The judges in the book of Judges map to the tribes of Israel.


The trick to correctly aligning the tribes and judges is realizing Barak sits in the list as a judge even though he served under Deborah. This makes the total list of judges 14. The correction, then, is that Joseph takes two judges, 1 for Manasseh and 1 for Ephraim. When the tribes and judges are aligned in this way the details of each judge narrative agrees with what's known about the matched tribe. The following table shows the alignment.

Tribe Judge Oppressor
Judah Othniel Aram

Othniel is from the tribe of Judah. He's Caleb's nephew.

Reuben Ehud Moab

After pretending to have a secret to tell, Ehud kills the king of Moab in private, and hides his body in an inner room. This goes with Reuben really well. Reuben has words of knowledge as a gift (secrets), his item at the tent is the ark of the contract in the inner room, he's intimate, etc.

Reuben slept with his father's wife (apparently not his own mother) and Moab is the son born to the elder daughter of Lot who slept with her father while he was drunk.

Gad Shamgar Philistia

The only real info on Shamgar comes later in Judges, during Deborah and Barak's song, where they say that he did his work on the road. Gad has a theme of going (everyone left Egypt on his holiday, for example). So what little we know about Shamgar is a good fit with Gad.

Asher Deborah Canaan

Deborah is famous for confirming a prophetic word to Barak, who said he would not walk it out unless she went along. Her response was that glory would go to a woman because of the way Barak was going about things. Asher has a theme of boasting. His aspect of love is love does not boast, which means when he's not walking in love he has a tendency more than the other tribes to boast. Deborah is not boasting, but she is dealing with who will have the right to boast or receive the glory, which is very much an Asher thing.

Naphtali Barak Canaan

Barak is called out from Naphtali by Deborah as the person god has chosen to deliver Israel. After his army is victorious he sings a victory song along with Deborah. Naphtali is the tribe with beautiful words. One of his books of the Bible is Psalms. That the song in Judges lands on Naphtali is very fitting.

Manasseh Gideon Midian

Gideon is in the tribe of Manasseh. When he sends out the call to go to war the men come out as "1 man." Manasseh, of course, is the reflection of the whole (all 13 tribes), so when Gideon calls and they assemble from all the tribes, they are really 1.

Simeon Abimelech Shechem

Oddly Abimelech never wars against an enemy, but with others in the family. With the support of the lords of Shechem he kills his half brothers, the 70 sons of Gideon. Later, he destroys Shechem too, which is a repeat of what Simeon did to Shechem in Genesis and confirms that Simeon is correctly aligned with Abimelech.

Levi Tola Unknown

Not much detail given.

Issachar Jair Unknown

Not much detail given.

Zebulun Jephthah Ammon

Jephthah gathered men around him who were "raiders." Think thieves. Zebulun's commandment is not to steal. When Jephthah is made chief of Gilead later, and takes on Ammon, he restates the whole history between Israel and Ammon from the beginning, from the time of the Exodus. Zebulun has a theme of origin, sources, history, or records elsewhere in scripture, so this history lesson given by Jephthah is a really good fit with Zebulun.

Joseph Ibzan Unknown

Joseph often takes one spot in a map like this one, but this time he appears to have two spots, one for Manasseh and one for Ephraim. So Manasseh goes with Ibzan, who oddly, married his 30 daughters outside his tribe, but then brought in 30 women from other tribes to marry his 30 sons. In terms of inheritance this all fair, but it does seem to stress the law laid down in the days of Zelophehad's daughters (which is a Manasseh story by the way). In essence what Ibzan is doing is making his tribe more or a "melting pot" which is what seems to normally happen to Manasseh (United States).

Elon Unknown Unknown

Elon must go with Ephraim (United Kingdom), the other part of Joseph, but we're not given much detail about him here.

Benjamin Abdon Unknown

Not much detail given.

Dan Samson Philistia

Samson is the son of a Danite, so he's out of Dan, giving us a direct linkage to the tribe. He's also in Dan's pattern (a geek of sorts) in that he posses a riddle to the Philistines. However, the prize for solving the riddle was 30 garments. Dan's item in the tent is the robe the high priest wore. Dan was also a judge, and you can detect a sort of righteous indignation in Samson or fairness that he cares about in how he talks about the Philistines and what they were doing to Israel.

It's a standing question of how or if the tribes of Israel map to the other nations around. The table above includes the nations that were oppressing Israel during the time of each judge to the end that this may be a partial or confirming map to some other scripture passage that reveals a full map.