fbpx

Day 251 – Judith and Holofernes


Thoughts and Reflection

Today we read that after the destruction of Jerusalem, only those that were too old or weak remain in the city. Some resistance fighters remain as well in the hills outside the city walls. Ishmael is one of those fighters from the house of Judah. He is a member of the royal family. He resents the rule of Gedaliah. Gedaliah sits down to a meal with Ishmail and his men. To do this is a significant act and to betray him later is more shocking.

Ishmael and his men kill Gedaliah and everyone at the dinner. This is a foreshadowing of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus at the Last Supper. Ishmael goes out to greet eighty pilgrims who arrive in Jerusalem to offer sacrifice to the Lord. He invites them to meet Gedaliah and they are killed and their bodies are thrown into a cistern.

Those remaining in Jerusalem ask Jeremiah what they should do. He tells them they will die if they flee to Egypt but they will be saved if they stay in Judah and trust in the Lord. In the end, the people decide to flee to Egypt.

About This Project

For the year 2022, I decided that my New Year’s Resolution was to read the whole Bible following the Bible in the Year plan presented by Fr. Mike Schmitz. It is a big and bold undertaking. You can follow along by subscribing. Feel free to look at previous day’s post and comment. It’s something we can all learn from together!

Daily Readings

Jeremiah 41

1 In the seventh month, however, Ishmael son of Nethaniah son of Elishama, who was of royal descent, came with officers of the king and ten men to Gedaliah son of Ahikam at Mizpah. And as they were taking their meal together, there at Mizpah,

2 Ishmael son of Nethaniah stood up with his ten men, and attacking Gedaliah son of Ahikam, son of Shaphan, with their swords, they killed the man whom the king of Babylon had made governor of the country.

3 And all the Judaeans who were with him, that is with Gedaliah at Mizpah, and the Chaldaean soldiers who happened to be there, Ishmael killed too.

4 On the day after the murder of Gedaliah, before the news had become known,

5 eighty men arrived from Shechem, Shiloh and Samaria, with their beards shaved off, their clothing torn, and covered in self-inflicted gashes; they were bringing cereal offerings and incense with them to present to the Temple of Yahweh.

6 Ishmael son of Nethaniah went out of Mizpah to meet them, weeping as he went. When he met them he said, ‘Come to Gedaliah son of Ahikam.’

7 But once they were well inside the town, Ishmael son of Nethaniah slaughtered them, with the help of his men, and had them thrown into the storage-well.

8 There were ten of them, however, who said to Ishmael, ‘Do not kill us: we have stocks of wheat and barley, oil and honey, hidden away in the fields.’ So he spared them and did not kill them with their brothers.

9 The storage-well into which Ishmael threw the corpses of all the men he had killed was a large one, the one which King Asa had built as a precaution against Baasha king of Israel. Ishmael son of Nethaniah filled it with the slaughtered men.

10 Ishmael then took all the rest of the people prisoner who were at Mizpah, the king’s daughters and all the remaining people in Mizpah, whom Nebuzaradan, commander of the guard, had entrusted to Gedaliah son of Ahikam. Ishmael son of Nethaniah took them prisoner and set out, intending to cross over to the Ammonites.

11 When Johanan son of Kareah and all the military leaders who were with him heard about all the crimes committed by Ishmael son of Nethaniah,

12 they mustered all their men and set out to attack Ishmael son of Nethaniah. They caught up with him at the great Pool of Gibeon.

13 At the sight of Johanan son of Kareah and all the military leaders with him, all the people with Ishmael were delighted.

14 All the people whom Ishmael had taken as prisoners from Mizpah turned about, went back and joined Johanan son of Kareah.

15 Ishmael son of Nethaniah, however, escaped from Johanan with eight of his men and fled to the Ammonites.

16 Johanan son of Kareah and all the military leaders with him then rallied all the remaining people whom Ishmael son of Nethaniah had taken as prisoners from Mizpah after killing Gedaliah son of Ahikam: men — fighting men-women, children and eunuchs, whom they brought back from Gibeon. 

17 Setting off, they made a halt at Khan Kimham near Bethlehem, intending to go on to Egypt,

18 to get away from the Chaldaeans. They were now terrified of them, since Ishmael son of Nethaniah had killed Gedaliah son of Ahikam whom the king of Babylon had made governor of the country.

Jeremiah 42

1 Then all the military leaders, in particular Johanan son of Kareah and Azariah son of Hoshaiah, and all the people from least to greatest, approached

2 the prophet Jeremiah and said, ‘Please hear our petition and intercede with Yahweh your God for us and for all this remnant — and how few of us are left out of many, your own eyes can see-

3 so that Yahweh your God may show us the way we are to go and what we must do.’

4 The prophet Jeremiah replied, ‘I hear you; I will indeed pray to Yahweh your God as you ask; and whatever answer Yahweh your Godgives you, I will tell you, keeping nothing back from you.’

5 They in their turn said to Jeremiah, ‘May Yahweh be a true and faithful witness against us, if we do not follow the instructions that Yahweh your God sends us through you.

6 Whether we like it or not, we shall obey the voice of Yahweh our God to whom we are sending you, so that we may prosper by obeying the voice of Yahweh our God.’

7 Ten days later the word of Yahweh came to Jeremiah.

8 He then summoned Johanan son of Kareah and all the military leaders who were with him, and all the people from least to greatest,

9 and said, ‘Yahweh, God of Israel, to whom you deputed me to present your petition says this,

10 “If you will only stay in this country, I shall build you and not overthrow you; I shall plant you and not uproot you, for I am sorry about the disaster I have inflicted on you.

11 Do not be afraid of the king of Babylon, whom you fear now; do not fear him, Yahweh declares, for I am with you to save you and rescue you from his clutches.

12 I shall take pity on you, so that he pities you and lets you return to your native soil.

13 But if you say: We will not stay in this country; if you disobey the voice of Yahweh your God,

14 and say: No, Egypt is where we shall go, where we shall not see war or hear the trumpet-call or go short of food; that is where we want to live;

15 in that case, remnant of Judah, listen to Yahweh’s word: Yahweh Sabaoth, God of Israel, says this: If you are determined to go to Egypt, and if you do go and settle there,

16 the sword you fear will overtake you there in Egypt, and there you will die.

17 Yes, all those who are determined to go to Egypt and settle there, will die by sword, famine and plague: not a single one of them willsurvive or escape the disaster I shall inflict on them.

18 Yes, Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, says this: Just as my furious anger was poured out on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so willmy fury be poured out on you if you go to Egypt: you will become an object of execration and horror, a curse, a laughing-stock; and you will never see this place again.”

19 Remnant of Judah, Yahweh has told you, “Do not go into Egypt.” Understand clearly that today I have given you a solemn warning.

20 You were not being sincere when you sent me to Yahweh your God and said, “Intercede for us with Yahweh our God; tell us exactly what Yahweh our God says and we will do it.”

21 Today I have told you, but you have not obeyed the voice of Yahweh your God or any part of the message he sent me to give you.

22 So understand this clearly: you will die by sword, famine and plague in the place where you want to go and settle.’

Judith 12

1 With that he had her brought in to where his silver dinner service was already laid, and had his own food served to her and his own wine poured out for her.

2 But Judith said, ‘I would rather not eat this, in case I incur some fault. What I have brought will be enough for me.’

3 ‘Suppose your provisions run out,’ Holofernes asked, ‘how could we get more of the same sort? We have no one belonging to your race here.’

4 ‘May your soul live, my lord,’ Judith answered, ‘the Lord will have used me to accomplish his plan, before your servant has finished these provisions.’

5 Holofernes’ adjutants then took her to a tent where she slept until midnight. A little before the morning watch, she got up.

6 She had already sent this request to Holofernes, ‘Let my lord kindly give orders for your servant to be allowed to go out and pray,’

7 and Holofernes had ordered his guards not to prevent her. She stayed in the camp for three days; she went out each night to the valley of Bethulia and washed at the spring where the picket had been posted.

8 As she went she prayed to the Lord God of Israel to guide her in her plan to relieve the children of her people.

9 Having purified herself, she would return and stay in her tent until her meal was brought her in the evening.

10 On the fourth day Holofernes gave a banquet, inviting only his own staff and none of the other officers.

11 He said to Bagoas, the officer in charge of his personal affairs, ‘Go and persuade that Hebrew woman you are looking after to come and join us and eat and drink in our company.

12 We shall be disgraced if we let a woman like this go without seducing her. If we do not seduce her, everyone will laugh at us!’

13 Bagoas then left Holofernes and went to see Judith. ‘Would this young and lovely woman condescend to come to my lord?’ he asked. ‘She will occupy the seat of honour opposite him, drink the joyful wine with us and be treated today like one of the Assyrian ladies who stand in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar.’ 

14 ‘Who am I’, Judith replied, ‘to resist my lord? I shall not hesitate to do whatever he wishes, and doing this will be my joy to my dying day.’

15 So she got up and put on her dress and all her feminine adornments. Her maid preceded her, and on the floor in front of Holofernes spread the fleece which Bagoas had given Judith for her daily use to lie on as she ate.

16 Judith came in and took her place. The heart of Holofernes was ravished at the sight; his very soul was stirred. He was seized with a violent desire to sleep with her; and indeed since the first day he saw her, he had been waiting for an opportunity to seduce her.

17 ‘Drink then!’ Holofernes said. ‘Enjoy yourself with us!’

18 ‘I am delighted to do so, my lord, for since my birth I have never felt my life more worthwhile than today.’

19 She took what her maid had prepared, and ate and drank facing him.

20 Holofernes was so enchanted with her that he drank far more wine than he had drunk on any other day in his life.

Judith 13

1 It grew late and his staff hurried away. Bagoas closed the tent from the outside, having shown out those who still lingered in his lord’s presence. They went to their beds wearied with too much drinking,

2 and Judith was left alone in the tent with Holofernes who had collapsed wine-sodden on his bed.

3 Judith then told her maid to stay just outside the bedroom and wait for her to come out, as she did every morning. She had let it be understood she would be going out to her prayers and had also spoken of her intention to Bagoas.

4 By now everyone had left Holofernes, and no one, either important or unimportant, was left in the bedroom. Standing beside the bed, Judith murmured to herself: Lord God, to whom all strength belongs, prosper what my hands are now to do for the greater glory of Jerusalem;

5 now is the time to recover your heritage and to further my plans to crush the enemies arrayed against us.

6 With that she went up to the bedpost by Holofernes’ head and took down his scimitar;

7 coming closer to the bed she caught him by the hair and said, ‘Make me strong today, Lord God of Israel!’

8 Twice she struck at his neck with all her might, and cut off his head.

9 She then rolled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from the bedposts. After which, she went out and gave the head of Holofernes to her maid

10 who put it in her food bag. The two then left the camp together, as they always did when they went to pray. Once they were out of the camp, they skirted the ravine, climbed the slope to Bethulia and made for the gates.

11 From a distance, Judith shouted to the guards on the gates, ‘Open the gate! Open! For the Lord our God is with us still, displaying his strength in Israel and his might against our enemies, as he has done today!’

12 Hearing her voice, the townsmen hurried down to the town gate and summoned the elders.

13 Everyone, great and small, came running down, since her arrival was unexpected. They threw the gate open, welcomed the women, lit a fire to see by and crowded round them.

14 Then Judith raised her voice and said, ‘Praise God! Praise him! Praise the God who has not withdrawn his mercy from the House of Israel, but has shattered our enemies by my hand tonight!’

15 She pulled the head out of the bag and held it for them to see. ‘This is the head of Holofernes, general-in-chief of the Assyrian army; here is the canopy under which he lay drunk! The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman!

16 Glory to the Lord who has protected me in the course I took! My face seduced him, only to his own undoing; he committed no sinwith me to shame me or disgrace me.’

17 Overcome with emotion, the people all prostrated themselves and worshipped God, exclaiming with one voice, ‘Blessings on you, our God, for confounding your people’s enemies today!’

18 Uzziah then said to Judith: May you be blessed, my daughter, by God Most High, beyond all women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, Creator of heaven and earth, who guided you to cut off the head of the leader of our enemies!

19 The trust which you have shown will not pass from human hearts, as they commemorate the power of God for evermore.

20 God grant you may be always held in honour and rewarded with blessings, since you did not consider your own life when our nation was brought to its knees, but warded off our ruin, walking in the right path before our God. And the people all said, ‘Amen! Amen!’

Judith 14

1 Judith said, ‘Listen to me, brothers. Take this head and hang it on your battlements.

2 When morning comes and the sun is up, let every man take his arms and every able-bodied man leave the town. Appoint a leader for them, as if you meant to march down to the plain against the Assyrian advanced post. But you must not do this.

3 The Assyrians will gather up their equipment, make for their camp and wake up their commanders; they in turn will rush to the tent of Holofernes and not be able to find him. They will then be seized with panic and flee at your advance.

4 All you and the others who live in the territory of Israel will have to do is to give chase and slaughter them as they retreat.

5 ‘But before you do this, call me Achior the Ammonite, for him to see and identify the man who held the House of Israel in contempt, the man who sent him to us as someone already doomed to die.’

6 So they had Achior brought from Uzziah’s house. No sooner had he arrived and seen the head of Holofernes held by a member of the people’s assembly than he fell on his face in a faint.

7 They lifted him up. He then threw himself at Judith’s feet and, prostrate before her, exclaimed: May you be blessed in all the tents of Judah and in every nation; those who hear your name will be seized with dread!

8 ‘Now tell me everything that you have done in these past few days.’ And surrounded by the people, Judith told him everything she had done from the day she left Bethulia to the moment when she was speaking.

9 When she came to the end, the people cheered at the top of their voices until the town echoed.

10 Achior, recognising all that the God of Israel had done, believed ardently in him and, accepting circumcision, was permanently incorporated into the House of Israel.

11 At daybreak they hung the head of Holofernes on the ramparts. Every man took his arms and they all went out in groups to the slopes of the mountain.

12 Seeing this, the Assyrians sent word to their leaders, who in turn reported to the generals, the captains of thousands and all the other officers;

13 and these in their turn reported to the tent of Holofernes. ‘Rouse our master,’ they said to his major-domo, ‘these slaves have dared to march down on us to attack — and to be wiped out to a man!’

14 Bagoas went inside and struck the curtain dividing the tent, thinking that Holofernes was sleeping with Judith.

15 But as no one seemed to hear, he drew the curtain and went into the bedroom, to find him thrown down dead on the threshold, with his head cut off.

16 He gave a great shout, wept, sobbed, shrieked and rent his clothes.

17 He then went into the tent which Judith had occupied and could not find her either. Then, rushing out to the men, he shouted,

18 ‘The slaves have rebelled! A single Hebrew woman has brought shame on the House of Nebuchadnezzar. Holofernes is lying dead on the ground, without his head!’

19 When they heard this, the leaders of the Assyrian army tore their tunics in consternation, and the camp rang with their wild cries and their shouting.

Proverbs 17:13-16

13 Disaster will never be far from the house of one who returns evil for good.

14 As well unleash a flood as start a dispute; desist before the quarrel breaks out.

15 To absolve the guilty and condemn the upright, both alike are abhorrent to Yahweh.

16 What good is money in the hand of a fool? To buy wisdom with it? The desire is not there.


Leave a Reply

Like what you are reading? Subscribe and get notified of new posts.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

%d bloggers like this: