The book of Judith is troubling me

I’ve been reading through the Old Testament, and just finished the book of Judith. I’ve read that it’s supposed to be about how God saves Israel from its enemies when they are faithful to him. But it just seems to me that Israel was saved by a woman who used her sexuality and lies to beguile men into trusting her. There is no indication that God was involved with or approved any of it- just that Judith prayed to God and then made herself physically attractive and lied her mouth off to the the enemy army.

How is this book to be considered morally or spiritually profitable?

Read under the header “Myth 3” in this article by Mark Shea. :o

Thanks, but that link doesn’t help. All it says is that Judith’s actions were considered acceptable in Old Testament times. What does it mean for us, though? The whole book is centered around a woman who achieves good ends through sinful means, which is immoral according to the Church:

1753 A good intention (for example, that of helping one’s neighbor) does not make behavior that is intrinsically disordered, such as lying and calumny, good or just. The end does not justify the means. Thus the condemnation of an innocent person cannot be justified as a legitimate means of saving the nation. On the other hand, an added bad intention (such as vainglory) makes an act evil that, in and of itself, can be good (such as almsgiving).39

This is seriously bothering me. The message I’m getting from Judith is that people will use God to justify whatever actions they choose, and it’s considered admirable if they do so. It would be one thing if there was any indication that God approved of Judith’s actions or if the deception through lying and sexuality weren’t integral to the story, but that’s not the case.


I think you answered your own question.

While canon law 1753 does note what you say, it does not apply to Judith. She wasn’t Catholic. Further, God did not punish her (to our knowledge) for her acts. It doesn’t seem that Judith did something outside of God’s will, here.

In the OT, God Himself has ordered the Israelites to destroy and kill others many times. He can do this because He is God and the peoples He ordered destroyed were fallen away. It is His right and His authority to do what must be done, and we can’t always question this. Yes, the stories of the Old Testament show God as quite swift to punish because He continually watched His people steer themselves despite His obvious presence in their lives.

Here’s another hair that seems to be splitting but isn’t. God apparently allowed slavery. That seems contradictory until you examine that God was explicitly against chattel slavery (what black Americans suffered under)–the complete subjugation of all human rights. He dealt swiftly with Israelites that tried to do so. Servitude itself was a necessary thing in ages past when you had only a choice of work or literally starve to death (there was no “welfare” in the ancient times). Selling your labor and servitude for room and board was a way to stay alive.

Also, it seems shocking to us that Lot would offer his two daughters to take the place of his guests:

Genesis 19:5-8 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”
6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

Doctrine developed gradually in Old Testament days. Lot chose what he thought to be the lesser of two evils. Homosexual acts were known to be an abomination against God. Fornication was not judged to be as intrinsically evil as homosexual acts.

Leviticus 20:13 If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.

I prefer the New Testament. It is “somewhat” easier to understand. :smiley:

God’s ways and thoughts are not like ours. Ezekiel 33:18-20, Isaiah 55:9 He chose to reveal Himself slowly over a time period of thousands of years and He judges all people justly no matter the time period in which they lived. Those who are given more knowledge (like us) are judged accordingly.

Luke 12:47-48 And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. 48 But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

It is part of the divine word of God and so you must see it differently. In fact it must been seen in line with all the other scriptures where women also use their sexuality in a postive way.

Okay… let’s imagine that Judith had encountered an enemy commander who was respectful of all women and a faithful husband to his wife, and who would never ever get drunk on duty with a woman he didn’t know. Do you really think he would have been in any danger? At all? No, because Judith’s plan only worked if the enemy commander was a big fat womanizing jerk. She did elicit this behavior from him; but he did it himself of his own free will.

In general, ancient warfare stories were either about beating the enemy with strength, or with cunning. Brains were the equalizer used by the weak, in order to defend themselves. The Israelites were often outnumbered by the huge empires around them, so they were all in favor of using cunning (as long as it was “fair”). Judith uses cunning, because she’s just one woman from one small town.

Stories of cunning heroes usually pivoted on having an enemy whose greed and foolishness invited their destruction. If the Israelite could fool the enemy without breaking God’s law, then yay. If she’d slept with the guy, that wouldn’t have been “fair”. But tricking the guy? Totally fair. Didn’t he know there was a war going on?

The telltale warning was that Judith didn’t eat his food, or offer him her kosher food to eat with her. Without an exchange of food, there was no hospitality bond between them. She remained legally his enemy, no matter what she said or implied. If he was too greedy for her to notice this huge glaring inconsistency, that was his problem. But he wasn’t interested in her or her doings or what she was thinking; he was only interested in what he could get from her and so lost his head. In both senses.

The surface symbolic meaning of the story (there are a lot of deeper and gentler meanings) is that Jews shouldn’t cozy up too much with foreign invaders, except if they’re planning to whack 'em. And that if you pray and stay faithful to God, God will make you smart and shrewd enough to survive the scariest situations.

Beyond this (and this is where you start to get into the Virgin Mary parallels), war with the Assyrians was a threat to all the women of Israel and to their wish to be chaste. So God protects the women of Israel by means of a woman, and unchastity destroys itself.

Precisely - it’s not like Holofernes was some white-as-snow innocent type that she literally threw herself at, nor did she forcibly hold his mouth open while she poured wine down it with him protesting the whole time.

He reaped the consequences of his own lusts for wine and female company.

Hard isue. It is easy to see why some people will not believe that this book is part of the Canon.

Good post. :slight_smile:

Cunning or shrewdness is good according to God if used in the right manner. Old Testament justice was an “eye for an eye” Exodus 21:23-25. New Testament justice is “turn the other cheek” Matthew 5:38-42 because “vengeance is now to be God’s” alone Romans 12:19. Revenge was allowed in the Old Testament, but it is not allowed in the New Testament. However, “turning the other cheek” is not to be taken literally in every case because we are justified in defending ourselves while we are being attacked. Jesus sometimes uses hyperbole/exaggeration in order to emphasize a particular point that He desires to make Matthew 23:9 and it is not meant to be taken strictly literally.
Revenge** is retaliation for a deed that has already been done either to oneself or to others. Defense, however, is to be used to stop the deed from happening while it is presently happening either to oneself or to others.

Matthew 10:16 Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

The apostles were commanded to act wisely and to do no harm to others.

Luke 16:1-8 He also said to His disciples: “There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 So he called him and said to him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’
3 “Then the steward said within himself, ‘What shall I do? For my master is taking the stewardship away from me. I cannot dig; I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have resolved what to do, that when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.’
5 “So he called every one of his master’s debtors to him, and said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6 And he said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ So he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ So he said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ And he said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

Here, Jesus praises the shrewdness of the servant in his dealings with others, but He is not actually condoning the servant’s unjust actions towards his master. The servant in this case sinned against God and his master and sin is never a good thing because sin always results in some type of punishment Colossians 3:25, Luke 12:58-59. Christians need to be shrewd at all times so that they are not deceived by the evil cunning of others and thereby led into either sin and/or destruction by these evildoers’ deceptions.

So, Judith acted in accordance with what she shrewdly reasoned she needed to do in order to save her people and Holofernes used his own free will to fall for her cunning deception and this resulted in his own demise.

There are many hard issues in the Old Testament.

Lot, who was considered a righteous man in OT Times, chose to offer his own daughters for immoral purposes in order to save his presumably male guests (who were actually angels in disguise) from being used for immoral purposes yet most people do not think that Genesis should be excluded from the OT Scripture Canon because of Lot’s decision.

Genesis 19:5-8 And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”
6 So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, **“Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 8 See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; **only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”

The Old Testament is to be used to show the history and the prophecies concerning God and His love for His creation and His plan for the salvation of mankind and since we are under the New Covenant now, praise God, we should not be overly concerned about ancient Old Testament morality compared to New Testament morality except to thank God that we were born in the NT time period and not in OT time period.

God revealed Himself to mankind slowly over a period of thousands of years and so He always justly judges each person according to what had been revealed/known about God and His commands during each person’s own lifetime. God judges each person’s free will choices using this standard Luke 12:40-48.

What we need to understand right now is that in order for us to inherit eternal life, we must obey His commandments. This is His Word to us right now in the 21st Century.
Matthew 19:16-17** Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.Hebrews 5:9

Well written. Lot’s case in sacrificing something very dear to protect others who he otherwise owed nothing to except his charity and courtesy. A hard lesson indeed, but a very holy act.

Thank you. :slight_smile:

Lot believed that he was doing the right thing in offering his daughters as substitutes for the “men” because this was his understanding of the “rules” of hospitality/protection for guests under his roof in his time period. He acted rightly in accordance with his beliefs/understanding in that time period.

However, I believe that in these NT Times we Christians would not even consider sacrificing our own family members for evil purposes. We would choose to fight and die instead of surrendering either ourselves or our family members for immoral purposes.
1 Timothy 5:8** But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

It is best to not “view” ancient human history through 21st Century “lenses” and then make judgments on it using our “present” standards.

The Book of Esther?

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