In Ruth 1:1 (NASB)

Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a man of Bethlehem in Judah went to reside in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons.

Was it common to have famine in the land at that time? If yes, what were the common causes?

  • 1
    In a single word, Drought was the most common cause. Occasionally pestilence.
    – Dottard
    Mar 21, 2021 at 11:05

2 Answers 2


The time of the Judges was circa 1375 to 1050 B.C. According to my NIV Study Bible notes:

The author is unknown. Jewish tradition points to Samuel, but it is unlikely that he is the author because the mention of David (Ruth 4:17, 22) implies a later date. Further, the literary style of Hebrew used in Ruth suggests that it was written during the period of the monarchy.

Regardless, the answer to your question is that famine does not seem to have been uncommon in that area of the world. Indeed, famine is mentioned as far back as 2100 B.C. when Abram had to move to Egypt because of famine (Genesis 12:10). Further on in time, when Jacob lived in the land of Canaan, there was a great famine and, eventually, Joseph’s brothers travelled from the land of Canaan to buy food (Genesis 42:1-7). That was approximately 1880 B.C.

During these Old Testament times famine was usually the result of drought. Swarms of locust were also not unheard of. Sometimes these pestilences were brought about as divine judgment:

Be glad, O people of Zion, rejoice in the Lord your God, for he has given you the autumn rains in righteousness. He sends you abundant showers, both autumn and spring rains, as before... I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten... my great army that I sent among you (Joel 2:23-25).

Apart from the famine during the life of Ruth, a severe famine struck the inhabitants of Samaria (1 Kings 17:1; 18:2). This was caused by the supernatural withholding of dew and rain as prophesied by Elijah. This drought was a divine judgment on a nation that had turned to idolatry. It demonstrated the impotence of the god Baal, who was lord of the rain clouds and the god of fertility.

  • Nice, thank you Lesley! (Already reached upvote limit today, so can only do that tomorrow) Mar 21, 2021 at 14:45
  • 1
    I didn't realise there was a daily limit for up-votes. Clearly, I'm not being generous enough!
    – Lesley
    Mar 21, 2021 at 15:29
  • Sometimes these pestilences were brought about as divine judgment:” - Sometimes??? This was always the case. Every time. Deuteronomy 28. During this period, the times of the Judges, they were [still] under Law.
    – Dave
    Mar 21, 2021 at 17:34
  • @Dave - Fair point since we're talking about the O.T. Of course, there are naturally occuring droughts that cause famine, or wild fires (think Australia recently) or flodding (think Australia east coast right now). But then, we have to realise that those things are probably caused by humans who are ruining the Earth. Actions always have consequences. Even now, we know from Revelation that God's judgments start first with his church, then God judges those who are themselves ruining the Earth and persecuting God's people. Lessons to be learned, yes?
    – Lesley
    Mar 21, 2021 at 17:50

We don't have independent meteorological records, of course! But we can reasonably well extrapolate from recent recorded history in continental Europe, which is relatively comparable.


As you can see, famines certainly were not uncommon. In the best case, people might go for 30 years between famines; in the worst case it might be much more frequent. An adult could guarantee to experience famine at least once in their lives, and sometimes much more often. (If they survived, of course.)

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    – Dottard
    Mar 21, 2021 at 21:33
  • @Dottard Thanks, and thanks for fixing the typo.
    – Graham
    Mar 21, 2021 at 21:43

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