Yahweh should punish David (Ps 7:3-7:5)

“Yahweh my God!,

If I have done this,

If there is wrong in my hands,

If I have requited my ally with harm,

If I plundered my enemy without cause,

Let the enemy pursue me.

Let him overtake me.

Let him trample my life to the ground.

Lay my soul in the dust.

Selah”

David set up a series of hypothetical things that he might have done. If he has done any of these things he should be pursued, overtaken, and trampled to the ground.   His soul or liver should be crushed to dust. What were the potential evil things he might have done. Had his hands done any wrong thing? Had he turned on his allies and friends? Had he plundered his enemy unjustly? It was all right to plunder the enemy if there was a good cause. This seems unrelated to his defeated dead son. However, he felt he was being punished by Yahweh for something he did. Once again, there is a pause for a musical interlude, a Selah.

Judith beheads General Holofernes (Jdt 13:6-13:10)

“Judith went up to the bedpost near General Holofernes’ head. She took down his sword that hung there. She came close to his bed. She took hold of the hair of his head. She said.

‘Give me strength today,

O Lord God of Israel!’

Then she struck his neck twice with all her might. She cut off his head. Next she rolled his body off the bed. She pulled down the canopy from the posts. Soon afterward she went out. She gave General Holofernes’ head to her maid, who placed it in her food bag.”

Well, there it is, the high point of this book. The beautiful Hebrew widow chops off the head of the great general of the great army. She even used his own sword and prayed to God before she did it. This dynamic action made her part of medieval European literature in homilies, biblical paraphrases, histories, and poetry. She was the brave warrior and yet an exemplar of pious chastity. Judith found her way into the works of Dante, and Chaucer. In popular stories, the enemy was always General Holofernes. Painters and sculptors like Donatello, Caravaggio, Botticelli, Goya, and Michelangelo, as well as stained glass windows used this account of Judith’s beheading of Holofernes as an artistic subject. Within the biblical context there are overtones of this in Judges, chapter 4, when Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite drove a tent peg into the temple of Sisera, after giving him something to drink.   Another similar but unsuccessful event was when King Saul tired to kill David with a spear while he was playing the lyre, in 1 Samuel, chapter 18.

The prayer of Judith for God’s help (Jdt 9:11-9:14)

“Your strength does not depend on numbers.

Your might does not depend on the powerful.

You are the God of the lowly.

You are the helper of the oppressed.

You are the upholder of the weak.

You are the protector of the forsaken.

You are the savior of those without hope.

Please, please, God of my father,

God of the heritage of Israel,

Lord of heaven and earth,

Creator of the waters,

King of all your creation,

Hear my prayer!

Make my deceitful words bring wound.

May they bruise those who have planned cruel things

Against your covenant,

Against your sacred house,

Against Mount Zion,

Against the house your children possess.

Let your whole nation and every tribe

Know and understand

That you are the God,

The God of all power and might.

There is no other who protects the people of Israel

But you alone!”

The prayer of Judith ends with this strong theological statement about the power of God. She seeks help from the all powerful God. The power of God cannot be enumerated. Our God is the God of the lowly, the oppressed, the weak, the forsaken, and the hopeless. He is the God of the heritage of Israel, the God of heaven and earth, the creator of water, the king of all creation. Judith asked that her prayer be heard. Her deceitful words will bruise those who are against God’s covenant, his sacred house, Mount Zion, and his children. Let everyone among all the tribes know that he is the God of power and might. No one protects Israel like God himself.