New American Bible (Revised Edition)
III. Judith, Instrument of the Lord[a]
Description of Judith. 1 [b](A)Now in those days Judith, daughter of Merari,(B) son of Ox, son of Joseph, son of Oziel, son of Elkiah, son of Ananias, son of Gideon, son of Raphain, son of Ahitub, son of Elijah, son of Hilkiah, son of Eliab, son of Nathanael, son of Salamiel, son of Sarasadai, son of Simeon, son of Israel, heard of this. 2 Her husband, Manasseh,[c] of her own tribe and clan, had died at the time of the barley harvest. 3 While he was supervising those who bound the sheaves in the field, he was overcome by the heat; and he collapsed on his bed and died in Bethulia, his native city. He was buried with his ancestors in the field between Dothan and Balamon. 4 (C)Judith was living as a widow[d] in her home for three years and four months. 5 She set up a tent for herself on the roof of her house, put sackcloth about her waist, and wore widow’s clothing.(D) 6 She fasted all the days of her widowhood, except sabbath eves and sabbaths, new moon eves and new moons, feastdays and holidays of the house of Israel.(E) 7 She was beautiful in appearance and very lovely to behold.(F) Her husband, Manasseh, had left her gold and silver, male and female servants, livestock and fields, which she was maintaining. 8 No one had a bad word to say about her, for she feared God greatly.
Judith and the Elders.[e] 9 So when Judith heard of the harsh words that the people, discouraged by their lack of water, had spoken against their ruler, and of all that Uzziah had said to them in reply, swearing that he would hand over the city to the Assyrians at the end of five days, 10 she sent her maid who was in charge of all her things[f] to summon Uzziah, Chabris, and Charmis, the elders of her city. 11 When they came, she said to them: “Listen to me, you rulers of the people of Bethulia. What you said to the people today is not right. You pronounced this oath, made between God and yourselves, and promised to hand over the city to our enemies unless within a certain time the Lord comes to our aid. 12 Who are you to put God to the test today, setting yourselves in the place of God in human affairs?[g](G) 13 And now it is the Lord Almighty you are putting to the test, but you will never understand anything! 14 You cannot plumb the depths of the human heart or grasp the workings of the human mind; how then can you fathom God, who has made all these things, or discern his mind, or understand his plan?(H)
“No, my brothers, do not anger the Lord our God. 15 [h]For if he does not plan to come to our aid within the five days, he has it equally within his power to protect us at such time as he pleases, or to destroy us in the sight of our enemies. 16 Do not impose conditions on the plans of the Lord our God. God is not like a human being to be moved by threats, nor like a mortal to be cajoled.
17 “So while we wait for the salvation that comes from him, let us call upon him to help us, and he will hear our cry if it pleases him. 18 For there has not risen among us in recent generations, nor does there exist today, any tribe, or clan, or district, or city of ours that worships gods made by hands, as happened in former days.(I) 19 It was for such conduct that our ancestors were handed over to the sword and to pillage, and fell with great destruction before our enemies.(J) 20 But since we acknowledge no other god but the Lord, we hope that he will not disdain us or any of our people. 21 If we are taken, then all Judea will fall, our sanctuary will be plundered, and God will demand an account from us for their profanation. 22 For the slaughter of our kindred, for the taking of exiles from the land, and for the devastation of our inheritance, he will hold us responsible among the nations. Wherever we are enslaved, we will be a scandal and a reproach in the eyes of our masters. 23 Our servitude will not work to our advantage, but the Lord our God will turn it to disgrace.
24 “Therefore, my brothers, let us set an example[i] for our kindred. Their lives depend on us, and the defense of the sanctuary, the temple, and the altar rests with us. 25 (K)Besides all this, let us give thanks to the Lord our God for putting us to the test as he did our ancestors.(L) 26 Recall how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was tending the flocks of Laban, his mother’s brother. 27 He has not tested us with fire, as he did them, to try their hearts, nor is he taking vengeance on us. But the Lord chastises those who are close to him in order to admonish them.”
28 Then Uzziah said to her: “All that you have said you have spoken truthfully, and no one can deny your words. 29 For today is not the first time your wisdom has been evident, but from your earliest days all the people have recognized your understanding, for your heart’s disposition is right. 30 The people, however, were so thirsty that they forced us to do for them as we have promised, and to bind ourselves by an oath that we cannot break.[j](M) 31 But now, since you are a devout woman, pray for us that the Lord may send rain to fill up our cisterns. Then we will no longer be fainting from thirst.”
32 Then Judith said to them: “Listen to me! I will perform a deed that will go down from generation to generation among our descendants. 33 Stand at the city gate tonight to let me pass through with my maid; and within the days you have specified before you will surrender the city to our enemies, the Lord will deliver Israel by my hand. 34 You must not inquire into the affair, for I will not tell you what I am doing until it has been accomplished.” 35 Uzziah and the rulers said to her, “Go in peace, and may the Lord God go before you to take vengeance upon our enemies!” 36 Then they withdrew from the tent and returned to their posts.
- 8:1–10:10 In this section the hero is introduced (8:1–8) and prepares to deliver Israel (8:9–10:10).
- 8:1 Judith has the longest genealogy accorded any biblical woman, with family ties back to Israel/Jacob.
- 8:2 Manasseh: Judith’s marriage was endogamous, within her own tribe. The tribe and clan are identified as hers, though usually it is the husband’s tribe and clan that are noted.
- 8:4 Widow: in a reversal of traditional property law, Judith holds title to her husband’s estate (see v. 7). However, she will give a part of her inheritance to her late husband’s family before her death (16:24); she chooses not to remarry (16:22).
- 8:9–10:10 This section opens with a repetition of the information that Judith heard about the discouragement of the people and about Uzziah’s vow (cf. v. 1). Judith’s plan to save Israel then takes shape. In her own home, she meets with the elders of Bethulia (vv. 9–36), prays (9:1–14), prepares herself and the food she will need in the Assyrian camp (10:1–5), goes out to meet the elders again at the gate of Bethulia (10:6–8), and sets out with her maid for the Assyrian camp (10:9–10).
- 8:10 Her maid who was in charge of all her things: cf. Gn 15:2; 24:2; 39:4. Judith’s first act in the story is to send this unnamed maid (habra, lit., “graceful one” or “favorite slave,” v. 33; 10:2, 5, 17; 13:9; 16:23) to summon the town officials (see also other terms for female servants, paidiske in 10:10 and doule in 12:15; 13:3). Her last act in the story will be to give this woman her freedom (16:23).
- 8:12 Judith reprimands the leaders for putting God to the test (cf. Dt 6:16). She will argue that the right to test belongs to God (vv. 25–27).
- 8:15–16 God’s plans are in opposition to Nebuchadnezzar’s plans (2:2, 4). To protect…or to destroy: Judith defends God’s freedom (cf. Jb 1:21; 2:10).
- 8:24 Let us set an example: when Judith says “us,” she includes herself. She proposes that she together with Uzziah, Chabris, and Charmis model a faithful response to God’s test for the wavering people. “Let us give thanks to the Lord our God for putting us to the test” (v. 25) repeats her intention. “Us” for Uzziah does not include her (see vv. 30, 31).
- 8:30–31 An oath that we cannot break: Uzziah’s request that Judith pray for rain underscores his lack of imagination concerning how God’s deliverance might come.