Chapter Eleven


 Judith 11:

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.



 2) As 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 themselves. 


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.



3) But 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.”


COMMENTARY:  As 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 mercy.



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.



6) If 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.


COMMENTARY:  Again, 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 yet.



8) Indeed, 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.


COMMENTARY:  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 overtake them.


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!



12) Because 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.



13) They 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.



14) They have sent messengers to Jerusalem to bring back permission from the senate, for even there people have done these things.


COMMENTARY:  Judith 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 destruction.

COMMENTARY:  All generals appreciate the importance of timing, so now she’s got his mind on how he could determine when that day might arrive.



16) “As 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!



20) Her 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 wisely!”


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 obvious discrepancies.



22) Then 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.”


COMMENTARY:  Again, 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.

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