Judith 1

The Assyrian Threat[a]

Fall of the Empire of the Medes

Chapter 1[b]

War against the Medes. 1 It was the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar,[c] who ruled the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh. During that period Arphaxad ruled over the Medes in Ecbatana, 2 and he completely encircled this city with a wall constructed of hewn stones, each stone three cubits thick and six cubits long. The completed wall was seventy cubits high and fifty cubits thick. 3 At the city’s gates he erected towers one hundred cubits high, with a thickness of sixty cubits at its foundations. 4 He made its gates seventy cubits high and forty cubits wide to enable his entire army to march out in a body with his infantry arrayed in proper rank.

5 In those days, King Nebuchadnezzar waged war against King Arphaxad in the vast plain of the district of Regau. 6 Coming to his support were all the inhabitants of the hill country, all who dwelt along the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Hydaspes,[d] and from the plain, Arioch, king of the Elamites. Thus many nations banded together to confront the forces of the Cheleoud.

Nebuchadnezzar’s Message to Many Peoples. 7 Then Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, sent messengers to all the inhabitants of Persia, and to all who lived in the west: those who dwelt in Cilicia and Damascus, Lebanon and Anti-lebanon, to all who lived along the seacoast, 8 to the peoples of Carmel and Gilead, Upper Galilee, and the great plain of Esdraelon, 9 to all those who were in Samaria and its towns, and beyond the Jordan as far as Jerusalem, Bethany, Chelous, Kadesh, and the River of Egypt, to Tahpanhes, Rameses, and the whole land of Goshen, 10 even beyond Tanis and Memphis, and to all the inhabitants of Egypt as far as the borders of Ethiopia. 11 However, the inhabitants of all those lands paid no heed to the summons of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, and refused to join forces with him for the campaign. They were not afraid of him, regarding him as just a man. They sent his envoys away empty-handed and in disgrace.

12 The Campaign against Arphaxad. Then Nebuchadnezzar’s anger was aroused against that entire region, and he swore by his throne and his kingdom to take revenge on all the territories of Cilicia, Damascus, and Syria, and also to put to the sword all the inhabitants of Moab, Ammon, the whole of Judea, and everyone in Egypt, as far as the coasts of the two seas.[e] 13 In the seventeenth year he led his forces against King Arphaxad and defeated him in battle. He routed the whole army of Arphaxad, his entire cavalry force, and all his chariots. 14 He occupied his towns, and, advancing on Ecbatana, he seized its towers, plundered its marketplaces, and reduced its former splendor to ruin. 15 He captured Arphaxad in the mountain regions of Ragau and ran him through with his spears, destroying him once and for all. 16 Then he returned to Nineveh with all who had joined forces with him, an immense horde of warriors. There he and his army rested and feasted for one hundred and twenty days.


  1. Judith 1:1 The author manipulates history, geography, and numbers, as in apocalyptic works, to impress the reader; in this gigantic and unequal combat, the fate of the party of God takes place.
  2. Judith 1:1 Nebuchadnezzar personifies the power and haughtiness of those who dominate nations and combat the People of God. The name Arphaxad, a person unknown to history, is taken from Gen 10:22; the dimensions of the fortifications are exaggerated so as to give the impression of something colossal. The forces of the Cheleoud probably refers to the Chaldeans. The peoples are listed by enumerating the biblical names from one end to the other of the Near East. With the collapse of the Median Empire (in fact it was absorbed by the Persian Empire), the whole power of paganism lies in the hand of a single king. The public rejoicing is on a par with those after similar victories (Est 1:3-8; Dan 5).
  3. Judith 1:1 Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylonia (604–562 B.C.), was never called “king of Assyria” and did not reign at Nineveh, which had been destroyed in 612 B.C. by his father Nabopolassar. Ecbatana (modern-day Hamadan) was founded by the Mede Deioces. Some scholars believe that the Book’s historical confusion (of which this is an example) is deliberate with the purpose of stamping the work as fiction.
  4. Judith 1:6 Hydaspes is probably the result of a confusion with the well-known Hydaspes in India; it could refer to the Choaspes River, which flowed through Susa, or the Ulai, which flowed past it. The Elamites were found in the eastern province of the Persian Empire (see 1 Mac 6:1).
  5. Judith 1:12 As far as the coasts of the two seas: an obscure expression that may mean between the Dead Sea and the Mediterranean or between these two and the Red Sea.

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