I compare you
To a mare among Pharaoh’s chariots.
Your cheeks are comely
Your neck is comely
With strings of jewels.
We will make you ornaments of gold,
Studded with silver.”
The male lover responded as if he were a rich man. He compared his female lover to a horse among the Egyptian Pharaoh’s chariot horses. I am not sure how well she took this comparison. Her cheeks and neck were good looking. She had some kind of ornaments on her cheeks with jewels around her neck. Maybe she had some sort of tattoo on her cheeks. However, this male lover was going to bring ornaments of gold studded with silver. Nothing was too good for her.
“I was at ease.
God broke me in two.
God seized me by the neck.
God dashed me to pieces.
God set me up as his target.
God’s archers surround me.
God slashes open my kidneys.
God shows no mercy.
God pours out my gall on the ground.
God bursts upon me again and again.
God rushes at me like a warrior.
I have sewed sackcloth upon my skin.
I have laid my strength in the dust.
My face is red with weeping.
Deep darkness is on my eyelids.
Although there is no violence in my hands,
My prayer is pure.”
Job was very explicit. God was picking on him. God had broken him in two. God had seized him by the neck. God had broken him into pieces. Job had become a target having arrows coming at him. God had not shown him any mercy. God had slashed his kidneys and gall bladder. God had rushed at him like a warrior. As a result, Job said that he sewed his skin with sackcloth, a very course fabric worn next to the skin. His strength was in the dust. His face was red with crying tears. His eyes were darkened. Still there was no violence in Job’s hands. His prayer remained pure. Job is almost indignant that God is picking on him.
“Then the king raised the golden scepter. He touched Queen Esther’s neck with it. He embraced her. He said to her. ‘Speak to me.’ She said to him.
‘I saw you, my lord,
Like an angel of God.
My heart was shaken with fear at your glory.
You are wonderful, my lord.
Your countenance is full of grace.’
While she was speaking, she fainted and fell. Then the king was agitated. All his servants sought to comfort her.”
The Greek text continued to show a kind king. The king reached out with the golden scepter and placed on the neck of Queen Esther. He embraced her. She then said that he appeared like an angel and that she was afraid. However, she once again fainted. This made the king angry as everyone wanted to comfort her. Thus this ends the interlude of the 9 little episodes that are found only in the Greek text. The story returns to the Hebrew text which summarizes these events. In fact, they are probably an elaboration of the simple Hebrew text.
“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.