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Biblical Personalities: Yehoram’s Famine

“Elisha had spoken to the woman whose son he had revised, saying, ‘Arise and go forth, you and your household, and sojourn where you would sojourn, for God has called for a famine, and it is coming to the land for seven years (II Kings 8:1).”


This is the same famine described in the Book of Joel: “What remained from the cutting locust the abundant locust has devoured;  what remained from the abundant locust the chewing locust has devoured; what remained from the chewing locust the demolishing locust has devoured (1:4).”

The seven-year famine in the reign of King Yehoram of Israel came to an end with a rainfall on the first of Nissan (Ta’anit 5a).

A distinguished person is not permitted to don sackcloth unless he is certain his prayers will be answered, like Yehoram son of Achav [see II Kings 6:24–30] (Ta’anit 14b).

When the calamity of famine befell Israel, Obadiah would borrow at interest from Yehoram in order to feed the prophets. God said, “Is this Yehoram still alive? Let Jehu come and slay him.” Thus it is written, “Jehu smote Yehoram between his arms, and the arrow emerged from his heart (II Kings 9:24).” Why? Because he hardened his heart and extended his arms to take interest (Shemot Rabbah 31:4).

Although considered a distinguished person from whom we derive certain laws of prayer, because he was willing during the time of calamity to collect interest, God said of Yehoram, “is he still alive?” God surely knew that he was still alive, but He considered the king as if he did not even exist. He forfeit all his potential greatness when he hardened his heart and collected interest during a time of famine.


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