If this is your first visit, please see my introduction to these Lenten readings.
22 February. Judith chapters 14-16
These final chapters following the murder of Holofernes recount how the Jews took their revenge on the Assyrians, and then celebrated their victory. It is notable that Judith, clever strategist that she was, warned her own soldiers against engaging the enemy in combat, as she judged correctly that the panic ensuing from discovering their commander’s headless body would be enough to send them running. So without any fighting, the Assyrians were defeated.
The victory song attributed to Judith, like several others in the Old Testament, combines celebration of human achievement with praise for God’s power and protection. If there is a lesson to be learned from this story, it is that both faith in God, and willingness to take risks in his service, are needed to achieve great things. If the Jews had trusted in conventional military power they would have been overwhelmed by the Assyrians. If they had merely prayed to God in their distress at being besieged, but done nothing, would he have saved them by a miracle? But the combination of the people’s faith in God, their willingness to listen to a woman with gifts of prophecy and leadership, and her boldness and cunning, was enough for the victory to be achieved.
As I wrote at the start, Judith is almost certainly a fictional character. But her story can still inspire us to faith and action.