“And there was a great famine in Samaria; and behold, they besieged it, until a donkey’s head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and a fourth of a kab of dove’s dung for five shekels of silver” (2 Kings 6:25 NASB).
During this Covid-19 crisis the people of Nepal are under lockdown orders, which means they cannot work and therefore earn money. Relief packages are being prepared for many of the poor, consisting of about 60 pounds of rice, 12 pounds of dal (beans), a half gallon of cooking oil, 5 pounds of salt, 2.2 pounds of soybean nuggets, and 2 bars of soap. This is considered a month’s supply of necessities for a family of 5. The cost of one such package is $22. That may seem like a small amount to some, but is beyond the ability of a large segment of the population under these circumstances.
I am reminded of the siege of Samaria by the Syrian army during the prophetic ministry of Elisha (2 Kings 6:24-7:19). The head of a donkey sold for 80 shekels of silver and a quarter pint of dove’s dung (used for cooking fires) for 5. To put that into perspective, note the following comment from Wikipedia:
“Records within the Persian Empire (539–333 BC; beginning about 300 years later than this incident) give ranges from a minimum of two shekels per month for unskilled labor, to as high as seven to ten shekels per month in some records. A survival wage for an urban household during the Persian period would require at least 22 shekels of income per year”.
This suggests that a donkey’s head, which was unclean to the Jews and had very little actual meat on it, cost 40 months’ salary (almost 3 ½ years’ worth) for a common laborer and 10 month’s wages for the skilled worker. About 4 liquid ounces of dove’s dung cost over two month’s salary for the unskilled. That is a rather emphatic means of stating that there was simply nothing to eat in the city, nor any means of cooking it if there were any.
Regardless of the economic system under which a people exist, the law of supply and demand will have an impact. The more scarce food is, the more one must pay. That holds true everywhere, and especially in times of famine or other hardship. And, usually, the higher prices become, the less income much of the citizenry will have. This impact of the current pandemic alarms many of the world’s leaders as well as their people. They ask, “By the time the disease is overcome, will our economies still be intact? Will we be able to feed and provide other necessities for everyone?” Those answers are not yet clear.
There is one absolute necessity, however, which is not and will never be in limited supply or subject to inflation. That is the necessity of forgiveness from sin. We all have that need (Romans 3:23), and we all have access to it.
“But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more di the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound for the many” (Romans 5:15).
“And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but also for those of the whole world” (1 John 2:1-2).
Salvation is available to everyone who will yield in obedient trust to Christ (John 3:16; Romans 10:8-10). There is no limit to the supply of God’s grace, nor to the power of Jesus’ sacrifice (Hebrews 9:11-12, 28). Though no one can claim to be without sin, those who confess their sins to God (i.e., repent and obey him) will be cleansed by the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7-10).
While we worry about our ability to obtain personal protection equipment, medicines, and food, and about how we will pay our bills in weeks and months ahead, we do not have to be concerned about our eternal destiny so long as we trust in God through his son Jesus. Let us take comfort in God’s love and mercy and be assured that nothing on this earth can separate us from him (Romans 8:37-38).