The Book of Judith Expands the Prophet Isaiah

Damien F. Mackey


This is a revised version of the

“Excursus: Life and Times of Hezekiah’s Contemporary, Isaiah”

in my thesis:

A Revised History of the Era of King Hezekiah of Judah and its Background


Isaiah and his Father Amos

Relevant to my efforts to merge KCI (Kings, Chronicles and Isaiah) with BOJ (the Book of Judith) is the need now to test whether Isaiah finds his appropriate match in the Simeonite Uzziah, chief magistrate of Bethulia (BOJ), who – in the context of my reconstruction –must have been a great man in Hezekiah’s kingdom. We saw recently, in Chapter 3 (on p. 67), that Uzziah was entitled both ‘the prince of Judah’ and ‘the prince of the people of Israel’.

Now such an identification, of Isaiah with Uzziah, would necessitate that Uzziah’s father, Micah,be the same as Isaiah’s father, Amos (or Amoz).

This is interesting.

Whilst the names Amos and Micah do not immediately appear to share any similarity whatsoever, scholars find an incredible similarity, though, between whom they consider to be these ‘two’ prophets. Thus King (1356):

Not only did Micah live in the vicinity of Amos’ home, Tekoa, but he was like Amos in many respects. He was so much influenced by the spirit of Amos that he has been called “Amos redivivus”. Both [sic] rustic prophets attacked in a direct and forceful way the socio-economic abuses of their day.

Micah’s origins we do know. He hailed from the town of ‘Moresheth’ (Micah 1:1) -thought to be Moresheth-Gath, a border town of southern Judah. It is in this location, Moresheth-Gath,I suggest, that we discover the place of origin of Isaiah and his father.

Amos began his prophetic ministry in the latter days of the Jehu-ide king, Jeroboam II of

Israel (c. 785-743 BC, conventional dates, but needing to be revised). Amos was called to leave Judah and testify in the north against the injustices of Samaria. (Cf. Micah 1:2-7). Most interestingly, Amos was to be found preaching in the northern Bethel, which I have identified with Bethulia of BOJ (pp. 71-72 of Volume TWO). Not unexpectedly, Amos’ presence there at the time of Jeroboam II was not appreciated by the Bethelite priesthood, who regarded him as a conspirator from the southern kingdom (Amos 7:10). Being the man that he was, though, Amos would unlikely have been frightened away by Jeroboam’s priest, Amaziah, when he had urged Amos (vv.12-13): ‘O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is the temple of the kingdom’.

Presumably Amos had chosen Bethel/Bethulia in which to settle because there, more than likely, he had Simeonite ancestors. Judith’s husband Manasseh would later be buried near Bethulia“with his ancestors” (Judith 8:3). This town would thus have been one of those locations in which the migrant Simeonites of king Asa of Judah’s reign (more than a century earlier) had chosen to settle; perhaps re-naming the place Bethul [Bethel] after a Simeonite town of that name in south western Judah (Joshua 19:4). (1356‘Micah’, 17:2, p. 283.).

Thus Amos of Bethulia would become Merari,father of Judith; the name Amos (Amoz), or Amaziah, perhaps being linguistically transformable into Amariah, hence Merari, in the same way that king Uzziah of Judah was also called Azariah (1 Chronicles 3:12). We saw that Jewish legend names Judith’s father as Beeri.Now the names Beeri andMerari

are very similar if Conder’s principle, “supposing the substitution of M for B, of which there are occasional instances in Syrian nomenclature” (as quoted on p. 70), be allowable here. This vital piece of information, that Judith’s father was Beeri, now enables for the prophet Hosea, an exact contemporary of Isaiah in the north, whose father was also Beeri (Hosea 1:1), to be identified with Isaiah.

If these connections are valid, then Isaiah must therefore have accompanied his father to the north and he, too, must have been prophesying, as Hosea, in the days of Jeroboam II (Hosea 1:1). His prophesying apparently began in the north:1358“When the Lord first spoke through Hosea ...” (1:2). He would continue prophesying right down to the time of king Hezekiah (cf. Hosea 1:1; Isaiah 1:1).

The names Isaiah and Hoseaare indeed of very similar meaning, being basically derived from the same Hebrew root for ‘salvation’,

-“Isaiah” (Yeshâ‘yâhû) signifies: “Yahweh (the Lord) is salvation”.

-“Hosea” means practically the same: “Yahweh (the Lord) is saviour”.

We can now easily connect Isaiah with Uzziah (var.Osias/Ozias) through Hosea (var. Osee).

Hosea’s/Isaiah’s Family

Though no doubt young, the prophet was given the strange command by God to marry an ‘unfaithful’woman: “‘Go, take yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry,

for the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the Lord’. So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim …” (Hosea 1:2-3). Biblical scholars have agonised over the type

of woman this Gomer might have been: adulteress? harlot? temple-prostitute? But essentially the clue is to be found in the statement above that she was a citizen of the ‘land of great harlotry’: namely, the northern kingdom of Israel.

A further likeness between Isaiah and Hosea was the fact that ‘their names’ and those of

‘their’children were meant to be, in their meanings, prophetic signs. Thus:

-The prophet Isaiah tells us: “Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and portents ...” (Isaiah 8:18).

-Similarly, the names of the children of the prophet Hosea were meant to be prophetic (Hosea 1:4, 6, 9).

Boutflower, who has written perceptively on Isaiah’s children, has rightly noted the prophetic significance of their names and those of Hosea’s children, without however connecting Isaiah and Hosea as one:1359“Isaiah like Hosea had three known children, all

of whose names were prophetic”. It is most unlikely, one would have to think, to have two great prophets contemporaneously operating over such a substantial period of time,

and each having three children whose names were prophetic. The fact is I believe that it

was just the one prophet, who may possibly have had six children in all.

And Irvine has, in the course of his detailed study of the so-called Isaianic Denkschrift[‘personal memoir’] (Isaiah 6:1-9:6) of the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis, written extensively on the chronological significance of Isaiah’s children and their names in connection with this

crisis for Judah.1360 I also appreciate Irvine’s concern for scholars to study the prophets

(thus Isaiah) according to the “historical events and politics” of their time.1361

Whilst this Simeonite family was not descended from the prophetic line, as Amos himself

would testify to the priest of Bethel (7:14), it was certainly a ‘family’ from the point of view of its striking the same prophetic chord. Commentators have recognised a similar strain in the writings of Amos,Micah, Hosea and Isaiah,whilst having no idea of what was - at least, as far as I see it -their proper (father-to-son) relationship. Thus King has written, in regard to the prophet Micah:1362 “... the influence [upon Micah] of Isaiah, also Hosea and Amos, is evident”. But it was rather Micah,as Amos, I suggest, who was doing the ‘influencing’; he upon his son Isaiah/Hosea.

Fall of Samaria

Possibly it was the anticipation of this calamity in the north (c. 722 BC) that would have prompted Isaiah to return to the southern kingdom of Judah, where king Ahaz then occupied the throne of Jerusalem. By now the prophet had taken a new wife – referred to as ‘the maiden’, ‘young marriageable woman’.1363 [1363 Irvine gives for “'almâ… young but post-pubescent [woman] of marriageable age”. Op. cit, p. 168.] (Isaiah 7:14) – who was already pregnant according to the tense of the Hebrew verb, ‘conceive’, a QAL active participle having no implication of something that is only to happen in the future. We find the prophet confronting King Ahaz at the Upper Pool (Isaiah 7:3); the former probably with his pregnant wife beside him. This last suggestion would seem to be compatible with Irvine’s interpretation of verse 14: “Look, the young woman is pregnant … and is about to bear a son …”. This is the celebrated child who is to be named ‘IMMANUEL’(meaning ‘God-with-us’).1365

We should expect that Isaiah would have been back in the south again, more than a decade later, when the Assyrian Turtan came to ‘Ashdod’. For it was precisely then that

he had begun to perform that strange pantomime or “street drama”1366of his of going ‘barefoot and naked’ (Isaiah 20:1-2) as a vivid demonstration to Judah that its dependence upon Egypt/Ethiopia would end in disaster and captivity. This prophetic action would presumably have been more effective if undertaken in Judah, rather than in

the north. Fortunately for Isaiah, he may not have been alone in this; for Micah his father, who like Isaiah had foretold firstly the destruction of Samaria, with wrath flowing over into Judah, was similarly warning (Micah 1: 8-9): ‘This is why I am going to mourn and lament, go barefoot and naked, howl like the jackals, wail like the ostriches. For there is no healing for the blow Yahweh strikes; it reaches into Judah, it knocks at the very door of my people, reaches even unto Jerusalem’.

This, I suggest, was a father-and-son prophetic combination!

Not only did their prophetic careers overlap chronologically, but they also said and did similar things. Most striking of all of their possible‘interconnections’ is exemplified by comparing Micah 4:1-3 Isaiah 2:2-4, ‘Oracles’ regarding the future reign of Yahweh in Zion. They are virtually word for word exact.

And that Micah, too, had prophesied in the time of king Hezekiah - who was in fact receptive to the prophet’s message - is apparent from the Book of Jeremiah, in which Hezekiah’s response to Micah is contrasted with that of the Davidides of Jeremiah’s own day (Jeremiah 26:16, 18-19). Thus I would not generally accept what Irvine has given as being a traditional view concerning the relationship between the prophets Micah and Isaiah and the Davidic kings (and I would also of course reject that Micah was ‘younger’

than Isaiah); though I would have no disagreement with Irvine’s concluding remarks re Ahaz:1367

Scholars traditionally have viewed Isaiah and his younger contemporary, Micah, as antagonists of the Davidic monarchs, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The conclusion of G. von Rad is typical: “All the evidence suggests, however, that these prophets increasingly wrote off the reigning members of the house of David of their own day, and even that they regarded the whole history of the monarchy from the time of David as a false development”. As for Isaiah’s attitude toward Ahaz specifically, the prophet’s change from support to opposition is thought to have occurred during the course of the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis. A detailed explanation of this shift and a delineation of the issues were given classical formulation in K. Budde’s Jesaja’s Erleben (1928).

Far from its being anti-Davidic, the Tendenz of the Isaian Denkschrift seems to me - and

this view is based on discussions such as the following by Irvine, with reference to Würtheim - to have been a seeking to confirm Ahaz and Hezekiah in the covenant anciently established with king David:1368

Verse 9b [of Isaiah chapter 7] is a warning to the entire Davidic court (the verbs are plural): “If you don’t stand firm (’im lo’ta’amînû), you won’t stand at all” (kî lo’teame).…. The prophet engages here in a clever word-play: ta’amînûand teamenot only sound alike, but derive in fact from the same Hebrew root, ’mn [1369]. The second verb, a nifal form, clearly refers to the political survival of the house of David. The meaning of the first verb, a hifil form of ’mnused absolutely, is less certain. … Scholars generally translate the term as “believe”, but disagree over the prophet’s application of the word…. E. Würtheim contends that the implied object of “believe” is the Nathan prophecy (2 Samuel 7) and the covenant thereby established between Yahweh and the Davidic house. Isaiah is warning Ahaz not to break the covenant by appealing to Assyria [to Tiglath-pileser III] for help ….

Abiding in the North

Some possible clues indicating that Isaiah may have been back in the north during the

Assyrian army’s actual march upon Jerusalem (Sennacherib’s Third Campaign) are that:

(i) Isaiah is not mentioned amongst king Hezekiah’s officials at the Upper Pool rendezvouswith Assyria’s Rabshakeh, even though this might have been expected; and

(ii) 2 Kings 19:2: “[Hezekiah] sent Eliakim …Shebna … and the senior priests, covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah son of [Amos]”.

Isaiah’s distance from Jerusalem might also explain the prophet’s apparently being sometimes later than king Hezekiah and his officials to catch up with what had transpired

in the south. Thus, at one point, Isaiah seems aware only of what Sennacherib’s servants had been saying, and not of Sennacherib’s own letters (2 Chronicles 32:17; cf. 2 Kings 19:5-6).

Though one could also argue Isaiah and his father were in the south at the time, pantomiming what was about to happen to the Judaean kingdom and its fort, Lachish. Of

course, according to my reconstruction, Isaiah would have been ensconced back in the

north to coincide with his being Uzziah of BOJ at the time of Holofernes’ invasion and defeat.

Northern Simeonites

The magistrates of the town of Bethulia before whom Achior appeared are named (BOJ 6): “…Uzziah son of Micah, of the tribe of Simeon, and Chabris son of Gothoniel, and Charmis son of Melchiel” (v.15). I am arguing that this Simeonite Uzziah (var. Ozias) was none other than Isaiah himself. In BOJ chapter 8 we shall be told that Judith too was - like Uzziah - of the tribe of Simeon.

Now, with Simeon being one of the southernmost tribes of Judah, with enclaves even in the Negev (1 Chronicles 4:28), is it a peculiarity having a bastion of Simeonites situated in Ephraïm?

It certainly would have been in the earliest periods of Israel’s settlement in Canaan, but it would be quite allowable from the time of king Asa of Judah (c. C9th BC) onwards; for it is recorded in 2 Chronicles 15:9 that, at the time of Asa, Simeonites were residing in the north “as aliens” amongst the Ephraïmites and Manasseh-ites. Bruns has elaborated on this in his context of trying to locate BOJ to the Persian era:1287

Nor ... is the most important geographical detail in the book [of Judith], namely the reference to a Jewish (Simeonite) settlement on the border of the valley of Dothan, a fabrication. For a combination of various sources (Meg. Ta’an, for 25 Marheshvan (chap. 8); Jos., Ant. 13:275f., 379f; Wars 1:93f.; and also apparently I Macc. 5:23) shows that at the time of the return in the region of Samaria, in the neighbourhood of what was known as “the cities of Nebhrakta,” there was a Jewish-Simeonite settlement (which may in effect have existed as early as in the days of the First Temple and being of Semite origin: cf. II Chron. 34:6, 15:9; and also I Chron. 4:31) ....

Thus there were Simeonites dwelling in this northern part of the land during, and beyond, the era of the Divided Kingdom.

Assyrian Advance on Bethulia

BOJ 7:1: “The next day Holofernes ordered his whole army, and all the allies who had joined him, to break camp and to move against Bethulia, and to seize the passes up into the hill country and make war on the Israelites”. The Assyrian fighting forces, “170,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry, not counting the baggage and the foot soldiers handling it” (v. 2), now numbered that fateful figure of 180,000 plus.1288 “When the Israelites saw their vast numbers, they were greatly terrified and said to one another,‘They will now strip clean the whole land; neither the high mountains nor the valleys nor the hills will bear their weight’.” (v. 4). One can now fully appreciate the appropriateness of Joel’s ‘locust’ imagery.

BOJ provides the reader with a precise location for the Assyrian army prior to its assault

of the fortified towns of Israel facing Dothan.

I give firstly the Douay version of it (7:3):

All these [Assyrian footmen and cavalry] prepared themselves together to fight against the children of Israel. And they came by the hillside to the top, which looketh toward Dothain [Dothan], from the place which is called Belma, unto Chelmon, which is over against Esdraelon.

Next the Greek version, which importantly mentions Bethulia (v. 3):

They encamped in the valley near Bethulia, beside the spring, and they spread out in breadth over Dothan as far as Balbaim and in length from Bethulia to Cyamon, which faces Esdraelon.

The combination of the well-known Dothan (var. Dothain) and Esdraelon in both versions presents no problem, and fixes the area where the Assyrian army massed. The

identification of Bethulia will be discussed separately. The only other geographical elements named are ‘Belma’ (Douay)/ ‘Balbaim’ (Greek); and ‘Chelmon’ (Douay)/ ‘Cyamon’ (Greek). Charles has, not illogically, linked the first of these names, which he gives as ‘Belmaim’ (var. Abelmain),1289with the ‘Belmaim’ listed in 4:4.1290 And he tells that, in the Syrian version, this appears as ‘Abelmeholah’.1291But both this location, and

Cyamon,Syr Kadmûn, VL Chelmona”, he claims to be “unknown”.1292

I like the idea of Balamon as Baal-hamon (cf. Song of Songs 8:11).

Leahy and Simons, on the other hand, have both ventured identifications for these two locations. And they have each in fact arrived at the same conclusion for‘Belbaim’ (‘Belma’);1293 though Simons will reject the identification of ‘Cyamon’ (‘Chelmon’) that we shall now see that Leahy has favoured. Here firstly, then, is Leahy’s account of it, in which he also connects ‘Belbaim’ with the ‘Balamon’ of 8:3 (pertaining to the burial place of Judith’s husband, Manasseh):1294

Holofernes had given orders to break up camp and march against Bethulia. Then,

according to the Gk, the army camped in the valley near Bethulia, and spread itself in breadth in the direction over against Dothan and on to Belbaim (Balamon of Gk 8:3, Belma of Vg, Jible´am of Jos 17:11, the modern Khirbet Bel´ame), and in length from Bethulia to Kyamon (Chelmon of Vg, Jokne´am of Jos 12:22, the modern Tell Qaimun).

Simons will instead prefer for ‘Cyamon’, modern el-jâmûn.1295Here is his geographical

assessment of the final location of the Assyrian army as given in the Greek version:1296

Judith vii 3b describes the location of BETHULIA more closely. The clause is easily

understandable on the condition that two changes are made, viz. “breadthwise ‘from’ … DOTHAIMunto BELBAIM and lengthwise from ‘BELBAIM’(LXX reads “BETHULIA”. However, the besieged city itself cannot have been at the extremity of the besieging army) unto CYAMON which is opposite (the plain of) Esdrelon” or in terms of modern geography; from tell dôtân unto hirbet bel’ameh and from hirbet bel’ameh unto el-jâmûn. The disposition of Holofernes’ army thus described is perfectly comprehensible, if BETHULIA was situated between the upright sides of a triangle, the top of which was the twice mentioned site of hirbet bel’ameh, while its base was a line from tell dôtân to el-jâmûn.

That the town of Bethulia takes centre stage as if being the entire point of focus for the Assyrian attack may perhaps be only because the heroine Judith lived there, and hence

the whole drama is meant to be seen from the point of view of that town. Perhaps, more

realistically, the vast Assyrian army would have been directing its front at more than just

Bethulia.And I shall soon suggest that Chelmon was very much a focal point during the

Assyrian advance.

But why was Bethulia so important anyway?

We shall co me to that.

On the second day, Holofernes led out the cavalry in full view of the Israelites in Bethulia(v. 6). It was at this point that the local Edomite and Moabite leaders advised Holofernes that there was no need for him to risk any of his army in a ‘regular formation’ engagement, when he could simply bring the resisters to submission by cutting off their

water supply (vv. 12, 13). Verses 16-18:

These words pleased Holofernes and all his attendants…. So the army of the Ammonites moved forward, together with 5000 Assyrians, and they encamped in the valley and seized the water supply and the springs of the Israelites. And the Edomites and Ammonites went up and encamped in the hill country opposite Dothan; and they sent some of their men toward the south and the east, toward Egrebeh, which is near Chusi beside the Wadi Mochmur. The rest of the Assyrian army remained encamped in the plain, and covered the whole face of the land. Their tents and supply trains spread out in great number, and they formed a vast


This latest strategy is geographically explained by Simons as follows:1297

While a contingent of troops establishes itself (vii 17Z) in the … (= sahl ‘arrãbeh ….) and occupies a spring still accessible to the inhabitants of BETHULIA on the north-western edge of this plain (vii 12.17), another part of the army moves to some high observation-posts “opposite DOTHAIM”(vii 18a) in order to watch possible attempts at escape from the beleaguered city. This section of his forces, therefore, occupied positions on the height of the north-western border of sahl ‘arrãbeh, more specifically – xv 3 – “round about BETHULIA”.

… According to vii 18b a platoon was also despatched to “EGREBEL (or:ECREBEL) near CHOUS on the brook Mochmour”. On the probable assumption that this statement refers to a reconnaissance or a predatory raid, the identification of EGREBELwith ‘aqrabeh, 12 kms se. of nãblus, is not at all impossible. Perhaps it is also supported by “quzah”(= CHOUS?) on the road nãblus-Jerusalem. “The brook Mochmour”may have left its name in an adapted Arabic form to wãdi el-ahmar (“the red wadi”). In the meantime the bulk of the army withdrew from the small sahl‘arrãbeh to “the (great) plain (______)”,which it covered with its many tents (vii 18c).

Charles gives the same identifications as Simons for ‘Egrebel’ (‘Akraba’) and ‘Chous’

(‘Quzeh’),and for ‘Mochmour’ he has proposed “mod[ern] Makhueh, south of Nablus


For“thirty-four days” (v. 20) this terrible situation of blockade prevailed, until the Bethulians’ water containers were all empty. Charles, who has provided the differing figures for this period according to various versions of BOJ,1299 has concluded that: 1297 Ibid: “The long siege by this large army is meant to emphasize the importance of Bethulia”.

The citizens of the town now turned angrily on their leaders (vv. 23-25). They demanded

surrender, with its attendant slavery, as being preferable to a certain death by thirst. And

they added: ‘We call to witness against you heaven and earth and our God …’ (vv. 26, 27, 28). Thus Uzziah found himself faced with a Moses-like situation, with the people rebelling on account of water and thirst (Numbers 20:2-13). And Uzziah’s response– at least as Judith will later interpret it (8:9-27) – was likewise flawed as was that of Moses (vv. 30-31; cf. Numbers 20:1-2). Uzziahhad responded: ‘Courage my brothers and sisters! Let us hold out for five days more; by that time the Lord our God will turn his mercy to us again …. But if these days pass by, and no help comes for us, I will do as you say’. The people returned to their posts, but “in great misery” (v. 32). However, a recent prayer of theirs (v. 19) was about to be heard, for despite their despairing, ‘we have no one to help us’, effective help was now at hand.

Judith and Her Family

The Simeonites of Bethulia may have been, like the Naphtalians in the Book of Tobit, a closely-knit clan, intermarrying. We are told for instance that Judith’s husband, Manasseh [Manasses], now dead, had “belonged to [Judith’s] tribe and family” (v. 2). After his death by sunstroke during a barley harvest, Manassehwas given a very patriarch-like burial, in a cave in a field: “So they buried him with his ancestors in the field between Dothan and Balamon” (v. 3; cf. Genesis 25:9). That Manasseh’s burial was actually in a “cave” is noted in 16:23.

Obviously Judith and her ancestors, and her husband, were triballyrelated to Uzziah of

Bethuliaand his father, Micah.

Was there also a family relationship?

Judith’s father was one Merari (8:1), of whom she appears to have been immensely proud. She calls herself “Judith daughter of Merari” in her victory canticle (16:6). Merari was, it seems, a well-known figure. Merari, being a descendant of Simeonite leaders of Moses’ time, would himself have been of noble Israelite blood. Jewish tradition calls him ‘Beeri’, according to Moore,1303rather than Merari, and this I think is both somewhat curious, and also significant. It is curious because the only other ‘Judith’ in the Jewish Scriptures, a Hittite woman whom Esau married, also had a father called Beeri (Genesis 26:34).

It is significant, at least in my context, because I am identifying:

(a)Merari/Beeri also with the father of the prophet Hosea, one Beeri (Hosea 1:1); and

(b) the prophet Hosea (var. Osee) with both the prophet Isaiah and Uzziah (var.Ozias) of


This (a) - (b) will mean that Uzziah and Judith of Bethulia shared the same father, Merari/Beeri. Judith’s father might therefore be identified with the famous prophet Amos.

Judith was probably a half-sister of Uzziah/Isaiah, of a different mother. She was no doubt much younger than Uzziah,being in fact only a girl according to the testimony of

Bagoas,the Rabsaris, later in the Assyrian camp: ‘Let this pretty girl not hesitate to come to my lord [Holofernes] to be honored in his presence …’(Judith 12:13). This Jewish girl may have been approximately the age of the youthful Joan of Arc, whom she

resembles too in her bold will and courage, if not in her tactics. Certainly Stocker has perceived likenesses between the two heroines, and she has further noted that Joan of Arc was, in her time, regarded as being a ‘second Judith’.1304

We are told of Judith’s intense observance of Jewish ritual during her young widowhood

(8:4-6). We are told of her beauty: “She was beautiful in appearance and very lovely to behold”(v. 7). Finally we are told of the enormous respect that the Bethulianshad for her (v. 8).

Judith’s husband Manasseh must have been extremely wealthy and influential in Bethulia to have left the widowed Judith “gold and silver, men and women slaves, livestock and fields” (v. 7). Is it possible that Judith had, in marrying Manasseh,married one of Isaiah’s (Uzziah’s) own sons. Such an intimate family relationship with Uzziahmight perhaps explain the young girl’s forthrightness in the presence of so revered a leader (her forthrightness being another likeness to Joan of Arc); for this Uzziah is entitled in the Douay version both “the prince of Juda[h]” (8:34) and “the prince of the people of Israel” (13:23).1306 He was therefore no mean official.

But Judith was horrified that Uzziah and his fellow elders had put a time limit on God’s deliverance. According to 8:10, Judith had actually sent her maid to “summon Uzziah and Chabris and Charmis, the elders of her town”. This is an extraordinary situation. And when they “came to her”, she did not mince her words at all (v. 11-13). Judith then went on to add a note of possibly chronological value upon which her confidence in deliverance was based (vv. 18-19):

‘For never in our generation, nor in these present days, has there been any tribe or

family or people or town of ours that worships gods made with hands, as was done

in days gone by. That was why our ancestors were handed over to the sword and to pillage, and so they suffered a great catastrophe before our enemies’.

Uzziah,confirming Judith’s high reputation, immediately recognized the truth of what she had just said (vv. 28-29), whilst adding the blatantly Aaronic excuse that ‘the people made us do it’ (v. 30, cf. Exodus 32:21-24):‘But the people were so thirsty that they compelled us to do for them what we have promised, and made us take an oath that we

cannot break’. Judith, now forced to work within the time-frame of those ‘five days’that had been established against her will, then makes this bold pronouncement –again completely in the prophetic, or even ‘apocalyptic’, style of Joan of Arc (vv. 32-33):

Then Judith said to them, ‘Listen to me. I am about to do something that will go down through all generations to our descendants. Stand at the town gate tonight so

that I may go out with my maid; and within the days after which you have promised to surrender the town to our enemies, the Lord will deliver Israel by my hand’.

A Note. This 5-day time frame, in connection with a siege - the very apex of the BOJ drama - may also have been appropriated into Greco-Persian folklore. In the‘Lindian Chronicle’ it is narrated that when Darius, King of Persia, tried to conquer the Island of Hellas, the people gathered in the stronghold of Lindus to withstand the attack. The citizens of the besieged city asked their leaders to surrender because of the hardships and sufferings brought by the water shortage (cf. Judith 7:20-28). The Goddess Athena [read Judith] advised one of the leaders [read Uzziah] to continue to resist the attack; meanwhile she interceded with her father Jupiter [read God of Israel] on their behalf (cf. Judith 8:9-9:14). Thereupon, the citizens asked for a truce of 5 days (exactly as in Judith), after which, if no help arrived, they would surrender (cf. Judith 7:30-31). On the second day a heavy shower fell on the city so the people could have sufficient water (cf. 8:31, where Uzziah asks Judith to pray for rain). Datis [read Holofernes], the admiral of the Persian fleet [read commander-in-chief of the Assyrian army], having witnessed the particular intervention of the Goddess to protect the city, lifted the siege [rather, the siege was forcibly raised].1307

Craven, following Dancy’s view that the theology presented in Judith’s words to the town officials rivals the theology of the Book of Job,1308 will go on to make this comment:1309

Judith plays out her whole story with the kind of faith described in the Prologue of Job (esp. 1:21 and 2:9). Her faith is like that of Job after his experience of God in the whirlwind (cf. 42:1-6), yet in the story she has no special theophanic experience. We can only imagine what happened on her housetop where she was habitually a woman of regular prayer.

BOJ 9:1-14 consists of Judith’s prayer whilst lying prostrate before God, “at the very time when the evening incense was being offered in the House of God in Jerusalem”. Clothed in her sackcloth, she extols the God of her eponymous ancestor Simeon, who had, with Divine aid, in company with his brother Levi (not mentioned) avenged his sister, Dinah, whom Shechem had raped (v. 2): ‘O Lord God of my ancestor Simeon, to whom you gave a sword to take revenge on those strangers who had torn off a virgin’s clothing to defile her and exposed her thighs to put her to shame, and polluted her womb to disgrace her …’.

Judith begs that her voice be heard (v. 4): ‘O God, my God, listen to me a widow’. There is even a possibility that the young and apparently childless Judith, who never married afterwards (16:22), was – like Dinah – a virgin, and could therefore all the more closely empathise with her predecessor. Hebrew law made provision for‘a widow who is a virgin’. In fact, “in the shorter Hebrew version Judith is called not “the widow” but “the virgin”.”1310

Craven, ever alert to the literary features of BOJ - and arguing a symmetry between Part I (chapters 1-7) and Part II (chapters 8-16), and hence an overall unity in BOJ1311 – has made this comment regarding the first part of Judith’s prayer:1312 “In an intricate temporal chiastic bridge between the preceding memory [namely, the Dinah incident] and [Judith’s] subsequent request, she acknowledges that all things past and future are in God’s foreknowledge (9:5-6)”. Craven’s book is in fact replete with examples of unifying parallelisms, chiasms, and symmetries. To give just a small sample for instance of “parallel passages” that she has discerned between Part I and Part II:1313 Nebuchadnezzar“sent” to all who lived in Persia (1:7); Judith “sent” her maid to summon the magistrates (8:10); Nebuchadnezzar “called together” his officers and nobles and set forth a “secret plan” which he recounts fully (2:2); Judith “called”Chabris and Charmis, the elders of her city (8:10) and told them that she had a plan, the details of which she refused to discuss (8:34). And, a most important one, both claim to execute through their own hand: Nebuchadnezzar says, ‘What I have spoken my hand will execute’(2:12); Judith, ‘The Lord will deliver Israel by my hand’ (8:33).

Her prayer finished, Judith prepared to don her ‘weapons of war’. Not men’s clothing, armour and a sword (as with Joan of Arc), but feminine attire (10:3-4). “The author delights in the details of her adornment, literally from head to toe”, writes Craven.1314 “And she does all this “to deceive” … the eyes of those who will behold her (10:4)…”. Importantly, too, Judith will take her own food and drink, entrusted to her maid (v. 5), so that she will not have to eat the food of the Assyrians. The elders of Bethulia, “Uzziah, Chabris, and Charmis - who are here mentioned for the last time in the story as a threesome (10:6)”1315 - are stunned by Judith’s new appearance when they meet her at the town’s gate (vv. 7-8): “When they saw her transformed in appearance and dressed differently, they were very greatly astounded at her beauty and said to her, ‘May the God of our ancestors grant you favour and fulfil your plan …’.”.1316

Upon Judith’s request (command?), the elders “ordered the young men to open the gate

for her” (v. 9). Then she and her maid went out of the town and headed for the camp of

the Assyrians. “The men of the town watched her until she had gone down the mountain

and passed through the valley, where they lost sight of her” (v. 10).

Identification of Bethulia

Of particular importance is Judith’s town of Bethulia, 1317from which perspective the latter half of the story, especially, is largely told. Thus Judith will urge her fellow citizens (8:24): ‘Therefore my brothers, let us set an example for our kindred, for their lives depend upon us, and the sanctuary – both the Temple and the altar – rests upon us’. “Note the importance of Bethulia”, wrote Charles.1318 “It was the key of the whole situation”. Earlier, he had remarked:1319“The question of the historical value of the book turns largely on this name”. Whilst Charles thought that the strategic Shechem was the “most probable” candidate for ancient Bethulia, both Leahy and Simons had opted for sheih shibil (Sheikh Shibil); whilst Leahy thought that Betomesthaim was Misilya:1320

… Joachim [the high priest in BOJ] charged the citizens of Bethulia and Betomesthaim (i.e.Misilya SE. of Dothan according to Abel in Géographie de la Palestine, II, 283) to keep the passes of the hill country, etc. (cf. Gk 4:6). Bethulia is probably to be located on Sheikh Shibil, above Kafr Kud in Northern Samaria.

Conder identified this Misilya - he calls it Mithilia (orMeselieh) - as Bethuliaitself:1321

Meselieh A small village, with a detached portion to the north, and placed on a slope, with a hill to the south, and surrounded by good olive-groves, with an open valley called Wâdy el Melek (“the King’s Valley’) on the north. The water supply is from wells, some of which have an ancient appearance. They are mainly supplied with rain-water.

In 1876 I proposed to identify the village of Meselieh, or Mithilia, south of Jenin, with the Bethulia of the Book of Judith, supposing the substitution of M for B, of which there are occasional instances in Syrian nomenclature. The indications of the site given in the Apocrypha are tolerably distinct. Bethulia stood on a hill, but not apparently on the top, which is mentioned separately (Judith vi. 12).

There were springs or wells beneath the town (verse 11), and the houses were above these (verse 13). The city stood in the hill-country not far from the plain (verse 11), and apparently near Dothan (Judith iv. 6). The army of Holofernes was visible when encamped near Dothan (Judith vii. 3, 4), by the spring in the valley near Bethulia (verses 3-7). ‘The site usually supposed to represent Bethulia – namely, the strong village of Sanûr – does not fulfil these various requisites; but the topography of the Book of Judith, as a whole, is so consistent and easily understood, that it seems that Bethulia was an actual site’.

Visiting Mithilia on our way to Shechem … we found a small ruinous village on the slope of the hill. Beneath it are ancient wells, and above it a rounded hill-top, commanding a tolerably extensive view. The north-east part of the great plain, Gilboa, Tabor, and Nazareth, are clearly seen. West of these are neighbouring hillsides Jenin and Wâdy Bel’ameh (the Belmaim, probably of the narrative); but further west Carmel appears behind the ridge of Sheikh Iskander, and part of the plain of ‘Arrabeh, close to Dothan, is seen. A broad corn-vale, called “The King’s Valley”,extends north-west from Meselieh toward Dothan, a distance of only 3 miles.

There is a low shed formed by rising ground between two hills, separating this valley from the Dothain [Dothan] plain; and at the latter site is the spring beside which, probably, the Assyrian army is supposed by the old Jewish novelist to have

encamped. In imagination one might see the stately Judith walking through the down-trodden corn-fields and shady olive-groves, while on the rugged hillside above the men of the city “looked after her until she was gone down the mountain, and till she had passed the valley, and could see her no more”. (Judith x 10) – C.

R. C.,‘Quarterly Statement’, July, 1881.

I had found satisfying this site (Mithilia/Meselieh), which appears to fit Bethulia in regard to its location, description, name (approximately) and apparent strategic importance.

Now, one would expect a town of such supposedly strategical value to be well known in

the history of the northern kingdom. BOJ has partnered Bethuliawith Betomesthaim, as towns serving to guard the defiles in this area against invasion. Whilst Betomesthaim,too, should be a well known city, for Charles however:1322Betomesthaim is unknown. Apparently near Bethulia and Dothan”. He does however add this view of another: “Torrey suggests that [Betomesthaim] is a pseudonym for Samaria, and that it is a

corruption of …. House of outlook, … from … to watch”. This is quite plausible, given Samaria’s strategic importance in the region. We recall that Sargon II had recently rebuilt and strengthened the site: namely, the Samaria IV archaeological level. (“The Samaria conundrum”, Chapter 3, pp. 59-62).

I am going to propose that Bethulia was the same as the Bethel where, with Dan, the Israelite king Jeroboam I in the late C10th BC had placed the Baal calf; one of his northern sanctuaries (1 Kings 12:29). I agree with Conder, following the view of the Crusaders, that this particular Bethelwas not the Bethel of the patriarchs:1323“The Crusaders did not hold this opinion. Dan and Bethel were not, according to their view, the north and south boundary towns of the kingdom of Israel, but were places close together, in the heart of the country…”.

Conder explains why he thinks Jeroboam’s Bethel would not have been the same as Jacob’s:1324

… Jeroboam instituted these temples [Dan and Bethel] with the express intention of diverting the attention of the tribes from Jerusalem. Surely, therefore, it is most strange that he should have chosen for one of them a place which was actually within the allotted portion of Benjamin. The southern Bethel was moreover taken from Jeroboam by Abijah (2 Chron. xiii. 19), and there is no notice of its recovery, while at the same time there is no account of the destruction of the calf idol which remained … until the time of Jehu (2 Kings x. 29), and was only finally overthrown by Josiah (2 Kings xxiii. 15). Had the calf temple been at the southern Bethel, there would surely have been some account of [its certain] destruction … on the conquest of the town by the King of Judah.

Bethel is mentioned as the place to which, upon the command of “the king of Assyria”, the Israelite priest returned from exile to instruct the colonists of Samariato “fear the Lord” (2 Kings 17:27-28), thus perhaps further accounting for why the young Judith had

never known an era of apostasy in her region. Added to this was the fact that king Hezekiah had, early in his reign, pulled down the altars and high places in this very region (2 Chronicles 31:1); which places of idolatry his son Manasseh would nonetheless later rebuild (33:3). Indeed the Greek version of the name Bethuliaappears to have been taken from the Hebrew for ‘Bethel’. Thus Charles:1325

Bait(o)ulouais now generally explained as … = Bethel = House of God, a name which might suitably be applied to any town which is to be represented as true to its faith in God, cf. e.g. viii. 20. …. What place then is hidden under this assumed [sic] name? It would be natural to think of Jerusalem … but this is out of the question, since in this verse Joakim wrote from Jerusalem to Bethulia.

The Character of Judith

Although the women’s movement is recent, it has already provided some new insights and radically different perspectives on Judith. According to Patricia Montley:

… Judith is the archetypal androgyne. She is more than the Warrior Woman and the femme fatale, a combination of the soldier and the seductress … Just as the brilliance of a cut diamond is the result of many different facets, so the striking appeal of the book of Judith results from its many facets. …”.

Stocker will, in her comprehensive treatment of the Judith character and her actions, compare the heroine to, amongst others, the Old Testament’s Jael1330– a common comparison given that the woman, Jael, had driven a tent peg through the temple of Sisera, an enemy of Israel (Judges 4:17-22) –Joan of Arc (as already alluded to), and Charlotte Corday, who had, during the French Revolution, slain the likewise unsuspecting Marat.1331“If viewed negatively – from an irreligious perspective, for instance”,Stocker will go on to write,1332 “-Judith’s isolation, chastity, widowhood, childlessness, and murderousness would epitomize all that is morbid, nihilistic and abortive”. This, though, is not how her fellow Bethulians, and fellow Israelites, were to consider Judith, as we shall learn from their rapturous praise of her and her lasting fame.

Craven, with reference to Ruskin,1333 writes: “Judith, the slayer of Holofernes; Jael, the slayer of Sisera; and Tomyris, the slayer of Cyrus are counted in art as the female “types” who prefigure the Virgin Mary’s triumph over Satan”.

Meanwhile, in the Assyrian camp, Bagoas had discovered the headless commander-in chief, and soon there was complete uproar throughout the camp (vv. 11-19). That initial

shock for the Assyrians quickly turned to total panic (15:2): “Overcome with fear and trembling, they did not wait for one another, but with one impulse all rushed out and fled

by every path across the plain and through the hill country”. Soon the whole of northern

Israel had mobilized to pursue them (vv. 4-5).

Douay BOJ 15:

[1] And when all the army heard that Holofernes was beheaded, courage and counsel fled from them, and being seized with trembling and fear they thought only to save themselves by flight: [2]So that no one spoke to his neighbour, but hanging down the head, leaving all things behind, they made haste to escape from the Hebrews, who, as they heard, were coming armed upon them, and fled by the ways of the fields, and the paths of the hills. [3]So the children of Israel seeing them fleeing, followed after them. And they went down sounding with trumpets and shouting after them. [4] And because the Assyrians were not united together, they went without order in their flight; but the children of Israel pursuing in one body, defeated all that they could find.

[5] And Ozias sent messengers through all the cities and countries of Israel.

TheBethulians and their fellow-Israelites made themselves rich from the immense plunder (vv. 6-7), which, it is said, took them “thirty days” to gather (v. 11).

Joakimhimself came from Jerusalem “to witness the good things that the Lord had done

for Israel, and to see Judith and to wish her well” (v. 8). He and the elders who had accompanied him “blessed her with one accord and said to her, ‘You are the glory of Jerusalem, you are the great boast of Israel, you are the great pride of our nation’.” (v. 9).

Earlier, I had noted Moore’s contrast between fear, held by the men in the story, and the

beautyof the woman Judith. But I had suggested that the contrast might more accurately be set between fear, on the one hand, and trust or faith in God. We find that, of the three sets of praise that Judith receives after her victory (by Uzziah, by Achiorand by Joakim and the elders of Jerusalem), there is no reference whatsoever to Judith’s beauty, but to her courage.

Who were the Kulummaeans?

As for the “identification of the Kulummaeans”, the last people against whom the hapless

Assyrian king had marched before his demise,

Tadmor gives the crucial text as if belonging to Sargon's Year 17 (705 BC), presuming this to have been the year that Sargon actually died [240]:

"The king [against Tabal ....] against Ešpai the Kulummaean. [......] The king was killed. The camp of the king of Assyria [was taken ......]. On the 12th of Abu, Sennacherib, son [of Sargon, took his seat on the throne]."

There is no information from any other source on the last war of Sargon [sic], nor any plausible identification of the Kulummaeans.

these can be plausibly identified with the inhabitants of a town that we had previously encountered in BOJ (Douay version). I refer to ‘Chelmon’ (7:3) (Cyamonin the Greek). Chelmon was the very last place to which the Assyrian host did in fact march before its rout. The fact that this town (perhaps), and not Bethulia(or Bethel), is mentioned in the Assyrian records - though the record is admittedly fragmentary - may be an indication that the Assyrian army was attacking on a front wider than was now of interest to the author of BOJ.

The name ‘Ešpai’, given in the Assyrian records as, presumably, the chief of the Kulummaeans(Chelmonians), has a strong resemblance to Ushpia,which name Storck

has equated linguistically with both Ishbak andAushpia.1351 There might even be considered now the possibility - given that Uzziahof BOJ was, as we saw, “the prince of

Judah”and “the prince of the people of Israel” - that Uzziahwas this very Ešpai/Ushpia.

That is, according to my reconstruction, the great Isaiah himself!

Canticle of Judith

Judith’s canticle of victory and thanksgiving, that occupies most of the final chapter (BOJ 16), is considered to be quite ancient. According to Grintz,1352it certainly “antedates those found at Qumran”. And Bruns has written of it:1353

The most interesting question raised by the canticle is whether it antedates the rest

of the book in which it is found. Just as the Canticle of Deborah is much older than the prose that precedes it (Jgs 4:1-28) so, also, may be the case here.

However, if this view is accepted, it does not alter the prevailing opinion that “Judith, the daughter of Merari”, is a pseudonymous characterization” [sic].

Craven, who wonders “whether the author of Judith included the poem following the models of other liberation stories which climax in song like “The Song of the Sea” (Exodus 15) or “The Song of Deborah” (Judges 5)”, believes at least that “Judith 16 fulfils a liturgical function in the story”.1354

Judith’s hymn of praise acclaimed herself, by the power of God, the agent of the defeat of Holofernes’ mighty army (vv. 5-6):

‘But the Lord Almighty has foiled them

by the hand of a woman.

For their mighty one (Holofernes) did not fall

by the hands of the young men,

nor did the sons of Titans

strike them down,

nor did tall giants set upon him;

but Judith daughter of Merari

with the beauty of her countenance undid him’.

Judith’s telling of how the Assyrian fell “by the hand of a woman” may be an echo of Isaiah’s prediction that the Assyrian would fall “by the sword ofno man” (Isaiah 31:8). And Joakimhad recently said to her (15:10): ‘You have done all of this with your own hand …’.

Apparently the Jews then considered Judith’s achievement so noteworthy that they - through the agency of Joakim - devoted an entire book to her; a book that often supplements, rather than repeats, the details in KCI. And, according to the Douay BOJ, they memorialized it all in a feast. Enslin,1355 writing of this feast, refers to the “probability that the Judith story, along with Megillah Antiochus, was used by Jews in their synagogues at the feast of Hanukkah”.


Judith’s heroic act on behalf of her people, for which she received the greatest praise and adulation from the high priest and other officials, including the great Isaiah (Uzziah), as I think – and from the people of Israel in general – is virtually unprecedented as a single act of patriotism and enormous courage. And this by one whom the BOJ text calls a “young girl”! It can take its place amongst the most heroic moments throughout the entire history of the human race.


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