Holofernes

HOLOFERNES hŏl ə fûr’ nez (̔Ολοφέρνης). According to the book of Judith, Holofernes was the chief general of the army of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Assyria (!) and second only to the King in power (Judg 2:4). He was commissioned by the king with the task of subjugating “the whole of the west,” including Palestine. One after another the nations fell before him; only Israel refused to yield. Holofernes besieged the Jewish town of Bethulia, where the army of Israel was concentrated, and almost forced its capitulation, when a beautiful Jewish widow named Judith asked the Jewish leaders for permission to leave the town and see Holofernes. Permission was granted. When she appeared before Holofernes, she told him that she had come because she knew that Bethulia was doomed and she knew how the town could be captured easily. Holofernes fell completely under the spell of her charm and beauty and believed everything she told him. On the fourth night of her stay with him he made a banquet to which she was invited. Holofernes got drunk, and after everyone else had left she took his sword and cut off his head, which she took in a bag to the leaders of Israel. When the Assyrians realized that their general was murdered, they were seized with panic and fled. Thus ended the Assyrian threat.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

According to the Book of Judith, chief captain of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians (Judith 2:4), who was commissioned to make war upon the West country and to receive from the inhabitants the usual tokens of complete submission, earth and water. The object of the expedition of Holofernes, who thus became the typical persecutor of the Jews, was to compel men everywhere to worship Nebuchadnezzar. He was slain by Judith, the heroine of the book of that name, during the siege of Bethulia. There is no notice of Holofernes except in the Book of Judith. The termination of the word would seem to indicate a Persian origin for the name. The Holofernes of Shakespeare and Rabelais is in no way connected with the deeds of the Holofernes of the Apocrypha.