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scripture

 

CHAPTER 14

Judith’s Plan of Attack. 1Then Judith said to them: “Listen to me,* my brothers and sisters. Take this head and hang it on the parapet of your wall.a 2At 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. 3The 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.b 4Then you and all the other inhabitants of the whole territory of Israel will pursue them and strike them down in their tracks. 5But 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.”

Achior’s Conversion.* 6So 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. 7Then, 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.c 8But 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. 9When she had finished her account, the people cheered loudly, so that the city resounded with shouts of joy. 10Now 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.d

Panic in the Assyrian Camp. 11At daybreak they hung the head of Holofernes on the wall. Then all the Israelite men took up their weapons and went out by groups to the mountain passes.e 12When the Assyrians saw them, they notified their commanders, who, in turn, went to their generals, their division leaders, and all their other leaders. 13They came to the tent of Holofernes and said to the one in charge of all his things, “Awaken our lord, for the slaves have dared come down against us in battle, to their utter destruction.” 14So Bagoas went in and knocked at the entry of the tent, presuming that Holofernes was sleeping with Judith. 15When no one answered, he parted the curtains, entered the bedchamber, and found him thrown on the floor dead, with his head gone! 16He cried out loudly, weeping, groaning, and howling, and tore his garments. 17Then 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!”f

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.

* [14:116:25] This section describes Judith’s plan to attack the Assyrian camp (14:15) and its execution (14:1115:7). Between the plan and its execution, Achior identifies the head of Holofernes and is converted to Judaism. The book concludes with the victory celebration (15:814), hymn of thanksgiving (16:120), and a description of Judith’s final days (16:2125). Elements from chaps. 89 recur here: Judith, widow of Manasseh (8:2; 16:22), lived alone in Bethulia on her estate (8:4; 16:22), with servants and property (8:7; 16:21). Judith’s instructions begin with the words “listen to me” (8:11; 14:1). Her prayer for success (9:114) is balanced by a prayer and display of success in 14:1416.

* [14:15] Listen to me: an imperative (used also in 8:11, 32) opens Judith’s instruction that the people display the head of Holofernes on the parapet and themselves in ranks before the enemy at daybreak. The strategy is to throw the Assyrians into panic and strike them down in their confusion; cf. 15:13.

* [14:610] Recognizing the head of Holofernes, Achior faints. Then he throws himself down before Judith, acclaiming her blessed in Judah and every nation. After listening to all she had done, Achior is circumcised and joins the house of Israel. Since this violates the prohibition of Dt 23:4 that no Ammonite or Moabite shall enter the assembly, even to the tenth generation, some suggest that the book was not included in the Hebrew scriptures for this reason. However, see Is 56:36.

a. [14:1] 1 Sm 17:54; 31:910; 2 Sm 20:21; 2 Kgs 10:78; 1 Mc 7:47; 2 Mc 15:30; Mt 14:8.

b. [14:3] 1 Mc 7:44.

c. [14:7] Jgs 5:24.

d. [14:10] Dt 23:4.

e. [14:11] 2 Mc 8:23; 12:20.

f. [14:18] Jgs 9:54.






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