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Judith 2
Biblical Heritage: The Culture of Judith


CARAVAGGIO, "Judith Beheading Holofernes", c. 1598

Judith as a wise and beautiful woman--who is wise enough to do God's will by acting within the boundaries of her patriarchial society, and not by rebelling against them. She knows she's a woman, and she milks that advantage for everything she can.
Judith is beautiful and uses this advantage to gain power over the men:
   "She was beautiful in appearance, and was very lovely to behold...No one spoke ill of her, for she feared God with great devotion." (Judith 8:7-8)
   "She combed her hair, put on a tiara, and dressed herself in the festive attire 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." (Judith 10:3-4)
   The leaders were waiting at the gate, as she had instructed them to do: "When they saw her transformed in appearance and dressed differently, they were very greatly astounded by her beauty..." (Judith 10:7)
   She is captured by an Assyrian patrol: "When the men heard her words, and observed her face--she was in their eyes marvelously beautiful--" they welcomed her and escorted her to wait outside the tent of Holofernes. (Judith 10:14) "They marvelled at her beauty and admired the Israelites, judging them by her. They said one to another, 'Who can despise these people, who have women like this among them? Is it not wise to leave one of their men alive, for if we let them go they will be able to beguile the whole world!'" (Judith 10:19)
   "When Judith came into the presence of Holofernes and his servants, they all marvelled at the beauty of her face." (Judith 10:23)
   "Her words pleased Holofernes and all his servants. They marvelled at her wisdom and said, 'No other woman from one end of the earth to the other looks so beautiful or speaks so wisely!'...Holofernes said to her...'You are not only beautiful in appearance, but wise in speech.'" (Judith 11:20-23)
   Holofernes said to one of his servants, "Go and persuade the Hebrew woman who is in your care to join us and to eat and drink with us. For it would be a disgrace if we let such a woman go without having intercourse with her. If we do not seduce her, she will laugh at us." (Judith 12:11-12)
   "So she proceded to dress herself in all her woman's finery...Then Judith came in...Holofernes' heart was ravished with her and his passion was aroused, for he had been waiting for an opportunity to seduce her from the day he first saw her." (Judith 12:15-16)
   When she returns to Bethulia, Judith says to the people of Bethulia, See here the head of Holofernes, "The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman. As the Lord lives, who has protected me in the way I went, I swear that it was my face that seduced him to his destruction, and that he commited no sin with me, to defile and shame me." (Judith 13:15-16)
   "For their mighty one did not fall by the hands of the young men, nor did the sons of the Titans strike him down, nor did tall giants set upon him; but Judith daughter of Merari with the beauty of her countance undid him." (Judith 16:6)
   "...her beauty captivated his mind, and the sword severed his neck!" (Judith 16:9)
She works carefully within the constraints of being a woman, always first gaining the trust and permission of the men she is working with. For example, she calls the leaders to her, giving them an opportunity to reject her plan:
   "When Judith heard...all that Uzziah had said to them...she sent her maid...to summon...the elders of her town." (Judith 8:9-10)
The leaders recognize her wisdom and want her help:
   Uzziah says, "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. But the people were so thirsty that they compelled us to do for them what we have promised, and made us an oath that we cannot break. Now since you are a God-fearing woman, pray for us..." (Judith 8:29-31)