radiocarbon Dating and of Cultural

Diffusion in Pre-History," J.A.S.A. 27 (1975), 25-31.

11M. A. Beek, Atlas of Mesopotamia (London: Thomas Nelson, 1962),

p. 12.

12Cf. The Hammurabi Law Code, ## 53-57; Stanley Walters, Waters for

Larsa (New Haven: Yale University, 1971).

13S. N. Kramer, The Sumerians (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963), p.

143; cf. J. B. Pritchard, ed., The Ancient Near East (Princeton:

Princeton University, 1969), p. 612.

14Alan Moorehead, The White Nile (New York: Haper& Row, 1971); idem,

            The Blue Nile (New York: Harper & Row, 1972).

15Richard Parker, The Calendars of Ancient Egypt (Chicago: University of

Chicago, 1950); P. Montet, Everyday Life in Egypt (London: Edward

Arnold, 1958), pp. 31-33.

16P. Montet, Egypt and the Bible (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1968), pp. 3-4.

17K. W. Butzer, Early Hydraulic Civilization in Egypt (Chicago:

University of Chicago, 1976).

18Hermann Kees, Ancient Egypt: A Cultural Topography (Chicago: Uni-

            versity of Chicago, 1961), p. 47.

19A. Zimmern, The Greek Commonwealth (New York: Oxford University,

1961), pp. 36-40; cf. M. Cary, The Geographic Background of Greek

and Roman History (New York: Oxford University, 1952).

20Rhys Carpenter, Discontinuity in Greek Civilization (Cambridge: Cam-

            bridge University, 1966).

21E. Wright, "Climatic Changes in Mycenaean Greece," Antiquity 42

(1968), 123-27.

22Bryson and Murray (note 4), p. 16; R. A. Bryson, H. H. Lamb, and D. L.

Donley, "Drought and the Decline of Mycenae," Antiquity 48

(1974), 46-50.

23Robert Claiborne, Climate, Man and History (New York: W. W. Norton,

1970), p. 326.



24Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Homer, History and Archaeology," Bulletin of the

            Near East Archaeological Society 3 (1973), 36; idem, Greece and

Babylon (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1967), pp. 42-46.




25Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Palestine," Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, ed. C. F.

Pfeiffer, H. F. Voss, and J. Rea (Chicago: Moody, 1975), II, 1270-

72. In general, the climate of Palestine has remained more or less the

same since New Testament times. D. Sperber, "Drought, Famine and

            Pestilence in Amoraic Palestine," Journal of the Economic and

Social History of the Orient 17 (1974), 272, writes: "While it is

known that there were no significant climatic changes in Palestine

over the last two thousand years. . . , undoubtedly there were

climatic ups-and-downs within this period."

   On the other hand, for Old Testament times palynological

analyses, that is, studies of pollen from boreholes from the Hula

Valley and the Mediterranean coast, indicate periods of a more

humid climate at certain eras.  A. Horowitz, "Human Settlement

Pattern in Israel," Expedition 20 (1978), 58, concludes: "A more

favorable climate returned during Middle Bronze Age II and to some

extent also during the Late Bronze Age when, it may be recalled,

Israel was regarded as a 'land of milk and honey.' "

26M. Harel, "Reduced Aridity in Eastern Lower Galilee," Israel Exploration

            Journal 7 (1957), 256-63.

27Efraim Orni and Elisha Efrat, Geography of Israel (Jerusalem: Israel

Program for Scientific Translations, 2nd ed., 1966), pp. 108-11.

28D. H. K. Amiran and M. Gilead, "Early Excessive Rainfall and Soil Ero-

sion in Israel," Israel Exploration Journal 4 (1954), 295: ". . . the

basic conditions for the development of excessive rain appear to be

the formation of extended upper troughs reaching in a meridional

direction from polar latitudes into the Eastern Mediterranean,

together with the formation of a Cyprus Low."

29Orni and Efrat, pp. 111-15. Note: 1" of rain =25.4 mm.; conversely 1

mm. = .03937".

30Orni and Efrat, p. 114: "Between November and February almost 70%

of the annual rainfall occurs." Biehl, p. 89, table 25, lists the

frequency of days with precipitation.

31R. Patai, "The Control of Rain in Ancient Palestine," Hebrew Union Col-

            lege Annual 14 (1939), 283: "The ancient Jewish inhabitants of

Palestine knew also more certain signs by means of which they

could guess whether rain would fall, and in what quantity.  A sure

sign of rain were the clouds called 'PWRHWT,' i.e., thin clouds

below thick clouds. . . . Bright clouds were regarded as an omen of

light rain, dark clouds as of heavy rain." Cf. Mat. 16:2-3.

32Semple (note 8), p. 506: "Modern records show that the rainfall at Jerusa-

            lem fluctuates between 12.5 and 42 inches (318 mm. and 1,091



mm.); that during the sixty years from 1850 to 1910 it dropped

twelve times below the critical 20 inches (500 mm.) " Orni and

Efrat,  p. 116:  "Drought years in Israel are frequent, and often affect

the entire country.  In 1950/51, for example, only 35% of the

annual average fell on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee,

43% in Jerusalem, 53% in Haifa, and 65% in Tel-Aviv.  Often

there are series of drought years, as in the five winters between

autumn 1958 and spring 1963." Cf. J. Neumann, "On the Incidence

of Dry and Wet Years," Israel Exploration Journal 6 (1956), 58-63.

33D. Sharon, Variability of Rainfall in Israel," Israel Exploration Journal

15 (1965), 169-76.

34N. Rosenan, "One Hundred Years of Rainfall in Jerusalem," Israel Ex-

            ploration Journal 5 (1955), 137-53; A. Bitan-Buttenwieser, "A

Comparison of Sixty Years' Rainfall between Jerusalem and Tel

Aviv," Israel Exploration Journal 13 (1963), 242-46.

35M. Zohary, "Ecological Studies in the Vegetation of the Near Eastern

            Deserts," Israel Exploration Journal 2 (1952), 202.

36M. Evenari and D. Koller, "Ancient Masters of the Desert," Scientific

            American 194 (April, 1956), 39; N. Glueck, Rivers in the Desert

(New York: Grove Press, rev. ed., 1960), pp. 210-25; Philip

Hammond, "Desert Waterworks of the Ancient Nabataeans,"

Natural History 76 (June-July, 1967), 36-43; J. I. Lawlor, The

Nabataeans in Historical Perspective (Grand Rapids: Baker,

1974), 76-85.

37W. C. Lowdermilk, "The Reclamation of a Man-Made Desert," Scienti-

            fic American 202 (March, 1960), 54-63; M. Evenari, L. Shanon, and

N. Tadmor, The Negev (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1971).

38D. Ashbel, "Frequency and Distribution of Dew in Palestine,"

Geographical Review 39 (1949), 294: "As is well known, the Negeb

is the region poorest in rainfall; in dew formation, however, it is the

richest in Palestine." Cf. M. Gilead and N. Rosenan, "Ten Years of

Dew Observation in Israel," Israel Exploration Journal 4 (1954),


39S. N. Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite (Bloomington: Indiana Univer-

            sity, 1969), p. 51.

40Cf. Gen. 7:11.

41W. G. Lambert and A. R. Millard, Atra-Hasis: The Babylonian Story of

            the Flood (Oxford: Clarendon, 1969), p. 73.

42Ibid., p. 75.

43A. Heidel, The Gilgamesh Epic (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1963),




44J.B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts (Princeton: Princeton Un-

            iversity, rev. ed., 1955), p. 108; Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Descent of

            Ishtar," in The Biblical World, ed. C. Pfeiffer (Grand Rapids: Baker

            1966), pp. 196-200.

45Cf. Kramer (note 39); Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Cultic Prostitution," in

            Orient and Occident, ed. H. A. Hoffner (Kevelaer: Butzon und

Bercker 1973), pp. 213-22.

46J. Gwyn Griffiths, "Hecataeus and Herodotus on 'A Gift of the River',"

Journal of Near Eastern Studies 25 (1966), 57-61.

47J. H. Breasted, Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt

            (New York: Harper & Bros., 1959), p. 21. Cf. E. A. W. Budge, The

Nile (London: Thomas Cook & Sons, 1901); idem, Osiris (New

Hyde Park: University Books, 1961); J. Vandier, La religion

egyptienne (Paris:  Presses Universitaires de France, 1949), pp. 59 ff.

48The Metamorphoses of Ovid, tr. Mary M. Innes (Baltimore: Penguin,

1955), pp. 127 ff.

49C. Kere nyi, Eleusis (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1967), pp. 34 ff.

50M. P. Nilsson, Greek Folk Religion (New York: Harper & Bros., 1961),


51Denis Baly and A. D. Tushingham, Atlas of the Biblical World (New

            York: The World Pub., 1971), p. 48.

52John Gray, The Canaanites (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, 1964),


53A. R. Millard, "The Canaanites," in Peoples of Old Testament Times, ed.

            D. J. Wiseman (Oxford: Clarendon, 1973), p. 45.

54G. R. Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark,

            1956), p. 59.

55C. H. Gordon, Ugaritic Literature (Rome: Pontifical Biblical Institute,

            1949), pp. 4-5; idem, "Canaanite Mythology," in Mythologies of the

Ancient World, ed. S. N. Kramer (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday &

Co., 1961), p. 184.

56Cf. J. G. Frazer, The New Golden Bough, ed. T. H. Gaster (Garden City.

N. Y.:  Doubleday & Co., 1961), pp. 21-27, 77-78; U. Basgoz,

"Rain-making Ceremonies in Turkey and Seasonal Festivals,"

Journal of the American Oriental Society 87 (1967), 304-306.

57Patai (note 31), p. 254.

58E.g. Lynn White (reference 1), p. 1205.

59John Black, The Dominion of Man: The Search for Ecological Responsi-

            bility (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University, 1970), p. 46.

60Glacken (reference 2), p. 166.



61E. M. Blaiklock, The Psalms of the Great Rebellion (London: Lakeland,

            1970), p. 39.

62Hughes (note 2), p. 149.

63M. Dahood, Psalms I (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1966) pp.


64The writer of Hebrews (6:7) uses as an illustration of those who respond

or do not respond to God's grace the following: "For land which has

drunk the rain that often falls upon it, and brings forth vegetation

useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing

from God."

65Res Gestae Divi Augusti, ed. P. A. Brunt and J. M. Moore (London:

            Oxford University, 1967), p. 21.

66Kenneth S. Gapp, "The Universal Famine under Claudius," Harvard The-

            ological Review 28 (1935), 259.

67Ibid., p. 265.

68Ibid., p. 261.  George E. Mendenhall, "The Ancient in the Modern," in

            Michigan Oriental Studies in Honor of George C. Cameron (Ann

Arbor: University of Michigan, 1976), p. 234, likewise observes that

famines often involve social as well as natural factors: "The many

references to famine that almost always accompany warfare and

disintegration cannot therefore be explained as archaeologists always

tend to do-by appealing to natural phenomena such as drought.  The

repeated references in available sources to emergency shipment of




proves beyond question that regions quite near the center of famine

have an available surplus. The famine is therefore the result of

complex socio-economic processes."

69Edwin M. Yamauchi, "The Daily Bread Motif in Antiquity," Westminster

            Theological Journal 28 (1966), 145-56.

70Edwin M. Yamauchi, "How the Early Church Responded to Social Pro-

            blems, Christianity Today 17 (Nov. 24, 1972), 6-8; Adolf Harnack,

The Mission and Expansion of Christianity (New York: Harper &

Bros., 1961), pp. 153 ff.; Martin Hengel, Property and Riches in

the Early Church (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975).

71Patai (reference 31), p. 251.

72Sperber (reference 25), p. 273.

73The Mishnah, tr. H. Danby (London: Oxford University, 1933), pp.


74Sperber, p. 285.

75Cited in Patai, p. 282. Cf. J. Goldin, "On Honi (Onias) the Circle-Maker:

A Demanding Prayer," Harvard Theological Review 56 (1963), 233-

37;  G. F. Moore, Judaism (Cambridge: Harvard University, 1955),

II, 235-36.

76Patai, p. 285.

77A New Stevenson, ed. J. Stevenson (London: S.P.C.K., 1957), p. 169.

78Arnobius, "Against the Heathens," tr. Hamilton Bryce and Hugh Camp-

            bell, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), VI,


79Augustine, The City of God, tr. Marcus Dods (New York: Modern

Library, 1950), p. 107.

80Cited in Sperber, p. 297.

81Cf. Gordon in Kramer (note 55), p. 184.  Cf. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie,

Times of Feast, Times of Famine (Garden City, N. Y.: Doubleday &

Co., 1971), p. 256: "At all events, the little optimum of the Middle

Ages caused Europe to experience various gusts of warmth, and

even sometimes great heat. These were responsible for the plagues

of locusts which in the ninth-twelfth centuries sometimes spread

over vast areas, sometimes far to the north.  In A.D. 873, a time of

great famine, they were found from Germany to Spain; during the

autumn of 1195, they reached as far as Hungary and Austria."

82Kramer, The Sacred Marriage Rite (reference 39), p. 47.

83Driver, Canaanite Myths and Legends (reference 54), p. 33.

84J. A. Fitzmyer, The Aramaic Inscriptions of Sefire (Rome: Pontifical

Biblical Institute, 1967), p. 15.



85D. J. Wiseman, The Vassal-Treaties of Esarhaddon (London: British

School of Archaeology in Iraq, 1958), p. 74; cf. p. 62.

86See Edwin M. Yamauchi, "arbeh," "gazam," "hagab," "hasil,"

"hargol," "yeleq," in A Theological Word Book of the Old

Testament, ed. R. L. Harris, Gleason Archer, and Bruce Waltke

(Chicago: Moody, forthcoming).

87Greta Hort, "The Plagues of Egypt," Zeitschrift fur alttestamentliche

Wissenschajt 70 (1958), 49-54.  U. Cassuto, A Commentary on the

Book of Exodus (Jerusalem; Magnes, 1967), p. 124: "The locusts

will even enter into the houses (it happened for example, in Israel in

the year 1865, that the locusts in their multitudes invaded the houses

by way of the windows and doors). . . . " Cf. Exodus 10:6.

88L. Kohler, "Die Bezeichnungen der Heuschrecke im Alten Testament,"

            Zeitschrift der Deutschen Palastina-Vereins 49 (1926), 328-31;

George Cansdale, All the Animals of the Bible Lands (Grand Rapids:

Zondervan, 1970), pp. 238-44: Fauna and Flora of the Bible

(London: United Bible Societies, 1972), pp. 53-54.

   In Lev. 11:22 the arbeh and three other types of locusts are listed

as edible insects.  Bas reliefs from Nineveh show servants bringing

skewered locusts for Sennacherib's table.

   John the Baptist (Mat. 3:4; Mark 1:6) subsisted on honey and

locusts.  Cf. F. I. Andersen, "The Diet of John the Baptist," Abr

Nahrain 3 (1961-62),60-75; C. H. H. Scobie, John the Baptist

(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964), pp. 138-39.

   The Damascus Document of the Dead Sea Scrolls stipulates: "As

for the various kinds of locust, these are to be put in fire or water

while they are still alive; for that is what their nature demands." The

Dead Sea Scriptures, tr. T. H. Gaster (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday

& Co., 3rd ed., 1976), p. 85.

   Many Africans and Arabs after removing the wings, legs, and

heads eat locusts either cooked or ground up as flour.

89Stanley Baron, The Desert Locust (New York: Charles Scribner's, 1972),

p. 30. Cf. F. S. Bodenheimer, Animal Life in Palestine (Jerusalem: L.

Mayer, 1935), pp. 309-24; B. Uvarov, Grasshoppers and Locusts I

(Cambridge: Cambridge University, 1966).

90John D. Whiting, "Jerusalem's Locust Plague," The National Geo-

            graphic 28 (Dec., 1915), 511-50.

91Baron, p. ix.

92Ibid., p. 123.  Augustine (note 79), p. 108, reports with some exaggera-

tion a locust plague of 204 B.C. as follows: "One may also read that



Africa, which had by that time become a province of Rome, was

visited by a prodigious multitude of locusts, which, after consuming

the fruit and foliage of the trees, were driven into the sea in one vast

and measureless cloud; so that when they were drowned and cast

upon the shore the air was polluted, and so serious a pestilence

produced that in the kingdom of Masinissa alone they say there

perished 800,000 persons, besides a much greater number in the

neighboring districts. At Utica they assure as that, of 30,000 soldiers

then garrisoning it, there survived only ten."

93S. R. Driver, The Books of Joel and Amos (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-

            versity, 1897), pp. 82-91; Ovid R. Sellers, "Stages of Locust in Joel,"

            American Journal of Semitic Languages 52 (1935-36), 81-85; John

A. Thompson, "Joel's Locusts in the Light of Near Eastern

Parallels," Journal of Near Eastern Studies 14 (1955), 52-55.

94Whiting, p. 516: "Each female, now loaded with eggs, seeks a place

suitable to deposit them, and with her ovipositors is able to sink a

hole as much as 4 inches deep through hard compact soil, such as

would try the strength of human muscles even with iron tools."

95In Joel 1:4 and 2:25 the yeleq may represent the young larval stage of the

locust. The New English Bible and Jerusalem Bible suggest

"hopper." But in Jer. 51:27 the yeleq is described as "rough,"

alluding to the horn-like sheath which covers the rudimentary wings

of the nymph stage. In Nah. 3:16 the latest nymph stage is indicated

as the locust moults and then unfurls its wings.

960. R. Gurney and J. J. Finkelstein, ed., The Sultantepe Tablets (London:

            British Institute of Archaeology in Ankara, 1957), p. 243, cited in

Hayim Tawil, "A Curse Concerning Crop-Consuming Insects in the

Sefire Treaty and in Akkadian," Bulletin of the American Schools of

Oriental Research 225 (Feb., 1977), 59-62.

97W. R. Halliday, Greek and Roman Folklore (New York: Cooper Square,

            1963), p. 60.

98Danby (reference 73), p. 198.

99Edwin M. Yamauchi, "Anthropomorphism in Ancient Religion," Biblio-

            theca Sacra 125 (1968), 29-44.

100C. S. Lewis, Miracles (New York: Macmillan, 1947), p. 140.

101C. F. D. Moule, Man and Nature in the New Testament (Philadelphia:

Fortress, 1967), pp. 20-21.


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