Follow TV Tropes


Literature / Book of Judges

Go To

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 The Bible.

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, no one 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, Israel turns wicked again, the invaders return...

Judges is followed by the Book of Ruth in the Christian Old Testament and by Books of Samuel in the Jewish Tanakh.


This book is also best known for the story of Samson and Delilah.

Structure of the book:

  • The tribes and their military conflicts (Judges 1:1-2:5)
  • The pattern of Israel's unfaithfulness (Judges 2:6-3:6)
  • Othniel the judge (Judges 3:7-11)
  • Ehud the judge (Judges 3:12-30)
  • Shamgar the judge (Judges 3:31)
  • Deborah the judge, with Barak and Jael (Judges chapters 4 and 5)
  • Gideon the judge (Judges chapters 6 to 8)
  • Abimelech, the failed king (Judges chapter 9)
  • Tola and Jair the judges (Judges 10:1-5)
  • Jephthah the judge (Judges 10:6-12:7)
  • Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon the judges (Judges 12:8-15)
  • Samson the judge (Judges chapters 13 to 16)
  • Micah's idols and land for the tribe of Dan (Judges chapters 17 and 18)
  • Rape of a Levite man's concubine and civil war with Benjamin (Judges chapters 19 to 21)


This book contains the following tropes:

  • Abduction Is Love: In Chapter 21, the other Israelite tribes resort to a Loophole Abuse in their binding oath to never give the men of Benjamin their daughters as wives, by having the same men abduct the young women attending the dance at Shiloh so that they could have wives. The narrative doesn't mention anything about the women complaining about being wives to their abductors, though, given how tenuous the Israelites' grasp of morality was at the time.
  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Suggested to have happened to Samson's Philistine bride-to-be when he went to kill a bunch of people to fulfill his promise to the Philistines during his week-long wedding feast, only to find out that his bride-to-be was married off to another person in the interim.
  • Adipose Rex: King Eglon of Moab; according to Judges 3:17 (KJV): "Eglon was a very fat man."
  • Affair? Blame the Bastard: Jephthah gets rejected by his stepsiblings all because he is the son of their father and a prostitute.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Shown in the events of the book, as summed up by the Arc Words below. When "everyone did as he pleased," the result was rampant amoral behavior.
  • Anti-Hero: 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.
  • Apathetic Citizens: The people of Succoth and Penuel were like this to Gideon when he asked them for assistance when he was chasing after Zebah and Zalmunnah, refusing to give him any help unless he had those men in his hands. Gideon told them that he would repay them for their apathy, and that's just what happened when he caught those two men.
  • Arc Words: "Israel had no king in those days. Everyone did as he pleased."
  • Authority Equals Asskicking: The position of "Judge" was not just a judicial title, but also signified a badass military leader—think ancient versions of Judge Dredd. Indeed, it's not 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, shofets—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).
  • Badass Israeli: The whole book is about Jewish leaders who kicked the collective butts of their enemies.
  • Badass Preacher: The judges themselves were spiritual leaders of their communities, and a few of them (namely Gideon) actually spoke with God Himself.
  • Bad with the Bone: Samson beats a thousand Philistines to death with only a donkey's jawbone.
  • Bastard Bastard: Abimelech, son of Gideon in Judges 8:29-9:56, was the illegitimate son of Gideon who murdered his 70 legitimate brothers (he had a lot of step-mothers), then conquered his father's kingdom.
  • Blinded by the Light: A tactic used by Gideon and his army against the Midianites was to hide their torches within jars and then break them when the shofar sounded within close proximity to the camp, and also when "the sword of the Lord and of Gideon" was shouted. This sudden burst of light caused the Midianites to end up fighting with each other instead of with the enemy, since this attack took place at night.
  • Bloody Hilarious: The Undignified Death of Eglon, who is 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.
  • Bond One-Liner: Samson: "With a donkey's jawbone, I have made donkeys of them."note 
  • The Berserker: When "the spirit of the LORD gripped Samson", massive body counts ensued.
  • Call-Back: 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.
  • Cargo Cult: Micah in Judges chapter 17 uses the silver that he took from his mother and then returned to make idols for himself and his family to worship, even getting a Levite to be a priest for him. A band of raiders from the tribe of Dan came in the following chapter to take the idols away along with the priest and began worshiping the idols once they set up their own town over a village they had conquered.
  • Cherry Tapping: Samson kills 1,000 Philistines with a donkey's jaw, and then follows it up with a pun.
  • Chosen One: The Judges all receive the Call to Adventure directly from God Himself.
  • Chronic Villainy: 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.
  • Civil War: 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 Loophole Abuse in their binding themselves with an oath to not give the men of Benjamin any of their daughters to be wives for them.
  • Cold Iron: 1:19 reads "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 Memetic Mutation / Running Gag in parts of the internet. It doesn't work for Sisera in chapter 4, though.
  • Come to Gawk: After the Philistines capture Samson and put out his eyes, they decide to have a celebration by putting Samson on display in their dining hall. It would be the last party that most of the Philistines would attend, as Samson brings the house down upon everybody.
  • Cowardly Lion:
    • 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.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: 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.
    • In Judges chapter 17, Micah's mother had called a curse on whoever took the 1,100 pieces of silver from her. When Micah confessed to her that he was the one who took it, Micah's mother blessed him in the name of the Lord to remove the curse on him.
    • In Judges chapter 21, most of the tribes of Israel bound themselves with an oath that whoever gives their daughters to the sons of Benjamin to be their wives will be cursed. But realizing that this would leave the tribe of Benjamin without any way to keep the tribe from vanishing completely due to a lack of women to bear offspring, they resort to using a Loophole Abuse and have the men of Benjamin steal the daughters of the other tribes at the dance at Shiloh.
  • Cycle of Revenge: The Central Theme of Samson. Samson goes and burns the Philistines' fields because his father-in-law (who was a Philistine) wouldn't let him go sleep with his wife, whom he had already allowed to be given over to another man. The Philistines retaliate by killing Samson's wife and father-in-law, then Samson goes and kills a bunch of Philistines in retaliation, which in turn leads them to having him captured so they could retaliate against him, which in turn leads Samson into killing a bunch of Philistines in retaliation, which again in turn leads them to having him captured so they could retaliate against him, leading Samson into being blinded, shorn of his hair, and working for them as a grinding mill slave, which leads to his final act of revenge, causing their temple to collapse right on top of them and himself.
  • Depraved Bisexual: Quite possibly the men of Gibeah who ganged around the old man's house to desire "knowing" the Levite man who came to sojourn in that house. Instead, the Levite man gave them his concubine, and they abused and raped her all night, leading to her death.
  • Did You Just Punch Out Cthulhu?: The men of the valley defeat the men of Judah in battle despite God Himself backing the latter.
  • Disposable Sex Worker: The Levite man's concubine, who first runs away from him, then reluctantly goes back home with him, only to be pushed out the door of an old man's house in Gibeah when a bunch of horny men ganged up to rape the old man's guest, was sexually abused all night until she was dead, and then was cut up in pieces by the Levite man and her body parts sent into all the tribes of Israel to incite them into a war against the tribe of Benjamin.
  • Down the Drain: In some translations of Judges 3, this is how Ehud escaped after killing King Eglon, who had defeated the Israelites, in a rather unusual manner.
  • Dumb Muscle: Gee, 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 tell her the actual secret of your strength?
  • The Empire: The Philistines make their first appearance here. They are known for their vast influence and mighty war machine.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Israel is in a period of moral decline, but the gang rape, murder, and dismemberment of a Levite woman outrages 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 Civil War between them and the rest of Israel.
  • Explaining Your Power to the Enemy: After lying to Delilah several times about the source of his power—and getting ambushed by Philistines each time 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 Too Dumb to Live.
  • Eye Scream: Samson had his eyes gouged out when he was captured by the Philistines shortly after his Traumatic Haircut. He would pay them back the favor by bringing the temple right down upon them in his self-sacrifice.
  • Failed a Spot Check: Ehud is first mentioned as being left-handed - which meant that he would commonly carry a sword sheath on his right thigh (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 thigh. (Most people were right-handed and would therefore carry a weapon on their left thigh.) This allowed Ehud to waltz right into Eglon's throne room and shank him right in the gut, complete with Pre Ass Kicking One Liner.
  • Fat Bastard: 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.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • 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.
  • Family-Unfriendly Violence: If you only know the stories from Sunday School lessons, you might be in for some surprises. A faithful movie adaptation of the book would easily earn a hard R rating.
  • Food Eats You: In Chapter 7, prior to Gideon's attack on the Midianite camp, he sneaked down to it and overhead somebody telling another person about a dream he had of a barley loaf that rolled down the hill and knocked down one of their tents. The other person said that it could be Gideon coming to attack the camp.
  • Heel–Face Door-Slam: God nearly does this to Israel in Chapter 10 when they sin by turning away from Him to serve other gods, only for Him to deliver them into the hands of the Philistines and the Ammonites, who brutally oppressed them and got Israel on their knees begging God for deliverance. God tells them, “Did I not deliver you from Egypt, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites when they oppressed you? You cried out to Me, and I saved you from their hands. Yet you have abandoned Me and worshipped other gods. Therefore I will not save you again. Go and cry out to the gods that you have chosen. Let them save you in your time of distress." To which they respond, “We have sinned. Do to us whatever seems good in Your sight. Please, just deliver us today.” When God saw how sincere they were in their repentance by removing the foreign gods among them, He was moved to pity and sent them a deliverer, Jephthah the judge.
  • Here We Go Again!: 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.
  • Heroic Bastard: 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 the other kind of bastard due to the very... confusing situation with his daughter, which is still a HUGE subject of contention among scholars.
  • Heroic Seductress: Some interpretations of the Hebrew word for "cover" portray Jael as one; the more innocent interpretation assumes she "covered" Sisera 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 (no less than seven times!) until he was exhausted, then finished him off in his sleep.
  • Hobbes Was Right: With no iron hand to rule them, the Israelites just do as they pleased and become completely vulnerable to oppression by their enemies.
  • Honor Before Reason: 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 his only daughter.
  • Hope Spot: The battle of Gibeah showed the Israelite tribes can still band together to oppose evil.
  • Hot-Blooded: Samson was a Hot-Blooded World's Strongest Man who killed a thousand Philistines with the jawbone of an ass. After a deadly Humiliation Conga that involved a certain seductress, a Traumatic Haircut and Eye Scream, he took down thousands more with him by breaking the pillars of a temple.
  • Human Sacrifice: The tale of Jephthah ends with a human sacrifice due to his Honor Before Reason rash vow. The text is somewhat ambiguous, though, whether his daughter was killed as a burnt offering or simply "sacrificed" herself by becoming a celibate temple servant note .
  • Idiot Ball:
    • 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 Batman Gambit 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. Three times.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: In Judges 20:16, the tribe of Benjamin has "seven hundred chosen men lefthanded", each one being able to "sling stones at an hair breadth, and not miss".
  • Improbable Weapon User:
    • Shamgar used an ox goad and Samson had his... donkey's jaw bone.
    • Also, Jael, who killed the enemy general Sisera using a mallet and a tent peg.
  • I Was Beaten by a Girl:
    • In Chapter 9, we have the 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 Jael, a woman, this is regarded both as a humiliation for his side and an embarrassment for Barak, since a woman won the victory.
  • Jewish Mother: 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. 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.
  • Just a Kid: When Gideon finally captures Zebah and Zalmunnah in Chapter 8, he tells his firstborn son Jether to put the two men to death with his sword, but the narrative says Jether wouldn't do it because he was still just a youth. Zebah and Zalmunnah goad Gideon into showing his manliness by him putting them to death himself, and Gideon obliges.
  • Karma Houdini: 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 mistreats her. Later, while lodging in Gibea, when the male inhabitants of the town come to kill him for unknown reasons, he locks himself in and his wife out who consequently gets gang-raped and killed by the Gibeans. Then, after he comes home, he cuts her corpse into pieces to send them to the other tribes claiming that he is the one being wronged. Values Dissonance, obviously, but even so. Subverted as he still had to face God's judgment. No amount of Karma Houdini will protect you from Elohim.
  • Karmic Rape: Implied to be the case when the narrative tells of a Levite man's concubine who left him to "play the harlot" and go off to live in her father's house. When the Levite man goes to her father's wife to win her back again, as they stop in Gibeah of Benjamin to stay at an old man's house and the men of Gibeah surround the house, asking for the Levite man so that they could "know" him, the Levite man instead gives them his concubine, whom they raped and abused until it was morning, when she died.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: 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?”
  • Load-Bearing Hero: 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.
  • Loophole Abuse: 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....
  • Made a Slave: The Israelites enslaved the remainder of the Canaanites who had not been destroyed. They became "thorns in Israel's side".
  • Maligned Mixed Marriage: 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.
  • Massive Numbered Siblings: Gideon had seventy sons, thanks to polyamory.
  • Meaningful Name: The name of Judah means "praise". In two examples in this book, the tribe of Judah is sent first into battle, which Bible students interpret as a message to send praise unto God first before going into a spiritual battle.
  • Million-to-One Chance: 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 divine intervention.
  • Musical Episode: The story of Deborah the judge includes a song sung by Deborah and Barak giving praise to the Lord for their victory.
  • Mystical Pregnancy: Manoah's wife, who was infertile, was told by the Angel of the Lord that she would have a child in Chapter 13. That child would become Samson the judge.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Jephthah's reckless vow before God to sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his door to greet him upon his return if God gives him the victory over his enemies makes him realize he has to fulfill his end of the vow when he sees that his only daughter is the one who comes out to greet him.
  • No Ending: The book's last lines are yet another case of "Israel had no king in those days. Everyone did as he pleased."
  • No Dead Body Poops: 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 delays going in to check on him because they believe him to be relieving himself—they can smell it.
  • Offered the Crown: 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.
  • Off with His Head!: The heads of Oreb and Zeeb were cut off by Gideon when he struck them down.
  • One Drink Will Kill the Baby: 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 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.
  • One-Man Army: 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.
  • "Open!" Says Me: In Chapter 16, when Samson went to Gaza to spend some time with a prostitute, the Philistines thought they could trap Samson inside the city and then wait to kill him when he gets up in the morning. However, Samson gets up in the middle of the night, and uses his strength to rip open the doors of the city gate along with its gate posts, carrying the whole thing straight up to the top of the hill opposite Hebron.
  • Pay Evil unto Evil: In Chapter 1, Adoni-Bezek admits that he has cut off the thumbs and big toes of seventy kings, whom he had made pick scraps from under the table, and now God has repaid him when the tribe of Judah, fighting against him, caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes.
  • Polyamory: Jerubbaal/Gideon's wives, through which he sired 70 sons. There's also a bit in the Song of Deborah and Barak, where Sisera's mother, wondering why her son is taking so long in returning, muses to herself that he must be giving every man "a girl or two to love" while dividing the spoils.
  • Pre Ass Kicking One Liner: Ehud to Eglon: "I have a message from God for you."
  • Psychic Dreams for Everyone: In Judges chapter 7, a Midianite soldier in a tent tells another he has a dream that a barley loaf tumbled down the hill, struck the tent, and caused it to fall down flat. The other soldier tells him that it means that Gideon has come to defeat the Midianite camp. Gideon overhears this and takes it as confirmation that the Lord is with him to help defeat the Midianites.
  • Punished for Sympathy: 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.
  • Rape and Revenge: 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.
  • Rash Promise: The Israelite general Jephthah vows, if he defeats the Ammonites, to sacrifice the first thing that comes out of his house when he gets home. It turns out to be his daughter. (Note that Jewish scholars disagree about whether the story implies that he literally kills her.)
  • Redemption Equals Death: After a Humiliation Conga with Samson having his hair shaved off and losing his strength, his eyes are gouged out and he finds himself on the chain gang, working the grain grinder. During this time, his hair grows back and he recovers his strength. When the Philistines are having a victory party, an older and wiser Samson asks a youth to prop him up against the pillars of the temple of Dagon in Gaza, and he prays that God will strengthen him one last time as he pushes against the pillars of Dagon's temple, which collapses and kills Samson along with the Philistines of Gaza.
  • Rhymes on a Dime:
    • In some translations, Samson proposes his riddle to the Philistines in Judges 14:14 with this: "Out of the eater came something to eat, and out of the strong came something sweet."
    • Samson's response to the Philistines finding out the answer to the riddle through cheating in Judges 14:18, as rendered in the Holman Christian Standard Bible: "If you hadn’t plowed with my young cow, you wouldn’t know my riddle now!"
    • Samson's comment after slaying a thousand men with a donkey's jawbone in Judges 15:16 in the New International Version: "“With a donkey’s jawbone I have made donkeys of them. With a donkey’s jawbone I have killed a thousand men.”
  • Riddle Me This: 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 doesn't take this well at all. (The answer is that Samson killed a lion and discovered that bees had made honey in its carcass.)
  • Roaring Rampage of Revenge: Samson doesn't take the death of his wife by the Philistines very well, and ends up killing a bunch of them to get even with them for doing that.
  • Sacred Hospitality: Like Lot in Sodom, the old man in Gibeah who took in the Levite man and his concubine attempted to protect his visitors from the depraved men who wanted to force sex on the Levite by offering his own daughter and the concubine instead, to satisfy their desires. Ultimately the concubine was shoved out the door, and was raped and abused to death.
  • Salt the Earth: 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)
  • Sequel Hook: "Israel had no king in those days." Guess what the next book is about.
  • Shaming the Mob: 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 Trope Namer, 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.
  • Showing Up Chauvinists: The tale of Deborah from the book of Judges has the only female judge in the book, who is contrasted with a cowardly Israelite general. In the same tale, the enemy general Sisera is killed by a woman.
  • Slain in Their Sleep: What Jael, the woman in the above example, does to Sisera by means of a tent peg driven through his skull with a workman's hammer after luring him to her bed.
  • Son of a Whore: Jephthah, who was called that by his half-brothers in the Living Bible translation when he was driven from his family, is this trope.
  • Southpaw Advantage: The first and really only extraordinary attribute mentioned about Ehud. This becomes important later.
  • Summon Everyman Hero: Several of the judges (most notably Gideon) are just ordinary guys who happen to be The Chosen One. 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 Batman Gambit to prove that the victory came from divine intervention rather than superior fighting ability.
  • Taking You with Me: How Samson decides to go out, pulling down a temple on top of several thousand Philistines and himself.
  • Talking the Monster to Death: Delilah nagged Samson day after day until he finally got sick of it and told her the true secret of his strength just to shut her up. Whoops.
  • The Theocracy: Israel is ostensibly governed as one of these, with the Judges and prophets ruling as God's representatives. Practically, this has rather mixed results.
  • Time Skip: One for Samson between chapters 13 (when he was born) and 14 (when he was a young man fighting as a judge for Israel).
  • Too Dumb to Live: Samson tells Delilah his weakness, after she has already tried to betray him multiple times.
  • Torment by Annoyance: After Delilah's third failed attempt to find out Samson's weakness, she just resorted to doing this until Samson couldn't tolerate it anymore.
  • Traumatic Haircut: 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.
  • Undignified Death:
    • When King Eglon is stabbed by Ehud through his bowels, fecal matter spills out from the wound.
    • Sisera is lured to sleep by the wife of one of his allies, then has a tent peg driven through his temple and his skull with a workman's hammer by said wife.
    • 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.
  • Unusual Euphemism: In Judges 3:24, when his servants saw that the parlor doors were locked, they said "Surely he covereth his feet in the summer chamber". The Hebrew phrase for "to cover one's feet" is a euphemism for relieving oneself, i.e., taking a bathroom break.
  • Virgin Tension: In Chapter 21, when the eleven Israelite tribes exact punishment on Jabesh Gilead for not assembling with them in dealing with the tribe of Benjamin in the matter of not turning over the men who are responsible for raping and abusing a Levite man's concubine to death, they put to death women who have "known a man by lying with him" and spared those that were virgins in order to give the surviving men of Benjamin women that could become their wives so that the whole tribe would not be wiped out. However, the number of surviving virgin women from Jabesh Gilead were too few to satisfy the number of men.
  • Withholding Their Name: 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?” (which some Bible students link to one of the prophetic names of a coming King in Isaiah 9:6) Other translations have him say the name is "beyond understanding".
  • World's Strongest Man: Samson was given supernatural strength by God. He could do stuff like beating an army with a donkey's jawbone.
  • Your Mom: Rather being used as a Lame Comeback, this is more of an addendum. During the "Song of Deborah", Deborah and Barak are celebrating their victory, and they dig that Sisera's mother is poking her head out of her window wondering when he's gonna come home, and she's gonna be wondering for a long time.

Alternative Title(s): Judges