Book of Judith
JUDITH, BOOK OF (יְהוּדִ֔ית, a Jewess; ̓Ιουδίθ, ̓Ιουδήθ). An apocryphal book bearing the name of its principal character. The name occurs in the Heb. Canon only in Genesis 26:34 as the wife of Esau.
Texts and versions.
(a) Hebrew. Most scholars agree that the original text of Judith was written in Heb. Evidence for this is found in the many Hebraisms in language and ideas and from errors in tr. (see the material given by T. W. Davies, ISBE, III, p. 1780). Jerome claims that his Vul. tr. was made from a “Chaldee” VS and that the Jews included Judith among their Apoc. Origen, on the other hand, claims that the Jews did not use Judith and it was not even found in their Apoc.; this he learned from the Jews themselves (Letter to Africanus, 13). The older rabbinical lit. fails to make any reference to Judith. In spite of these negative arguments, the evidence for a Heb. original seems conclusive. The story exists in several forms in Heb. from later sources. An ostracon found in Cairo in 1946 and dated to the 3rd cent. a.d. contains 15:1-7. Which of the VSS—the Vul. or the LXX—most closely resembles the original is a matter of dispute.
(b) Greek. The Gr. text appears in four (most scholars list only three) recensions: (1) the uncials A, B, א; (2) Codd. 19, 108; (3) Codd. 58; and (4) Codd. 106, 107. (See Brockington, p. 48.)
(c) Syriac and Latin. There are two Syr. VSS and an Old Latin text, all of which are closely related to Codd. 58 in the Gr. text.
(d) Vulgate. Jerome asserts that he included in his Vul. tr. only what could be adequately supported by the “Chaldee” text. The Vul. omits some geographical details and concrete incidents which are found both in the LXX and the Old Latin. F. C. Porter (HDB, II, p. 822) argues that the deviations of the Vul. from the LXX are due mainly to this Chaldee VS. He believes this is made even more probable by the additional concrete details found in the Vul. but not in the other texts (see specifically 7:6, 7; 11:11; 14:1-12; 16:31). Porter cites a Heb. Midrash which summarizes chs. 1-5 briefly, but in chs. 7-14 it follows the Vul. so closely that it is certain there is a relationship between them. Both in omissions and additions, as well as in a number of lesser details, the Vul. and Midrash agree.
There are differences of opinion concerning the author’s historical reliability. Was he wholly ignorant of history so that he confused many outstanding events, or was he merely using his characters as symbols in a historical novel? Luther claimed the author was interested only in showing that Judah is preserved from any danger when it keeps the law. Others contend that present or recent history is disguised by the use of the names. Nebuchadnezzar has been identified with b.c.) to Hadrian (a.d. 117-138). The book has too many chronological, historical and geographical errors to be taken literally.Epiphanes or with Artaxerxes Ochus. R. Pfeiffer has reproduced a list of seventeen kings (first published by Brunengo) with whom Nebuchadnezzar has been identified. These range from Adadnirari III (810-783
Identification of the geographical names is difficult. Torrey forcefully argues for an identification of Bethulia with Shechem and Betomasthaim with Samaria. Davies suggests that Bethulia is a disguised form of Bēth ’Elōhĩm or Bēth ’Elōah, and simply means “the place where God is with His people.” He rejects Torrey’s identification. In Jerome’s Chaldee, Bethulia may have been intended as Jerusalem, but the LXX account describes it as a place in Northern Samaria near Dothan. The descriptions in the book favor the position that the author himself was a resident of Pal.
Almost all scholars agree that the author was not trying to teach history. “It is evidently designed to entertain as well as to instruct,” says Torrey, “and it is well fitted to accomplish both purposes. The author’s chief interest, indeed, seems to have been in the story itself, rather than in any teaching to be gained from it.” A similar view is expressed by Brockington, but he places more emphasis on the purpose which is to “encourage adherence to faith in God even in the direst circumstances.” A more moderate view, and the one this writer supports, is that of Metzger, who states that the author “wished both to encourage his people in resisting their enemies and to inculcate a strict observance of the Law of God.” Goodspeed is of the opinion that the author was more concerned for the early Pharisaic ideals than for the history of the postexilic period. The religious views are certainly Pharisaic. These include the attitude toward the Temple, tithes, food laws, prayer, fasting, and ceremonial washing. In the religious sphere Judith resembles very much the
Nebuchadnezzar made war on Arphaxad who ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana. Nebuchadnezzar appealed to all his western subjects, those living in the area corresponding to modern Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Egypt, but they refused to join him in the war. Angered by this rebuff, he vowed to avenge himself on this whole territory. In his seventeenth year he defeated Arphaxad, then returned to Nineveh and feasted for 120 days. The next year he put into effect his plan to destroy all those who had not obeyed his command. Holofernes, his chief general and second in command, was dispatched with 120,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry to carry out the king’s wish.
Holofernes led his army westward, covering a distance of about 300 m. in three days. The territory of Asia Minor and Syria was devastated. At Damascus he burned the fields, destroyed the flocks and executed all the young men. When news of this reached the seacoast cities of Sidon, Tyre, Jamnia, Azotus and Ascalon, the people surrendered unconditionally. Their religious shrines were demolished and they were instructed to worship only Nebuchadnezzar as god. Holofernes then moved to the edge of Esdraelon and spent a month gathering supplies for this vast army which now had been increased by troops from the neighboring countries.
The people of Israel began extensive preparations to defend themselves. Joakim, the high priest in Jerusalem, sent word to the people of Bethulia and Betomesthaim, two cities which faced Esdraelon, to hold the passes against the Assyrians so Judah would not be invaded.
Reports of Israel’s military activity reached Holofernes and angered him greatly. He summoned all the leaders of Moab, Ammon, and the coastal areas, to question them concerning this people who had defiantly refused to surrender. Achior, the Ammonite leader, related the history of the Jewish people to Holofernes. He concluded with the statement that if the Israelites sin against their God then they can be defeated easily, but if there is no transgression in the nation, then Holofernes might just as well go on by, because God will defend and protect them against all odds. This speech aroused the other leaders who had been listening and they suggested that Achior be put to death. When the clamor died down, Holofernes boasted that his forces would destroy Israel from the face of the earth. Achior was taken to the foot of the hill on which Bethulia was located. He was left bound, for Holofernes wanted him to die with the people of Israel. The men of Israel found Achior and brought him into the city.
The next day Holofernes ordered his troops into position against Bethulia. The force now numbered 170,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry. On the third day, Holofernes took his cavalry out to survey the situation. They seized the springs of water, but made no further move against the city. Then the leaders of Edom, Moab and the coastlands advised Holofernes not to make a direct attack on the city because that would cause unnecessary loss of life. Rather, they suggested, he should seize the spring of water at the foot of the mountain and destroy the people by thirst and famine. Guards placed on the nearby hills would see to it that not a man got out of the city.
The plight of the Israelites worsened. After thirty-four days most of the water in the city was gone and a strict ration was in effect. The people assembled and pleaded with Uzziah and the other rulers to surrender to the Assyrians, for they concluded that there was no one to help them; God had sold them into the hands of their enemies. Uzziah appealed for a delay of five days. If God did not deliver them within that time, then they would surrender.
At this point the heroine Judith is introduced; a beautiful widow, rich, and the model of piety. For over three years, since her husband died of sunstroke, she had lived at home, dressed in sackcloth and garments of her widowhood. She fasted every day except on days when it was forbidden to fast. She sent for the elders of the city and criticized them for the stand they had taken. She was particularly distressed that they “put God to the test.” Such an act was unthinkable. Man can not understand his own mind or heart, how can he expect to search out God? She urged the people to look upon this experience as a test of them by God—to educate them, not punish them. Uzziah and the other rulers asked Judith to pray for them that God would send rain within the five days and fill their cisterns. Judith, however, had a plan of her own which she refused to reveal to the people or the rulers.
At the time when the evening incense was being offered in the Temple at Jerusalem, Judith prayed to God. She asked strength for herself that she might do what she had planned, and that by the deceit of her lips she might bring about the defeat of the Assyrians. Her prayer ended, she removed her sackcloth and widow’s garments, bathed with water, anointed herself with precious ointment, combed her hair, and put on her gayest clothes. She finished it off with jewelry—anklets, rings, earrings, bracelets and ornaments—to be as appealing as possible to the eyes of all men. She prepared food for herself and gave this to her maid to carry, then she went to the city gate. All those gathered there were struck by her beauty. She ordered that the gate be opened that she might go out and accomplish her task.
Judith and her maid went straight to the Assyrian lines. When she was taken into custody by an Assyrian patrol, she said she was fleeing from the Hebrews, because they were about to be handed over to the Assyrians. She had come to Holofernes to “show him a way” he could capture the whole hill country without the loss of one of his men. The soldiers were completely captivated by her words and physical beauty. They chose a hundred men to escort her to the tent of Holofernes. A huge crowd gathered around her as she waited outside the tent. The reaction to her beauty was a general concensus that all the Israelites should be killed to a man, for if they had women like this, they would be able to ensnare the whole world.
Judith was graciously received by Holofernes who assured her she had nothing to fear from him. Judith told him that the words of Achior were true. Now a sin had been committed by the people and they would soon provoke God to anger. When this happened the people would be handed over to the Assyrians to be destroyed. She claimed that God had revealed this to her and sent her to Holofernes to accomplish through him something that would astonish the whole world. Every night she would go out into the valley to pray. God would tell her when the people had committed their sin and she in turn would inform Holofernes.
Holofernes fell for her ruse. He invited her to dine with him. She refused to eat any of his food, but ate only of that which she had brought with her.
Judith slept until midnight. Then she arose and requested permission from Holofernes to be allowed to go out to pray. This procedure she followed for three days. On the fourth day, Holofernes held a private banquet to which he invited Judith. Judith seemed pleased with the invitation. Holofernes, overcome by the beauty of Judith and with his desire for her, drank much more wine than he had ever drunk before. When his slaves withdrew, Holofernes lay on his bed intoxicated. Alone with him, Judith seized the opportunity. She first prayed, then took his sword, took hold of his hair, prayed for strength, and hacked off his head with two blows of the sword. She pushed the body off the bed, pulled down the canopy from the bed, and calmly walked out and handed the head of Holofernes to her maid who placed it in her food bag.
Judith and her maid went out as they had done on previous nights, but this time they went to the city. When the elders had assembled, she showed them the head of Holofernes, indicated that her beauty had tricked him to destruction, but carefully noted that she had not committed any sinful act with him to accomplish her purpose. Judith gave orders that the head should be hung upon the wall, and at sunrise every man should go out of the city armed for battle. She predicted that the reaction of the Assyrians would be one of fear when they discovered the death of their general. She also requested that Achior be brought to see the head. At the first sight of the head he fainted, but when he recovered, he believed in God, was circumcised, and became a Jew.
At sunrise the events transpired as Judith predicted. The Assyrians were routed and their camp was plundered for thirty days. Joakim, the senate, and the people from Jerusalem came to see what God had done and to bless Judith. She was given the tent of Holofernes and all his furnishings. The women gathered to Judith and she led them in a dance. All the men of Israel followed, bearing their weapons, wearing garlands, and singing. Judith (as a personification of all Israel) sang a thanksgiving psalm.
All the people went to Jerusalem to celebrate. Judith dedicated to God all the vessels of Holofernes which the people had given to her and the canopy which she had taken from his bed. The feasting in Jerusalem lasted for three months. Judith returned to Bethulia. She had many suitors, but she remained a widow until her death at 105 years of age. She freed her maid and divided her property among her husband’s relatives and her own.
F. C. Porter, “Judith, Book of,” HDB, II (1899), 822-824; A. E. Cowley, “The Book of Judith,” in R. H. Charles (ed.), The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
|| I. NAME
IV. FACT OR FICTION?
1. Probably during the Maccabean Age
2. Other Opinions
(1) Invasion of Pompey
(2) Insurrection under Bar Cochba
VI. ORIGINAL LANGUAGE
This apocryphal book is called after the name of its principal character Judith (yehudhith], "a Jewess"; Ioudith, Ioudeth). The name occurs in Ge 26:34 and the corresponding masculine form (yehudhi, "a Jew") in Jer 36:14,21,23 (name of a scribe). In other great crises in Hebrew history women have played a great part (compare Deborah, Jud 5, and Esther). The Books of Ruth, Esther, Judith and Susannah are the only ones in the Bible (including the Apocrypha) called by the names of women, these women being the principal characters in each case.
Though a tale of Jewish patriotism written originally in Hebrew, this book was never admitted into the Hebrew Canon, and the same applies to the Apocrypha). In the Septuagint and Vulgate, Tobit and Judith (in that order) follow Nehemiah and precede Esther. In the of the Bible of the Apocrypha, which unfortunately for its understanding stands alone, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit and Judith occupy the first place and in the order named. In his translation of the Apocrypha, Luther, for some unexplained reason, puts Judith at the head of the apocryphal books, Wisdom taking the next place.
The book opens with an account of the immense power of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Assyria, whose capital was Nineveh. (In the days of the real Nebuchadnezzar, Assyria had ceased to be, and its capital was destroyed.) He calls upon the peoples living in the western country, including Palestine, to help him to subdue a rival king whose power he feared--Arphaxad, king of the Medes (otherwise quite unknown). But as they refused the help he demanded, he first conquered his rival, annexing his territory, and then sent his general Holofernes to subdue the western nations and to punish them for their defiance of his authority. The Assyrian general marched at the head of an army 132,000 strong and soon took possession of the lands North and East of Palestine, demolishing their idols and sanctuaries that Nebuchadnezzar alone might be worshipped as god (Judith 1-3). He now directed his forces against the Jews who had recently returned from exile and newly rebuilt and rededicated their temple. Having heard of the ruin of other temples caused by the invading foe, the Jews became greatly alarmed for the safety of their own, and fortified the mountains and villages in the south, providing themselves with food to meet their needs in the event of war. At the urgent request of Joakim ("Eliakim" in the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and Peshitta), the inhabitants of Bethulia (so the Latin, English, and other VSS, but Betuloua is more correct according to the Greek) and of Betomestham (both places otherwise unknown) defended the adjoining mountain passes which commanded the way to Jerusalem. Holofernes at once laid siege to Bethulia, and by cutting off the water supply aimed at starving the people to submission. But he knows little of the people he is seeking to conquer, and asks the chiefs who are with him who and what these Jews are. Achior, the Ammonite chief, gives an account of the Israelites,
that when faithful to their God they were invincible, but that when they disobeyed Him they were easily overcome. Achior is for this saying expelled and handed over to the Jews. After holding out for some days, the besieged people insisted that Onias their governor should surrender. This he promises to do if no relief comes in the course of five days. A rich, devout and beautiful widow called Judith (daughter of Merari, of the tribe of Simeon (Jth 8:1)), hearing of these things, rebukes the murmurers for their lack of faith and exhorts them to trust in God. As Onias abides by his promise to the people, she resolves to attempt another mode of deliverance. She obtains consent to leave the fortress in the dead of night, accompanied by her maidservant, in order to join the Assyrian camp. First of all she prays earnestly for guidance and success; then doffing her mourning garb, she puts on her most gorgeous attire together with jewels and other ornaments. She takes with her food allowed by Jewish law, that she might have no necessity to eat the forbidden meats of the Gentiles. Passing through the gates, she soon reaches the Assyrians. First of all, the soldiers on watch take her captive, but on her assuring them that she is a fugitive from the Hebrews and desires to put Holofernes in the way of achieving a cheap and easy victory over her fellow-countrymen, she is warmly welcomed and made much of. She reiterates to Holofernes the doctrine taught by Achior that these Jews can easily be conquered when they break the laws of their Deity, and she knows the necessities of their situation would lead them to eat food prohibited in their sacred laws, and when this takes place she informs him that he might at once attack them. Holofernes listens, applauds, and is at once captured by her personal charms. He agrees to her proposal and consents that she and her maid should be allowed each night to say their prayers out in the valley near the Hebrew fortress. On the 4th night after her arrival, Holofernes arranges a banquet to which only his household servants and the two Jewesses are invited. When all is over, by a preconcerted plan the Assyrian general and the beautiful Jewish widow are left alone. He, however, is dead drunk and heavily asleep. With his own scimitar she cuts off his head, calls her maid who puts it into the provision bag, and together they leave the camp as if for their usual prayers and join their Hebrew compatriots, still frantic about the immediate future. But the sight of the head of their arch foe puts new heart into them, and next day they march upon the enemy now in panic at what had happened, and win an easy victory. Judith became ever after a heroine in Jewish romance and poetry, a Hebrew
IV. Fact or Fiction?
The majority of theologians down to the 19th century regarded the story of Judith as pure history; but with the exception of O. Wolf (1861) and yon Gumpach, Protestant scholars in recent times are practically agreed that theis a historical novel with a purpose similar to Daniel, Esther and Tobit. Schurer classes it with "parenetic narratives" (paranetische Erzahlung). The Hebrew novel is perhaps the earliest of all novels, but it is always a didactic novel written to enforce some principle or principles. Roman Catholic scholars defend the literal historicity of the book, though they allow that the proper names are more or less disguised. But the book abounds with anachronisms, inconsistencies and impossibilities, and was evidently written for the lesson it teaches: obey God and trust Him, and all will be well. The author had no intention to teach history. Torrey, however, goes too far when he says (see Jewish Encyclopedia, "Book of Judith") that the writer aimed at nothing more than to write a tale that would amuse. A tone of religious fervor and of intense patriotism runs through the narrative, and no opportunity of enforcing the claims of the Jewish law is lost. Note especially what is taught in the speeches of Achior (Jth 5:12-21) and Judith (8:17-24; compare 11:10), that, trusting in God and keeping His commandments, the nation is invulnerable.
According to the narrative Nebuchadnezzar has been for 12 years king of Assyria and has his capital at Nineveh, though we know he never was or could be king of Assyria. He became king of Babylon in 604 BC, upon the death of his father Nabopolassar, who in 608 had destroyed Assyria. The Jews had but recently returned from exile (Jth 4:3; 5:19), but were independent, and Holofernes knew nothing about them (Jth 5:3). Nebuchadnezzar died in 561 BC and the Jews returned under Cyrus in 538. Bethulia to which Holofernes lay siege was otherwise quite unknown: it is probably a disguised form of Beth ’Elohim or Beth ’Eloah, "house of God," and means the place where God is with His people. The detailed description of the site is but part of the writer’s art; it was the place which every army must pass on its way to Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, there is no such position in Palestine, and least of all Shechem, which Torrey identified with Bethulia. We know nothing besides what Judith 1 tells us of "Arphaxad who reigned over the Medes in Ecbatana"; on the contrary, in every other mention of the name it stands for a country or a race (see Ge 10:22,24; 11:10-13).
1. Probably during the Maccabean Age:
It is evident that this religious romance was prompted by some severe persecution in which the faith of the Jews was sorely tried, and the writer’s dominant aim is identical with that of the author of Daniel, namely, to encourage those suffering for their religion by giving instances of Divine deliverance in the darkest hour. "Only trust and keep the law; then deliverance will unfailingly come"--that is the teaching. Judith might well have been written during the persecution of the Maccabean age, as was almost certainly the
That the persecutions of
2. Other Opinions:
(1) Invasion of Pompey.
That it was the invasion of Pompey which gave rise to the book is the opinion held by Gaster. If this were so, Judith and the
(2) Insurrection under Bar Cochba.
Hitzig (who held that the insurrection under Bar Cochba, 132 AD, is the event referred to), Volkmar and Graetz date this book in the days of the emperor Trajan (or Hadrian?). Volkmar gives himself much trouble in his attempt to prove that the campaigns of Nebuchadnezzar stand really for those of Trajan. But it is a sufficient refutation of this opinion that the book is quoted by
VI. Original Language.
That a Hebrew or (less likely) an Aramaic original once existed is the opinion of almost all modern scholars, and the evidence for this seems conclusive. There are many Hebraisms in the book, e.g. en tais hemerais ("in the days of," Jth 1:7, and 9 t besides); the frequent use of sphodra, in the sense of the Hebrew me’odh, and even its repetition (also a Hebraism, Jth 4:8); compare epi polu sphodra (Jth 5:18) and plethos polu sphodra (Jth 2:17). Note further the following: "Let not thy eye spare" etc. (Jth 2:11; compare Eze 5:11, etc.); "as I live" (in an oath, Jth 2:12); "God of heaven" (Jth 5:8; 11:17); "son of man," parallel with "man," and in the same sense (Jth 8:16); "and it came to pass when she had ceased crying," etc. (Jth 10:1); "the priests who serve in Jerusalem before the face of our God" (Jth 11:13). In Jth 16:3 we have the words: "For a god that shatters battle is (the) Lord." Now "Lord" without the article can be only the Hebrew "Yahweh," read always ’adhonay, "Lord." But the phrase, "to shatter battle," is not good Greek or good sense. The Hebrew words shabhath ("to rest"; compare shabbath, "Sabbath") and shabhar ("to break") are written much alike, and in the original Hebrew we must have had the causative form of the first vb.: "A God that makes war cease is (the) Lord" (see Ps 46:9). Moreover, the Hebrew idiom which strengthens a finite verb by placing a cognate (absolute) infinitive before it is represented in the Greek of this book in the usual form in which it occurs in the Septuagint (and in Welsh), namely, a participle followed by a finite verb (see Jth 2:13). The present writer has noted other examples, but is prevented by lack of space from adding them here. That the original book was Hebrew and not Aramaic is made extremely likely by the fact that the above examples of Hebrew idiom are peculiar to this language. Note especially the idiom, "and it came to pass that," etc. (Jth 2:4), with the implied "waw consecutive," and what is said above about Jth 11:13, where the senseless Greek arose through the confusion of two similarly written Hebrew (not Aramaic) words. There are cases also of mistakes in the Greek text due to wrong translation from the Hebrew, as in Jth 1:8 (where for "nations" read "cities" or "mountains"); Jth 2:2 (where for "concluded," Hebrew wa-yekhal, read "revealed," wa-ye-ghal); Jth 3:1,9,10 (see Fritzsche, under the word), etc.
The Greek text appears in three forms:
(1) that of the principal Greek uncials (A, B, agreeing closely), which is followed in printed editions of the Septuagint (Septuagint);
(2) that of codices 19, 108 (Lucian’s text), an evident revision of (1);
(3) codex 58 which closely resembles (2) and with which the Old Latin and Peshitta agree in most points.
There are two extant Syriac VSS, both of them dependent on the Greek text (3) noted above. The Peshitta is given in Walton’s Polyglot and in a critically revised form in Lagarde, Lib. Vet. Test Apocrypha Syriac, 104-26. The so-called Hexaplar Syriac text was made by Paul of Tella in the 6th century
(1) The Old Latin seems to have been made from the Greek text, codex 58 (see above).
(2) Jerome made his Latin version (with which the Vulgate (Jerome’s Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) is identical) from a lost Chaldee version. That this last is not the original text of the book is certain, because neither Origen nor his Jewish teachers knew anything of a Hebrew or Aramaic text of Judith.
Several late Hebrew versions of the book have been found, no one of them with strong claims to be considered the original text, though Caster (see EB, II, col 2,642) does make such a claim for the manuscript found, edited and translated by him (see PSBA, XVI, 156-63). The Heb midrashes were made to be read in Jewish homes and vary according to the circumstances of their origin. But they agree in these points: Proper names are often omitted. Jerusalem is the scene of action, the wars being those of the Maccabees. Judith is a Jewish maiden and daughter of Ahitah, according to the Gaster MS, and she belongs apparently to the Maccabean family. It is Nicanor who is beheaded, the occasion being the
For the editions of the Greek text and for commentaries on the Apocrypha, see under APOCRYPHA. But on Judith note in particular the commentaries by Fritzsche and Ball, the latter containing elaborate bibliography. But the following must in addition be mentioned: Scholz, Commentar uber das Buch Judith und uber Bel und Drache, 1896; a 2nd edition has appeared; A.S. Weissmann, Das Buch Judith historisch-kritisch beleuchtet, Wien, 1891; Schurer, GJV4, III, 230-37, with full bibliography; compare HJP, II, iii, 32-37; Pentin, The Apocrypha in English Lit., Judith, 1908; and the relevant articles in the Bible dicts., especially that by F. C. Porter in HDB.
T. Witton Davies