1) Then Holofernes said to her: “Take
courage, woman! Have no fear in your heart! I have never harmed anyone who
chose to serve Nebuchadnezzar, king of all the earth.
COMMENTARY: One liar deserves another. He did plenty of harm to the coastal people
who had surrendered to him. But of
course he wants to impress a beautiful lady.
for your people who live in the hill country, I would never have raised my
spear against them, had they not insulted me. They have brought this upon
COMMENTARY: Ah, that ever-popular lie, “They made me hurt
them by wounding my pride, so it’s not my fault!” And if Judith had really been bent on
courtship, this would raise a red flag, as it is not only the cry of the
tyrant, but also the domestic-abuser.
The fact is, sooner or later all relationships wound our pride, because
you can’t get close without getting real.
If you can’t handle it, you’re not ready for relationship—or, for that
matter, for leadership.
now tell me why you have fled from them and come to us? In any case, you have
come to safety. Take courage! Your life is spared tonight and for the future.
4) No one at all
will harm you. Rather, you will be well treated, as are the servants of my
lord, King Nebuchadnezzar.”
Lily Elteto pointed out, those who surrendered really did get fairly decent
treatment on their way to exile. But as
we have seen, in this story at least, Holofernes does not always obey orders of
5) Judith answered him: “Listen to the
words of your servant, and let your maidservant speak in your presence! I will
say nothing false to my lord this night.
COMMENTARY: This chapter drips with irony. Judith actually means God when she refers to “my
lord”, but Holofernes, naturally, assumes that she means himself. And Judith sticks surprisingly close to the
truth throughout, but then the best lies always contain as much truth as one
can get away with.
you follow the words of your maidservant, God will successfully perform a deed
through you, and my lord will not fail to achieve his designs.
Holofernes has no idea that she’s referring to a different lord than himself—as
Judith fully intends.
7) I swear by the life of Nebuchadnezzar,
king of all the earth, and by the power of him who has sent you to guide all
living things, that not only do human beings serve him through you; but even
the wild animals, and the cattle, and the birds of the air, because of your
strength, will live for Nebuchadnezzar and his whole house.
COMMENTARY: Judith does not consider swearing by anyone
but God Himself to be binding, but Holofernes has convinced himself that she
really does want to join him in worshiping Nebuchadnezzar. Jesus later said that swearing by anything in
Earth or Heaven counts, but that teaching wouldn’t come along for centuries
we have heard of your wisdom and cleverness. The whole earth is aware
that you above all others in the kingdom are able, rich in experience, and
distinguished in military strategy.
Slathering on heaps of flattery, she also slathers on the irony. Because what they have heard is that
Holofernes is an oathbreaker, and that’s not clever at all if you want people
to surrender to you without a fight.
9) “As for Achior’s speech in your council, we have heard it.
When the men of Bethulia rescued him, he told them all he had said to you. 10) So then, my lord and master, do not
disregard his word, but bear it in mind, for it is true. Indeed our people are
not punished, nor does the sword prevail against them, except when they sin
against their God.
COMMENTARY: Even in a deception she won’t throw Achior
under the bus. Honoring her God matters
to her. So instead she weaves Achior’s
words into her talespinning.
11) But now their sin has caught up
with them, by which they will bring the wrath of their God upon them when they
do wrong; so that my lord will not be repulsed and fail, but death will
COMMENTARY: Yet in chapter 8 she had said that they had
not committed any community sin. Here
she does indeed lie—yet in such a way as to still affirm her faith!
their food has given out and all their water is running low, they have decided
to kill their animals, and are determined to consume all the things which God
in his laws has forbidden them to eat.
COMMENTARY: Yet, as stated earlier, the people had
already laid up provisions enough for siege; they just didn’t expect to be cut
off from their water-source. They hadn’t
run out of food, only water. Indeed, she
even brought her own provisions with her!
But lust shoves logic out the window, and Holofernes, after all is said
and done, is just a man.
have decided that they would use the first fruits of grain and the tithes of
wine and oil, which they had consecrated and reserved for the priests who
minister in the presence of our God in Jerusalem—things which the people should
not so much as touch with their hands.
COMMENTARY: Under normal circumstances that taboo would
hold, but it can be suspended in emergencies.
Before the temple was even built the high priest (Ahimelech or Abiathar,
depending on your version) set the precedent when feeding consecrated bread to
David and some of his men.
have sent messengers to Jerusalem to bring back permission from the senate, for
even there people have done these things.
dangles before Holofernes the added enticement that the entire country’s about
to fall into his hands, if he only listens to her.
15) On the very day when the
response reaches them and they act upon it, they will be handed over to you for
COMMENTARY: All generals appreciate the importance of
timing, so now she’s got his mind on how he could determine when that day might
soon as I, your servant, learned all this, I fled from them. God has sent me to
perform with you such deeds as will astonish people throughout the whole earth
who hear of them.
COMMENTARY: Well, yeah, but not as he imagines.
17) Your servant is, indeed, a God-fearing
woman, serving the God of heaven night and day. Now I will remain with you, my
lord; but each night your servant will go out into the valley and pray to God.
He will tell me when they have committed their offenses. 18) Then I will come and let you know, so
that you may march out with all your forces, and not one of them will be able
to withstand you. 19) I will lead
you through the heart of Judea until you come to Jerusalem, and there in its
center I will set up your throne. You will drive them like sheep that have no
shepherd, and not even a dog will growl at you. This was told to me in
advance and announced to me, and I have been sent to tell you.”
COMMENTARY: Thus she makes herself, in her role as
mystic, key to his strategies. And yet
another irony, she’s got him waiting on a signal from her God for a chance to
supplant her God!
words pleased Holofernes and all his attendants. They marveled at her wisdom
and exclaimed, 21) “No other
woman from one end of the earth to the other looks so beautiful and speaks so
COMMENTARY: And he falls for the bait, as the saying
goes, hook, line, and sinker. She has
made it so delicious to believe. The
repeated references to her beauty underlines why they’re not noticing the
Holofernes said to her: “God has done well in sending you ahead of your people,
to bring victory to our hands, and destruction to those who have despised my
lord. 23) You are not only
beautiful in appearance, but you are also eloquent. If you do as you have said,
your God will be my God; you will live in the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar
and be renowned throughout the whole earth.”
they aren’t agreeing as to who “my lord” is, and he’s oblivious to the
fact. When Holofernes says, “Your God
will be my God” he means Nebuchadnezzar.