Fast of Judith
Epoch the Israel entered in military maneuverings of Holoferenes, the Army General of King Nebuchadnezzar, the Assyrians arise to dominate the world. By the time the Israelis endured the King’s inducement and carnage, Judith, a wealthy widow who was living under God’s command spending most of her days in solitude, prayer and fasting saved them from the Holoferenes and the Babylonian empire.
Despite her seclusion, she heard about the events that had transpired in the town square and sent her maid to invites Uzziah, King of Judah and the elders to her home posthaste. When they arrive, she first upbraided for their lack of faith. God’s willed to choose to help them or not was gratis. She then tells them they should all be aware of God’s attainment to their aid due to their obedience to his commands. They were not worshiping idols, which essentially confirmed the Deuternomoic Theology as stated by Achior.
The people all knew that Bethulia was the last fortress standing between the Assyrian army and Jerusalem, the capital of Israel. It was inconceivable to Judith that God would allow such destruction at a time when they God would, indeed, answer those who had been faithful and God would do this through them! So, in a deep sense this was not a test of God, but of them. Uzziah and the leaders were persuaded by her wisdom and wanted Judith to pray with them; she, however, had no intentions of praying for rain; she had a much bolder plan and told them to “stand by”.
After purifying herself and praying diligently, Judith was ready to go forth. She put aside her garments of mourning (which she had worn for three and half years since the death of her husband.) She adorned herself with perfume, fine clothes and jewelry. She took on the identity of a beautiful seductress. Along with her maid, she left through the gates of the city. Any men, who saw her, were immediately awestruck by her beauty.
It was not long before they approached the Assyrian outpost. The men took her into custody and asked what she was doing there. She told them she was feeling her people because they were about to be conquered for violating the laws of God. Achior’s prophecy! She asked to see Holofernes and promised to give him a trustworthy report on how he could take the city without any cost to his army.
Upon seeing her, Holofernes marveled at the beauty of her face and was only too anxious to be gracious to her. Despite her promise to give a “trustworthy report,” Judith equivocated with the truth. She said, “I will say nothing false to my Lord.” (Judith 11:5)
Of course Holoferenes thought she was talking about him, but Judith had only one Lord-God. Everything she said to Holofernes was completely deceptive. She could swear by Nebuchadnezzar since he wasn’t merit to her. Swearing by the God of the Israelites was the only swearing that counted. So, Judith cunningly wove words and expounded more Deuteronomic Theology all the while knowing that the Israelites had been a faithful people. She ended saying, “God has sent me to accomplish with you things that will astonish the world.” Again, this is very ironic. Holoferenes was thinking along one line, Judith another. (Judith 11:16)
For three days, Judith lived in the Assyrian camp, establishing a pattern and gaining their confidence. Early each morning, she went out of the camp with her maid to pray. The men counted to be smitten with her beauty to the extent that no one questioned any of her movements.
On the fourth day, Holofernes planned a huge banquet for his servants that did not include any of his soldiers. He intended to seduce Judith, yet held her in such high esteem that he was very deferential towards her. She accepted the invitation to attend and again dressed up in all her finery. She hinted that Holoferenes would have his way with her, which only heightened his desire for her.
After drinking much wine, Holoferenes passed out and his servant gently closed that tent laving Judith alone with him. She took advantage of the situation and beheaded him, much in the same fashion that Jael killed Sisera with the tent peg or stake. (Judges 4:17-22)
Early in the morning, she left to pray with her maid as usual; only this time they had his head in their bag. Again on one stopped or questioned them.
They made their way to Bethulia and shouted for the guards to open the gates letting them in; when all saw the head of Holoferens, there was much rejoicing and parsing of God. Achior attested to the identity of Holoferenes and converted to Judaism right on the spot.
Afterward, Judith’s plan for the army to prepare to go out later that morning and the Assyrians going to awaken their commanders, to find Holofrenes dead, was thriving since they panicked and only then the Israelites attacked them. When the eunuch went to awaken Holoferenes he exclaimed, “One Hebrew woman has brought disgrace on the house of King Nebuchadnezzar.” (Judith 14:18)
The Israelites plundered the Assyrian camp for a month. But it is hard to imagine that her life was the same as before this incident. She continued to live on her husband’s estate and was buried in his tomb. Throughout her story there are echoes of Sarah, Moses (as an intermediary) and the many judges that God raised up to save his people. Because of Judith, the land had peace for many years. There is no doubt that she is the idealized person. Her piety is unquestionable, yet she doesn’t hesitate to lie or use her beauty in the interest of saving the Israelites.
From this story of Judith, we realize the truth of defeating our enemy’s through fasting and Praying. Even though the Fast of Judith is a voluntary fast, we ought to fast in prevailing over the evils facing our country. This is the way to solve all problems and repent our sins of the past year in order to welcome the New Year.
Source: Bible Study by Mary Jane Chaignot