Aftermath of Judith’s Victory

Image result for o maiden of yis'rael dancing victory

 by

Damien F. Mackey

“Her fame continued to spread, and she lived in the house her husband had left her. Before she died, Judith divided her property among her husband’s and her own close relatives and set her slave woman free. When she died in Bethulia at the age of 105, she was buried beside her husband, and the people of Israel mourned her death for seven days. As long as Judith lived, and for many years after her death, no one dared to threaten the people of Israel”.

 Judith 16:23-25

Judith’s “fame continued to spread”.

This verse has intrigued me because one might expect from it that the long-lived heroine Judith would be referred to at some later stage in her illustrious career. One finds, however, that she (qua Judith) is completely un-mentioned anywhere else in the Scriptures.

On the other hand, her “fame” seems to have resounded in mythologies and potential pseudo-histories down through the centuries, even into AD ‘history’. See my:

World Renowned Judith of Bethulia

https://www.academia.edu/12785080/World_Renowned_Judith_of_Bethulia

My search for the world renowned Judith in the later phase of her life had prompted, in part, the short “The Aftermath” section in my university thesis:

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah

and its Background

AMAIC_Final_Thesis_2009.pdf

(Volume Two, pp. 84-86), which section now needs some revising.

Accordingly, I shall re-write it a relevant part of it here with several comments added:

So, what became of our main characters from our synthesis of KCI [Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah] with BOJ [Book of Judith] for EOH [Era of Hezekiah]?

King Hezekiah

Hezekiah, given his reign of 29 years (2 Kings 18:2), from c. 727-699 BC (revised), would have lived long enough to have savoured Judith’s victory in c. 703 BC (revised).

But he had, ever since his life-threatening illness in his Year 14, faded from the forefront, and we hear virtually nothing of him for the last 15 years approximately of his 29-year reign. Probably the bulk of this latter part of his reign was shared in co-regency with his son, Manasseh, who would continue to reign for almost half a century after his father’s death (2 Chronicles 33:1).

King Sennacherib

He is the ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ of BOJ. We know that Sennacherib was assassinated by two of his sons. ….

Eliakim/Joakim

The last we hear of the high-priest Eliakim/Joakim was his visit to Bethulia, to see the victorious Judith (c. 703 BC). We learn nothing more about him after that. But he may have actually written the BOJ account.

Comment: For more on Eliakim, see my:

Hezekiah’s Chief Official Eliakim was High Priest

https://www.academia.edu/31701765/Hezekiahs_Chief_Official_Eliakim_was_High_Priest

and:

Author of the Book of Judith

https://www.academia.edu/32193754/Author_of_the_Book_of_Judith

Judith

Of our heroine it is written that (Judith 16:21-24):

Judith went to Bethulia, and remained on her estate. For the rest of her life she was honored throughout the whole country. Many desired to marry her, but she gave herself to no man all the days of her life after her husband Manasseh died and was gathered to his people. She became more and more famous, and grew old in her husband’s house, reaching the age of one hundred five. She set her maid free. She died in Bethulia, and they buried her in the cave of her husband Manasseh; and the house of Israel mourned her for seven days.

Comment: In search of the older Judith, I had flirted for a time with identifying her as the significant woman, “the prophetess’, Huldah, at the time of King Josiah of Judah, but had then rejected this scenario because I could not see how the two could be properly matched in all aspects. This is what I then wrote:

The only woman of significance who emerges in the Scriptures for this period is the prophetess, Huldah, who was important enough for king Josiah, Hezekiah’s great grandson, to have sent his ambassadors to, in order to ‘inquire of the Lord’, after Josiah had found and read the book of the law (2 Chronicles 34:15, 21, 22). Huldah, however, could not have been Judith, since the husband of the former was apparently still alive, and was likely a Levite (not a Simeonite) (v. 22), and because Huldah “lived in Jerusalem in the Second Quarter” (v. 22); whereas Judith, as we have read above, lived out her life in Bethulia, perhaps the northern Bethel.

It does not seem, therefore, that Judith, despite her fame, appears in any other part of the Scriptures.

Comment: Huldah does appear to have potential, though, for being an older Judith with regard to name similarity (phonetics, if not meaning); chronology; character; and status. So it might yet be premature to close the book entirely on the possibility of matching the two, Judith and Huldah.

BOJ ends with another of those seemingly problematical glosses (16:25): “No one ever again spread terror among the Israelites during the lifetime of Judith, or for a long time after her death”. In mathematical terms this would mean that, since Judith lived for 105 years, and was probably a teenager when she triumphed over Holofernes, no one should have “spread terror amongst the Israelites” for, say, the 85-90 remaining years of Judith’s life, nor even “for a long time after” that. Taking this literally, about 110 years of peace would probably be the minimum allowable time span. We saw in Chapter 2 (of this VOLUME TWO), p. 31, that this verse has been used as an argument against any attempted reconstruction of the BOJ drama at the time of Ashurbanipal, because of the tragic death of king Josiah in c. 609 BC (conventional dating) at the hands of pharaoh Necho.

The death of Josiah is likewise a factor though in my reconstruction of BOJ to EOH, falling as it does, conventionally, about a century after Judith’s victory – and even less than that in the context of my revision. However, what I think that the editor of BOJ would have had in mind when adding this verse – especially in the context of the drama which is about a foreign invasion into the heart of Israel for the purpose of destroying Jerusalem – would have been the sack of Jerusalem and the razing to the ground of its Temple by Nebuchednezzar II in c. 587 BC (conventional dating).

Pharaoh Necho, on his way to Carchemish to fight against the Babylonians, had specifically told king Josiah who had come out to intercept him: ‘What have I to do with you, king of Judah? I am not coming against you today, but against the house with which I am at war; and God has commanded me to hurry. Cease opposing God, who is with me, so that he will not destroy you’ (2 Chronicles 35: 21). Far from Necho’s ‘spreading terror among the Israelites’, he did all he could to avoid a clash with king Josiah. Though admittedly the violent death of the Judaean king at the hands of pharaoh would likely have struck great fear into the hearts of the Jews.

A few years before Nebuchednezzar II began to reign, pharaoh Necho had also carried king Jehoahaz of Judah captive to Egypt and had set his brother Eliakim on the throne, changing his name to Jehoiakim (2 Chronicles 36:2-4); the same two names, incidentally, that I have argued belonged to king Hezekiah’s high priest (Eliakim/J[eh]oakim).

Whether this constituted a ‘troubling of Israel’, however, is debatable. Certainly there is no indication that the Temple was under any sort of threat at this time.

Suffice it to say that at least a century, even in the strictest revised terms, is probably allowable for the period between Judith’s victory and any serious assaults against Jerusalem itself threatening the Temple. ….

 

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