Original Historical Documents|
A HISTORICAL COMMENTARY ON THE BOOK OF JUDITH|
Damien Mackey, March 2003
Judith in Short
Judith - Deutsch
The Grand Vizier
Artaxerxes III `Ochus'
The Defeat of Merodach- baladan
New Western Campaign
To the Plain of Esdraelon
The High Priest Joakim
Isaiah's Oracle to Eliakim|
The Book of Joel
The Absence of Hezekiah
Judith originally in Hebrew
Uzziah, Son of Micah
The Books of Amos/Micah
Micah and Isaiah
The Books of Hosea/Isaiah
Married Life - 1st Wife
Change of Names
The Second Wife
Judith's Father & Husband
Judith 10 & picture
Identification of Bethulia
Downfall of Holofernes-Assyrian Rec's
Downfall of Holofernes in Isaiah
Meaning of the Name of Holofernes
Notes and References
Book of Judith
Rise of David
The 3 AM
Here, using basically the NRSV of the Bible (Catholic edition 1991), I intend to show how the Judith narrative can be fully integrated with Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah (ca. 740-690) for the time of king Hezekiah (c. 727-697 BC revised dates).
So difficult have commentators found it to secure an historical locus for the events described in the Book of Judith that the almost universal tendency today has become to relegate it to the somewhat meaningless category of "historical fiction", as some kind of literary fusion of all the enemies (Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, etc.) with whom ancient Israel ever had to contend. This is not entirely surprising in that whoever might aspire to show the historicity of the book tends to choke right at the start, with verse 1:1:"It was the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchednezzar, who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. In those days Arphaxad ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana". At first appearance, we have here a great Babylonian king, "Nebuchednezzar", ruling over an Assyrian capital city, "Nineveh", that had ceased to exist several years before Nebuchednezzar's rule. And that Babylonian king, in Assyria, will in that very year - as we learn a bit further on in verse 5 - make war on the Medes, who were in fact the allies of Nebuchednezzar; the Medes in Judith being ruled by "Arphaxad", a historical unknown. And, to complete this historical potpourri, Nebuchednezzar's commander-in-chief, introduced into the narrative in chapter 2, will be found to have a name that is considered to be Persian, "Holofernes", as will be thought to be the case also with his chief eunuch, "Bagoas". No wonder then that earlier commentators had sought for the book's historical locus in periods ranging over hundreds of years. "Attempts have been made to identify the Nebuchadnezzar of the story with Assurbanipal, Xerxes I, Artaxerxes Ochus, Antiochus Epiphanes: Arphaxad with Deioces or Phraortes" .
My starting point for anchoring the Judith narrative, which I had considered historical from my very first reading of it, was to locate the story's main incident in history. And then, after that, to attempt to tackle the details. Now there was only one incident in the entire history of the ancient Jews when a massive, world-conquering Assyrian army almost 200,000-strong had been stopped in its tracks as it marched to conquer Jerusalem. That was the demise of Sennacherib's army in c.700 BC.
Having the core of the story securely in hand, one could then proceed to fix up the details. But this was easier said than done, because one then encounters the hotly-debated problems associated with Sennacherib's invasions of the west. How many times did the Assyrian confront Jerusalem? In what campaign did the destruction of his army occur? And how did it occur? . I was confident that I at least already had the details for this last question fully revealed in the Book of Judith.
There is also the belief that Sennacherib fought no great wars with the Medes, hardly went near them in fact. This issue, however, will be found to be irrelevant. But the greatest problem of all is, as we shall see, the suggestion in the Septuagint version of Judith that the whole drama may belong to a post-exilic era after the destruction of the Temple. Such is no doubt the main reason why commentators do not usually even consider the era of Sennacherib as being relevant for Judith, as is the case with the quote accompanying footnote  above. More popular choices for Judith's era have been:
1 - Ashurbanipal. The emphasis on the Medes had led certain able commentators in the past, wishing to uphold the historical integrity of the Book of Judith, to try to locate it to the era of the Assyrian king, Ashurbanipal (c.650 BC), grandson of Sennacherib. They claim to find similarities especially in regard to Ashurbanipal's war with the Median Phraortes, and the Judæan king Manasseh's being held by the Assyrians in Babylon, leaving Jerusalem temporarily king-less; this last accounting for the fact that there is no Judaean king mentioned in the entire Judith narrative. The Ashurbanipal scenario has the advantage too of preserving the pervading Assyrian element in Judith, which is frankly 'a given'. But there are important aspects as well that are thought not to fit Ashurbanipal's era. To give one example, Ashurbanipal never suffered the kind of reverse at the hands of the Jews that was suffered by "Nebuchednezzar". Again, Judith is said to have lived to the age of 105 and Israel was not troubled again during her lifetime nor for long afterwards (cf. 16:23, 25). M. Leahy has observed : "It seems, therefore, that Judith's glorious deed cannot have taken place in the reign of Ashurbanipal, because [King] Josias of Judah was defeated and slain at Megiddo in 609".
2 - Artaxerxes III 'Ochus'. Others have suggested that the period in question was c.352 BC, when Artaxerxes 'Ochus' is thought to have invaded Palestine en route to Egypt, and "Holofernes", a Cappadocian prince, fought against Egypt . "Holofernes" and "Bagoas" are considered to be "definitely Persian names" . See footnotes [6, 73], though, for problems associated with Persia, (Arta-)Xerxes.
3 - Second Commonwealth. For others, the political set-up, the absence of any mention of a king, and with a gerousia, "the people's Council of Elders" sitting in Jerusalem (Judith 4:8), has confirmed them in their view that Judith pertains to the time of the Second Commonwealth period, when Jerusalem was ruled by only a council, and no king. But it should be noted that the Greek word translated as "Council", gerousiã, is the one used also of the "ancients" in Leviticus 9:1 (Hebrew , "zaqen"). So it could simply mean the 'elders' of Jerusalem. And indeed we find "the elders of the town" also guarding Judith's town of "Bethulia" at the time of the Assyrian invasion (Judith 6:16).
4 - Maccabees. For others again, the socio-political situation more exactly fits the Maccabean age. Thus "Nebuchednezzar" is to be identified with one or other Greek ruler (e.g. Antiochus Epiphanes) who hated the Jews and who had ordered armies against the beleaguered Jerusalem.
Each of these proposed scenarios has points in its favour. Each has its defects. None of them, but for Sennacherib's era, has the main incident.
Virtually all of the details in the Book of Judith can be, it will be seen, exactly fitted to the era of Sennacherib and Hezekiah. The very few that cannot have to be put down to copyists' mistakes. Let us now examine the Book of Judith chapter by chapter, according to our Hezekiah-Sennacherib context.
"Twelfth year". A king of Assyria very close to Sennacherib did in fact successfully wage an eastern war against a stubborn opponent in the former's "twelfth year". That was Sargon, thought to be Sennacherib's father, who tells us :"In my twelfth year of reign (Merodach-baladan) .... For 12 years, against the will (heart) of the gods, he held sway over Babylon ...". But I have shown recently in my Assyrian revision that Sargon was in fact Sennacherib himself, who ruled at Nineveh (and was in fact a great conqueror of the Medes).
Moreover, I have argued that the so-called 'Middle' Babylonian king, Nebuchednezzar I (c.1000 BC, conventional), was in fact Sargon/Sennacherib as ruler of Babylon. Sennacherib began to rule Babylon in fact even before his rule over Assyria had commenced .
This immediately accounts for one of the Book of Judith's most controversial details, having a "Nebuchednezzar" ruling over the Assyrians at Nineveh.
Given this premise, then "Arphaxad" can only be Merodach-baladan of Babylon (cf. 2 Kings 20:12; Isaiah 39:1), whose Chaldean origin is reflected in the name, "Arphaxad", i.e., 'Ur of the Chaldees'. And that is confirmed by what we are told in verse 6: "Thus, many nations joined the forces of the Chaldeans", including the Aramaeans and the "Elymeans" (Elamites), perennial allies of Babylon against Assyria.
(For a map go Here)
Thus we can isolate, as a copyist's mistake, "Medes" and "Ecbatana", and also "Ragau" mentioned in Judith 1:5. Now it is interesting to note that these very same entities, "Media", "Ecbatana" and "Rages" have been wrongly added to another pseudepigraphal book, Tobit, causing havoc with that book's geography. Young Tobias in company with the angel Raphael, travelling supposedly from Nineveh to the Median locations of "Ecbatana" and "Rages" (therefore necessarily travelling eastwards), is said to have arrived in the evening at the "Tigris" river (to the west of Nineveh).
That of course is a geographical impossibility.
Moreover, whereas according to Tobit 5:6:"It usually takes two full days to get from Ecbatana to Rages. Rages lies in the mountains and Ecbatana in the middle of the plain", the actual Median Ecbatana and Rages are almost two hundred miles apart, so that it took Alexander the Great and his men eleven days to cover the distance, riding at full gallop with some of their horses dying underneath them . These obvious geographical inaccuracies in extant versions of Tobit have led at least one commentator to remark : "[The angel] Raphael knows the journey of life far better than the route to Media".
One can unravel this whole geographical puzzle though with the help of some lesser known versions of the much-copied Tobit . These give, instead of Media, "Midian"; and, instead of Ecbatana, "Bathania" (i.e. Batanæa or Bashan). That makes all the difference! Accordingly, the young Tobias would indeed have been travelling westwards, from Nineveh, across the Tigris, to Batanæa in Midian (Transjordan) - with his back to Media. Herodotus  had noted that there was also an "Ecbatana in Syria", as distinct from the Median city of that name. And "Rages", said in one version of Tobit to be "situated in the mount of Ecbatana" (5:8), two full miles distant, can only be the city of Damascus in the mountains of Bashan, 50 miles from Nawa at the centre of Batanæa, and indeed two days distance according to Jâkût el-Hamawi: "Between Nawa and Damascus is two days' journey ..." .
The Vulgate of Tobit helpfully gives "Charan" (i.e. Haran) "in the midway to Nineveh" (11:1). Haran is more or less "midway" between Damascus and Nineveh (if old Tobit be taken as speaking to his son by way of a rough approximation, as one does when directing a person on a journey).
So a copyist has obviously corrupted the original Tobit, that was perfectly accurate from a geographical point of view, and turned it all into a nonsense. The same applies to parts of Judith.
In the context of my revision of the Judith era, the first verse of the Book of Judith actually needs very little alteration. It can be re-cast as follows: "It was the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchednezzar [I = Sargon/Sennacherib], who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. In those days Merodach-baladan ruled over the Chaldeans in Babylon".
"Nineveh", when qualified as the "great city", is a biblical term for a complex of cities, not necessarily just the classical Nineveh alone (cf. Genesis 10:12; Jonah 1:2; 3:3).
Presumably the "He" who is said to have greatly fortified "Ecbatana" [i.e. Babylon] at the time, as we read in verse 2, refers to the Chaldean king, Merodach-baladan. He was indeed a great builder. Or did the "He" originally pertain to the Assyrian king? Certainly Sennacherib, too, was doing a lot of building at the time, both on classical Nineveh and, more notably, on his jewel city of Dur-Sharrukin ('Sargonsville').
Arioch - !
In verse 6 we are introduced to one who will turn out to be a most fascinating character, "Arioch, king of the Elymeans". What this late footnote is actually meant to do is to precisify for those reading Judith the region of the Hydaspes (var. Choaspes), and along the plain, from where Elamite troops rallied to the Chaldean cause, by adding that it was the same region as that over which Arioch (var. Erioch) ruled. But commentators express puzzlement about him. Who was this Arioch? And if he were such an unknown, then what was the value of this gloss for the early readers?
An editor, apparently failing to realise that this person, given as Arioch, was the very same as the Achior who figures so prominently throughout the main story of Judith, has caused confusion by calling him by the different name of Arioch. He should have written: "Achior ruled the Elymæans".
The Book of Tobit tells us more. Some time after the destruction of Sennacherib's armies, he who had been Sennacherib's Rabshakeh () (2 Kings 18:17; Isaiah 36:2), or Cupbearer, was appointed governor (or 'king') of Elymaïs (Elam) (cf. 1:18,21: 2:10). This was Tobit's very nephew, Ahikar ('Achior' in the Vulgate), of the northern tribe of Naphtali (cf. Tobit 1:1).
Now the New Catholic Encyclopedia, whilst incorrectly suggesting that: "There does not appear to be any demonstrable connection between this Achior [of Judith] and the Ahikar of the [legendary] Aramaic Story", confirms however that the name Achior can be the same as Ahikar :
A certain Achior is mentioned in four passages of the Book of Tobit. He is presented as chief administrator and royal adviser ("keeper of the seal") under Esarhaddon and is claimed as Tobit's nephew (1:21-22) and friend (2:10).
... In view of these striking similarities there can be little doubt that this Achior is to be identified with Ahikar of the Aramaic Story. Moreover, the spelling of the name in the Greek text  eliminates any difficulty on that score.
But Tobit's nephew Ahikar (Achior) ruled Elam, not then in Sennacherib's 12th year, when he was a high officer in the Assyrian army, but (about a decade) later, during the reign of Ashurbanipal , when he was sent to Elam. From there it is smooth running to make the comparison:
"Achior ... Elymæans" (Judith); "Ahikar ... Elymaïs" (Tobit).
Suffice it to say here that this ubiquitous personage, Achior the Cupbearer, would have been the eyewitness extraordinaire to the detailed plans and preparations regarding the eastern war between the Assyrians and the Chaldean coalition as described in Judith 1.
The Defeat of Merodach-baladan
The Assyrian king, as he was wont to do, sent messengers to all the nations that he had brought into submission in his previous campaigns, eastern and western - from Persia to Ethiopia - to enlist help in his war against Merodach-baladan (vv. 7-11). But these blatantly refused. This refusal that so infuriated the Great King was the catalyst for the story's main drama, the invasion of the west, including Israel.
Merodach-baladan, who had once sent his own envoys to Hezekiah (Isaiah 39), and who had been a thorn in Assyria's side even since the time of Tiglath-pileser III, was defeated once and for all, and slain according to the Septuagint version of Judith (v.15). His city was captured and plundered. This was now in the Assyrian king's "seventeenth year", five years after the war had commenced (vv. 13-15). It would equate with Sennacherib's Eighth Campaign, in which he brutally destroyed Babylon: though it is thought not as completely as Sennacherib might have claimed.
The king then "returned to Nineveh, he and all his combined forces, a vast body of troops; and there …rested and feasted for one hundred and twenty days" (v.16).
This chapter opens with a precise date: "In the eighteenth year, on the twenty-second day of the first month …". Plans were now being set in motion for the Great King's war of revenge against his recalcitrant subjects. Achior the Rabshakeh would no doubt have attended the war council, along with Sennacherib's other "ministers and nobles", during which the king set before them his secret plan" the destruction of all the disobedient (v.2).
We are now introduced for the first time to "Holofernes", the commander-in-chief of the Assyrian army, whom I have identified in my Assyrian revision with Sennacherib's own son, Esarhaddon. The latter had already served for some years as Sennacherib's appointee over Babylon, and had undertaken his own campaigns, even against Egypt. He is described as "second only to the king himself" (v.4). He held a rank far greater even than the Turtan. He was in fact viceroy to the king and his named successor. As in history, so in Judith, does he remain loyal to his father, Sennacherib, showing the greatest contempt and hatred for those who had resisted his predecessors.
The Great King now orders his commander-in-chief to organise an army of foot-soldiers 120,000-strong (the same sized force that Shalmaneser III had fielded at the Battle of Qarqar about a century and a half earlier ), plus 12,000 cavalry (v.5). 'Go out against all the kingdoms of the west, and against them especially that despised my commandments' (2:5). Previously, at the Council, the king had, in typically Assyrian fashion, referred to the "wickedness" of these rebellious nations (2:2). Indeed the Assyrians were wont to call "sinners" whomsoever would disobey them and their gods. There is plenty of this throughout the Book of Judith. And Sargon will record, regarding for example his raids into the provinces of king Midas : "Not a sinner escaped".
The Great King's further command that the westerners "prepare earth and water" (v.7) a sign of their submission, is considered to be a Persian element, associated for instance with Xerxes' western invasion. Persia may not have been where this custom originated, however. [Refer again to footnotes [6, 73].
The immense army that departed Nineveh, accompanied by its baggage train and transport animals, is described as follows: "Along with them went a mixed crowd like a swarm of locusts, like the dust of the earth - a multitude that could not be counted" (v.20). Sargon had, with reference to a campaign in his Year 6, used for his armies that exact same metaphor, word for word as is here used in Judith : "In the anger of my heart I overran (lit., covered) these lands like [a swarm] of locusts ...".
The prophet Joel was almost certainly referring to the same nation's army, rather than to flying insects, when he spoke of an invasion of locusts (1:4) which he immediately metamorphosises into "a nation has invaded my land" (v.6), and later a "northern army" (2:20), to lay it waste utterly. It was not uncommon for the prophets to use beast-like metaphor to describe an enemy. Had not Isaiah himself referred to successive neo-Assyrian kings in similar, un-endearing metaphor, as snakes and dragons? (Isaiah 14:29):
Do not rejoice, whole country of Philistia,|
because the rod that beat you has broken,
since the serpent's stock can still produce a basilisk
and the offspring of that will be a flying dragon.
Joel again, referring to the typical Assyrian assault by escalade, exclaimed:"They run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war" (2:7). A footnote to Douay's Joel 2:20 reads: "The northern enemy. Some understand this of Holofernes and his army; others, of locusts".
Esarhaddon had indeed greatly augmented the Assyrian army (cf. Judith 2:14-18) :
In addition (?) ......... the charioteers (?) of the bodyguard (?), cavalry of the bodyguard(?), governors, many of them (?), chiefs (captains) (of?) the bowmen (kitkittu), the workmen, the sappers, the shield-(bearers), the "killers", the farmers, the shepherds, the gardeners, to the masses of Assur's host and to the (military) establishment of the former kings, my fathers, in large numbers, I added and Assyria, to its farthest border, I filled up like a quiver.
New Western Campaign
Whilst Sennacherib could claim this western campaign as his own, he did not personally lead it. His plan was, as with his Third Campaign in which he followed up his Turtan's successes, to come afterwards. Thus he informs his commander-in-chief:
'You shall go and seize all their territory for me in advance. They must yield themselves to you, and you shall hold them for me until the day of their punishment' (v.10).
The Judith narrative of the Assyrian army's march westwards, that commentators have found difficult to follow in all of its stages, may perhaps be an actual synthesis of several of Esarhaddon's campaigns. Esarhaddon is considered to have been a most potent king. A first difficulty in regard to reconstructing these events is the corrupt nature of Esarhaddon's extant documents. Luckenbill tells of their deficient state : "Owing to the condition in which the documents have come down to us, and to the fact that the scribes did not arrange the events of the king's reign according to years or campaigns, the modern editor's task becomes somewhat difficult".
A second difficulty is that the account of the route taken by the Assyrian army, from Nineveh, varies with the different versions of Judith. Let us take up J. Simons' account of it in its various stages :
v.21: after mentioning NINEVE as Holofernes' starting-point this verse deals with the first stage of the expedition, i.e. a "three days march" which brings the army to the border of the enemy country, viz. to "the plain of Bectileth", which was apparently the site of a base-camp close to the general area of military operations (similar to the camp on the plain (of) Esdrelon * before the final stage of these operations: iii 10);|
b) v.22 relates the opening proper of the military operations, viz. by saying that the army leaves the base-camp on the plain and moves up the mountain-land (eíò thn òreinhn). |
|c)||V.27: (from this mountain-land) the army "descends into the plain of DAMASCUS", the territory first to suffer;|
|d)||V.28: the chastisement of the land of DAMASCUS causes a panic in the "coastland" (), from where several cities mentioned by name send ambassadors to offer submission (iii 1 ff.).|
As regards the cartographic interpretation of this part of the expedition preceding that attack on Judaea * itself we submit the following remarks:
Independently of every hypothesis or reconstruction of Holofernes' expedition it appears that the transmitted text does not mention Cilicia * (v.21) as its objective or partial goal.
Moreover, "Upper Cilicia" as an indication of the location of "the plain Bectileth" ("Bectileth near the mountain which lies to the left - north - of Upper Cilicia" or Cilicia above the Taurus Mountains) is completely out of the way which starts at NINEVE and is directed towards Syria-Palestine.
We suspect, therefore, that has been inserted (perhaps in replacement of some other original reading) in order to adjust the account of the campaign to the terms of I 7 and I 12.
Secondly, "the plain of Bectileth" mentioned as the terminus of the first stage of Holofernes' advance seems to us simply the Syrian beqã' () between Libanos and Antilibanos * mentioned in I 7. Holofernes' base-camp was not in the centre of the plain ("") must have developed from or be the remaining part of a statement to this effect) but "near the mountains on the left (north) side", in other words: at the foot of the Antilibanos* (cp. Its modern name ""). It is this mountain-ridge () which the army has to climb (v.22) before "sweeping down () on the plain of DAMASCUS" (v. 27).
In the third place the text names (v. 28) the coastal towns, where the fate of DAMASCUS raises a panic. Most of these names create no problems:
Sidon = saidã
Tyrus = sûr
Jemnaa = Jamnia ….
Azotus = isdûd ….
Ascalon = 'asqalãn ….
Some mss. add: Gaza = ghazzeh.
The remaining two are obscure. Ocina seems to have been somewhere between Tyrus and Jemnaa and is for this reason usually identified with 'acco = 'akkã …. , which neither because of the name itself nor on the ground of its location … can be reasonably considered to render Hebrew "dor" …is probably but a duplicate of TYRUS (cp. Hebr: Sor). It is possible that the distinction between the island-city and the settlement on the mainland (Palaetyrus) accounts for the duplication.
The very presence of the Assyrian armies in the north was enough to fill with dread the inhabitants of the more southerly cities. Indeed Sennacherib, in his Third Campaign, had needed only to put the great island-city of Tyre under pressure - without actually succeeding in capturing it - to cause most of the southern confederates of Hezekiah to sue for peace. In the case of Holofernes, the assault on Damascus seems to have been the catalyst for mass submission. And these peoples had good reason to be fearful. Esarhaddon, ever loyal to his father, was thus especially vengeful against rebellious kings, carrying out his father's orders to the letter.|
|1||"Those who were insolent toward the kings, my fathers, and committed [crimes]", Esarhaddon raged, "the corpses of their warriors I forbade to be buried" .|
|2||"Abdi-Milkutti [king of Sidon ... I pulled out of the sea, like a fish. I cut off his head.... His people, from far and near ..., which were countless ... I deported to Assyria" .|
|3||"... I threw up earthworks against Ba'lu, king of Tyre, who had put his trust in his friend Tirhakah ..., king of Ethiopia, had thrown off my royal yoke and had sent me insolent (messages). Food and drink (water) (which would) keep them alive, I withheld ..." .|
Baal of Tyre (likely the Tubaal whom Sennacherib had set up as ruler of Tyre during his Third Campaign) and Tirhakah are thought to be the two figures depicted at Esarhaddon's feet in the victory (Senjirli) stele the Assyrian set up in northern Syria. Esarhaddon holds a cup in his right hand and from the left hand extend the ropes ("reins") which pass through the lips of these two conquered figures .
The reaction of the southern nations was, by this stage, entirely predictable:
Verse 1:"They therefore sent messengers to [Holofernes] to sue for peace in these words: 'We the servants of Nebuchednezzar, the Great King, lie prostrate before you. Do with us whatever you will …'.".
Holofernes needed little prompting. "He stationed garrisons in the fortified towns and took picked men from them as auxiliaries" (v.6). Thus we are going to find Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, and coastal peoples, formerly part of the revolt against Assyria, now serving in the Assyrian ranks and providing vital intelligence to Holofernes.
To the Plain of Esdraelon
The next crucial stopping point of the Assyrian army after its raids on the region of Damascus will effectively be its last:"Then [Holofernes] came toward Esdraelon, near Dothan, facing the great ridge of Judea; he camped between Geba and Scythopolis, and remained for a whole month in order to collect all the supplies for his army"(v.9).
Simons thinks that the reference in the Vulgate version to the Assyrians coming at this stage to"the Idumæans into the land of Gabaa" (3:14) should more appropriately be rendered"the Judæans ... Gabaa" . Gabaa would then correspond to Geba(just possibly Gilboa) in the Esdraelon (Jezreel) plain.
Even though this northern region had been overrun by Assyria almost a decade earlier, the Judaeans had apparently since absorbed it back into their kingdom. Perhaps this was the beginning of the fulfillment of Isaiah's prediction at the former time of calamity:"Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold a far-stretching land"(33:17). Hezekiah's propensity to act as a new King David by uniting the entire country as one again, with no independent northern kingdom, must have greatly annoyed the Assyrians, who had previously spoken of"the wide territory of Judah" (rapshu nagû (matu) Ya-û-di) .
Whilst we have no information that Sennacherib's Turtan previously, nor Sennacherib himself in his Third Campaign, had actually fought against and captured this northern region, we are quite entitled to presume that such must have been the case. It would be vitally important for the Assyrian Wehrmacht to secure the Samarian highlands before attempting to storm Jerusalem. G. Smith tells how a would-be attacker of Jerusalem should set about achieving his aim :
Judæa has been called impregnable, but, as we have seen, the adjective exaggerates ....
[It], in fact, has been overrun as often as England. And yet, like England, Judæa, though not impregnable, has the advantages of insularity .... So open at many points, the land was yet sufficiently unpromising and remote to keep unprovoked foreigners away.
.... There was this further difficulty. Judæa's borders may be more or less open, but they are such as to compensate for each other's weaknesses. For an invader might come over one frontier and make it his own; but the defeated nation could retreat upon any of the others .... hence we never find, so far as I know, any successful invasion but one of Judæa, which was not delivered across two of her borders. The exception was the First Crusade; and there is enough to account for it in the laxity of the defence it encountered.
It is significant that neither of the two greatest invaders of Judæa, who feared a real defence of her central plateau, ventured upon this till they had mastered the rest of Palestine, and occupied the strongholds round the rest of Palestine.
Vespasian not only overran Galilee and Samaria, but spent nearly another year in taking and fortifying Jamnia, Ashdod [names that occur also in the Book of Judith, incidentally], and Hadid in the west, Bethel and Gophna to the north, Jericho to the east, and Hebron with other "Idumæan strongholds" to the south, before he let slip his impatient legions upon Jerusalem.
Similarly, in 1187, the Caliph Saladin, even after his victory at [the Horns of] Hattin, did not venture to attack Jerusalem till the Jordan Valley, most of the Maritime Plain, with Ashkelon and even Beit-Jibrin, had fallen into his hands. Nothing could more clearly prove that Judæa, though not impregnable, was extremely difficult to take, and that a rush across one of her borders, like that of Cestius Gallus in A.D. 66, was sure to end in disaster. To succeed, an invader must master at least two of her frontiers, both to prevent the nation from rallying and to secure sources of supplies.
W. Shea, in his discussion of the Palestinian strategy of pharaoh Sosenk I , shows that this pharaoh had made sure of his firstly securing northern forts like Shechem and Tirzah (even though he was invading Palestine from the south) before venturing an assault on Jerusalem. From Smith's and Shea's useful explanations one can understand why"Holofernes", and Sennacherib (and his Turtan) before him, had gone to such great lengths firstly to secure all of the coastal strongholds, before engaging in an assault on the highlands. Sennacherib it seems, moreover, was a "cautious and politic" ruler .
And the Assyrian strategy at the time of Judith can I think be understood as an assault on"at least two of [Jerusalem's] frontiers" (coastal and highland), as Smith has suggested was necessary for a successful outcome.
It makes a good deal of sense for the militarily astute"Holofernes" to be encamped with his large army in the region of Dothan, ready to begin the assault from the northernmost sector of the central plateau.
But we need to cross over to the next chapter of Judith to learn that the Jews were in fact expecting a possible assault from the direction of Samaria.
It is clear from verses 1-6 that the Jewish leaders had ordered the people to seize the mountain defiles in Samaria as well as those in Judæa:
When the Isrælites living in Judæa heard how Holofernes, general-in-chief of Nebuchednezzar king of the Assyrians, had treated the various nations, first plundering their temples and then destroying them, they were thoroughly alarmed at his approach and trembled for Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord their God. They had returned from captivity only a short time before, and the resettlement of the people in Judæa and the reconsecration of the sacred furnishings, of the altar, and of the Temple, which had been profaned, were of recent date. They therefore alerted the whole of Samaria, Kona, Beth-horon, Belmain, Jericho, Choba, Aesora and the Salem valley.
They occupied the summits of the highest mountains and fortified the villages on them; they laid in supplies for the coming war, as the fields had just been harvested. Joakim the high priest ... wrote to the inhabitants of Bethulia and Betomesthaim, two towns facing Esdrælon, towards the plain of Dothan.
This portion of text from Judith 4 - especially when coupled with a statement made by Achior in 5:18 (Septuagint version), in regard to these Israelites who were now putting up defences against the Assyrian army, that:'The temple of their God was razed to the ground, and their towns were occupied by their enemies' - may at first appear to be enormously problematical for our reconstruction. The Temple was only"razed to the ground" at the time of Nebuchednezzar II of Babylon. But since this highly significant incident of the Temple's being razed is mentioned only in the Septuagint version of Judith, but is noticeably absent from the Douay version, then it needs to be immediately queried. It is hardly a matter that would be overlooked and may therefore be an intrusion.
Achior refers to it in his speech to the Assyrian war council, when giving his history of Israel; but it is surprisingly not alluded to in the same version a chapter earlier, when the Temple is said to have been only"profaned" (4:3), not"razed". There is of course an enormous difference between the Temple's being profaned, which king Hezekiah did:
The King of Assyria demanded of king Hezekiah of Judah three hundred talents of silver and thirty talents of gold. Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the House of the Lord and in the treasuries of the king's house. At that time Hezekiah stripped the gold from the doors of the Temple of the Lord, and from the doorposts that king Hezekiah of Judah had overlaid and gave it to the king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:14-16).
... and its being burning it to the ground, which Nebuchednezzar's Babylonian forces would do more than a century after Hezekiah had died!
Whilst a superficial reading of Judith 4 and 5 might give the impression that it was the return from the Babylonian Captivity to which the writer is referring, I think the Book of Judith supplies sufficient clues for us to realise that this could not have been the case. The main clue I suggest is the pervasive Assyrian element throughout the book, culminating in a defeat for the Assyrians near Dothan that has no place whatsoever in the fortunes of Nebuchednezzar II. Both the elements"profanation" and "captivity" are relevant to events associated with the tumultuous former invasions by the Assyrians. These are what I think are probably being referred to in this part of the Book of Judith. More problematical are the Septuagint's references to"returned from captivity", "people of Judæa newly gathered together". I would consider these to be later intrusive elements into the Book of Judith, with the Babylonian Captivity in mind.
Hezekiah must have done again what he had done at the very beginning of his rule, following on from the profanation and neglect of the Temple by his father, Ahaz. That was to order the priests and Levites to repair and cleanse the Temple, its altar and all the sacred vessels (II Chronicles 29:3-30).
Now who was actually leading the priests at the time? We are going to find that his name was Eliakim/Joakim
The High-Priest, Joakim
Instead of a king to stir up the people, as Hezekiah had done at the commencement of Sennacherib's invasion (II Chronicles 32:2-8), Judith 4:6-7 introduces us to:
The high priest, Joakim, who was in Jerusalem at the time [who] wrote to the people of Bethulia and Betomesthaim, which faces Esdraelon opposite the plain near Dothan, ordering them to seize the mountain passes, since by them Judea could be invaded ….
The fact that the name Joakim is interchangeable with Eliakim- and a fortiori that Joakim the high priest is otherwise named Eliakim in the Douay version of Judith - leads me to identify him with Hezekiah's chief official, Eliakim () son of Hilkiah (2 Kings 18:18; Isaiah 36:3). Already in my Assyrian revision I have identified Hezekiah's official, EliAKIM, with AKHI-Miti (var. Mitinti, i.e. Mattaniah) of the Assyrian records, the ruler of the fort of"Ashdod" (that is, Lachish). The fact that verse 6 above specifies that the high priest Joakim "was in Jerusalem at the time" might indicate that the capital city was not his usual abode. I suggest Lachish was. I have previously argued that the mighty stronghold of Lachish was entrusted to a succession of high priests; the high priest being the foremost official in the land according to I Kings 4:2.
Now, in light of Judith's information that Joakim was in fact the high priest, we need to examine further the office of Hezekiah's illustrious official, Eliakim; his office being usually given as Major-domo, or Chamberlain. It is generally interpreted, from the Hebrew, `', that Eliakim was in charge of palace affairs, literally 'over the palace': bayit, being one of the Hebrew words for"palace".
However, bayit can also mean Temple, and it is interesting to note that in Solomon's time the king's chief men amongst his"high officials" were: the Priest(not Major-domo); the Secretaries and the Recorder(or herald) (I Kings 4:2-3). The last two mentioned offices here are exactly the same as with Hezekiah's trio. Only the first one, that of the Priest, seemingly diverges. I therefore suggest that, as with king Solomon, so was Hezekiah's very first official indeed the Priest, and that the scriptural texts need to be more precisely translated to accommodate this! [! See artist's view of Solomon's Jerusalem.]
I shall now propose further reasons that I think favour this view.
Isaiah's Oracle Regarding Eliakim
We first encounter Eliakim son of Hilkiah in Isaiah 22, in what is regarded as the prophet's 'second oracle' against the official, Shebna. Isaiah predicts that Shebna will be replaced by Eliakim. I have shown in my Assyrian revision that this replacing took effect during Sennacherib's Third Campaign invasion, since Eliakim was by then numero uno.
Shebna was now only second in command.
But the vital question here is: What was Shebna's former office, to which Eliakim had now succeeded? It is usually given as Major-domo or its equivalent; but the Vulgate version of Isaiah 22:15 translates it in terms that could be referring only to the high priesthood. Thus Isaiah is commanded: 'Go, get thee in to him that dwelleth in the tabernacle, to Sobna [Shebna] who is over the Temple ...'.
Moreover, Isaiah describes and praises Eliakim in words that indicate, not only the man's great authority, but that could also be taken as a description of a high priest:"He shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah"(v.21). Strong words when it is considered that Hezekiah himself ruled over the House of Judah; but an appropriate title for a high priest who was, in a sense, ruler over even the king whom he would proclaim and anoint (cf. I Samuel 16:13). Verse 22 describes Eliakim in almost papal terms, virtually word for word with those that Jesus Christ would later address to St. Peter (Matthew 16:19). [31b]
But perhaps the verse in Isaiah's oracular account of Eliakim that reads most like a description of the priestly office is v.24: "On it they will hang all the glory of his father's house, offspring and issue, all the least of vessels from cups to pitchers"; a reference here surely to the priestly vessels. (Cf. I Chronicles 28:17).
It seems most likely, therefore, that Eliakim's office needs to be re-translated as"over the Temple", rather than"over the palace", to correspond with that of the chief official of Solomon's day .
The Book of Joel
The high priest Joakim/Eliakim had, at the height of the Assyrian invasion, called upon Judah to pray and fast. Now this exact situation seems to be reflected in the Book of Joel, in which Joel, thought by some to be a priest and contemporary of the prophet Hoshea, and situated in Jerusalem, calls the nation to fast in the face of the locust-like invader:"Blow the trumpet in Zion; sound the alarm on my holy mountain"(Joel 2:1). Why? Because"a great and powerful army comes; their like has never been from of old, nor will be again after them in ages to come"(v.2). From whence does this army come? From the north:"I will remove the northern army far from you, and drive it into a parched and desolate land"(v.20).
I submit that absolutely nothing substantial in the Book of Joel is out of place in the context of the priest Joakim/Eliakim's call, from Jerusalem, for the nation to fast in the face of Holofernes' invasion. Even the aftermath is correctly anticipated.
The only apparent problem is that, whereas Eliakim's father was Hilkiah, Joel's is given as Pethuel(var. Phatuel or Bethuel) (1:1). This person is not known. The name difference though may not necessarily rule out the link.
I suggest that the identification of JO-EL with the high priest JO-akim/EL-iakim is something that must now be seriously considered. The Book of Joel could greatly supplement our knowledge of this fascinating period.
The Absence of Hezekiah
If Judith really does belong to the time of the demise of Sennacherib's army, as I am arguing in this commentary, then we should expect mention in the book, not only of Sennacherib (whom we have in fact identified), but also - from the Palestinian perspective - mention of Hezekiah, and Eliakim (now identified), and, most likely, of Isaiah too (he will be identified in Judith 6).
So where is King Hezekiah in the Book of Judith?
The fact is that he is missing, and this is another major reason why commentators would not even consider c.700 BC as the historical locus for the Book of Judith.
That Hezekiah was a proud king is attested by his foe Sennacherib himself who refers to him as "the strong proud Hezekiah" . Indeed Boutflower thought that the reason why Hezekiah did not go out in person to meet the Assyrian delegation (cf. II Chronicles 32:31; Isaiah 39:1-8) was because Sennacherib had not come to him in person. Just as Sennacherib had sent his three chief officials, namely, "Turtan and Rabsaris, and Rabshakeh" (II Kings 18:17), so did the proud Hezekiah respond in kind by sending out his three chief men, the High-priest, the Secretary and the Recorder.
A possible reason though for Hezekiah's absence from this first crucial encounter (and this still needs to be chronologically determined) may be found rather in the words of II Chronicles 32:24 (cf. Isaiah 38),"In those days, Hezekiah fell ill and was at the point of death"; "those days" referring to the culminating point of the earlier Assyrian invasion (cf. vv.9-19). The"strong" king, Hezekiah ( means 'strong'), may have been, at that stage, too sick and feeble to come out, rather than too proud. Pride was probably no longer the factor, as Hezekiah's legendary pride had already been well and truly humbled by Sennacherib at about this time (II Kings 18:13-16).
Sure Hezekiah was still cognizant of what was going on (II Chronicles 32:20), but, bed-ridden, he was unable to provide for his subjects that much-needed physical presence.
But there is a further subtle point to be appreciated in connection with this rendezvous with the Rabshakeh at the Upper Pool (that I have previously located near Bahurim, and not right at Jerusalem). Whereas Sennacherib had actively "sent", (2.Kings 18:17-19), his three officials to Jerusalem, there is no corresponding "sent" recorded in the case of Hezekiah. As the text reads, the initiative in this case would appear to come entirely from the Judæan officials themselves, who "went out", , to the Assyrians. Hezekiah may not have been in control at this stage. His chief official Eliakim was. With the king incapacitated, the leadership of the kingdom had fallen into the hands of the high priest.
And whatever the reason for Hezekiah's non-appearance again now during the invasion of Holofernes, about a decade later, we do at least have that precedent of Hezekiah's absence from the previous occasion. And Joakim/Eliakim is still found to be doing the king's work.
Age may also have been a factor by now in the case of Hezekiah, coupled with the possibility that the king's young son, Manasseh, was now co-regent and effectively king.
Bethulia (For a top edge map go Here)
We encountered the first mention of Judith's town of Bethulia at the beginning of this chapter (v.6). Geography is an important aspect of the Book of Judith. Whilst this new commentary is already seeing formerly obscure characters (e.g. Achior) being filled out and coming to life - and there will soon be more of that - places (geography) too, apart from persons, will sometimes take centre stage. This will be most especially the case with the town of "Bethulia", said to be near Dothan. For, according to Charles : "The question of the historical value of the book [of Judith] turns largely on this name".
Later, when the town does take centre stage, I shall attempt to provide its identification.
We find that the Assyrian army had by now been supplemented by the conquered local peoples. Holofernes' intelligence sources would now provide the commander-in-chief with the surprising information that "the people of Israel", and they alone, had chosen to resist him and were actually preparing for war (vv.1-2). Holofernes, summoning the captive princes, asked them in typically blunt fashion (vv.3-4):
'Tell me, you Canaanites, what people is this that lives in the hill country? What towns do they inhabit? How large is their army, and in what does their power and strength consist? Who rules over them as king and leads their army? And why have they alone, of all who live in the west, refused to come out and meet me?'
The fact that Holofernes was completely ignorant of the identity of this highland people should negate any inclination to link him with the Turtan of the earlier invasion, who would by now presumably have been thoroughly acquainted with the Israelites.
Enter Achior. And we must be very grateful that this illustrious personage was again at hand to be a witness to this new Assyrian council of war. He would later relate to all the citizens of Bethulia all that had transpired at this military council (Judith 6:17). I have already identified Achior with Ahikar, nephew of Tobit, and Sennacherib's Rabshakeh. Given Achior's Israelite background, it is little wonder that Sennacherib had, during his Third Campaign, chosen this particular officer to address the Jews in their own language. That the Rabshakeh was fluent in Aramaïc and Hebrew is attested by the three Judæan officials who went out to meet him, who bade him (Isaiah 36:11-12):
'Please speak to your servants in Aramaic, for we understand it; do not speak to us in the Judæan language within earshot of the people on the ramparts'.
But the Cupbearer-in-chief said, 'Do you think my lord sent me here to say these things to your master or to you? On the contrary, it was to the people sitting on the rampart who, like you, are doomed to eat their own dung and drink their own urine …'.
We should not expect to pick up from this speech very much of the Rabshakeh's own personal view of things, since he was speaking here entirely as the mouthpiece of the Assyrian king, Sennacherib. What we can pick up though is that he was both fluent and forceful. A bold character, he must also have been highly experienced.
Rabshakeh (Assyrian rab-šakê, literally, 'the great man') was, like Turtan, a military title, marking its bearer amongst the greatest of all the officers. It is not surprising to find him in the Book of Judith speaking immediately after the commander-in-chief Holofernes himself.
As an Israelite, moreover, Achior would have been an appropriate person to answer Holofernes' questions concerning the identity of the Israelites.
Achior himself was likely, at this point, a follower of Baal (and probably of the Assyrian god, Assur) rather than of Yahweh (Tobit 1:4,10).
But then there is just one problem with this neat reconstruction of him as an Israelite in the Assyrian army, and it is this:"Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to [Holofernes] ..."(5:5). Achior is said in this verse to be an Ammonite. Whilst that does immediately look to be a major problem, there is one factor - apart from what has already been said about Achior- that makes his being an Ammonite highly unlikely, and that is that Achior will later, in Judith 14, be converted to Judaïsm and will be circumcised. The author of Judith, who is a stickler for the Mosaïc Law, and who writes in fact like a priest or Levite, would hardly have countenanced so flagrant a breach of the Law as having an "Ammonite" received by pious Jews into the assembly of faith, when, according to Moses (Deuteronomy 23:3,4):
No Ammonite or Moabite is to be admitted to the assembly of Yahweh; not even their descendants to the tenth generation ... and this for all time; because they did not come to meet you with bread and water when you were on your way out of Egypt ... and because they hired Balaam ... to curse you.
Judith herself the nation's heroine, who would so scrupulously observe all of the religious ordinances of the Law even whilst in the camp of the Assyrians (Judith 12), would hardly have been a party to this forbidden situation.
Now Achior provides Holofernes with a basic run-down of Israelite history from Abraham to their present day (vv.6-19). Again I ask: Would a pagan Ammonite have been likely to have known the history of Israel in such detail, going back to deep antiquity?
Anyway Holofernes will soon afterwards contemptuously call Achior an "Ephraïmite hireling [or mercenary]" (6:2). And that is a correct designation for him, Ephraim being a common appellation for northern Israel. The whole problem is solved when one recognises that Ahikar was in fact, not an Ammonite, but an Isrælite; though at this stage an uncircumcised one.
This matter concerning whether a native Ammonite could legitimately have been received into Judaïsm (cf. Judith 5:5 & 14:10) needed to be settled because it appears to be the chief reason why the Jews have never accepted the Book of Judith into their scriptural canon, though they have greatly admired the book. Other reasons are the apparent historical and geographical inaccuracies in the book, which can likely be put down to copyists' errors.
Judith Originally Written in Hebrew
Eliakim (Joakim), the high priest of the story, is also traditionally considered to be the author of the Book of Judith . (We already saw that he was 'a man of letters', writing to the northern towns). This would support the view of commentators that this highly pious work, extremely scrupulous about religious observance, appears to have been written by a priest who was most faithful to Mosaïc Law and who evinces a remarkable knowledge of the Old Testament, especially the Psalms.
No doubt the story was written with an enormous amount of eyewitness input from the ubiquitous Achior, whom the high priest would have met after Assyria's defeat. Achior would then have been able to fill in Joakim on all relevant details pertaining to the Assyrian campaign and strategy. Judith herself could have told the priest about her personal encounter with Holofernes in the Assyrian camp. And the high priest himself could have added most of the rest; all the basic narrative of the Assyrian incursion into Judæa and its effect upon Jerusalem. Finally, a later scribe could have added notes and glosses, e.g. about Arioch and how long Judith lived.
I therefore accept the traditional view that Eliakim was the author of the Book of Judith, and that the original version must have been compiled around 700 BC. Unfortunately we do not now have this original version, which modern critics insist must have been written in the Hebrew language, and that Charles thinks was probably called :
, tydvhy hlgm
['Book, Roll of Judith']
The Encyclopedia Judaica, too, insists that the original would have been in Hebrew :
As is clearly evident from its many Hebraisms, the book was originally written in Hebrew (cf., for example, the expressions: "the space of 30 days" (Judith 15:11 Sept.); "all flesh" (Genesis 6:13), as a designation for human beings; "let not thine eye spare" (Isaiah 13:18); "the face of the earth" (Amos 5:8); and "smote with the edge of the sword" (Psalm 89:43), etc.). In the precise Greek translation there is also discernible the special Erez Israel () spelling (the substitution of the " verb by ").
And Charles is equally as insistent about this :
The [Greek] translation is so literal that it can be put back into Hebrew with ease, and in some cases becomes fully intelligible only when so re-translated.
Moreover, the usual lack of particles shows that the writer was under the influence of a foreign idiom, while the constant recurrence of phrases common in late Greek but frequent in Hebrew shows incontestably the language of the original. Such are e.g. , , the frequent use of , , , , , and many more ....
He attributes the confusion of place-names in extant versions of Judith to mistranslation and to errors by copyists [39b]:"The same conclusion is indicated by the confusion in the geographical names, due to the uncertainty in the mind of the translator as well as to mistakes by copyists ...".
According to The Catholic Encyclopedia, the variants in the present text indicate a most ancient original :"With regard to the state of the text it should be noted that the extraordinary variants presented in the various versions are themselves a proof that the versions were derived from a copy dating from a period long antecedent to the time of its translators".
Achior Taken to Bethulia Achior's unexpected apologia on behalf of the Israelites had absolutely stunned the soldiery who were by now all for tearing him "limb from limb" (5:22).
Holofernes, for his part, was absolutely furious with his subordinate. Having succeeded in conquering almost the entire west, he was hardly about to countenance hearing that some obscure mountain folk - "this brood of fugitives from Egypt" as he contemptuously called the Israelites in response to Achior's speech (6:6) - might be able to offer him any meaningful resistance. He thereupon commanded his orderlies to take the insolent Achior and bind him beneath the walls of Bethulia, so that he could suffer, with the people he had just verbally defended, their inevitable fate when the city fell to the Assyrians .
After the Assyrian brigade had managed to secure Achior at Bethulia, and had then retreated from the walls under sling-fire from the townsfolk, the Bethulians went out to fetch him (vv. 10-13). Once safely inside the city, Achior told them his story, and no doubt Judith was there to hear it. Later she would use bits and pieces of information supplied by Achior for her own confrontation with Holofernes, to deceive him.
The magistrates of the town of Bethulia before whom Achior appeared are named:
"…Uzziah son of Micah, of the tribe of Simeon, and Chabris son of Gothoniel, and Charmis son of Melchiel"(v.15). In chapter 8 we shall be told that Judith was also of the tribe of Simeon. Now Simeon was one of the southernmost tribes of Judah, with enclaves down even in the Negev desert (I Chronicles 4:28). Is it therefore a peculiarity having a bastion of the Simeonites situated in the territory of Ephraïm? It certainly would have been in the earliest periods of Israel's settlement in Canaan, but it would be quite allowable from the time of king Asa of Judah (c.C9th BC) onwards; for it is recorded in II Chronicles 15:9 that, at the time of Asa, Simeonites were residing in the north "as aliens" amongst the Ephraïmites and Manassites. The Encyclopedia Judaica elaborates on this in its context of trying to locate the Book of Judith to the Persian era :
Nor ... is the most important geographical detail in the book, namely the reference to a Jewish (Simeonite) settlement on the border of the valley of Dothan, a fabrication. For a combination of various sources (Meg. Ta'an, for 25 Marheshvan (chap. 8); Jos., Ant. 13:275f., 379 f; Wars 1:93f.; and also apparently I Macc. 5:23) shows that at the time of the return in the region of Samaria, in the neighbourhood of what was known as "the cities of Nebhrakta," there was a Jewish-Simeonite settlement (which may in effect have existed as early as in the days of the First Temple and being of Semite origin: cf. II Chron. 34:6, 15:9; and also I Chron. 4:31) ....
Thus there were Simeonites dwelling in this northern part of the land during, and beyond, the divided kingdom era. Let us now try to trace the lines of some of these Simeonites.
"Uzziah son of Micah"
The Simeonite Uzziah, chief magistrate of Bethulia, was apparently not just some obscure northern bureaucrat. He will later be designated in the Douay version as "the prince of Judah" and "the prince of the people of Israel" (Douay Judith 8:34 & 13:23). His thus being obviously a great man in the entire kingdom should make him easy to identify in the context of this revision. I am going to identify Uzziah(Ozias in the Douay) with the great Isaiah himself; and Uzziah's father "Micah", with Isaiah's father, Amos. This will involve a fairly lengthy reconstruction; but it is entirely relevant to this commentary on the Book of Judith in which I am endeavoring to bring to life all of the story's main characters.
Isaiah is usually considered to have been an inhabitant of the southern kingdom, where we find him in earlier days confronting king Ahaz at the Upper Pool (Isaiah 7:3).
But we are not specifically told of his origins, or his tribe, or his place of abode.
Isaiah had a contemporary, also a prophet, who is thought to have belonged to the northern kingdom. This was Hoshea. However, given the perfect contemporaneity between these supposedly 'two' prophets; the similarity of 'their' message; the similarity of 'their' name; and the fact that God used 'their' name and the names of 'their' children as signs and portents for Israel, I must identify Isaiah and Hoshea as the same person. I intend to come back to this in some detail later on, after I have dealt with Isaiah's father. An identification of Isaiah with Hosea though would enable for Isaiah to be residing in the north at the time of Holofernes' invasion.
The Books of Amos/Micah (The Father)
We know that the prophet Amos, generally considered to be Isaiah's father, Amoz, had been enlisted by God to leave his southern dwelling and testify in northern Bethel against the kingdom of Samaria in the days of the Baal-worshipping king, Jeroboam II. Amos' presence there though was not appreciated by the Bethelites, who regarded him as a conspirator from the southern kingdom (Amos 7:10):
Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying 'Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the House of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,
'Jeroboam shall die by the|
and Israel must go into exile
away from his land'.'
The angry Amaziah then ordered Amos to go back to whence he came, namely to Judah (vv.12-13):
And Amaziah said to Amos, 'O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king's sanctuary, and it is the temple of the kingdom'.
To which rough rebuke Amos replied with this important piece of autobiographical information (vv.14-15):
"Then Amos answered Amaziah, 'I am no prophet, nor a prophet's son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the Lord took me from following the flock, and the Lord said to me, 'Go prophesy to my people Israel'.'
Not Amos (Amoz) though, but Micah, is given as the father of Uzziah in the Book of Judith. Actually we can blend Amos with the prophet Micah, and consequently learn more about the southern origins of this famous family. It was certainly a 'family' from the point of view of its striking the same prophetic chord; for commentators have recognised a similar strain in the writings of Amos, Micah, Hosea and Isaiah, whilst not necessarily appreciating the proper (father-to-son) relationship. Thus P. King has written, in regard to the prophet Micah : "... the influence [upon Micah] of Isaiah, also Hosea and Amos, is evident". But it was rather Micah, as Amos, I suggest, who was doing the influencing upon his son, Hosea/Isaiah.
That scholars find an incredible similarity between the prophet Amos and Micah is attested again by King :
Not only did Micah live in the vicinity of Amos' home, Tekoa, but he was like Amos in many respects. He was so much influenced by the spirit of Amos that he has been called "Amos redivivus". Both [sic] rustic prophets attacked in a direct and forceful way the socio-economic abuses of their day.
We know that Micah hailed from the town of "Moresheth" (Micah 1:1) - thought to be Moresheth-Gath, a frontier (or border) town of southern Judah. As for Amos, we are not told specifically that he hailed from Tekoa, situated about 30 km due east of Moresheth-Gath, but only that he was called to the prophetic ministry whilst he "was among the shepherds of Tekoa" (Amos 1:1).
In "Moresheth", in the territory of Judah - a suitable abode too for Simeonites - I suggest that we have the place of origin for both Amos and his son, Isaiah.
We have discussed the circumstances according to which the prophet Amos came to be dwelling in the north. What were the circumstances that took his son Isaiah/Hosea back there, considering that Isaiah had been found witnessing in Jerusalem at the time of Ahaz? I say 'back there' because I would presume that Isaiah had initially accompanied his father to the north. I pick up C. Boutflower' insightful commentary on the matter :
…. If on the above grounds we are led to look upon the typical Immanuel as Isaiah's own son, a very interesting deduction follows:
viz. that within a year or two of Immanuel's birth Isaiah must have left Jerusalem … and gone to live in the now desolated land of Israel. For it is predicted of Immanuel that when he is a young lad two principal articles of his diet will be butter and honey: chap. vii. 15.|
And then, a little further on ... it is explained that this being obliged to depend on butter and honey, will be a consequence of the Assyrian invasion: that owing to the depopulation of the country, the land will go out of cultivation, and what is now vineyards and cornfields will become thickets; but that there will still be pasturage for cattle, and the wild bees will still lay up their honied stores, so that "butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the midst of the land". 
Now since this description of Immanuel's surroundings in his early boyhood's years does not apply to Judah and Jerusalem, but does apply to the land of Israel, and especially to northern Israel, the presumption is that Immanuel while still a young lad was taken by his father to live in the northern kingdom, and into that part of the kingdom whose inhabitants had so lately been carried captive.
What was the reason for the prophet's leaving Judaea and going to live in the desolated land of the Ten Tribes? Boutflower told why he thought it had happened :
In all probability it was the wrath of Ahaz. When Isaiah confronted Ahaz and bade him ask a sign of the LORD his God, the young king's evasive answer showed that he was afraid of the prophet; and as he listened to the terrible denunciations from the lips of Isaiah of the woes that were coming on his country because of the line of policy which he had secretly resolved to pursue, fear must have ripened into dislike and hatred.
Boutflower saw Ahaz as a type of king Herod :
So, then, comparing the antitype with the type, even as Herod sought to destroy the Divine Child whose birth might be supposed to endanger his throne, so Ahaz, from a different motive indeed, may have sought to destroy the typical Immanuel, the prediction concerning whose birth foretold the ruin of Judah at the hands of Assyria. In this case it would not be long safe for the prophet and his son to remain in Jerusalem. But whither shall he go when he leaves the Sacred City? To Ahaz he has spoken of Syria and Israel forming one land though under two kings.
This is because these two powers have for the time being made themselves into one: "Syria is confederate with Ephraim [Israel] ...".
And whilst : "... the days of Ephraim's [Israel's] existence as a separate kingdom are soon to come to an end. Within a few short years Ephraim" will be broken in pieces that it be not a people", eventually the land will be regarded again as one kingdom :
And with this disappearance of the kingdom of Ephraim before his mind the prophet seems to have hailed the thought that the land occupied by the two Jewish kingdoms, so long divided politically, was by Divine intention, no less than by nature, one land. Hence, when telling how the flood of Assyrian invasion will sweep over both kingdoms, he speaks of the two countries, thus for a time submerged, as "thy land, O Immanuel", and Thine in all its "Breadth". If, then, our prophet must leave Judah, he need not leave Immanuel's land: ...
The former "darkness" was that of the Assyrian captivity :
Many of the inhabitants of [the north] ... had been "driven away into thick darkness"; the darkness of a hopeless captivity. The present population was scanty; but in the Messianic age, as the prophet foretells, Jehovah will "multiply the nation" and thus "increase the joy": a joy so great that it can only be compared to the rejoicing before God at the harvest festival, or to the dividing of the spoil after some signal victory. For Assyria's oppressive "yoke" and heavy "burden" no longer rests on the nation: the taskmaster's "staff" no longer descends on its "shoulder". The foe have been put to flight as on that day when the countless hosts of Midian fled before the sword of the Lord and of Gideon.
The prophet's child, Immanuel, signifies a time of renewed hope, a veritable era of peace :
[The Assyrians] have vanished from the scene, and soon all the vestiges of hateful war shall vanish likewise. Those long-laced boots, in which the warriors of the enemy strode proudly amid the tumult, their thick, close-fitting tunics, now dyed yet deeper with blood, shall make fuel for the fire. And the pledge of all this is before his eyes as he looks at his own Immanuel! ….
So Isaiah departed with his family for the safe region of northern Israel. Presumably he went to "Bethulia" facing Dothan across the broad plain of Esdraelon.
Boutflower continues :
The hint of a withdrawal into [northern Israel] … appears to have been lost on king Ahaz, or, if noticed by him, may possibly have been welcomed as giving some hope that he would soon be rid of this troublesome prophet. Fear and dislike were probably the predominating feelings in his breast. There was, therefore, no urgent haste for the prophet to leave Jerusalem at once.
Isaiah was no doubt in the south at the time when Immanuel was born, and also a little later, when at the Lord's command he wrote on a large metal tablet, with a graving-tool FOR MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ. This was done in the presence of two witnesses, one of whom was "Uriah the priest" - whom I have identified in my Assyrian revision with Azuri of Ashdod (Lachish) whom Sargon replaced with (the former's brother?) Akhimiti (our Eliakim) - the other a relative: the object being that when the prophecy involved in the name should be fulfilled, two men of rank would be able to testify to its genuineness. But also for a mute witness, according to Boutflower :
But may there not also have been a further object, viz. that the tablet might speak for the prophet in his absence? For though he still remained on at Jerusalem nearly a year longer until the birth of his third [sic] son, when the name written on the tablet was explained to mean that before the newborn child should be able to call its parents, the crisis, which began with the invasion of Judah by the armies of Syria and Israel, would end with the carrying off by the king of Assyria of the spoils of those two kingdoms; yet when the event took place he was gone, leaving behind him the tablet … to vouch for the genuineness of the inscription and of the prophetic oracle enshrined in that long ... name [i.e. Mahershalalhashbaz].
Thus Isaiah would have been in the north at the right time to be Uzziah of Judith. His father Amos/Micah would, by the time of Holofernes' invasion, have been dead.
Micah and Isaiah (Father and Son)
There must have been considerable overlap in the prophetic ministries of Micah (Amos) and his son, Isaiah. Both prophesied in the time of Hezekiah.
Thus in the Book of Jeremiah, referring to events that occurred more than a century after the ministry of Micah (Amos), we read where "the princes and all the people" protested as follows against those who would have the prophet Jeremiah put to death (Jeremiah 26:16, 18-19):
'This man does not deserve the sentence of death, for he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God .... Micah of Moresheth prophesied in the days of Hezekiah king of Judah, and said to all the people of Judah: 'Thus says the Lord of hosts,
Zion shall be ploughed as a field;|
Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,
and the mountain of the House a wooded height'
Did Hezekiah king of Judah and all of Judah put him to death?|
Did he not fear the Lord and entreat the favour of the Lord, and did not the Lord repent of the evil which He had pronounced against them? But we are about to bring great evil upon ourselves'.
And Isaiah preached in similar language about a ploughing up of Jerusalem by Yahweh.
Thus he warned his people (28:22, 24, 28):
Stop scoffing, then, or your bonds will be tightened further; for I have listened to the warrant of destruction issued against the whole country by the Lord Yahweh Sabaoth.
... Does the ploughman do nothing but plough and turn the soil and harrow it ...?
Does a man crush wheat? No; he does not thresh it endlessly. When he has rolled the drag over it he winnows it without crushing it.
Far more striking even than this is the similarity between one of Micah's'Oracles' regarding the future reign of Yahweh in Zion which is word for word exact with one of his son Isaiah's 'Oracles' on the same subject. I am referring to Micah 4:1-4 and Isaiah 2:2-5.
|MICAH In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of Yahweh will be put on top of the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. The peoples will stream to it, nations without number will come to it; and they will say, 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the temple of the God of Jacob so that He may teach us His ways and we may walk in His paths; since from Zion the Law will go out, and the oracle of Yahweh from Jerusalem'. He will wield authority over many peoples and arbitrate for mighty nations; they will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.||ISAIAH In the days to come the mountain of the Temple of Yahweh shall tower above the mountains and be lifted higher than the hills. All the nations will stream to it, peoples without number will come to it; and they will say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh, to the temple of the God of Jacob that He may teach us His ways so that we may walk in His paths; since the Law will go out from Zion, and the oracle of Yahweh from Jerusalem'. He will wield authority over the nations and adjudicate between many peoples; these will hammer their swords into ploughshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war.|
Micah who, like Isaiah/Hosea, foresaw firstly the terrible destruction of Samaria, and then God's wrath flowing over into Judah, told the people:
This is why I am going to mourn and lament, go barefoot and naked, howl like the jackals, wail like the ostriches. For there is no healing for the blow Yahweh strikes; it reaches into Judah, it knocks at the very door of my people, reaches even unto Jerusalem (vv. 8-9).
When we turn to Isaiah 20 we see that this strange behaviour of going naked and barefoot, performed also by Isaiah, was actually in response to a direct command from Yahweh. And we learn exactly when it occurred (Isaiah 20:1-2):
The year the Turtan (not `cupbearer-in-chief'), sent by Sargon king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and stormed and captured it: at that time Yahweh had spoken through Isaiah son of Amoz. He had said to him, 'Go and undo the sackcloth round your waist and take the sandals off your feet'. The latter had done so, and walked about, naked and barefoot.
This, I suggest, was a father-and-son prophetic combination!
The Books of Hosea/Isaiah (The Son)
- The prophet Isaiah tells us:"Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and portents ..."(8:18). This was notably the case, as we are going to see, in regard to their names.
- Similarly, the names of the children of the prophet Hosea were meant to be prophetic (1:4,6,9).
Boutflower, who wrote marvellously on Isaiah's children, rightly noted the prophetic significance of their names : "Isaiah like Hosea had three children, all of whose names were prophetic"; though he perhaps may not have been right in saying that Isaiah and Hosea each "had three children". I shall be aiming to show here that Isaiah and Hosea were in fact one and the same person, and that therefore, rather than it being a case of two prophets each having three children of their own, it was actually a case of only one person having six children.
We can immediately note some further striking similarities between Isaiah and Hosea:
They belonged to exactly the same era.
Isaiah and Hosea prophesied during precisely the same era (c.740-700 BC).
Thus Isaiah tells us, at the top of his writings:
The vision of Isaiah ..., which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (1:1).
Whilst Hosea repeats verbatim the chronological part of this introduction :
The word of the Lord that came to Hosea ..., in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah ... (1:1).
"Isaiah" (Hebrew Yeshâ'yâhû) signifies: "Yahweh (the Lord) is salvation".
"Hosea" is thought to mean practically the same: "Yahweh (the Lord) is saviour".
Conversely Isaiah, mainly concerned about the fate of Judah in the south, quite often alludes nonetheless to the northern kingdom (e.g. ch's. 7,8,10,14,28). There is a complementarity here.
Hosea describes his revelation as "the word of the Lord"; whereas Isaiah's pertains to a "vision" that he had received.
So far, all that I have said is quite complementary in regard to my theory that Isaiah was Hosea. But now we encounter a discordant note in our symphony - indeed, it is the only apparent disharmony I think that we shall encounter in the Isaiah/Hosea parallel. It is the very same discordant note that we found in our attempted connection of Joel with Joakim/Eliakim: viz. the father's name. I am referring to the fact that, whereas Isaiah refers to himself as "son of Amoz" (1:1), Hosea is "son of Beeri" (1:1).
Actually the explanation of this seeming disharmony will tie in nicely with what further information we glean in Judith 8. So discussion of this matter will be left until then.
The Prophet's Married Life
Let us now proceed to trace the outline of the married life of this composite character, Isaiah/Hosea, with the aid of the details Scripture has supplied about the names of [who I believe to be] his six children; offspring of two women.
2 - First Wife: Gomer, "Wife of Harlotry"
The 'autobiography' actually starts with Hosea: "When the Lord first spoke through Hosea ..." (1:2). The prophet was given the strange command by God to marry an unfaithful woman: "'Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry, for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the Lord'. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim …" (vv.2,3). Biblical scholars have agonised over the type of woman this Gomer might have been: adulteress? harlot? temple-prostitute? But essentially the clue is to be found in the statement above that she was simply a citizen of the land of "great harlotry": namely, the northern kingdom of Israel.
34 Gomer bore the prophet four children, three boys and a girl:
(i) Child No.1: Jezreel ("God sows")
... she conceived and bore him a son.
And the Lord said to him, 'Call his name Jezreel; for yet a little while, and I will punish the House of Jehu for the blood of Jezreel, and I will put an end to the House of Israel. And on that day I will break the bow of Israel in the valley of Jezreel' (vv.3,4-5).
Basically, this refers to the destruction of the northern kingdom of Israel (Samaria) in c.722 BC by the Assyrians. It was also on the fringe of the Jezreel Valley (in Bethulia) that I am proposing the prophet took up his abode.
(ii) Child No.2: Lo-ruhama ("Not pitied")
She conceived again and bore a daughter. And the Lord said to him, 'Call her name Not pitied, for I will no more have pity on the House of Israel, to forgive them at all. But I will have pity on the House of Judah ...' (vv.6,7).
The deliverance of "the House of Judah" from the Assyrians under Sennacherib (c.700 BC) will of course be the fulfillment of the last part of this statement.
(iii) Child No.3: Lo-ammi ("Not My people")
When she had weaned Not pitied, she conceived and bore a son. And the Lord said, 'Call his name Not My people, for you are not My people and I am not your God' (vv.8-9).
Isaiah too, as we saw, was meant to be a "sign" and a "portent" for his people. He is a figure of the Saviour-God, full of mercy and forgiveness towards His erring people. These qualities become especially apparent (in this reconstruction) in his forgiving attitude towards his adulteress wife, Gomer, who is so typical of her God-forgetting nation. The prophet, in his vicissitudinous relationship with Gomer, was pantomiming God's own 'difficulties' with unfaithful Israel. And the names of the prophet's children were presumably meant to be a reproach to both Gomer and the Israelites:
Plead with your mother, plead - for she is not my wife, and I am not her husband - that she put away her harlotry from her face, and her adultery from between her breasts; lest I strip her naked and make her as the day she was born .... For their mother has played the harlot; she that conceived them has acted shamefully (2:2-3,5).
Change of Names
One cannot read the account of Gomer's subsequent change of heart and return to her husband without recalling the classic story of the "Prodigal Son" (Luke 15:11-32). The adulteress, finding that things were not turning out too well for her whilst trying her fortune amongst other company, away from her husband, began to recall the better days that she had left behind. "Then she shall say, 'I will go and return to my first husband, for it was better with me then than now'." (v. 7). She knew he would receive her back.
This situation was a reminder that Yahweh was likewise prepared to receive back his unfaithful people, upon whom He had begun to take pity: "And in that day, says the Lord, you will call Me, 'My husband', and no longer will you call me, 'My Baal'.
... and I will sow [Jezreel] for Myself in the land. And I will have pity on Not pitied [Lo-ruhama], And I will say to Not My people [Lo-ammi], 'You are My people' ..." (2:16,23). Fittingly, therefore, God tells the prophet to reclaim his same wife, Gomer, whom he now apparently has to buy back (redeem):
'Go again, love a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress; even as the Lord loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods ...'. So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, 'You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so I will also be to you'. For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterwards the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king ... (3:1,2-4,5).
Although the prophet's own family was now rehabilitated, such sadly was not the case with Samaria (of which the family's ups and downs had been a prophetic sign).
Samaria was about to be taken into captivity by the Assyrians. No doubt it was his recognition of this that compelled Isaiah/Hosea to depart for the southern kingdom of Judah, where young king Ahaz (c.736-716 BC, conventional dates) now occupied the throne of Jerusalem. From now on we shall encounter the prophet in his guise of Isaiah.
(iv) Child No.4: Shear-jashub ("A remnant will return")
In a famous incident, Isaiah went to meet Ahaz not far from Jerusalem, "at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Fuller's Field" (Isaiah 7:3). In his arms was his fourth child, Shear-jashub (possibly also born in the north), whose name finds its explanation in Isaiah 10:20-22:
In that day the remnant of Israel ... will no more lean upon him that smote them [Ahaz had actually sought help from the Assyrians against his foes in Samaria and Damascus]; but will lean upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, unto the Mighty God. For though your people Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will return.
This is a promise that a small fraction of the nation, who will have escaped from the Assyrian "flood" (the metaphor that the prophets frequently used regarding the Assyrian invasions), will no longer look for help to Assyria - the power that would eventually turn upon them and smite them - but will return in all sincerity to the Almighty God who had delivered them from Assyria's power.
B. Second Wife: "the Virgin", "Prophetess"
At some stage between the birth of Shear-jashub and that of the next child, Immanuel, Gomer must have died and Isaiah/Hosea have taken a new wife. Thus, when Ahaz refused to ask for a sign when God offered him one, Isaiah proclaimed before the king:
'Hear then, O House of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the young woman is with child and will bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted' (7:13-16).
(v) Child No.5: Immanuel ("God is with us")
Regarding this important son, Immanuel, the child of the new mother, I take up Boutflower's account again :
In studying the Book of Isaiah ... the question will often force itself upon us, Who was the typical Immanuel? and Who the maiden who typified the Virgin Mother? To this question the commentators furnish various answers .... It seems ... to me that Immanuel was the prophet's own son, and that the maiden who became his mother was the prophet's second wife. Isaiah's first wife was the mother of Shear-jashub. When the prophet at Jehovah's command took Shear-jashub with him and went to meet Ahaz, his first wife was dead; for he predicts that within a year the nameless maiden … will become the mother of Immanuel. After the birth of Immanuel this young woman, now the prophet's wife, is very suitably called "the prophetess", just as Solomon's wives are called "queens"....
Re the significance of Immanuel's name, Boutflower went on to explain :
The significance of the name Immanu-El ... lies in this, that God is WITH US, i.e. with those who put their trust in Him. So then, should the rising flood of Assyrian invasion overwhelm the Northern Kingdom, and sweep onward into Judah, reaching even unto the neck, yet the nation shall not go under, for the land thus submerged is "thy land, O Immanu-El".
(vi) Child No.6: Maher-shalal-hash-baz ("Hasten booty, speed spoil")
Continuing on from his discussion of the "prophetess" above, Boutflower wrote of the last child: "... and about a year later [she] bears him a child, who is called Mahershalalhashbaz .., "Hasten booty, speed spoil"." The meaning of this name is explained by God immediately after the mention of his birth: 'Call his name Mahershalalhashbaz. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and My mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be carried away before the king of Assyria' (8:3,4).
I have now covered all the names (and their meanings) of those whom I believe to be the six children of the one prophet, Isaiah/Hosea.
I think it appropriate that the prophet's second wife would have been a Judaean, and that she stands as a symbol of inviolate Jerusalem, "the Virgin daughter of Zion", to which Isaiah so often alludes - as opposed to the unfaithful "Gomer", symbolising Samaria.
It is generally thought that Isaiah was permanently stationed in Jerusalem. However, his abiding away from the capital city in the north, as argued here, would seem to be appropriate in the following context: "And [Hezekiah] sent Eliakim …Shebna … and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of Amoz" (2 Kings 19:2). Nor was Isaiah to be found amongst Hezekiah's officials at the Upper Pool rendezvous with Assyria's Rabshakeh, even though this might be expected. It was Isaiah who had met king Ahaz years before, at the very same location. Isaiah's distance from Jerusalem might also explain the prophet's being sometimes later than the king and his officials to catch up with what had transpired in the south. Thus, at one point, Isaiah seems aware only of what Sennacherib's servants had been saying, and not of Sennacherib's own blasphemous letters (2 Chronicles 32:17): "When the servants of King Hezekiah came to Isaiah, Isaiah said to them, "Say to your master, 'Thus says the Lord: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me …'." (2 Kings 19:5-6).
Anyway, in Bethulia, Uzziah took Achior into his house, where "he gave a banquet for the elders; and all that night they called on the God of Israel for help" (6:21).
The pace really picks up now.
Verse 1: "The next day Holofernes ordered his whole army, and all the allies who had joined him, to break camp and to move against Bethulia, and to seize the passes up into the hill country and make war on the Israelites".
The fighting forces, now further augmented by the local troops, numbered at this stage "one hundred seventy thousand infantry and twelve thousand cavalry, not counting the baggage and the foot soldiers handling it, a very great multitude" (v.2). That amounts to 182,000 plus; a figure that compares most strikingly to the 185,000 (round figure) of Sennacherib's ill-fated army!
It was upon this massive host that the Israelites inhabiting the region gazed down from their mountain strongholds (v.4):
"When the Israelites saw their vast numbers, they were greatly terrified and said to one another, 'They will now strip clean the whole land; neither the high mountains nor the valleys nor the hills will bear their weight'."
In light of this description, and of what will follow, one can now fully appreciate the appropriateness of Joel's locust imagery.
We are provided with a very precise location for the Assyrian army as it geared for battle.
4 - I give firstly the Douay version (7:3):
All these [Assyrian footmen and cavalry] prepared themselves together to fight against the children of Israel. And they came by the hillside to the top, which looketh toward Dothain [Dothan], from the place which is called Belma, unto Chelmon, which is over against Esdraelon.
5 - Next the Greek version, which importantly mentions Bethulia (v.3): "They encamped in the valley near Bethulia, beside the spring, and they spread out in breadth over Dothan as far as Balbaim and in length from Bethulia to Cyamon, which faces Esdraelon".
Simons has identified Chelmon(Douay)/ Cyamon(Greek) with el-jâmûn. Here is his geographical assessment of the final location of the Assyrian army as given in the Greek version of Judith :
Judith vii 3b describes the location of Bethulia more closely. The clause is easily understandable on the condition that two changes are made, viz. "breadthwise 'from' ( instead of , as also required by parallelism) Dothaim unto Belbaim and lengthwise from 'Belbaim' (LXX reads "Bethulia". However, the besieged city itself cannot have been at the extremity of the besieging army) unto Cyamon which is opposite (the plain of) Esdrelon" or in terms of modern geography; from tell Dôtân unto Hirbet Bel'ameh and from Hirbet Bel'ameh unto El-Jâmûn. The disposition of Holofernes' army thus described is perfectly comprehensible, if Bethulia was situated between the upright sides of a triangle, the top of which was the twice mentioned site of Hirbet Bel'ameh, while its base was a line from tell Dôtân to El-Jâmûn.
Bethulia itself, which Simons identifies with sheih shibil, I shall identify in Judith 10 with Mithilia(or Meselieh), south of Jenin.
Whilst Simons presumes that Bethulia was "the besieged city", the fact that it is represented as the place of focus for the Assyrian attack may be only because Judith lived there, and hence the whole drama is meant to be seen from the point of view of that town. More likely, though, the vast Assyrian army was directing its front at more than just Bethulia.
On the second day, Holofernes led out the cavalry in full view of the Israelites in Bethulia(v.6). It was at this point that the local Edomite and Moabite leaders advised Holofernes that there was no need for him to risk any of his army in a "regular formation" engagement, when he could simply bring the resisters to submission by cutting off their water supply: '… let your servants take possession of the spring of water that flows from the foot of the mountain, for this is where all the people of Bethulia get their water. So thirst will destroy them, and they will surrender their town' (vv. 12, 13).
Verses 16-18: "These words pleased Holofernes and all his attendants, and he gave orders to do as they had said. So the army of the Ammonites moved forward, together with five thousand Assyrians, and they encamped in the valley and seized the water supply and the springs of the Israelites. And the Edomites and Ammonites went up and encamped in the hill country opposite Dothan; and they sent some of their men toward the south and the east, toward Egrebeh, which is near Chusi beside the Wadi Mochmur. The rest of the Assyrian army remained encamped in the plain, and covered the whole face of the land. Their tents and supply trains spread out in great number, and they formed a vast multitude".
This strategy is geographically explained by Simons as follows :
While a contingent of troops establishes itself (vii 17Z) in the (= sahl 'arrãbeh ….) and occupies a spring still accessible to the inhabitants of Bethulia on the north-western edge of this plain (vii 12.17), another part of the army moves to some high observation-posts "opposite Dothaim" (vii 18a) in order to watch possible attempts at escape from the beleaguered city. This section of his forces, therefore, occupied positions on the height of the north-western border of sahl 'arrãbeh, more specifically - xv 3 - "round about Bethulia".
… According to vii 18b a platoon was also despatched to "egrebel (or: ecrebel) near chous on the brook Mochmour".
On the probable assumption that this statement refers to a reconnaissance or a predatory raid, the identification of Egrebel with 'Aqrabeh, 12 kms se. of Nãblus, is not at all impossible. Perhaps it is also supported by "Qûzah" (= chous?) on the road nãblus-Jerusalem. "The brook Mochmour" may have left its name in an adapted Arabic form to wãdi el-ahmar ("the red wadi"). In the meantime the bulk of the army withdrew from the small sahl 'arrãbeh to "the (great) plain ()", which it covered with its many tents (vii 18c).
For "thirty-four days" (v.20) this terrible situation prevailed, until the Bethulians' water containers were all empty. Then the citizens turned angrily on their leaders (vv.23-25):
Then all the people, the young men, the women, and the children, gathered around Uzziah and the rulers of the town and cried out with a loud voice, and said before all the elders, 'Let God judge between you and us! You have done us a great injury in not making peace with the Assyrians. For now we have no one to help us; God has sold us into their hands, to be strewn before them in thirst and exhaustion'.
Thus they demanded surrender, with its attendant slavery, as being preferable to a certain death by thirst. And they added: 'We call to witness against you heaven and earth and our God …' (vv. 26,27,28). Thus Uzziah found himself faced with a Moses-like situation, with the people rebelling on account of water and thirst (Numbers 20:2-13). And Uzziah's response - at least as Judith will later interpret it (Judith 8) - was likewise flawed as was that of Moses (vv.30-31; cf. Numbers 20:1-2). Even these two great men: Moses and Isaiah.
Uzziah's response was:
'Courage my brothers and sisters! Let us hold out for five days more; by that time the Lord our God will turn his mercy to us again, for he will not forsake us utterly. But if these days pass by, and no help comes for us, I will do as you say'.
The people returned to their posts, but "in great misery" (v.32). However, a recent prayer of theirs (v.19) was about to be heard, for despite their despairing, 'we have no one to help us', effective help was now at hand.
Judith is introduced in verse 1 with an impressive Simeonite genealogy, going back sixteen generations, to two known Simeonite chieftains, Salamiel and Sarasadai(var. Shelumiel and Zurishaddai), contemporary with Moses, even appointed by Moses (cf. Numbers 2:12). Thus Judith was of noble stock. Proponents of the historicity of the book argue that it would have been quite pointless for the author to have gone to all that trouble of listing so extensive a genealogy if the person Judith never existed.
Critics, though, claim the opposite : that this is a kind of desperate measure to give the book a semblance of authenticity. In the next verse (v.2), "... we are", as noted in The Catholic Encyclopedia , "given details about the death of Judith's husband [Manasses] which (viii, 2-4) can hardly be attributed to art, but are rather indications that Judith represents a really existing heroine".
Moreover, there is a very long tradition of historicity associated with the Book of Judith according to Leahy :
(a) Jewish and Christian tradition and all commentaries prior to the sixteenth century regarded the book as historical;
(b) the minute historical, geographical, chronological and genealogical details indicate a straightforward narrative of real events;
(c) the author speaks of descendants of Achior being alive in his time (14:6), and of a festival celebrated annually up to his day in commemoration of Judith's victory (16:31). .
Judith's Father and her Husband
These Simeonites of Bethulia may have been, like the Naphtalians in the Book of Tobit, a very tightly-knit bunch, intermarrying. We are told for instance that Judith's husband, Manasseh [Manasses], now dead, had "belonged to [Judith's] tribe and family" (Judith 8:2; Septuagint version of Judith). After his death by sunstroke during a barley harvest, Manasseh was given a very Abraham-like (Early Bonze Age) burial, in a cave in a field: "So they buried him with his ancestors in the field between Dothan and Balamon" (v. 3). That Manasseh's burial was actually in a "cave" is noted in Judith 16:23.
Obviously Judith and her ancestors, and her husband, were tribally related to Uzziah and his father, Micah. Was there also a family relationship?
Judith's father was one, Merari (8:1), of whom she appears to have been immensely proud - he was it seems a well-known figure (16:6). Being a descendant of Simeonite leaders of Moses' time, Merari would himself have been of princely blood. Jewish tradition calls him"Beeri" , rather than Merari, and this is most significant, because:
|6||didn't we discover earlier that Beeri was the father of Hosea?|
|7||and haven't we identified Hosea with Isaiah?|
|8||And haven't we identified Isaiah with Uzziah/Ozias, in Bethulia?|
This means that Uzziah and Judith of Bethulia shared the same father, Merari/Beeri, who - according to this reconstruction - must be the same as Amos (Amoz)/Micah. The last two names, I suggest, are to be connected through Amaziah (Amoz), that being transformed into Amariah, hence Merari, in the same way that king Uzziah of Judah was also called Azariah.
According to this, Judith's father was the famous Amos. She was probably a half-sister of Uzziah/Isaiah, of a different mother. She was no doubt much younger than Uzziah, being in fact only a girl according to the testimony of Bagoas, the Assyrian Rabsaris, later in the Assyrian camp: 'Let this pretty girl not hesitate to come to my lord [Holofernes] to be honored in his presence …' (12:13). This Jewish girl (Judith actually means "Jewess") may have been approximately the age of the youthful Joan of Arc, whom she resembles too in her bold will and courage, if not in her tactics.
We are told of Judith's intense observance of Jewish ritual during her young widowhood (vv. 4-6):
Judith remained as a widow for three years and four months at home where she set up a tent for herself on the roof of her house. She put sackcloth around her waist and dressed in widow's clothing. She fasted all the days of her widowhood, except the day before the sabbath and the sabbath itself, the day before the new moon, and the festivals and days of rejoicing of the house of Israel.
And we are told of her beauty: "She was beautiful in appearance and very lovely to behold" (v.7).
Finally we are told of the enormous respect that the Bethulians had for her (v.8).
Judith's husband Manasseh must have been incredibly wealthy and influential in Bethulia, as he left the widowed Judith "gold and silver, men and women slaves, livestock and fields" (v.7). This would negate any suggestion that Isaiah and his father - if this reconstruction is correct - were merely poor herdsmen.
Is it possible that Judith, in marrying Manasseh, had in fact married one of Isaiah's (Uzziah's) own sons? Perhaps Manasseh was the protégée Immanuel himself. Such an intimate family relationship with Uzziah might perhaps explain the young girl's forthrightness with so mighty a leader (another likeness to Joan of Arc); for Judith was horrified that Uzziah and his colleagues had put a time limit on God's deliverance, and she would let them know it.
According to v. 10, Judith actually sent her maid to "summon Uzziah and Chabris and Charmis, the elders of her town" . This is an extraordinary situation. And when they "came to her", she did not mince her words (v.11-13):
'Listen to me, rulers of the people of Bethulia! What you have said to the people today is not right; you have even sworn and pronounced this oath between God and you, promising to surrender the town to our enemies unless the Lord turns and helps us within so many days. Who are you to put God to the test today, and to set yourselves up in the place of God in human affairs? You are putting the Lord Almighty to the test, but you will never learn anything! …'.
After continuing in this vein at some length (vv. 14-17), Judith adds a note of possibly some chronological value upon which her confidence in deliverance is seemingly based (vv. 18-19):
'For never in our generation, nor in these present days, has there been any tribe or family or people or town of ours that worships gods made with hands, as was done in days gone by. That was why our ancestors were handed over to the sword and to pillage, and so they suffered a great catastrophe before our enemies'.
We need to recall that the young Judith's entire life had been encompassed by the reign of the reformer king, Hezekiah. She had seen nothing personally of his predecessor, Ahaz. And the Assyrian captivity of northern Israel would likely even have preceded her birth. And she had also been surrounded by exemplary Simeonite relatives.
Uzziah, confirming Judith's high reputation, immediately recognizes the truth of what she has just said (vv. 28-29):
Then Uzziah said to her, 'All that you have said was spoken out of a true heart, and there is no one who can deny your words. Today is not the first time your wisdom has been shown, but from the beginning of your life all the people have recognized your understanding, for your heart's disposition is right'.
... whilst adding perhaps something of an Aaronic excuse that 'the people made us do it' (v. 30, cf. Exodus 32:21-24): 'But the people were so thirsty that they compelled us to do for them what we have promised, and made us take an oath that we cannot break'.
Judith, now forced to work within the time-frame of those "five days"  that had been established against her will - but no doubt seeing these now as the 'cards (time frame) that God had dealt her' - then makes this bold pronouncement again completely in the prophetic style of Joan of Arc (vv. 32-33):
Then Judith said to them, 'Listen to me. I am about to do something that will go down through all generations to our descendants. Stand at the town gate tonight so that I may go out with my maid; and within the days after which you have promised to surrender the town to our enemies, the Lord will deliver Israel by my hand'. 2.Chr. 32:13,15,21.
This entire chapter (9:1-14) consists of Judith's prayer whilst lying prostrate before God, "at the very time when the evening incense was being offered in the House of God in Jerusalem". Clothed in her sackcloth, she extols her God and her eponymous ancestor Simeon, who had, with Divine aid, in company with Levi (not mentioned) avenged his sister, Dinah whom Shechem raped: 'O Lord God of my ancestor Simeon, to whom you gave a sword to take revenge on those strangers who had torn off a virgin's clothing to defile her and exposed her thighs to put her to shame, and polluted her womb to disgrace her…'.
Interestingly, Jacob had had no such high opinion of his two sons' act of revenge upon the Shechemites (Genesis 34:30).
There is even a slight chance that the young and apparently childless Judith, who never married afterwards (16:22), was - like Dinah - a virgin, and could therefore all the more closely empathise with her ancestor. Hebrew law made provision for 'a widow who is a virgin'.
46 In fact, "in the shorter Hebrew version Judith is called not "the widow" but "the virgin" . Commentators have also noted the close similarity between Bethulia and the Hebrew word for "a virgin", Bethula () .
Continuing on with her prayer, Judith recalls that her God was not fazed by human power and might. So what if the Assyrians are now 'a greatly increased force' (v. 7). God's strength 'does not depend on numbers, nor … on the powerful'. For he is 'the God of the lowly, helper of the oppressed, upholder of the weak, protector of the forsaken, savior of those without hope' (v. 11).
Having obviously already devised her plan for Holofernes, a plan of deception, Judith begs God: '… make my deceitful words bring wound and bruise on those who have planned cruel things against your covenant, and against your sacred House, and against Mount Zion, and against the House your children possess' (v.13).
Her prayer finished, Judith prepares to don her 'weapons of war'. But these will not be men's clothing, armour and a sword, as Joan of Arc will later use, but feminine attire (vv.3-4):
She removed the sackcloth she had been wearing, took off her widow's garments, bathed her body with water, and anointed herself with precious ointment. She combed her hair, put on a tiara, and dressed herself in the festive attire that she used to wear while her husband Manasseh was living. She put sandals on her feet, and put on her anklets, bracelets, rings, earrings, and all her other jewelry. Thus she made herself very beautiful, to entice the eyes of all the men who might see her.
Importantly, too, Judith took her own food and drink, entrusted to her maid (v.5), so that she would not have to eat the food of the Gentile Assyrians.
The first "men" to be 'smitten' by Judith were Uzziah and the elders of the town at the town gate (vv.7-8): "When they saw her transformed in appearance and dressed differently, they were very greatly astounded at her beauty and said to her, 'May the God of our ancestors grant you favour and fulfill your plan …'." .
Upon Judith's request (command?), the elders "ordered the young men to open the gate for her" (v.9). Judith and her maid then went out of the town and headed for the camp of the Assyrians. "The men of the town watched her until she had gone down the mountain and passed through the valley, where they lost sight of her" (v.10).
C. Conder  will refer back to this topographical description of Judith's descent into the valley in his proposed identification of Bethulia with Mithilia (Mesilieh).
Identification of Bethulia
I simply give Conder's account, which is the one that impresses me most :
… Meselieh … A small village, with a detached portion to the north, and placed on a slope, with a hill to the south, and surrounded by good olive-groves, with an open valley called Wâdy el Melek ("the King's Valley') on the north. The water-supply is from wells, some of which have an ancient appearance. They are mainly supplied with rain-water.
In 1876 I proposed to identify the village of Meselieh, or Mithilia, south of Jenin, with the Bethulia of the Book of Judith, supposing the substitution of M for B, of which there are occasional instances in Syrian nomenclature. The indications of the site given in the Apocrypha are tolerably distinct. Bethulia stood on a hill, but not apparently on the top, which is mentioned separately (Judith vi. 12) There were springs or wells beneath the town (verse 11), and the houses were above these (verse 13). The city stood in the hill-country not far from the plain (verse 11), and apparently near Dothan (Judith iv. 6). The army of Holofernes was visible when encamped near Dothan (Judith vii. 3, 4), by the spring in the valley near Bethulia (verses 3-7).
'The site usually supposed to represent Bethulia - namely, the strong village of Sanûr - does not fulfill these various requisites; but the topography of the Book of Judith, as a whole, is so consistent and easily understood, that it seems that Bethulia was an actual site. Visiting Mithilia on our way to Shechem … we found a small ruinous village on the slope of the hill. Beneath it are ancient wells, and above it a rounded hill-top, commanding a tolerably extensive view. The north-east part of the great plain, Gilboa, Tabor [67a], and Nazareth, are clearly seen. West of these are neighbouring hillsides Jenin and Wâdy Bel'ameh (the Belmaim, probably of the narrative); but further west Carmel appears behind the ridge of Sheikh Iskander [67b], and part of the plain of 'Arrabeh, close to Dothan, is seen.
A broad corn-vale, called "The King's Valley", extends north-west from Meselieh toward Dothan, a distance of only 3 miles. There is a low shed formed by rising ground between two hills, separating this valley from the Dothain plain; and at the latter site is the spring beside which, probably, the Assyrian army is supposed by the old Jewish novelist [sic] to have encamped.
How are you fallen from heaven,|
O Day Star, son of Dawn!
How are you cut down to the ground,
you who laid nations low!
A few verses later, Isaiah nominates this person as an "Assyrian", who will die on the mountains of Israel (14:24,25):
The Lord of hosts has sworn:
I will break the Assyrian in my
and on my mountains trample
him under foot.
Thus the Assyrian, who was king of Babylon, who had brought disaster upon his own people, would die a wretched death on the mountains of Israel, and would not be royally buried in his homeland - as are other kings - but would be trampled contemptuously under foot.
Isaiah's poem perfectly fits the Holofernes/Esarhaddon scenario. Conversely, Esarhaddon's boasts, in his own records, fit most appropriately the terms of Isaiah 14. To give just one classic example : "I am powerful, I am all powerful, I am a hero, I am gigantic, I am colossal, I am honored, I am magnified, I am without an equal among all kings ...". (Cf. Isaiah 14:13-14). This Assyrian king was probably nicknamed by the Jews, Heylél("Morning Star"); and most appropriately, based on the fact that the Assyrian kings identified the Morning Star as the star of Ishtar, the war goddess.
As for the "identification of the Kulummaeans", the last people against whom the hapless Assyrian is said to have marched before his demise, these can be plausibly identified with the inhabitants of a town that we had previously encountered in the Douay version of Judith. I refer to "Chelmon" (7:3).
Chelmon was the very last place to which the Assyrian host did in fact march before its rout. The fact that this town is mentioned in the Assyrian records, and not Bethulia, may be an indication that the Assyrian army was attacking on a wider front than was of interest to the author of Judith.
The name "Ešpai", given in the Assyrian records as, presumably, the chief of the Kulummaeans (Chelmonians), has a strong resemblance to Ushpia, which name H. Storck has equated linguistically with both Ishbak and Aushpia. There is a chance that this leader, Ešpai/Ushpia, is the very Uzziah who was, not only leader of Bethulia, but indeed (variously) "the prince of all Israel" and "the prince of Judah" (Judith 8:34).
That is, the great Isaiah (Hoshea) himself!
Meaning of the Name "Holofernes"
It was noted at the beginning of this commentary that Holofernes is considered to be definitely a Persian name, thus contributing to the hotch-potch of peoples in the Judith mix. I am now going to argue that this view is also incorrect, that Holofernes does not actually have a Persian origin at all, but a Hebrew origin. And that the name, in its original form, could well have been the name that the Jews applied to the tragic Esarhaddon. The name "Holofernes", I now suggest, has these linguistic components:
Its root, Hol, comes from the Hebrew word for Day Star, Heylél lleyhe..
The fer (or verbal) part of the name seems simply to have been lifted from part of the Latin name for Day Star, Lucifer ("Light Bearer"), from the verb ferre, 'to bring' or 'to bear'. And likewise from the Greek version of the Star's name, Hespherus, from the verb (phero), 'to bear'.
The -nes part of the name is just a typical Greek or Latin type ending.
Holofernes is not a Persian name at all!|
If this Assyrian king, ruler of Babylon, were perhaps nicknamed by the Jews, Heylél, then this would be most appropriate, based on the fact that the Assyrian kings identified the Morning Star as the star of Ishtar, the war goddess. There may therefore be much more value in looking for Assyrian similarities, rather than the usually argued Ugaritic ones, with Isaiah 14.
The Assyrian kings made much of their devotion to their gods - like many tyrants and terrorists do today - particularly their eponymous god, Assur. Yet this was just a pious pretext for their own self-worship, as is manifest in Esarhaddon's boast: 'I am ... I am ... I am', etc. If Isaiah had Esarhaddon in mind in his chapter 14 - and I think he did - then his poem is a masterpiece of mocking irony.
"[Ishtar ... named [Esarhaddon] for the kingship".
'Who said: "I will ascend .... I will raise .... I will sit .... I will make" ...'.
"(I am he) who trod under foot the land of Barnaki ...".
'Who Brought Nations Low. Made the Earth Tremble'.
"[King Shupria's] heart was "seized", his lips trembled, he tore off his royal garment .... With
'Who would Not Let His prisoners Go Home'.
"Abdi-Milkutti [king of Sidon ... I pulled out of the sea, like a fish. I cut off his head .... His
'But the Lord Almighty has foiled them
by the hand of a woman.
For their mighty one (Holofernes) did not fall
by the hands of the young men,
nor did the sons of Titans
strike them down,
nor did tall giants set upon him;
but Judith daughter of Merari
with the beauty of her countenance undid him'.
Judith's telling of how the Assyrian fell "by the hand of a woman" may be seen as echoing Isaiah's prediction that the Assyrian will fall "by the sword of no man, `lo ish' (Isaiah 31:8); literally,'the sword of no male'. And Joakim had recently said to her (15:10): 'You have done all of this with your own hand …'.
Apparently the Jews considered Judith's achievement so noteworthy that they devoted an entire book to her; a book that generally supplements, rather than repeats, the details in Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah.
Notes and references
At CIAS when you place the curser on a *.Jpeg sometimes you can read additional information not stated in the text itself, i.e. the above `lo ish'. We at CIAS also frequently leave the Australian spelling of certain words in place not to loose the flavour of the language.
 Charles, R., The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament(Oxford, Clarendon Press), 245.
 For the pro's and con's of this keen debate, see J. Bright's A History of Israel 2nd. ed. London (SCM Press Ltd., 1972), 296f., Excursus I:"The Problem of Sennacherib's Campaigns in Palestine".
 Judith, 407.
 Thus Diodorus Siculus xvii, 6, 1, as referred to in Encyclopedia Judaica (EJ), "Judith".
 E.J., Ibid. Douay gives Vagao, rather than Bagoas.
 In"Emmet Sweeney's Historical Revision", SIS Chronology & Catastrophism Review(UK, 1998:2), 56, Sweeney suggests some compelling parallels between Sennacherib and the Persian king, Xerxes. To the comparisons that Sweeney has made there can probably now be added that between Xerxes' [Artaxerxes III's?] huge force that went against the west and Sennacherib's, as described in Judith. Archaeological research makes it extremely doubtful that Xerxes ever managed to bridge the Hellespont, as the history books tell us, in order to invade Greece with a massive force.
There are also in Greek mythology the stunning likenesses between Helen and Judith. More of that will be said in this commentary.
EJ's article,"Judith", shows that this drama to end all dramas has consistently, down through the centuries, been represented in art, literature and music. It will become apparent also from this commentary that the Greeks absorbed the story of Judith and Holofernes into their own folklore, their wars with Persia. See also footnote.
 Luckenbill, Daniel David (1881-1927), Ancient Records of Assyria and Babylonia, Vol. II (Greenwood Press, NY.), #31.
 Jonsson, C.,"The Foundations of the Assyro-Babylonian Chronology", Chronology and Catastrophism Review, Vol. IX (UK, 1987), 23 (footnote 24), tells us of the strange situation as established by Lewy in 1935, from the eponym lists, that Sennacherib's reign in Babylon began actually one year before his reign in Assyria.
 The Median Ecbatana is in fact about 1900 metres above sea-level.
 Arrian, F., The Campaigns of Alexander(Penguin books, 1986), Bk.3, #'s 20-21. "So rapid was the march", wrote Arrian,"that many of the men, unable to stand the pace, dropped out, and a number of horses were worked to death ...".
Median Ecbatana and Rages are actually more like 185 miles apart.
 MacKenzie, Fr. J., article"Tobit", in Jerome Biblical Commentary, footnote 5a.
 Mackey, D., "Job's Life and Times", Mentalities/Mentalités(Outrigger Publishers, N.Z., October 1998), Vol.13, Nos. 1-2, 56-73. The"lesser known versions" of Tobit I refer to are the Heb. Fagii (or HF) & Heb. Londinii(or HL).
 In The Histories Bk.3 (Penguin Books, 1972), p.230.
 Jâkût el-Hamawi, as quoted in"Job's Life and Times", 64. Emphasis added.
 NCE, Vol. VIII (The Encyclopedia Press, Inc., N.Y.), 222. In The Interpreter's Dictionary of the Bible, article"Ahikar" (Abingdon Press, N.Y., 69), E. Kraelin notes the name similarity, but is likewise reluctant to identify the two.
The name Achior(Heb. "son of light"), if not the person, may be found in Merodach-baladan's governor of Babylon, Bel Akhi-erba.
 It needs to be noted that the name of the Assyrian king who sent Ahikar to Elam is translated as "Esarhaddon". But this I believe is a mistake. It is given in the Greek as"Sacherdonos"; a name that comes very close to the "Saosduchin" said in the Douay version of Judith (note 1:5) to have"succeeded Asarhaddon in the kingdom of the Assyrians" That can only be Ashurbanipal.
 Roux, G., Ancient Iraq(Penguin Books, 1964), 348.
 Luckenbill, #42.
 Ibid., Emphasis added, #10.
 Ibid., # 606.
 Ibid., # 199, # 498.
 Simon, J., The Geographical & Topographical Texts of the Old Testament(E.J. Brill, Leiden, 1959), 491-494.
 Luckenbill, # 521.
 Ibid., # 527.
 Ibid., # 556.
For Tuba'lu (i.e. Ethbaal), see Luckenbill II, #309.
 Ibid., # 573.
 Op. cit., 495, # 1602. "Judith iii 14 Vulg. states that Holofernes comes through Syria and Mesopotamia "ad Idumaeos", doubtless a scribal error for 'ad Judaeos', as also shown by the addition "in terram Gabaa" which comes from Gaibai(§ 1604) ...".
 Nebí Yunas Inscription.
 The Historical Geography of the Holy Land(Collins, The Fontana Library), 203-204.
 "The Military Strategy of Sheshonq/Shishak in Palestine", Chronology & Catastrophism Review, Vol. X, 1988 Issue (SIS, UK.), 2-10.
The pharaoh is conventionally, but wrongly, dated to c.C10th BC.
 Boutflower, op. cit., 304. My emphasis.
[31b] Comments: As to who holds `the keys' and who is represented by `the rock' consider what Jesus is saying when he appears to point first to Peter: "You are Peter, (and now pointing to himself) and upon this rock (Jesus is the rock for `Peter' means not rock but pebble, a small stone compared to the rock) I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee (Jesus) the keys of the kingdom of heaven: (Christ made salvation possible, not Peter) and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." [Matthew 16:18-19; Compare also: John 1:12; 17:3; Luke 11:52; all verses extolling Christ, not Peter. 1.Peter 2:5 calls us, and with us also Peter himself, stones (Greek: `lidos'), not the rock (Greek: `petra'). The corner stone of the church is Jesus Christ, Acts 4:11;]
 Perhaps translators, taking their cue to some extent from the offices of the three Assyrian officials, have looked to make Eliakim a civil leader only.
 All these points can be found for instance in Jerome Biblical Commentary (JBC), "Joel" (Prentice-Hall, Inc., NJ., 1968), 25:1-21.; On Eliakim see 2.Kings chapters 18-19.
 In ANET(1955), 427.
 Op. cit., 251, n.6.
 Introduction to Judith in the Vulgate version.
Charles, op. cit., 246, who late dates the writing of the book by linking the author to "the Pharisaic party", thinks that he must have been "a Palestinian Jew … a man of some literary skill … well acquainted with the literature of his people".
Could this great man, as Akhi-miti, actually be the Archimedes of Greek tradition?
 Op. cit., 243.
 E.J., 452, 460. See also Leahy, op. cit., 403. A.F. Rainey, `The Toponymics of Eretz-Israel' in ASOR Bulletin, No. 231, Oct 1978, p. 1-17.
[39 & 39b] Op. cit., 244.
 TCE, article "Judith", VIII, (The Ency. Press, Inc., N.Y.), 555, citing Calmet's "Introd. in Lib. Judith". Emphasis added.
 This fiery confrontation at the siege of Jerusalem, between the Commander-in-Chief and Achior, may well be where Homer got his idea for the main theme of The Iliad: the argument at the siege of Troy between Agamemnon, supreme commander of the Greeks, and the renowned Achilles (Achior?).
 EJ, 452. Emphasis added.
 JBC 17:7.
Micah was not just concerned with Judah, but with the north as well. The Book of Micah in fact opens with The Judgment of Samaria(1:2-7).
 JBC 17:2.
 Op. cit., 50.
 This is exactly the state of the land around the region of Galilee/Bashan as we find it in the Book of Job. See my article, Job's Life and Times(1997), in which I show that the "land of Uz", in which Job lived was Bashan in Transjordania; and that Job had returned there from the Assyrian captivity (as foretold by the likes of Isaiah/Hosea) just prior to the destruction of Nineveh.
 Op. c it. 51.
 Ibid., 52.
 Ibid., 53.
 Ibid., 54.
 Ibid., 49.
 Hosea, though, adds the name of one of the northern kings as well, who was a contemporary of Uzziah (c.781-740 BC), thus:"... and in the days of Jeroboam ... king of Israel" [c. 783-743 BC]. His prophecies were more north-oriented than were those to be found in the Book of Isaiah. In this context an abreviated name of Sennacherib may also be the name `Jareb', king of Assyria, we find in Hosea 10:6.
 Op. cit., 48.
 Ibid., 49.
 Op. cit., ibid., note 271, Simons says: "This identification of cyamon is more probable than tell qaimûn (joqmeam of the Hebrew books) which is much too far away.
 Ibid., 499.
 Ibid., 501, #1610.
 Correspondent, David Salkeld, from Wiltshire, U.K., disagrees (e-mail dated 15/03/00): "If Judith was historical the recorder would not need to go back umpteen generations to establish her authenticity. Look for instance at how far a record like II Chronicles feels it necessary to go to introduce the kings of Israel and Judah or intervening characters (like Isaiah), typically giving the name of the father and/or mother - but no more than that. It is when the writer is trying to 'sell' a fictional or legendary character that he often has recourse to a lengthy genealogy. To me - and to many others - the '16 generations' you see as proof of genuineness suggest the opposite".
 TCE, article "Judith", VIII, (The Ency. Press, Inc., N.Y.), 555.
 Op. cit., 404. See also TCE, 554.
 The"festival" to which Leahy refers here may possibly be the Hannukah itself. Though Judas Maccabeus is thought to have instituted Hannukah on the 25th of Chislev, the feast of the Temple's Dedication, he may in fact have been merely reviving what was already an old feast that had become neglected during the régime of Antiochus 'Epiphanes', as he certainly did revive Mordecai's feast (no doubt Purim) on the 13th of Adar (1 Maccabees 7:49).
 According to Corey A. Moore, The Anchor Bible. Judith(Doubleday & Co., NY), 107. Corey A. Moore in his commentary on the Judith tells that Jewish tradition has her father as "Beeri". That is, Judith the Simeonitess's father. Beeri is the exact same name as Merari (with the common substitution of M for B in Syro-Palestinian languages). But what it adds is the connection with the prophet Hosea, whose father was "Beeri" (Hosea 1:1).
 In the Lindian Chronicle it is narrated that when Darius, King of Persia, tried to conquer the Island of Hellas, the people gathered in the stronghold of Lindus to withstand the attack. The citizens of the besieged city asked their leaders to surrender because of the hardships and sufferings brought by the water shortage (cf. Judith 7:20-28). The Goddess Athena [read Judith] advised one of the leaders [read Uzziah] to continue to resist the attack; meanwhile she interceded with her father Jupiter [read the God of Israel] on their behalf (cf. Judith 8:9-9:14). Thereupon, the citizens asked for a truce of five days (exactly as in BOJ), after which, if no help arrived, they would surrender (cf. Judith 7:30-31). On the second day of the truce a heavy shower fell on the city so the people could have sufficient water. Datis [read Holofernes], the admiral of the Persian fleet [read Commander-in-chief of the Assyrian army], having witnessed the particular intervention of the Goddess to protect the city, lifted the siege.
 TCE, 555. On the other hand any thinking person can `empathise' with someone in need of some kind of help. There is really no advantage of being a virgin other than being more independent while at the same time lacking normal human company. Men and women were created for each other, not to remain celibate. One cannot worship God better by remaining celibate, for the other celibate person next to you becomes your unnatural `partner' and you still are not alone.
 See e.g. ibid.
 Cf. Helen at the gates of Troy, greatly praised by Priam and the elders for her beauty, `Illiad', Bk. III.; Samuel Butler: "The two sages, Ucalegon and Antenor, elders of the people, were seated by the Scaean gates, with Priam, Panthous, Thymoetes, Lampus, Clytius, and Hiketaon of the race of Mars. These were too old to fight, but they were fluent orators, and sat on the tower like cicales that chirrup delicately from the boughs of some high tree in a wood. When they saw Helen coming towards the tower, they said softly to one another, "Small wonder that Trojans and Achaeans should endure so much and so long, for the sake of a woman so marvellously and divinely lovely. Still, fair though she be, let them take her and go, or she will breed sorrow for us and for our children after us."
 Conder, C., The Survey of Western Palestine, Vol. II (Committee Of Palestine Exploration Fund, London, 1882), pp. 156-157.
"And when the men of the city saw them, they took up their weapons, and went out of the city to the top of the hill: and every man that used a sling kept them from coming up by casting of stones against them." Judith 6:12.
[67a] Mount Tabor is a mountain isolated from the neighboring mountains of Lower Galilee and those of Samaria to the south. It overlooks the terrain of Jezreel as well as the `Great Trunk Road.' The more modern town of Daberath is at its base.
[67b] For this place name of `Hills of Sheikh Iskander' and of Zebdah and Bûrkîn see also PSBA, May, 1887, p. 163.
 Luckenbill, # 561. Emphasis added.
 Ibid., #'s 507, 521.
 Another Iliad metaphor.
 Given as Cb6 in H. Tadmor's "The Campaigns of Sargon II of Assur", JCS XII (1958), 96.
 Ibid., 97. Emphasis added. Like Esarhaddon decapitated `Abdi-milkutti', king of Sidon and `Sanduarri', so he himself suffered the same fate according to what was determined here.
 JCS, XII (1958), 96 - Ibid.
 As quoted by Jonsson, op. cit., 16.
The name EsARhadDON is a reasonable likeness to MARDONius mentioned above in .
Aspects of the story regarding the Commander-in-chief in Judith do seem to have certain likenesses, too, to Xerxes' commander, Mardonius; and/or even Hannibal's ultimately headless brother, Hasdrubal.
Even the search for Mardonius dead on the battlefield is reminiscent of Sennacherib's enquiries about his dead son.
Take care not to confuse our Mardonius with the later one about whom we read, "Xerxes withdrew. His land forces, under Darius' son-in-law Mardonius, wintered in Thessaly and the next spring (479) moved upon Plataea in the Boeotian plain, control of which would threaten both Athens and the Peloponnese. But the Greeks, under the Spartan Pausanias and the Athenian aristocrat Aristides, killed Mardonius and hounded his army all the way to the Hellespont."[Wm. Langer, Western Civilization, 1968, p.159]
 Op. cit., 69.
 Luckenbill, # 577.
 In Worlds in Collision(Abacus, 1950's)
 Herodotus may have in fact picked up the idea of mice from the Book of Judith, according to which the Assyrian soldiers likened the emboldened Israelites to "mice, coming out of , their holes" (Douay version 14:12); a typical Assyrian simile. The Greek version of Judith has "slaves" instead of "mice".
 E. J., 451.
To read the book of Judith online click here!
A Very Interesting Portion
Now after that she had ceased to cry unto the God of Israel, and bad made an end of all these words.
She rose where she had fallen down, and called her maid, and went down into the house in the which she abode in the sabbath days, and in her feast days,
And pulled off the sackcloth which she had on, and put off the garments of her widowhood, and washed her body all over with water, and anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head, and put on a tire upon it, and put on her garments of gladness, wherewith she was clad during the life of Manasses her husband.
And she took sandals upon her feet, and put about her her bracelets, and her chains, and her rings, and her earrings, and all her ornaments, and decked herself bravely, to allure the eyes of all men that should see her.
Then she gave her maid a bottle of wine, and a cruse of oil, and filled a bag with parched corn, and lumps of figs, and with fine bread; so she folded all these things together, and laid them upon her.
Thus they went forth to the gate of the city of Bethulia, and found standing there Ozias and the ancients of the city, Chabris and Charmis.
And when they saw her, that her countenance was altered, and her apparel was changed, they wondered at her beauty very greatly ...
Thus they went straight forth in the valley: and the first watch of the Assyrians met her,
And took her, and asked her, Of what people art thou? and whence comest thou? and whither goest thou? And she said, I am a woman of the Hebrews, and am fled from them: for they shall be given you to be consumed:
And I am coming before Holofernes the chief captain of your army, to declare words of truth; and I will shew him a way, whereby he shall go, and win all the hill country, without losing the body or life of any one of his men.
Now when the men heard her words, and beheld her countenance, they wondered greatly at her beauty, and said unto her,
Thou hast saved thy life, in that thou hast hasted to come down to the presence of our lord: now therefore come to his tent, and some of us shall conduct thee, until they have delivered thee to his hands.
And when thou standest before him, be not afraid in thine heart, but shew unto him according to thy word; and he will entreat thee well.
Then they chose out of them an hundred men to accompany her and her maid; and they brought her to the tent of Holofernes.
Then was there a concourse throughout all the camp: for her coming was noised among the tents, and they came about her, as she stood without the tent of Holofernes, till they told him of her.
And they wondered at her beauty, and admired the children of Israel because of her, and every one said to his neighbour, Who would despise this people, that have among them such women? surely it is not good that one man of them be left who being let go might deceive the whole earth.
And they that lay near Holofernes went out, and all his servants and they brought her into the tent.
Now Holofernes rested upon his bed under a canopy, which was woven with purple, and gold, and emeralds, and precious stones.
So they shewed him of her; and he came out before his tent with silver lamps going before him.
And when Judith was come before him and his servants they all marvelled at the beauty of her countenance; and she fell down upon her face, and did reverence unto him: and his servants took her up.
Then said Holofernes unto her, Woman, be of good comfort, fear not in thine heart: for I never hurt any that was willing to serve Nabuchodonosor, the king of all the earth.
Now therefore, if thy people that dwelleth in the mountains had not set light by me, I would not have lifted up my spear against them: but they have done these things to themselves.
But now tell me wherefore thou art fled from them, and art come unto us: for thou art come for safeguard; be of good comfort, thou shalt live this night, and hereafter:
For none shall hurt thee, but entreat thee well, as they do the servants of king Nabuchodonosor my lord.
Then Judith said unto him, Receive the words of thy servant, and suffer thine handmaid to speak in thy presence, and I will declare no lie to my lord this night.
And if thou wilt follow the words of thine handmaid, God will bring the thing perfectly to pass by thee; and my lord shall not fail of his purposes.
As Nabuchodonosor king of all the earth liveth, and as his power liveth, who hath sent thee for the upholding of every living thing: for not only men shall serve him by thee, but also the beasts of the field, and the cattle, and the fowls of the air, shall live by thy power under Nabuchodonosor and all his house.
For we have heard of thy wisdom and thy policies, and it is reported in all the earth, that thou only art excellent in all the kingdom, and mighty in knowledge, and wonderful in feats of war. ...
Then her words pleased Holofernes and all his servants; and they marvelled at her wisdom, and said,
There is not such a woman from one end of the earth to the other, both for beauty of face, and wisdom of words.
Likewise Holofernes said unto her. God hath done well to send thee before the people, that strength might be in our hands and destruction upon them that lightly regard my lord.
And now thou art both beautiful in thy countenance, and witty in thy words: surely if thou do as thou hast spoken thy God shall be my God, and thou shalt dwell in the house of king Nabuchodonosor, and shalt be renowned through the whole earth. Then he commanded to bring her in where his plate was set; and bade that they should prepare for her of his own meats, and that she should drink of his own wine.
And Judith said, I will not eat thereof, lest there be an offence: but provision shall be made for me of the things that I have brought.
Then Holofernes said unto her, If thy provision should fail, how should we give thee the like? for there be none with us of thy nation.
Then said Judith unto him As thy soul liveth, my lord, thine handmaid shall not spend those things that I have, before the Lord work by mine hand the things that he hath determined.
Then the servants of Holofernes brought her into the tent, and she slept till midnight, and she arose when it was toward the morning watch,
And sent to Holofernes, saving, Let my lord now command that thine handmaid may go forth unto prayer.
Then Holofernes commanded his guard that they should not stay her: thus she abode in the camp three days, and went out in the night into the valley of Bethulia, and washed herself in a fountain of water by the camp.
And when she came out, she besought the Lord God of Israel to direct her way to the raising up of the children of her people.
So she came in clean, and remained in the tent, until she did eat her meat at evening.
And in the fourth day Holofernes made a feast to his own servants only, and called none of the officers to the banquet.
Then said he to Bagoas the eunuch, who had charge over all that he had, Go now, and persuade this Hebrew woman which is with thee, that she come unto us, and eat and drink with us.
For, lo, it will be a shame for our person, if we shall let such a woman go, not having had her company; for if we draw her not unto us, she will laugh us to scorn.
Then went Bagoas from the presence of Holofernes, and came to her, and he said, Let not this fair damsel fear to come to my lord, and to be honoured in his presence, and drink wine, and be merry with us and be made this day as one of the daughters of the Assyrians, which serve in the house of Nabuchodonosor.
Then said Judith unto him, Who am I now, that I should gainsay my lord? surely whatsoever pleaseth him I will do speedily, and it shall be my joy unto the day of my death.
So she arose, and decked herself with her apparel and all her woman's attire, and her maid went and laid soft skins on the ground for her over against Holofernes, which she had received of Bagoas far her daily use, that she might sit and eat upon them.
Now when Judith came in and sat down, Holofernes his heart was ravished with her, and his mind was moved, and he desired greatly her company; for he waited a time to deceive her, from the day that he had seen her.
Then said Holofernes unto her, Drink now, and be merry with us.
So Judith said, I will drink now, my lord, because my life is magnified in me this day more than all the days since I was born.
Then she took and ate and drank before him what her maid had prepared.
And Holofernes took great delight in her, and drank more wine than he had drunk at any time in one day since he was born.
Now when the evening was come, his servants made haste to depart, and Bagoas shut his tent without, and dismissed the waiters from the presence of his lord; and they went to their beds: for they were all weary, because the feast had been long.
And Judith was left alone in the tent, and Holofernes lying along upon his bed: for he was filled with wine.
Now Judith had commanded her maid to stand without her bedchamber, and to wait for her. ...
... coming forth, as she did daily: for she said she would go forth to her prayers, and she spake to Bagoas according to the same purpose.
So all went forth and none was left in the bedchamber, neither little nor great. Then Judith, standing by his bed, said in her heart, O Lord God of all power, look at this present upon the works of mine hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem.
For now is the time to help thine inheritance, and to execute thine enterprizes to the destruction of the enemies which are risen against us.
Then she came to the pillar of the bed, which was at Holofernes' head, and took down his fauchion from thence,
And approached to his bed, and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel, this day.
And she smote twice upon his neck with all her might, and she took away his head from him.
And tumbled his body down from the bed, and pulled down the canopy from the pillars; and after she went forth she gave, Holofernes his head, to her maid;
And she put it in her bag of meat: so they twain went together according to their custom unto prayer: and when they passed the camp, they compassed the valley, and went up the mountain of Bethulia, and came to the gates thereof.
Then said Judith afar off, to the watchmen at the gate, Open, open now the gate: God, even our God, is with us, to shew his power yet in Jerusalem, and his forces against the enemy, as he hath even done this day.
Now when the men of her city heard her voice, they made haste to go down to the gate of their city, and they called the elders of the city.
And then they ran all together, both small and great, for it was strange unto them that she was come: so they opened the gate, and received them, and made a fire for a light, and stood round about them.
Then she said to them with a loud voice, Praise, praise God, praise God, I say, for he hath not taken away his mercy from the house of Israel, but hath destroyed our enemies by mine hands this night.
So she took the head out of the bag, and shewed it, and said unto them, behold the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold the canopy, wherein he did lie in his drunkenness; and the Lord hath smitten him by the hand of a woman.
As the Lord liveth, who hath kept me in my way that I went, my countenance hath deceived him to his destruction, and yet hath he not committed sin with me, to defile and shame me.
Then all the people were wonderfully astonished, and bowed themselves and worshipped God, and said with one accord, Blessed be thou, O our God, which hast this day brought to nought the enemies of thy people.
Then said Ozias unto her, O daughter, blessed art thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth; and blessed be the Lord God, which hath created the heavens and the earth, which hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies.
For this thy confidence shall not depart from the heart of men, which remember the power of God for ever.
And God turn these things to thee for a perpetual praise, to visit thee in good things because thou hast not spared thy life for the affliction of our nation, but hast revenged our ruin, walking a straight way before our God.
And all the people said; So be it, so be it.
|Bible Topics Main Menu Submenu|