James 5:17—Was the drought three years or three-and-a-half years?

Problem: Both here and in Luke 4:25 it speaks of a three and one-half year drought in the days of Elijah. But in 1 Kings 17:1 (and 18:1) it refers to the drought being three years.

Solution: There are three possible solutions here. First, the three years may be a round number. Second, the third year in Kings may be reckoned from the time of Elijah’s stay with the widow of Zarephthah, not the full time of the drought. Third, it is possible that the drought began six months before the famine did, making both passages precise but referring to different things.

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This excerpt is from When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1992). © 2014 Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe. All rights reserved. Used by permission. Click here to purchase this book.