A Garner of Saints – Judith

detail of the painting 'Judith' by Carlo Maratta, c.1625; Capitoline Museums, Rome, Italy; swiped from Wikimedia CommonsArticle

(Italian: Giudetta): In the twelfth year of the reign of King Nabuchodnosor, who reigned in Nineveh, that king made war on King Arphaxad, and sent to all the people of Syria and of the coast to give him aid. But they made light of his commands, whereat he was very wroth and swore to be avenged. And he defeated Arphaxad and took his cities. In the eighteenth year of his reign the king resolved to be avenged, and, calling his chief captain, Holofernes, sent him forth with a mighty army. Passing through Cilicia Holofernes came to Damascus, wasting and desolating as he went, and at length he reached Judea. When the Israelites heard of these things they were exceedingly afraid, and they fortified the hill-tops for they had previously gathered in their corn, while Joachim, the high priest, wrote to the men of Bethulia and Betomestham to hold the passes against the enemy. And the men of Israel cried to God in their distress. And Achior, captain of the tribe of Ammon, came to Holofernes and advised him not to meddle with the Jews, relating all the wonders that God had wrought for them, but the men standing about the tent murmured and declared that they would go against the Jews. Holofernes also mocked and caused Achior to be taken out of the camp to the fountains beneath Bethulia, and binding him they cast him down the hill. The Israelites, however, descended, took him to Bethulia, and brought him to the governors of the city to whom he declared the purpose of Holofernes; and they were greatly afraid and called upon God. The next day Holofernes besieged Bethulia and cut off the water, so that the people murmured against the governors, and they agreed to surrender if help did not come within five days.

There was at that time a woman named Judith, who had been a widow three years and four months. Her husband had left her well provided with riches and servants; she was very comely to look upon and none gave her an ill word, for she feared God greatly. When she heard of the distress of Bethulia she was greatly troubled, and went to the governors to take counsel with them. At length she told them that she would go forth with her waiting woman and that within the five days the Lord would deliver Israel by her hand. Then she returned to her house and put ashes on her head and prayed that God would grant that she might chastise the enemy with her own hand so that every one should know that He protected the people of Israel. After this she called her maid and decked herself in garments of gladness, putting off her widow’s apparel and adorning herself with jewels. Taking a bottle of wine, a cruse of oil, a bag of parched corn, lumps of figs and some bread, she went forth with her maid from the gate of Bethulia, where the elders stood and wondered. When she reached the valley she was stopped by the first watch of the Assyrians, who asked her what she was doing; and she answered that she had come to show Holofernes a way by which he might win all the hill country without losing a man. When they heard this and saw her beauty they brought her to the tent of Holofernes. Now Holofemes was resting on his bed under a rich canopy, and when Judith came in she fell down upon her face and did reverence. And she told him the pretended purpose of her visit, and her words pleased the general, who found her as wise as she was beautiful, and he commanded meat and drink to be brought before her. But she refused and asked that provision might be made for her of the things which she had brought. Then the servants of Holofemes brought her into the tent, and she slept till midnight, and in the morning she rose and went to pray, for the general commanded that none should hinder her. Thus she remained in the camp for three days, and on the fourth day Holofernes made a feast to his own servants, calling none but officers, and Judith was asked to attend; wherefore she decked herself in all her apparel and her maid laid soft skins for her next to Holofernes. And Holofemes was moved greatly with desire for her and he sought a moment to deceive her. They were very merry and Holofernes drank more wine than he had drunk in any one day since his birth. When evening was come, the servants made haste to depart, and Judith was left alone with Holofernes in the tent, and he was lying along the bed, being filled with wine. Then Judith commanded her maid to stand outside the tent, and having prayed to God she took down the general’s falchion from the pillar of the bed and cut off his head with two blows. And she tumbled the body down from the bed, pulled the canopy from the pillars and gave the head to her maid who put it in her bag of meat. So they twain went to prayer according to their custom, and passing the camp they went up to the gates of Bethulia. At Judith’s command the gates were opened and the people flocked thither, but when she showed them the head of Holofernes they shouted for joy and praised God. When Achior heard what Judith had done, he believed in God and was circumcised. At the dawn they hanged the head of Holofemes upon the wall and sallied forth from Bethulia. And the Assyrians went to the tent of Holofernes to awaken him saying that the slaves were coming down to battle; but none answered, and when they entered they found him upon the floor dead, and his head was taken away. And they lamented and tore their garments. Then there was trouble throughout the Assyrian camp and they fled away while the Israelites pursued and there was a great slaughter. The people spoiled the camp for thirty days, and the high priest Joachim came to salute Judith while they gave her the tent of Holofernes and all his possessions. Moreover the women came and blessed her making a dance for her, and she gave them branches while they put a garland of olive on her head and her maid went before the people in the dance, the men following in their armour and singing, Judith also singing a song of triumph. Now as soon as they entered Jerusalem they worshipped the Lord and the people offered sacrifices. Judith also dedicated all the stuff of Holofemes for a gift to the Lord. And the people feasted for three months, Judith remaining with them. After that everyone returned to his house. And many desired her but she refused them all, and at the age of 105 years she died. And the house of Israel mourned her for seven days.

Attribute

  • Carries the severed head of Holofernes.

MLA Citation

  • Allen Banks Hinds, M.A. “Judith”. A Garner of Saints, 1900. CatholicSaints.Info. 20 April 2017. Web. 22 July 2017. <>