->''Whenever the LORD raised up judges for them, the LORD was with the judge, and He saved them from the hand of their enemies all the days of the judge. For the LORD was moved by their groaning because of those who afflicted them and oppressed them. But whenever the judge died, they turned back and were more corrupt than their fathers, going after other gods and bowing down to them. They did not drop any of their practices or their stubborn ways.''
-->– '''Judges 2:18-19'''

The Book of Judges is the seventh book of Literature/TheBible.

The Jewish structure holds Judges (in Hebrew, ''Shoftim'') to be the second book of the ''Nevi'im'' (Prophets), the second part of the Tanakh. With Joshua, Samuel and Kings, they form the ''Nevi'im Reshonim'' (First Prophets), in opposition to the ''Nevi'im Acharonim'' (Later Prophets, called the "Minor Prophets" in some circles because there are a lot of them, none really stands out, and it's easy to get confused).

Years after the Israelites settled into Canaan, they are still suffering from foreign attacks and inter-tribal conflicts. Whenever Israel is in trouble, God calls a "Judge" to save them. That judge defeats the invaders and then rules the land, establishing a time of peace. But soon they die, [[HereWeGoAgain Israel turns wicked again, the invaders return]]...

''Judges'' is followed by the Literature/BookOfRuth in the Christian Old Testament and by Literature/BooksOfSamuel in the Jewish Tanakh.

This book is also best known for the story of Literature/SamsonAndDelilah.

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!!This book contains the following tropes:
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%% Zero Context Examples have been commented out. Please write up a complete example before uncommenting.
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* AnarchyIsChaos: Shown in the events of the book, as summed up by the ArcWords below. When "everyone did as he pleased," the result was rampant amoral behavior.
* AntiHero: Most of the Judges have their flaws, in particular Ehud, Jephthah and Samson. They all are used by God deliver Israel, but their grasp on morality is rather tenuous.
* ArcWords: "Israel had no king in those days. [[AnarchyIsChaos Everyone did as he pleased]]."
* AuthorityEqualsAsskicking: The position of "Judge" was not just a judicial title, but also signified a badass military leader--think ancient versions of ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd''.
** Indeed, it's not entirely clear that "judge" is the best translation. Although deciding cases was an important duty of the judges, and Hebrews of later eras used the word for judicial officers exclusively, the judges of the Book of Judges seem to have had all kinds of other powers, including--as mentioned--commanding Israel's armies. Somewhat significantly, the title of ''shofet'' (that used in Hebrew for the Biblical Judges) was also used in the closely-related Phoenician language, where it signified a kind of non-royal magistrate. The title continued in use in various Phoenician colonies for centuries. The term reappears in a big way with Carthage, where the two elected ''suffetes''--which is to say, ''shofet''s--were the ruling officials of the city and thus the empire, effectively equivalent to the Roman consuls. In fact, one might say that a better translation might be "Book of Consuls", since Roman consuls' powers were broadly similar (they had judicial, executive, and legislative responsibilities, and were responsible for commanding Rome's armies in wartime).
* BadassIsraeli: The whole book is about Jewish leaders who kicked the collective butts of their enemies.
* BadassPreacher: The judges themselves were spiritual leaders of their communities, and a few of them (namely Gideon) actually spoke with God Himself.
* BloodyHilarious: The UndignifiedDeath of Eglon, who is [[AdiposeRex so fat]] that when he gets stabbed in the gut, the sword gets swallowed up by the blubber and Ehud has to leave it there.
* BondOneLiner: Samson: "With a donkey's jawbone, I have made donkeys of them."[[note]]In the original Hebrew, it's more akin to "With a donkey's jawbone I have piled them in heaps", making a pun out of the word "chamor", which can mean donkey or heap.[[/note]]
* TheBerserker: When "the Spirit of the Lord came upon Samson", massive body counts ensued.
* CallBack: To Genesis, as with the case with the men of Sodom, the men of Gibeah in the land of Benjamin also harass a neighbor to bring out his guest so that they may "know" him. And their abuse also (in this case, almost) dooms the whole tribe of Benjamin to destruction.
* CherryTapping: Samson kills 1,000 '''Philistines''' ''[[BadWithTheBone with a donkey's jaw]]'', and then follows it up with a pun.
* ChosenOne: The Judges all receive the CallToAdventure directly from God Himself.
* ChronicVillainy: The Israelites lapse in their faith every time after God has saved them. The phrase "The children of Israel did evil in the sight of the LORD" occurs no less than seven times. Some Bible students blame Israel's first fall from the Lord on Joshua not setting up a proper successor for himself, as Moses through the Lord had set up Joshua to be for himself, so that Israel could be continually led on the path of righteousness.
* CivilWar: Between the tribe of Benjamin and the other tribes of Israel, when the men of Gibeah (a town in Benjamin) gang-raped and murdered a Levite man's concubine and the whole tribe refused to turn over the men responsible. This led to a breach in the tribes of Israel when the tribe of Benjamin is left with so few people in it, and the other tribes had to resort to a LoopholeAbuse in their binding themselves with a oath to not give the men of Benjamin any of their daughters to be wives for them.
* ColdIron: 1:19 reads in its entirety "And the LORD was with Judah; and he drave out the inhabitants of the mountain; but could not drive out the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron." This is never elaborated upon or explained, and has become something of a MemeticMutation / RunningGag in parts of the internet. It doesn't work for Sisera in chapter 4, though.
* CowardlyLion:
** Barak. When he insists on Deborah accompanying him to the battle even though he has already been promised a victory, Deborah tells him that she'll come, but for demanding this he won't be the one to kill Sisera; a civilian woman named Jael will be.
** Gideon is introduced hiding from his enemies, and has to be reassured by no less than three miraculous signs before he's convinced that the Lord is actually choosing him.
* CrapsackWorld: Turns out, when everyone follows the idea that AnarchyIsChaos, they'll become completely immoral and be very vulnerable to oppression by their enemies.
* CurbStompBattle: Samson versus... well, anybody who was stupid enough to try fighting Samson.
* {{Curse}}: When Abimelech conspired with the leaders of Shechem to have Gideon's seventy sons all killed so Abimelech could be made king, the youngest son Jotham escapes and tells the people a parable before calling down a curse on both Abimelech and the leaders of Shechem that they would destroy each other. And eventually that's what ended up happening after three years.
%%* CycleOfRevenge: The CentralTheme of Samson.
* DownTheDrain: In some translations of Judges 3, this is how Ehud escaped after [[CrowningMomentOfFunny killing King Eglon]], who had defeated the Israelites, in a rather unusual manner.
* DumbMuscle: Gee, [[Literature/SamsonAndDelilah Samson]], after the first few times Delilah springs the Philistines on you, maybe you'd figure out that she's setting you up and not [[TooDumbToLive tell her the actual secret of your strength]]?
* TheEmpire: The Philistines make their first appearance here. They are known for their vast influence and mighty war machine.
* EvenEvilHasStandards: Israel is in a period of moral decline, but the gang rape, murder, and dismemberment of a Levite woman outrages just about everyone. Everyone, that is, except for the tribe of Benjamin, who refused to turn over the men responsible for the gang rape and murder, which leads to a CivilWar between them and the rest of Israel.
* ExplainingYourPowerToTheEnemy: After lying to Delilah several times about the source of his power--and getting ambushed by Philistines each time [[WhatAnIdiot while trussed up exactly as he had described]]--Samson finally reveals that his power really comes from his long hair. Sure enough, next morning he wakes up with a shaved head and is captured by the Philistines, officially qualifying him as TooDumbToLive.
* EyeScream: Samson had his eyes taken out when he was captured by the Philistines shortly after his TraumaticHaircut. He would pay them back the favor by bringing the temple right down upon them in his self-sacrifice.
* FailedASpotCheck: Ehud's first mentioned as being [[TheSouthpaw left-handed]] - which meant, of course, that he would commonly carry a sword sheath on his right hip (which the passage confirms). When Ehud went to Eglon's keep as an envoy to 'pay tribute' (the monetary kind), it's heavily implied that the guards didn't think to check his right hip. (Most people were right-handed and would therefore carry a weapon on their left.) This allowed Ehud to waltz right into Eglon's throne room and shank him right in the gut, complete with PreAssKickingOneLiner.
* FatBastard: Eglon, a corrupt king, is described as so fat that when he is stabbed to death, the cubit-long sword gets swallowed up by all the blubber. For those keeping track at home, that would make him at least four feet wide.
** AdiposeRex
* FatalFlaw:
** Samson's drunkenness and tendency to fall for "bad" women.
** Jephthah's rashness led to the death of his daughter and a breakout of civil war that had previously been defused by Gideon.
* FamilyUnfriendlyViolence: If you only know the stories from Sunday School lessons, [[{{bowdlerize}} you might be in for some surprises]]. A faithful movie adaptation of the book would easily earn a hard R rating.
* HereWeGoAgain: Israel falls into sin and worships false gods. Israel gets oppressed by their enemies. Israel repents and cries out to God for deliverance. God sends a Judge who mops up the enemies and establishes peace in the land. Eventually the Judge dies. Israel falls back into sin... and the cycle repeats no less than ''seven times'' throughout the book.
* HeroicBastard: Jephthah was the son of Gilead and a prostitute, and was exiled by his half-brothers for being a bastard. Later in life, they have to beg him to lead them to victory over the Ammonites. Some would say he's [[BastardBastard the other kind of bastard]] due to the very... confusing situation with his daughter, which is still a HUGE subject of contention among scholars.
* HeroicSeductress: Some [[http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/jael-wife-of-heber-kenite-midrash-and-aggadah interpretations of the Hebrew word for "cover" portray Yael as one]]; the more innocent interpretation assumes she "covered" [[GeneralRipper Siserah]] [[{{Bowdlerise}} with a blanket and tucked him in]] before assassinating him, but many scholars interpret the word to mean she covered him with her ''body''. Read: she had sex with him ''[[SexGod (no less than seven times!)]]'' until he was exhausted, then finished him off in his sleep.
* HonorBeforeReason: Jephthah makes a vow to sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his door upon his victorious return from battle-- and feels obligated to keep the vow when unfortunately that thing is [[spoiler: his only daughter]].
* HopeSpot: [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gibeah The battle of Gibeah]] showed the Israelite tribes can still band together to oppose evil.
* HotBlooded: Samson was a Hot-Blooded WorldsStrongestMan who killed a ''thousand'' Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. After a deadly HumiliationConga that involved a certain [[TheVamp seductress]], a TraumaticHaircut ''and'' EyeScream, he [[TakingYouWithMe took down]] ''[[TakingYouWithMe thousands]]'' [[TakingYouWithMe more]] with him by breaking the pillars of a temple.
* HumanSacrifice: The tale of Jephthah ends with a human sacrifice due to his HonorBeforeReason rash vow. The text is somewhat ambiguous, though, whether [[spoiler:his daughter]] was literally killed as a burnt offering or simply "sacrificed" herself by becoming a celibate temple servant [[note]]which would still be a significant blow as it would have meant the end of Jephthah's bloodline[[/note]].
* IdiotBall:
** Samson finds some bees have made their hive in the corpse of a lion, so he eats some of the honey and gives the rest to his parents. The honey that came from a ''dead lion''. Especially bad since, as a Nazarite, he's not allowed to touch, let alone eat, anything that came from corpses.
** Samson could be quite clever, coming up with a BatmanGambit to make sure his escalating war with the Philistines wouldn't end up antagonizing other tribes of Israel, coming up with a good riddle, executing a clever plan for revenge, and testing his Philistine girlfriend before fully trusting her. But the fact that she was his girlfriend was enough to make him trust her anyway, ignoring the fact that she'd failed said test. [[UpToEleven Three times]].
* ImprobableWeaponUser:
** Shamgar used an ox goad and Samson had his... donkey's jaw bone.
** Also, Yael, who killed the enemy general Siserah using a mallet and a tent peg.
* IWasBeatenByAGirl:
** In Chapter 9, we have the [[http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Judges+9&version=NIV story of Abimelech]], who was mortally wounded when a woman dropped a millstone on his head. He had one of his men kill him so that people wouldn't say that a woman killed him. This is referenced later on and unfortunately for him, they still say a woman killed him.
** When Sisera is killed by Yael, a woman, this is regarded both as a humiliation for his side and an embarrassment for Barak, since a woman won the victory.
* JewishMother: Deborah, Judge over Israel, is prevailed upon to lead her people to victory in war when she realises they are figuratively her children, and they are being sore oppressed by the enemies encroaching on all sides. [[MamaBear She rides to war in her mighty chariot]] specifically as a mother defending her children. She also uses their sense of shame and guilt to manipulate them into fighting behind her.
* KarmaHoudini: The unnamed Levite who sparks the civil war between the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of the Israelites. He goes to his father-in-law to take back his wife who is implied to have run away from him in the first place because he [[DomesticAbuse mistreats her]]. Later, while lodging in Gibea, when the male inhabitants of the town come to kill him for unknown reasons, he [[DirtyCoward locks himself in and his wife out]] who consequently gets gang-raped and killed by the Gibeans. Then, after he comes home, he [[DeadGuyOnDisplay cuts her corpse into pieces to send them to the other tribes]] who unanimously agree that ''he'' is the one being wronged. ValuesDissonance, obviously, but even so. Subverted as he still had to face God's judgment. No amount of KarmaHoudini will protect you from Elohim.
* LetMeGetThisStraight: From the New Living Translation of Judges 11:9:
-->''Jephthah said to the elders, “Let me get this straight. If I come with you and if the Lord gives me victory over the Ammonites, will you really make me ruler over all the people?”''
* LoadBearingHero: Samson, though it's an inversion since he ''brings down the temple!'' He's still the hero, though. He also pulls up a set of city gates and walks away with them.
* LoopholeAbuse: The other tribes had vowed not to give their daughters to the Benjaminates as wives, then regretted that decision because it would have led to the extinction of the tribe. Fortunately (?), they realized the vow didn't say anything about not letting the Benjaminites ''abduct'' their daughters for marriage....
* MadeASlave: The Israelites enslaved the remainder of the Canaanites who had not been destroyed. They became "thorns in Israel's side".
* MalignedMixedMarriage: Samson sees a Philistine woman and tells his parents that he wants to marry her. The parents question Samson's choice of marrying a pagan woman, but the narrative says that God used that for Samson to strike against the Philistines. The marriage initially isn't fully consummated, as Samson ended up having his wife be given to another man, but later on when he tries to have a private moment with her and his father-in-law refuses to let Samson do so, offering his other daughter to him instead, Samson decides to do a little vandalism by having some foxes run through the fields of the Philistines and burn down their standing grain with torches tied to the foxes' tails. This results in the Philistines killing Samson's wife and her father, which in turn results in Samson giving the Philistines a serious beat-down before he hid himself away in the rock of Etam.
* MassiveNumberedSiblings: Gideon had seventy sons, thanks to {{polyamory}}.
* MillionToOneChance: Invoked in the story of Gideon. God instructs him to reduce his army to only 300 men and arm them only with torches and pitchers, just so it would be even more obvious that the battle was won thanks to [[DeusExMachina divine intervention]].
* MusicalEpisode: The story of Deborah the judge includes a song sung by Deborah and Barak giving praise to the Lord for their victory.
* NoEnding: The book's last lines are the yet another case of "Israel had no king in those days. Everyone did as he pleased."
* NoDeadBodyPoops: {{Averted}} when King Eglon is stabbed in the gut by the left-handed Ehud, causing "the dirt" to come out. The fact that "dirt" is excrement is made even clearer when Eglon's personal guard delay going in to check on him because they believe him to be relieving himself--they can smell it.
* OfferedTheCrown: The men of Israel offer Gideon kingship for saving them. Gideon refuses, but instead asks for enough gold so that he could make idols for himself.
* OneDrinkWillKillTheBaby: Samson's mother is advised by an angel at the start of her pregnancy not to drink any alcohol, or even to eat (unfermented) grapes or raisins. This, however, didn't have anything to do with concern for the fetus' ''physical'' safety or well-being, but for his ''spiritual'' well-being. (Remember, too, that almost ''everyone'' drank alcohol back then, even during pregnancy, because drinking wine or beer tended to be safer than drinking untreated water.) He was [[BecauseDestinySaysSo destined]] to become a Nazirite. The Nazirites were a group of Jewish ascetics who, among other things, were forbidden from consuming alcohol or even unfermented grapes.
* OneManArmy: Samson kills ''one thousand Philistines'' with a donkey's jawbone. Give a medal to those 400 soldiers that thought they'd succeed where 600 of them had failed.
* PreAssKickingOneLiner: Ehud to Eglon: "I have a message from God for you."
* PunishedForSympathy: In Judges 2:1-4, an angel of the LORD scolds the Israelites for incomplete genocide of the inhabitants of Canaan as well as being friendly with them. To punish them, God allows the Canaanites to be the Israelites' oppressors.
* RapeAndRevenge: A Levite man gives his concubine to a bunch of horny townsmen to protect his own ass. They rape her to death, and he hacks up her body and distributes the pieces to his buddies to call them to war with the town of Gibeah.
* RiddleMeThis: Samson challenges his wedding guests with a bet on the riddle, "Out of the eater came something to eat / Out of the strong came something sweet." The guests aren't able to guess it, so they resort to cheating by pressuring his wife to extract the answer from him. Samson [[BerserkButton doesn't take this well at all]]. (The answer is that [[spoiler:Samson killed a lion and discovered that bees had made honey in its carcass.]])
* SaltTheEarth: In Judges 9:45, Abimelech conquered the city of Shechem and sowed it with salt.
-->''All that day Abimelech pressed his attack against the city until he had captured it and killed its people. Then he destroyed the city and scattered salt over it.'' (New International Version)
* SequelHook: "Israel had no king in those days." Guess what the next book is about.
* ShamingTheMob: When Gideon pulls down the altar of Baal, an angry mob of Baal-worshipers shows up to execute him. Gideon's father defuses the situation by pointing out that, if Baal is really a god, he would be quite capable of dealing with Gideon on his own.
* {{Shibboleth}}: The TropeNamer, from a password that gave away whether the speaker had an Ephraimite regional accent. The Ephraimites would pronounce it "Sibboleth," revealing that they were enemy agents, and get killed for their troubles.
* SonOfAWhore: Jephthah, who was called that by his half-brothers in the Living Bible translation when he was driven from his family.
* TheSouthpaw: The first and really only extraordinary attribute mentioned about Ehud. [[ChekhovsSkill This, of course, becomes important later.]]
* SplitHair: Judges 20:16, the tribe of Benjamin had "seven hundred chosen men lefthanded", each one being able to "sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss".
* SummonEverymanHero: Several of the judges (most notably Gideon) are just ordinary guys who happen to be TheChosenOne. Gideon is incredulous and takes a good deal of convincing that the angel is delivering the message to the right person. It turns out that that's exactly the point: {{God}} is setting up a BatmanGambit to prove that the victory came from [[DeusExMachina divine intervention]] rather than superior fighting ability.
* TakingYouWithMe: How [[spoiler:Samson]] decides to go out, pulling down an entire temple on top of several thousand Philistines and himself.
* TheTheocracy: Israel is ostensibly governed as one of these, with the Judges and prophets ruling as God's representatives. Practically, this has rather mixed results.
* TooDumbToLive: Samson tells Delilah his weakness, after she has already tried to betray him multiple times.
* TraumaticHaircut: Samson, after he tells Delilah about his weakness, which resulted in his easy capture. Fortunately it grows back in order for Samson to deliver the coup-de-grace upon the Philistines for taking out his eyes.
* UndignifiedDeath:
** When King Eglon is stabbed by Ehud through his bowels, fecal matter spills out from the wound.
** King Sisera is lured to sleep by the wife of one of his allies then stabbed in the head with a tent peg.
** Abimelech was mortally wounded when a woman dropped a millstone on his head. He immediately told his armor bearer to finish the job, so that no one would know he had been killed by a woman. It didn't work, as Joab years later would imagine King David would say that to the messenger who brought him back news about the men who sacrificed their lives in their attempt to capture a city.
* UnfortunateNames:
** In Judges 9:21, there's a mention of a city called Beer. Of course, it didn't mean that in Hebrew, but still...
** Puah, son of Dodo.
* WithholdingTheirName: When Samson's parents ask the Angel of the LORD what His real name is, the Angel refuses to answer, saying instead, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” Other translations have Him say the name is "beyond understanding".
* WorldsStrongestMan: Samson was given supernatural strength by God. He could do stuff like beating an entire army with a donkey's jawbone.
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