Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

There's no doubt about it - Judith was a woman of great conviction.

Her people were facing starvation, invasion and death, when she had the guts to reprimand their leaders thus:

When the leaders arrived, Judith said to them, “Leaders of the people of Bethulia, please listen to me. What you said in front of the people today wasn’t right. You made a promise to God. You promised that you would surrender to our enemies if the Lord didn’t help us within five days. Who do you think you are? You are testing God and taking the place of God in human affairs.

- Judith 8:11-12 (God's Word)

What if he doesn’t want to help us within five days? He has the right to protect us whenever he pleases or to destroy us in front of our enemies.

- Judith 8:15 (God's Word)

The Lord isn’t putting us through a severe trial as he did our ancestors. He isn’t punishing us. Instead, the Lord disciplines those who are close to him in order to warn them.”

- Judith 8:27 (God's Word)

Bold words to tell off your people's leaders with, especially in the face of the huge Assyrian army. Like I said, a woman of conviction.

Well, that how she initially seems anyway. Later she lies her way over enemy lines, and charms her way into the bedroom of the army leader (Holofernes), so that she can hack off his head.

Why? Because she honestly believes that this is the will of God.

Hmm, maybe also a woman of contradiction.

This pattern of God being merciful to someone, only for them to become all arrogant about it, is a fairly common dance in the Old Testament. So much so that the misconception even appears to have spread to some of those who wrote the events down, simply because so many of them omit to draw attention to their subjects' pride.

The one-shot Obadiah would be one of the exceptions, and puts much of the rest of the Bible-Wars into some perspective. (since you ask, Obadiah is one chapter long and readable here)

I guess that Judith's cliffhangery (and therefore unusually readable) odyssey leaves me with two overriding thoughts:

1. Exactly how did she get the idea that God wanted her to treat her enemies in such an unChrist-like manner?

2. If her assassinous intention was in fact born of her own free will, which she misattributed to God, then coupled with Holofernes' plans to kill her people, a conflict between the two was unavoidable.

If God was allowing these two enemies the freedom to make their own decisions, while also remaining in authority over them both, then I reckon that God had to choose which of them he would let succeed, even though he ideally wanted neither of them to. That's the only way that I can think of to balance these three forces of will.

After all, the consequences of allowing Judith to kill Holofernes only appear to have been partially positive.

On the one hand it had such a good effect on God's people that they wrote it down, and many of them have been studying it to learn from it for thousands of years.

On the other, many of God's people seem to have learnt nothing from it.

You’ve done all this by yourself. You’ve done good things for Israel, and God is pleased with what you’ve done. May you be praised in the presence of the Almighty Lord forever!” And all the people said, “Amen!”

- Judith 15:10 (God's Word)

Judith even has a song attributed to her about how wonderful it all is.

However, if God had instead allowed Holofernes to kill Judith, then that outcome would probably have been even less positive. The enemy army were already under orders to worship King Nebuchadnezzar as God.

How much more arrogant would they have become after winning?


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