Judith and the Head of Holophernes

It was no young man that brought their champion low; no Titan struck him down, no tall giant

Judith Chapter 12

1 Holophernes then commanded them to bring her in where his silver was set out, and he ordered a meal to be served for her from his own food and wine.

2 But Judith said, 'I will not eat any of it, in case I should be breaking our law

3 What I have brought with me will meet my needs.' Holophernes said to her, 'But if you use up all you have with you, where can we get you a fresh supply of the same kind? There is no one of your race here among us.'

4 Judith replied, 'As sure as you live, my lord, I shall not finish what I have brought with me before the Lord accomplishes through me what he has planned.'

5 Holophernes' attendants brought her into the tent; and she slept until midnight.

6 Shortly before the morning watch she got up and sent this message to Holophernes: 'My lord, will you give orders for me to be allowed to go out and pray?'

7 Holophernes ordered his bodyguard to let her pass. She remained in the camp for three days, going out each night

8 into the valley of Bethulia and bathing in the spring. When she came up from the spring, she prayed the Lord, the God of Israel, to prosper her undertaking to restore her people. Then she returned to the camp purified, and remained in the tent until she took her meal towards evening.

IO ON THE FOURTH DAY Holophernes gave a banquet for his personal servants only, and did not invite any of the army officers.

11 He said to Bagoas, the eunuch in charge of all his affairs: 'Go to the Hebrew woman who is in your care, and persuade her to join us and to eat and drink with us.

12 It would be a disgrace if we let such a woman go without enjoying her company. If we do not win her favours she will laugh at us.'

13 Bagoas left Holophernes' presence, and went to Judith and said, 'Now, my beauty, do not be bashful; come along to my master and give yourself the honour of his company.

Drink with us and enjoy yourself, and
behave today like one of the
Assyrian women in attendance at Nebuchadnezzar's palace.'

14 'Who am I to refuse my master?' said Judith. 'I am eager to do whatever pleases him; and it will be something to boast of till my dying day.'

15 She proceeded to dress herself up and put on all her feminine finery. Her maid went ahead of her, and spread on the ground in front of Holophernes the fleeces which she had received from Bagoas for her daily use, so that she might recline on them when she ate.

16 When Judith came in and took her place, Holophernes was beside himself with desire for her. He shook with passion and was filled with an ardent longing to possess her; indeed he had been looking for an opportunity to seduce her ever since he first set eyes on her.

17 So he said to her, 'Drink and enjoy yourself with us.' 'Indeed I will, my

18 lord,' said Judith; 'today is the greatest day of my whole life.'

19 Then she took what her servant had prepared, and ate and drank in his presence.

20 Holophernes was delighted with her, and drank a great deal of wine, more, indeed, than he had ever drunk on any single day since he was born.

Judith Chapter 13

1 When it grew late, Holophernes' servants quickly withdrew. Bagoas closed the tent from outside, shutting out all the attendants from his master's presence, and they went to bed; the banquet had lasted so long that they were all worn out.

2 Judith was left alone in the tent, with Holophernes Iying sprawled on his bed, dead drunk.

3 Judith had told her maid to stand outside the sleeping-apartment and wait for her mistress to go out, as she did every day; she had said that she would be going out to pray, and had explained this to Bagoas also.

4 When they had all gone and not a soul was left, Judith stood beside Holophernes' bed and prayed silently: 'O Lord, God of all power, look favourably now on what I am about to do to bring glory to Jerusalem,

5 for now is the time to help thy heritage and to give success to my plan for crushing the enemies who have risen up against us.'

6 She went to the bed-rail beside Holophernes' head and took down his sword,

7 and stepping close to the bed she grasped his hair. 'Now give me strength, O Lord, God of Israel', she said;

8 then she struck at his neck twice with all her might, and cut off his head.

Or Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio 1598-1599

9 She rolled the body off the bed and took the mosquito-net from its posts;

a moment later she went out and gave Holophernes' head to the maid,

10 who lo put it in her food-bag.

The two of them went out together, as they had usually done for prayer. Through the camp they went, and round that valley, and up the hill to Bethulia till they reached the gates.

Botticelli, 1444-1510

11 From a distance Judith called to the sentries at the gates: 'Open! Open the gate! God, our God, is with us, still showing his strength in Israel and his might against our enemies. He has shown it today!'

12 When the citizens heard her voice, they hurried down to the gate and summoned the elders of the town.

13 Everyone high and low came running, hardly able to believe that Judith had returned. They opened the gate and let the two women in; they lit a fire to see by, and gathered round them.

14 Then Judith raised her voice and cried, 'Praise God! O praise him! Praise God, who has not withdrawn his mercy from the house of Israel, but has crushed our enemies by my hand this very night !'

15 Then she took the head from the bag and showed it to them. 'Look!' she said. 'The head of Holophernes, the Assyrian commander-in-chief! And here is the net under which he lay drunk! The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman!

16 And I swear by the Lord who has brought me safely along the way I have travelled that, though my face lured him to destruction, he committed no sin with me, and my honour is unblemished.'

17 The people were all astounded; and bowing down in worship to God, they said with one voice, 'Praise be to thee, O Lord our God, who hast humiliated the enemies of thy people this day.'

18 And Ozias said to Judith, 'My daughter, the blessing of God Most High is upon you, you more than all other women on earth; praise be to the Lord, the God who created heaven and earth, and guided you when you struck off the head of the enemy commander.

19 The sure hope which inspired youa will never fade from men's minds while they commemorate the power of God.

20 May God make your deed redound to your honour for ever, and shower blessings upon you! You risked your life for our country when it was faced with humiliation. You went boldly to meet the disaster that threatened us, and held firmly to God's straight road.' All the people responded: 'Amen! Amen !'

The triumph of Israel

Judith Chapter1 4

1 Then Judith said to them, "Listen to me, my friends; take this head and hang it out on the battlements of your wall.

2 As soon as clawn breaks and the sun rises, take up your weapons, every able-bodied man of you, and march out of the town. You must set a commander at your head, as if you were going down to the plain to attack the Assyrian outpost; but do not go down.

3 The Assyrians will take up their weapons and make for their camp, and rouse the commanders, who will run to Holophernes' tent but will not find him. They will all be seized with panic and will flee from

4 you; then pursue them, you and all who live within Israel's borders, and cut them down in their tracks.

5 But first of all summon Achior the Ammonite to me, so that he may see and recognize the man who treated Israel with contempt and sent him to us as if to his death.'

6 They summoned Achior from Ozias's house. When he came and saw Holophernes' head held by one of the men in the assembly of the people, he fainted and fell down.

7 They lifted him up, and he threw himself at Judith's feet and did obeisance to her, and said, 'Your praises will be sung in every camp in Judah and among all nations. They will tremble when they hear your name. Tell me now the whole story of what you have done during these days.'

8 Then Judith, in the hearing of the people, told him everything from the day she left until that very moment.

9 As she ended her story, the people raised a great shout and made the town ring with their cheers.

10 And when Achior realized all that the God of Israel had done, he came to full belief in God, and was circumcised, and admitted as a member of the community of Israel, as his descendants still are.

11 When dawn came they hung Holophernes' head on the wall; then they all took their weapons and went out in companies into the approaches to : the town.

12 When the Assyrians saw them, they sent word to their leaders, who then went to the generals, captains, and all the other officers.

13 They came to Holophernes' tent and said to his steward: 'Wake our master. These slaves have had the audacity to offer us battle; they are asking to be utterly wiped out.'

14 Bagoas went in and knocked at the screen of the inner tent, supposing that Holophernes was sleeping with Judith.

15 When there was no reply, he drew aside the screen, went into the sleeping-apartment, and found the dead body sprawling over a footstool, and the head gone.



16 He gave a great cry, wailing and groaning aloud, and tore his clothes. Then he went into the tent which Judith had occupied and not finding her he rushed out to the people shouting,

17 'The slaves have played us false. One

18 Hebrew woman has brought shame on Nebuchadnezzar's kingdom. Look! Holophernes is Iying on the ground, and his head is gone!'

19 His words filled the officers of the Assyrian army with dismay; they tore their clothes, and the camp rang with their shouts and cries.

Judith Chapter 15

1 When the news spread to the men in the camp, they were thrown into consternation at what had happened.

2 In terror and panic they all scattered at once, with no attempt to keep together, and fled by every path across the plain and the hill-country.

3 Those who were encamped in the hills round Bethulia also took to flight. Then all the Israelites of military age sallied out after them.

4 Ozias sent men to Bethomesthaim, Choba, and Chola, and the 4 whole territory of Israel, to give news of what had happened and to tell them to sally out against the enemy and destroy them.

5 When the news reached them, every man in Israel joined the attack and cut them down, going as far as Choba.

5 The men from Jerusalem and all the hill-country also joined in, for they had been told what had happened in the enemy camp. The men of Gilead and Galilee outflanked the Assyrians and inflicted heavy losses on them, continuing beyond Damascus and the district round it.

6 The rest of the inhabitants of Bethulia fell upon the camp and made themselves rich with the spoils.

7 When the Israelites returned from the slaughter, they took possession of what remained. The villages and hamlets in the hill-country and in the plain got masses of booty, for there was a huge quantity of it.

8 Joakim the high priest and the senate of Israel came from Jerusalem to see for themselves the great things the Lord had done for his people, and to meet Judith and wish her well.

9 When they arrived they praised her with one voice and said, 'You are the glory of Jerusalem, the heroine of Israel, the proud boast of our people!

10 With your own hand you have done all this, lo you have restored the fortunes of Israel, and God has shown his approval. Blessings on you from the Lord Almighty, for all time to come!' And all the people responded, 'Amen!'

11 The looting of the camp went on for thirty days. They gave Judith Holophernes' tent, with all his silver, and his couches, bowls, and furniture. She took them and loaded her mule, then got her wagons ready and piled the goods on ther

12 All the Israelite women came running to see her;

they sang her praises,

and some of them performed a dance in her honour.

She took garlanded wands in her hands and gave some also to the women who accompanied her; and she and those who were with her

13 crowned themselves with olive leaves.

Then, at the head of all the people, she led the women in the dance; and

the men of Israel, in full armour and with garlands on their heads, followed them singing hymns.

Judith Chapter 16

1 IN THE PRESENCE of all Israel,
Judith struck up this hymn of praise and thanksgiving,
in which all the people joined lustily:
2 'Strike up a song to my God with tambourines;
sing to the Lord with cymbals;
raise a psalm of praise a to him;
honour him and invoke his name.

3 The Lord is a God who stamps out wars;
he has brought me safe from my pursuers into his camp among his people.

4 The Assyrian came from the mountains of the north; his armies came in such myriads
that his troops choked the valleys, his cavalry covered the hills.

5 He threatened to set fire to my land, put my young men to the sword,
dash my infants to the ground, take my children as booty, and my maidens as spoil.

6 The Lord Almighty has thwarted them by a woman's hand.

7 It was no young man that brought their champion low;
no Titan struck him down,
no tall giant set upon him;
Judith daughter of Merari disarmed him by the beauty of her face.

8 She put off her widow's weeds to raise up the afflicted in Israel;
she anointed her face with perfume, and bound her hair with a headband,
and put on a
linen gown to beguile him.

9 Her sandal entranced his eye, her beauty took his heart captive;
and the sword cut through his neck.

10 The Persians shuddered at her daring, the Medes were daunted by her boldness.

11 Then my oppressed people shouted in triumph, and the enemy were afraid;
my weak ones shouted, and the enemy cowered in fear; they raised their voices,
and the enemy took to flight.

12 The sons of servant girls ran them through, wounding them like runaway slaves;
they were destroyed by the army of my Lord.

13 'I will sing a new hymn to my God. O Lord,

thou art great and glorious, thou art marvellous in thy strength, invincible.

14 Let thy whole creation serve thee;

for thou didst speak and all things came to be;
thou didst send out thy
spirit and it formed them.

No one can resist thy voice;

15 mountains and seas are stirred to their depths,

rocks melt like wax at thy presence;
but to those who revere thee thou dost still show mercy.

16 For no sacrifice is sufficient to please thee with its fragrance,

and all the fat in the world is not enough for a burnt-offering,
but he who fears the Lord is always great.

17 Woe to the nations which rise up against my people!

The Lord Almighty will punish them on the day of judgement;
he will consign their bodies to
fire and worms;
they will weep in pain for ever.

18 When they arrived at Jerusalem they worshipped God. As soon as the people were purified,

they offered their burnt-offerings, freewill offerings, and gifts.

19 Judith dedicated to God all Holophernes' possessons, which the people had given to her; and the net, which she had taken for herself from the sleeping-apartment, she presented as a votive offering.

20 For three months the people continued their celebrations in Jerusalem in front of the sanctuary; and Judith remained with them.

21 At the end of that time they all returned to their own homes. Judith went back to Bethulia and lived on her estate. In her time she was famous throughout the whole country.

22 She had many suitors; but she remained unmarried all her life after her husband Manasses died and was gathered to his fathers.

23 Her fame continued to increase; and she lived on in her husband's house until she was a hundred and five years old. She gave her maid her liberty. She died in Bethulia and was buried in the same tomb as her husband Manasses,

24 and Israel observed mourning for her for seven days. Before her death she divided her property among all those who were most dosely related to her husband Manasses, and among her own nearest relations

25 No one dared to threaten the Israelites again in Judith's lifetime, or for a long time after her death.

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