Judith, The Book Of
holofernes israelites bethulia
JUDITH, THE BOOK OF, one of the books of the Old Testament APOCRYPHA (q.v.), takes its name from the heroine Judith ('Iov8(0, 'Iov840, i.e., n'17," Jewess "), to whom the last nine of its sixteen chapters relate. In the Septuagint and Vulgate it immediately precedes Esther, and along with Tobit comes after Nehemiah ; in the English Apocrypha it is placed between Tobit and the apocryphal additions to Esther. The argument of the book is briefly as follows. In the twelfth year of his reign Nebuchadnezzar, who is described as king of Assyria, having his capital in Nineveh, makes war against Arphaxad (i.e., the district Arrhapachitis), king of Media, and overcomes him in his seventeenth year. He then despatches his chief general Holofernes to take vengeance on the nations of the west who had withheld their assistance. This expedition has already succeeded in its main objects when Holofernes proceeds to attack Judxa. The children of Israel, who are described as having newly returned from captivity, are apprehensive of a desecration of their sanctuary, and resolve on resistance to the uttermost. The inhabitants of Bethulia (Betylila) and Betomestharn in particular (neither place can be identified), directed by Joachim the high priest, guard the mountain passes near Dothaim, and place themselves under God's protection. Holofernes now inquires of the chiefs who are with him about the Israelites, and is answered by Achior the leader of the Ammonites, who enters upon a long historical narrative showing the Israelites to be invincible except when they have offended God. For this Achior is punished by being handed over to the Israelites, who lead him to the governor of Bethulia. Next day the siege begins, and after forty days the famished inhabitants urge the governor Ozias to surrender, which he consents to do unless relieved in five days. Judith, a beautiful and pious widow of the tribe of Simeon, now appears on the scene with a plan of deliverance. Wearing her rich attire, and accompanied by her maid, who carries a bag of provisions, she goes over to the hostile camp, where she is at once conducted to the general, whose suspicions are disarmed by the tales she invents. After four days Holofernes, smitten with her charms, at the close of a sumptuous entertainment invites her to remain within his tent over night. No sooner is he overcome with sleep than Judith, seizing his sword, strikes off his head and gives it to her maid ; both now leave the camp (as they had previously been accustomed to do, ostensibly for prayer) and return to Bethulia, where the trophy is displayed amid great rejoicings and thanksgivings. Achior now publicly professes Judaism, and at the instance of Judith the Israelites make a sudden onslaught on the enemy, who at once give way, leaving immense spoil in the hands of the victors. Judith now sings a song of praise, and all go up to Jerusalem to worship with sacrifice and rejoicing. The book ooncludes with a brief notice of the closing years of the heroine, who returned to her native place and lived to the age of one hundred and • five years.
Formerly the majority of interpreters were inclined to assign a strictly historical character to the foregoing narrative, although its historical, chronological, and even geographical difficulties were not overlooked ; but this view has to a large extent been superseded by that of most recent critics, who, following Buddmus, regard it as a romance written with a patriotic and moral purpose by some imperfectly informed Jew of the Maccabaean period who wished to raise the zeal of Ids compatriots to the fi;litine' point on behalf of their religion and worship against an overbearing enemy. Volkmar stands alone in treating it as a veiled account of the campaigns of Trajan and his generals against the Parthians and Jews.
According to Origen the book was unknown to the Jews, and did not exist in Hebrew. The extant Greek text, however, which exists in three divergent recensions, shows unmistakable traces of a Hebrew original, even apart from certain expressions which can only be explained as ignorant mistranslations. But that original must have differed considerably from the Chaldee text which lay before Jerome, and was used by him for his new Latin version.
The first express reference to Judith occurs in Clement of Rome (1 Ad Cor., cap. 55); it is cited as Scripture by Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Ambrose, and Augustine, and was recognized as canonical by the council of Carthage, and by Innocent I. of Rome.
See Schiircr, NTleche Zeitgesch., and De Wette-Schrader, Einleitung ; in both works full bibliographies are riven. The most important commentary is that of Fritzsche iu theExegetisches Handbuch (1853).