Chapter Fourteen


 Judith 14:

1)  Then Judith said to them: “Listen to me, my brothers and sisters. Take this head and hang it on the parapet of your wall.  2)  At daybreak, when the sun rises on the earth, each of you seize your weapons, and let all the able-bodied men rush out of the city under command of a captain, as if about to go down into the valley against the Assyrian patrol, but without going down.  3) The Assyrians will seize their weapons and hurry to their camp to awaken the generals of the army. When they run to the tent of Holofernes and do not find him, panic will seize them, and they will flee before you.  4) Then you and all the other inhabitants of the whole territory of Israel will pursue them and strike them down in their tracks.

COMMENTARY:  A battle, or a war, is won when one side seizes most of the morale of the other side.  We often think of it as won by killing lots of people or seizing lots of land, but these are only means to the end of making the other side give up.  Judith understood this and waged psychological warfare against the Assyrians.  Who needs strength of arms if you can make your enemy despair some other way?

5) But before doing this, summon for me Achior the Ammonite, that he may see and recognize the one who despised the house of Israel and sent him here to meet his death.”

COMMENTARY:  A necessary step to make sure everybody knows she got the right head!



6) So they called Achior from the house of Uzziah. When he came and saw the head of Holofernes in the hand of one of the men in the assembly of the people, he collapsed in a faint. 7)  Then, after they lifted him up, he threw himself at the feet of Judith in homage, saying: “Blessed are you in every tent of Judah! In every nation, all who hear your name will be struck with terror. 

COMMENTARY:  A tribute for a warrior.  But also a stroke for feminism.  Whoever heard this story in the ancient world would have to think twice about their assumptions about the helplessness of women.



8)  But now, tell me all that you did during these days.” So Judith told him, in the midst of the people, all that she had done, from the day she left until the time she began speaking to them. 9)  When she had finished her account, the people cheered loudly, so that the city resounded with shouts of joy.

COMMENTARY:  And that is why we have the Book of Judith today.


10)  Now Achior, seeing all that the God of Israel had done, believed firmly in God. He circumcised the flesh of his foreskin and he has been united with the house of Israel to the present day.

COMMENTARY:  This may well have been the passage that got this book excluded from the Jewish Bible, due to Deuteronomy 23: 4-5:

4) No Ammonite or Moabite may ever come into the assembly of the LORD, nor may any of their descendants even to the tenth generation come into the assembly of the LORD, 5) because they would not come to meet you with food and water on your journey after you left Egypt, and because they hired Balaam, son of Beor, from Pethor in Aram Naharaim, to curse you.

Achior was an Ammonite, and the people defining the Septuagint, after much suffering which they believed afflicted upon them for failure to follow their covenant faithfully, would see this as a violation of the Law. 

However, we also have Isaiah 56: 3-6 to consider.  Prophets like Isaiah, among other things, fine-tuned the understanding of past scriptures, or corrected mistaken interpretations, or revealed new covenants, as God directed.

3) The foreigner joined to the LORD should not say,

“The LORD will surely exclude me from his people”;

Nor should the eunuch say,

“See, I am a dry tree.”

4) For thus says the LORD:

To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths,

who choose what pleases me,

and who hold fast to my covenant,

5) I will give them, in my house

and within my walls, a monument and a name

Better than sons and daughters;

an eternal name, which shall not be cut off, will I give them.

6) And foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

to minister to him,

To love the name of the LORD,

to become his servants—

All who keep the sabbath without profaning it

and hold fast to my covenant,

7) Them I will bring to my holy mountain

and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

will be acceptable on my altar,

For my house shall be called

a house of prayer for all peoples.

(It is in this same spirit of prophecy as Isaiah that the present Pope has banned the death penalty, even though the Catholic Church has previously allowed it, in a revelation of the Holy Spirit that we have no more excuses for executions in this modern day when we have the means to restrain a criminal until natural death, and that this is also a pro-life stance.  And yes, I recognize the irony of saying that while discussing scripture about a woman beheaded a man, but she had no other way to stop him, and she was also abiding by the law as it stood before the execution of Jesus.)

God is not racist, who created all races.  The ban did not apply to ethnicity but to practices.  Those who did not renounce the selfishness of the Ammonites and Moabites, even ten generations later, were excluded, but those who loved the God of the Israelites were welcome.

As a mixed-blood woman with both Native American ancestors and White ancestors who embraced or honored Native ways, I can understand this.  I don’t want to hear White people with insolence in their hearts say, “Aw, come on, that was all in the past—forget it already!” when Native people still suffer from what had been done to them by the ancestors of these folks who shrug it off (and who in fact suffer from wrongs done to this day.)  But White people who sincerely respect Native ways, who wish to set things right, honor the ancestors of both by expiating the sins of their forebears. 

We now know that the epigenetic damage which trauma inflicts upon people can continue on for generations.  Yet acknowledging the injustice of it and dealing with that injustice can actually rewrite your genes again, for the better.


COMMENTARY:  They rise to the bait.

So Bagoas went in and knocked at the entry of the tent, presuming that Holofernes was sleeping with Judith.

COMMENTARY:  It was the court eunuch’s job to handle delicate situations like this.  His mutilation not only made him acceptable as a servant to women, but also made him nonthreatening to powerful men at their most intimate moments.

On a different topic, I just read some historians speculating that court eunuchs (but not lesser eunuchs) might indeed have been renamed Bagoas or variations thereof upon receiving their office.  There’s just way too many royal Eunuchs, over a span of centuries and in multiple countries within the Middle East, all with the same name.  So my speculation has some basis!


When no one answered, he parted the curtains, entered the bedchamber, and found him thrown on the floor dead, with his head gone! 16) He cried out loudly, weeping, groaning, and howling, and tore his garments.  17) Then he entered the tent where Judith had her quarters; and, not finding her, he rushed out to the troops and cried: 18) “The slaves have duped us! One Hebrew woman has brought shame on the house of King Nebuchadnezzar. Look! Holofernes on the ground—without a head!”

COMMENTARY:  That must have been quite a shock, considering what he expected to find.  Again the emphasis on this being done by “One Hebrew woman”. 

If this is fiction, then Judith represents Judea herself.  In which case the message is that the nation of Israel doesn’t have to be big or strong to survive, just capable of outsmarting an opponent or a situation.  And that intelligence, knowledge and wisdom are the gifts of God.  The Jews of Judith’s day would be utterly mystified by the cult of ignorance that so many ascribe to today, imagining that logic, science, and scholarship are somehow enemies to someone they themselves considered the God of Wisdom.  In fact, they wrote the Book of Wisdom as a tribute to God (Another of the Deuterocanonical books that I hope to get to eventually.  In fact it’s that and Sirach that I look forward to exploring the most.)

A lightningbolt did not strike Holofernes.  Nothing that we would call a miracle today happened.  And yet the listeners to this story perceived it as an example of God in action, this capacity to reason out a plan greater than the obstacles.  This does not mean lack of faith in miracles, but an understanding that God works through many means besides miracles.



19When the leaders of the Assyrian forces heard these words, they tore their tunics and were overcome with great distress. Their loud cries and shouts were heard throughout the camp.

COMMENTARY:  Not only did Holofernes lose his head, so did the Assyrian Army.  In those hierarchical times people didn’t always have a clear-cut line of military succession to take over the reins with an officer down, as the officers often held their posts through hereditary appointment. 

One of the great Greek stories, Xenophon’s Anabasis, is about a band of mercenaries making it back to Greece alive after winning a battle only to lose their officers in an act of treachery, miles deep in enemy territory.  Not knowing what else to do, they voted to have Xenophon, a philosopher (a student of Socrates, along for observation and experience against Socrates’s advice) lead them home.  None of them had any training in how to be an officer, but he at least had training on how to learn.  He got every man of them home.  (I’d love to see that tale made into a miniseries!)  Apparently the Assyrians had no philosopher handy to leap into the gap.

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