1) As soon as Judith had ceased her prayer to the God of
Israel and finished all these words,
phrase is set aside with its own verse because it shows that she did the most
needful thing first.
2) she rose from the ground. She called
her maid and they went down into the house, which she used only on sabbaths and
going to do something very different from how she’s lived her life these past
3) She took off the sackcloth she had on,
laid aside the garments of her widowhood, washed her body with water, and
anointed herself with rich ointment. She arranged her hair, put on a diadem,
and dressed in the festive attire she had worn while her husband, Manasseh, was
COMMENTARY: We each follow the lifestyle appropriate to
our role in life. In the past Judith had
social ties that made it both a duty and a delight to celebrate life with her
husband and others. Widowhood cut her
off from companionship, but she decided to use even her grief to propel her
onto an ascetic, mystical life, bring good out of misfortune. And it gave her a freedom to concentrate on
prayer and not worry about anyone being neglected while she was at it. Now her circumstances again calls her to
re-emerge into the world she had left behind.
chose sandals for her feet, and put on her anklets, bracelets, rings, earrings,
and all her other jewelry. Thus she made herself very beautiful, to entice
the eyes of all the men who should see her.
COMMENTARY: She has not forgotten her old skills. To all things there is a season.
But what can we say of a
woman using her beauty to bait a trap? Judith
had previously railed against conquerors who objectify the women and girls of
the conquered, reducing them to mere loot.
Yet now she prepares to invite this misuse against herself, or at least
The teaching here is that
right in the seeming-strength of evil lies its weakness. Always, from the level of viruses to the
proudest of tyrants. In this case, you
cannot objectify a human being without underestimating her. By playing to his prejudice, Judith will have
a chance to get close to Holofernes.
This story matters to a
little nation, still recovering from exile, surrounded by enormous,
conquest-greedy empires. However
humiliating their circumstances, they have at least the hope of being
5) She gave her maid a skin of wine and a jug of oil. She
filled a bag with roasted grain, dried fig cakes, and pure bread. She wrapped
all her dishes and gave them to the maid to carry.
COMMENTARY: That word “pure” clarifies what she does,
here. She makes provision to maintain
the Jewish dietary laws even as she appears to surrender.
6) Then they went out to the gate of the city of Bethulia
and found Uzziah and the elders of the city, Chabris and Charmis, standing
there. 7) When they saw
Judith transformed in looks and differently dressed, they were very much
astounded at her beauty and said to her, 8)
“May the God of our ancestors grant you favor and make
your design successful, for the glory of the Israelites and the exaltation of
COMMENTARY: Although they’re not used to seeing their
ascetic widow like this, they bless her mission, trusting that she knows what
she’s doing. Nobody says, “Go home, you
hussy, and wipe that unguent off!” She
has already proven her worth; they need not question her.
How different from
judgmentalness today! Far from appreciating
years of virtue, we leap at any hint that good people might fall, and can
hardly wait to spread the gossip. We
want to see all others as worse than ourselves, or at least just as bad.
9) Judith bowed down to God. Then she said to them, “Order the gate of the
city opened for me, that I may go to accomplish the matters we discussed.” So
they ordered the young men to open the gate for her, as she had requested, 10) and they did so. Then Judith and her maidservant went
out. The men of the city kept her in view as she went down the mountain and
crossed the valley; then they lost sight of her.
COMMENTARY: First she prays one last time, then
confidently tells people what to do, and they obey her. The men do fear for her; they watch her
progress anxiously until they can watch her no more. But nobody tries to stop her.
11) As Judith and her maid walked directly
across the valley, they encountered the Assyrian patrol. 12) The men took her in custody and asked
her, “To what people do you belong? Where do you come from, and where are you
going?” She replied: “I am a
daughter of the Hebrews, and I am fleeing from them, because they are about to
be delivered up to you as prey. 13) I
have come to see Holofernes, the ranking general of your forces, to give him a
trustworthy report; in his presence I will show him the way by which he can
ascend and take possession of the whole hill country without a single one of
his men suffering injury or loss of life.”
COMMENTARY: And here we have the deception: She pretends to be a traitor, afraid for her
life and willing to bargain for it with the lives of others. Evil people find evil easy to believe.
14) When the men heard her words and gazed upon her face,
which appeared marvelously beautiful to them, they said to her, 15) “By hastening down to see our master,
you have saved your life. Now go to his tent; some of us will accompany you to
hand you over to him. 16)
When you stand before him, have no fear in your heart;
give him the report you have given us, and he will treat you well.”
COMMENTARY: It’s especially easy to believe whatever you
want to believe from a beautiful woman!
Once they objectify her, they can’t imagine her actually having cunning.
they selected a hundred of their men as an escort for her and her maid, and
these conducted them to the tent of Holofernes.
COMMENTARY: I can’t help but laugh. Did they really need a hundred men to escort
one woman? I suspect they had many
As the news of her arrival spread among the tents, a
crowd gathered in the camp. They came and stood around her as she waited
outside the tent of Holofernes, while he was being informed about her. 19) They marveled at her beauty, regarding the Israelites
with wonder because of her, and they said to one another, “Who can despise this
people who have such women among them? It is not good to leave one of their men
alive, for if any were to be spared they could beguile the whole earth.”
COMMENTARY: Ah, the illogic! They see the bait plainly—that they are,
indeed beguiled—and yet they irrationally propose killing off all of the men,
when it’s the women they themselves admit that they should fear. And not one of them stops and thinks, “Oh
wait...maybe that’s what’s going on right
20) Then the guards of Holofernes and all his attendants
came out and ushered her into the tent.
far it’s working.
21) Holofernes was reclining on his bed
under a canopy woven of purple,
gold, emeralds, and other precious stones.
canopy was a gaudy version of mosquito netting—a highly prized luxury reserved
only for the top brass. Babylon, after
all, was surrounded by swamp.
22) When they announced her to him, he
came out to the front part of the tent, preceded by silver lamps.
putting on a bit of theater of his own.
The common clay lamps would not scintillate like silver ones. He wants to daunt Judith with his wealth and
23) When Judith came before Holofernes and
his attendants, they all marveled at the beauty of her face. She fell prostrate
and paid homage to him, but his servants raised her up.
COMMENTARY: The daunting, however, goes the other way.
In regards to Judith paying homage, she acts
here as a metaphor for Judea. From this
point on Judea and Israel get passed from conqueror to conqueror and never
knows independence again till the 20th century. They had to learn to bow to others, while
keeping their hearts for God alone.