Judith 13

Chapter 13

The Critical Moment. 1 When the hour grew late, his attendants quickly withdrew. Bagoas closed the tent from the outside and excluded the attendants from the master’s presence. They withdrew to their beds, for the banquet had lasted so long that they were all exhausted.[a] 2 Judith was left alone in the tent with Holofernes, who was sprawled on his bed, completely intoxicated. 3 Judith had instructed her maid to stand outside the bedchamber and to wait for her to come out, as was the case on the previous days. She had said that she would be going out to pray, and she explained this also to Bagoas.

Death of Holofernes. 4 When all had departed and no one of either great or minor importance was left in the bedchamber, Judith stood beside the bed of Holofernes and silently uttered this prayer: “O Lord, God of all power, look favorably in this hour on what I am doing for the glory of Jerusalem. 5 Now is the time to come to the aid of your heritage and to carry out my plan to crush the enemies who have risen up against us.”

6 She then went to the bedpost near the head of Holofernes and took the sword that hung there. 7 She drew close to his bed, grasped the hair of his head, and said, “Give me strength this moment, O Lord, God of Israel.” 8 Then with all her might she struck his neck twice and cut off his head.[b] 9 Next she rolled his body off the bed and pulled down the canopy from its posts. After this she came out and handed over the head of Holofernes to her maid, 10 who put it in the food pouch. The two of them then left the camp together, as they were accustomed to do when going out to pray.

Liberation Proclaimed. They passed through the camp, circled around the valley, and ascended the mountain to Bethulia. As they approached its gates, 11 Judith called out to the sentries from a distance, “Open up! Open the gate! God, our God, is with us, still exhibiting his power in Israel and his strength against our enemies. He has done so this very day.” 12 When the people of the town heard her voice, they hurried down to the town gate and summoned the elders. 13 All the people, of both high and low rank, came running, for it hardly seemed credible that she had returned safely. They opened the gate and welcomed the women, lighting a fire to provide light, and gathering around them.

14 Judith then cried out in a loud voice: “Praise God! Praise him! Praise God who has not withdrawn his mercy from the house of Israel but has destroyed our enemies by my hand this very night!”

15 Then she removed the head from the food pouch and held it up for them to see. “Behold the head of Holofernes,” she said, “the commander-in-chief of the Assyrian army, and here is the canopy under which he lay in a drunken daze. The Lord has struck him down by the hand of a woman. 16 As the Lord lives, who has protected me on my journey, I swear that it was my face that seduced him to his destruction, and that he committed no sinful act with me to cause my defilement or my disgrace.”[c]

17 Blessed Are You above All Other Women![d] All the people were greatly astonished, and, bowing in worship to God, they spoke with a single voice: “Blessed are you, our God, for this day you have humiliated the enemies of your people.” 18 Then Uzziah said to her:

“Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God,
above all other women on earth.
And blessed be the Lord God,
the Creator of heaven and earth,
under whose guidance you cut off
the head of the leader of our enemies.
19 The hope that inspired you will never fade
from the memory of those who praise the power of God.
20 May God make your deed redound to your everlasting honor
and shower blessings upon you,
because you risked your life
when our nation was faced with annihilation,
and you averted our ruin,
walking uprightly before the Lord.”

And all the people responded, “Amen! Amen!”

Footnotes

  1. Judith 13:1 Everyone departed in order to leave Holofernes with Judith. Bagoas, who was the last to depart, closed the tent from the outside so that Judith could not exit. But Judith had left her maid outside in order to act as a lookout and to open the tent for her.
  2. Judith 13:8 It was always legitimate to slay an enemy in war. At this time, the war was not between armies but between peoples, and the conquered peoples were slain or enslaved. Hence, it was licit for Judith to slay Holofernes, and even more so inasmuch as she represented the town of Bethulia and had received permission to do what she did from the town’s authorities.
  3. Judith 13:16 The Vulgate (Jud 13:20-21) has a fuller text corresponding to this verse: “20As the Lord is a living God, his angel has protected me on the way to Holofernes, during my stay there, and on my return. The Lord has not allowed his handmaid to be defiled but has brought me back to you without stain of sin, rejoicing over his victory, my escape, and your deliverance. 21One and all, glorify him, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever” [see Ps 136:1].
  4. Judith 13:17 The Liturgy has made use of this text to render homage to the Blessed Virgin Mary who with full knowledge faced the moral sufferings connected with her divine motherhood.

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