In Ruth 1:1:

In the days when the judges ruled, there was a famine in the land. So a man from Bethlehem in Judah, together with his wife and two sons, went to live for a while in the country of Moab. (NIV)

Two questions:

Firstly, does the original text leave the time frame vague ("Judges" as opposed to an individual, compare Esther 1:1, Genesis 14:1) for a particular purpose, and if so, what would that accomplish or show?

Secondly, during which exact time period (i.e. corresponding to which judge) did this story take place? (I am not asking when it was written...)


P.S. I hope to be posting a variety of questions on Ruth as I read through it in the coming weeks.

  • You ask why the author left the timeline vague and when the story really happened? I think there is a possibility that the author himself didn't know when the story happened, so he left it at that "In the days when the judges ruled." If we accept that the genealogy at the end of the book is full of gaps we may possibly never know exactly when this story took place.
    – bach
    Apr 16, 2018 at 14:04
  • @Bach Sounds suspiciously like the beginning of an answer... My original assumption was that based on the vague timeline, it is unfaithful to the original writer and intended audience (who left it vague for whatever purpose) to try to determine a more exact timeline, although I'm not sure I still feel that way.
    – user22655
    Apr 16, 2018 at 14:28

3 Answers 3


There is nothing specific in the text of Ruth that could link to an exact date for the events that take place in the book of Ruth. Evangelical scholars have used one event in Ruth that has a possible tie to the book of Judges. In the opening verses the narrator mentions a famine in the land of Israel.

In Judges 6:3-6 the Midianites invaded the land of Israel and destroyed the crops and killed the livestock.

Judges 6:3-6 (KJV) 3 And so it was, when Israel had sown, that the Midianites came up, and the Amalekites, and the children of the east, even they came up against them; 4 And they encamped against them, and destroyed the increase of the earth, till thou come unto Gaza, and left no sustenance for Israel, neither sheep, nor ox, nor ass. 5 For they came up with their cattle and their tents, and they came as grasshoppers for multitude; for both they and their camels were without number: and they entered into the land to destroy it. 6 And Israel was greatly impoverished because of the Midianites; and the children of Israel cried unto the LORD.

While it is a man made famine, many evangelical scholars link the events of Ruth 1:1-5 to the events in Judges 6. Many people miss this because the passage in Judges does not include the word famine.


The scriptures do not relay every detail of every account, but only those that are considered to be necessary. As the scriptures are the word of God recorded through the agency of men, then the author is ultimately the Holy Spirit.

2 Pet. 1:21,

"for not by will of man did ever prophecy come, but by the Holy Spirit borne on holy men of God spake." (YLT)

Then as the ulitmate author of Ruth, the Holy Spirit deliberately did not provide the exact timeline. We can only speculate on His reasons for doing so, which most probably was that He did not consider it to be critical to the message of the book.

However, the people involved in the story of Ruth can offer more definition of the time line. Boaz was the son of Salmon and Rahab (Ruth 4:20; Matt. 1:5).

One Bible time line places the famine from the raids of Moab about 1294 BC between the 40 years of peace under Othniel and before the 80 years of peace under Ehud of Judges chap. 3. Source: here

Another source has determined that Boaz was about 50 years old when he met Ruth.

"The book of Ruth itself gives a very clear indication that the story begins when the judges ruled the nation of Israel. The LORD gave judges after the death of Joshua. Joshua died in 1399 BC at 110 years. If Boaz was born around 1428 BC (conquering Jericho), he must be around 30 years of age when Joshua died. Adding 10 years for Elimelech’s trip to Moab and Naomi’s return and a few years for that generation to die, we get around 1385 BC which places Boaz to be around 40 to 50 years of age.


The events in the book of Ruth happened around 1385 BC, nearly two decades after the death of Joshua when Boaz was about 40 to 50 years old and five decades after Israel fought against Moab before entering the promised land." Source: TrumpetCall.org

However, every bible time line seems to vary by about 50 years or so depending upon certain starting points, and other details, so we cannot be absolutely certain of the exact times. The time line at BibleHub places Ehud's rule at 1316 BC (Jud. 3:15) and the story of Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz at 1140 BC. Source: here

If we allow the variances for human error, and for gaps in the details the Holy Spirit did not provide, we can still pin point the time period between the judges of Othniel and Ehud.

  • Nat Geo article speaks of the Great Drought that ended the Bronze age. Ancient pollen analysis places this about 3200 years ago, or 1200 BC. It lasted fifty years. So if it was 1200 - 1150 BC, then Ruth might come near the end of this drought. nationalgeographic.com/news/2013/10/… Jul 31, 2020 at 2:47
  • Hmmm - interesting.
    – Gina
    Jul 31, 2020 at 3:09

There are 3 generations between the birth of Obed (when the book of Ruth ends) and the end of the "Time when the Judges ruled, Obed, Jesse and David. However the Bible doesn't specify how long exactly each of these men lived so we can only make a rough estimate.

  • Hi Jenna, welcome to BH-Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Could you add the verse references that support your answer? Please be sure to take the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. Thanks! May 28, 2021 at 2:58

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