The seventh book of Literature/TheBible.

The Jewish structure holds Judges 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.
!!This book contains the following tropes:
%% Zero Context Examples have been commented out. Please write up a complete example before uncommenting.
* 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, Jepthah 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]]."
* {{Badass}}: The position of "Judge" was not just a judicial title but also signified a badass military leader-- think ancient versions of ''ComicBook/JudgeDredd''.
** BadassIsraeli: The whole book is about Jewish leaders who kicked the collective butts of their enemies.
** BadassPreacher: Ditto the above.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
%%* CycleOfRevenge: The CentralTheme of Samson.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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: [[ The battle of Gibeah]] showed the Israelite tribes can still band together to oppose evil.
* HumanSacrifice: Apparently, as the tale of Jephthah indicates, God is fine with this under certain circumstances such as HonorBeforeReason rash vows.
* ImprobableWeaponUser:
** Shamgar used an ox goad and Samson had his... donkey's jaw bone.
** Also, Yael, who killed the enemy king using a tent peg.
* 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.
* 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".
* 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]].
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.]])
* 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 Ephriamite regional accent. The Ephriamites would pronounce it "Sibboleth," revealing that they were enemy agents, and get killed for their troubles.
* TheSouthpaw: The first and really only extraordinary attribute mentioned about Ehud. [[ChekovsSkill This, of course, becomes important later.]]
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.