The worship in Jerusalem (Jdt 16:18-16:20)

“When they arrived at Jerusalem, they worshiped God. As soon as the people were purified, they offered their burnt offerings, their freewill offerings, and their gifts. Judith also dedicated to God all the possessions of General Holofernes, which the people had given her. The canopy that she taken for herself from his bedchamber she gave as a votive offering. For three months, the people continued fasting in Jerusalem before the sanctuary. Judith remained with them.”

When they went down to Jerusalem, they worshipped God as they offered burnt offerings and freewill offerings. Judith then took all the possession of General Holofernes that she had taken and gave it to the Temple as a votive offering. The people of Bethulia stayed in Jerusalem for 3 months fasting.

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The intervention of Judith (Jdt 16:5-16:10)

“But the Lord Almighty has foiled them

By the hand of a woman.

For their mighty one did not fall by the hands of the young men.

The sons of the Titans did not strike him down.

The tall giants did not set upon him.

But Judith,

Daughter of Merari,

With the beauty of her countenance,

She undid him.

She put away her widow’s clothing.

To exalt the oppressed in Israel.

She anointed her face with perfume.

She fastened her hair with a tiara.

She put on a linen gown to beguile him.

Her sandal ravished his eyes.

Her beauty captivated his mind.

The sword severed his neck.

The Persians trembled at her boldness,

The Medes were daunted at her daring.”

Suddenly the canticle is about Judith rather than Judith praying to God. The almighty God struck down the enemy with a female, almost to say, even a woman got him because he was so weak. It was not a young strong male soldier, nor some giant that brought him down. No, it was the beautiful widow who put away her widow’s clothing, anointed her face, fastened her hair, and wore a linen gown. She ravished his eyes, captivated his mind, and severed his neck. General Holofernes was not a Persian but an Assyrian. Medes was associated with the Persians, once again indicating some inconsistent details.

Achior becomes an Israelite (Jdt 14:6-14:10)

“They summoned Achior from the house of Uzziah. When he came, he saw the head of General Holofernes in the hand of one of the men in the assembly of the people. He fell down on his face in a faint. When they raised him up, he threw himself at Judith’s feet. He did obeisance to her. He said.

‘Blessed are you in every tent of Judah!

In every nation those who hear your name will be alarmed.

Now tell me what you have done during these days.’

Then Judith told him in the presence of the people all that she had done, from the day she left until the moment she began speaking to them. When she had finished, the people raised a great shout. They made a joyful noise in their town. When Achior saw all that the God of Israel had done, he believed firmly in God. So then he was circumcised. He joined the house of Israel, remaining so to this day.”

Achior had been staying with Uzziah, the chief of his town, so they brought him to Judith. He was the one who had told the Assyrian general that they could not defeat the Israelites because of their God. He was then sent to the Israelites, who instead of killing him, listened to his story. However, when Achior saw one of the men holding the head of General Holofernes, he fainted. As they raised him up, he threw himself at the feet of Judith. He called her blessed and wanted to know what had happened. Then Judith in the presence of everyone told her story of what had happened to her. When she finished, the people of the town gave out a great joyous shout. This might have scared the Assyrians also. On top of that Achior, the Ammonite, decided to become an Israelite. He was circumcised that day. The author points out that Achior remained an Israelite until this day, as if he was contemporary. The problem, of course, is that Ammonites were not allowed to be in the assembly of Yahweh, among the Israelites down to the 10th generation, according to Deuteronomy, chapter 23. This may be why some Jewish people have not accepted this book as canonical.

Judith makes plans (Jdt 14:1-14:5)

“Then Judith said to them.

‘Listen to me!

My friends,

Take this head!

Hang it upon the parapet of your wall!

As soon as day breaks,

When the sun rises on the earth,

Each of you take up your weapons!

Let every able-bodied man go out of the town.

Set a captain over them,

As if you were going down to the plain

Against the Assyrian outpost.

Only do not go down.

Then they will seize their arms.

They will go into the camp.

They will rouse the officers of the Assyrian army.

They will rush into the tent of Holofernes.

They will not find him.

Then panic will come over them.

They will flee before you.

Then you,

And all who live within the borders of Israel,

Will pursue them.

You will cut them down in their tracks!

But before you do all this,

Bring Achior the Ammonite to me.

Let him see and recognize the man

Who despised the house of Israel,

And sent him to us as if to his death.’”

Judith then has a further plan on what to do next. First, they are going to put the head of General Holofernes on the wall. Then at sunrise, all the able bodied men would take their weapons and form a line as if to attack the Assyrians. This will then force the Assyrians to tell their commanders what was happening. When they would go to tell General Holofernes what happened, they will panic because they will find out that he is dead. There will be general disorder so that we can then attack and pursue them. All of this was based on the assumption that without their general they would simply panic and run away. Israel would then pursue them and kill them. However, Judith still wanted to talk to Achior the Ammonite before they began this exploit.

The prayer of the people and Uzziah (Jdt 13:17-13:20)

“All the people were greatly astonished. They bowed down and worshiped God. They said with one accord.

‘Blessed are you, our God,

You have this day humiliated the enemies of your people.’

Then Uzziah said to her.

‘O daughter,

You are blessed by the Most High God above all women on earth.

Blessed be the Lord God, who created the heavens and the earth!

He has guided you to cut off the head of the leader of our enemies.

Your hope will never depart

From the hearts of those who remember the power of God.

May God grant this to be a perpetual honor to you!

May God reward you with blessings!

You have risked your own life

When our nation was brought low.

You averted our ruin.

You walked in the straight path before our God.’

All the people said. ‘Amen! Amen!’”

Obviously the people were astonished to see the head of General Holofernes. They immediately worshiped God as they said with one voice, that God was blessed for destroying their enemies. Then the leader of the town of Bethulia Uzziah said to Judith that she was blessed by God above all women on earth. This seems to be somewhat similar to the later popular Roman Catholic prayer, the ‘Hail Mary,’ where Mary is ‘blessed art thou among all women.’ However, the prayer quickly turns to the Lord God, who created heaven and earth, not Yahweh, or the God of Israel. God had guided Judith to cut off the general’s head. However, Judith should be blessed with a perpetual memory for risking her life when things were bad. In the canticle of Deborah and Bara, in Judges, chapter 5, Jael, who killed Sisera, was also called a blessed woman. Judith had averted the ruin of Israel and yet walked in the straight path before God. The obvious conclusion of the people is the great ‘Amen.’

Judith prays before her killing (Jdt 13:4-13:5)

“Then Judith, standing beside his bed, said in her heart.

‘O Lord God of all might,

Look in this hour upon the work of my hands

For the exaltation of Jerusalem.

Now, indeed is the time to help your heritage

To carry out my design

To destroy the enemies

Who have risen up against us.”

Judith now prayed for strength to carry out her work for Jerusalem. She was going to help God’s chosen people. She was going to carry out her design to destroy the enemies of Israel. She wanted God’s help to kill General Holofernes.