Sunday, August 31, 2014

Isaiah And Judith Of Bethulia Were Contemporaneous Neighbours





Their contemporaneity, and indeed, familiarity one with the other, see:
would be the AMAIC'S explanation for the striking likenesses between the Book of Isaiah and the Book of Judith, as recognised in the following article, from: http://chs.harvard.edu/wa/pageR?tn=ArticleWrapper&bdc=12&mn=4703



....

History out of the Prophecies of Isaiah

As many scholars have already shown, the Book of Judith’s use of biblical texts was not merely a matter of incorporating scatted expressions from favored texts; it also took characters and whole episodes as models for the composition of its own corresponding characters and events. For instance, the Song of the Sea and the Song of Deborah evidently served as exemplars for the song that Judith herself sings in celebration of the victory of the Israelites over Sisera and the invading Assyrians. But this is, I have suggested, a matter of typological composition, and does not address the substance of the book. I will argue that the book of Judith’s overall purpose, and indeed, most of the troublesome historical inaccuracies themselves (see Johnson 2004:24–29 and 46–48), derive from its close attention to the prophecies relating to Assyria found in the Book of Isaiah and an attempt to create a narrative that would fulfill the prediction of a thwarted Assyrian attack on a newly-pious population of Israel.
If the Book of Judith was composed in Greek, it is reasonable that it made use of the Bible in Greek, as we have seen from references to LXX Exodus 15 and LXX Isaiah 3. What has not been noticed in the aforementioned discussions of the influence of the Septuagint translation on the book of Judith is the frequency with which the Greek of Isaiah in particular emerges as the source of this influence. This holds true even for the expression from Exodus 15:3 already discussed as a key indicator of the original Greek composition of the book. The future verb form suntripsei polemon ‘he will bring together war’ as a translation of the similar Hebrew expression ʾîš milḥāmôt ‘man of wars’ is used of God in LXX Isaiah 42:13: “The Lord God of the powers will go forth and bring together war...”. [6] Without discounting the significance of Ex. 15 for the book of Judith, it seems appropriate to point out that the near repetition of the phrase in the Septuagint of Isaiah might have heightened its importance to the composer of Judith, who used the phrase twice.
Similarly, Judith’s cry, meth’ hêmôn ho theos ho theos hêmôn ‘with us is God, our God’ in 13:3 might be a reference to the name Immanuel (literally, “with us is God”) found in Isaiah 7:14. The same concept is also fully spelled out in Isaiah 8:8 (meth’ hêmôn ho theos ‘with us is God’) and 8:10 (meth’ hêmôn kurios ho theos ‘with us is the Lord God’). [7] In Isaiah 18:7, Zion is described as “the place of the Name of the LORD Almighty”; in a theologically similar vein, Judith 9:8 describes the tabernacle (skênôma) as a place “of the resting (katapausis) of the Name of Your glory.” Like Isaiah 66:1, in which God asks where will his resting place be (implying that no such place can be built that will contain Him), the point here may be that it is the Name of God only that rests in the Temple. Basileus ho megas ‘the great king’ in Judith 2:5 and 6:4 also seems to relate to Isaiah 36:4 and 13. The only other two uses in the LXX include 2 Kings 18:19, the repetition of the Isaiah passage, and Tobit 13:16, which is unlikely to have served as an intertext for Judith. [8] Further, humnon kainon ‘a new hymn’ in Judith 16:13 may recall the identical expression in LXX Isaiah 42:10. [9]
A case for the significance of the book of Isaiah to Judith, and in particular the Greek Isaiah, is not difficult to make. [10] The Greek translation of the book is theorized to have been among the earliest of the translations (ca. 170 BCE) that came after the translation of the Pentateuch (ca. 250–221 BCE), which would precede the usual dates proposed for the book of Judith, mostly hovering around a date of 150 BCE (see Gera 2009; 2010:26–27), essentially during or soon after the Maccabean conflict.
Prophecies of the book of Isaiah, in particular the references to Assyria involving some some undetermined and even eschatological date in the future (“on that day”) represent the source and origin of this literary project. The narrative may thus have partly arisen in an antieschatological or anti-presentist mode (what can be shown to have already been fulfilled in the historical past is no longer available for an end-of-time or contemporary interpretation). Thus, the primary intertext of the book of Judith is not Judges 4–5 or Genesis 34, but rather the succession of prophecies relating to Assyria found in the Book of Isaiah that have a positive rather than a negative outcome.
While Isaiah’s prophecies about Assyria are sometimes today read as having been fulfilled by the invasion by Sennacherib in Isaiah 37–40, readings of the Assyria predictions in the Second Temple period tended to search for a more contemporary and socially relevant fulfillment of these verses as prophetic utterances. The Isaiah Pesharim found at Qumran (4Q161) are quite interesting in treating references to Assyria in the book of Isaiah as representing the Kittim, a designition that seems to have been a code at Qumran for the contemporary enemies of the sectarians, the Romans (or perhaps in some cases the Seleucids). To give one example of a Pesher on Isaiah 10:
See! The Lord YHWH of Hosts will rip off the branches at one wrench; the] tall[est trunks] will be felled, 2 [the loftiest chopped.] The thickest [of the wood will be cut] with iron and Lebanon, with its grandeur, 3 [will fall. Blank Its interpretation (peshro) concerns the] Kittim, wh[o] will be pla[ced] in the hands of Israel, and the meek 4 [of the earth...] all the peoples and soldiers will weaken and [their] he[art] will melt 5[...and what it says: “The] tallest [trunks] will be destroyed,” they are the soldiers of the Kit[tim] 6 [since...] “and the thickest of [the] wood will be cut with iron” Blank Th[ey are] 7 [...] for the war of the Kittim. Blank “And Lebanon, with its gran[deur], 8 [will fall”. They are the commanders of the] Kittim, who will be pla[ced] in the hand of the great of [...] 9 [...] in his flight befo[re Is]rael.
4Q161 Pesher to Isaiah 10:33–34
For the author of the Isaiah Pesher, Assyria as it appeared in the book of Isaiah was a code for some future invasion, not a reference to the already completed invasion of Sennacherib described in Isaiah 37–40.
At times, the prophecies about Assyria in Isaiah speak about Assyria as God’s tool, holding the “rod of my wrath and anger” (Isaiah 10:5) with which a variety of cities are to be brought low, including the Israelites themselves, if they are to be understood as the “lawless nation” mentioned in Isaiah 10:
5 Οὐαὶ Ἀσσυρίοις·
ἡ ῥάβδος τοῦ θυμοῦ μου καὶ ὀργῆς ἐστιν ἐν ταῖς χερσὶν αὐτῶν.
6 τὴν ὀργήν μου εἰς ἔθνος ἄνομον ἀποστελῶ
καὶ τῷ ἐμῷ λαῷ συντάξω
ποιῆσαι σκῦλα καὶ προνομὴν
καὶ καταπατεῖν τὰς πόλεις καὶ θεῖναι αὐτὰς εἰς κονιορτόν.
5 Woe to the Assyrians!
The rod of my wrath and anger is in their hands!
6 I will send my anger against a lawless nation,
and I will instruct my people
to take spoils and plunder and to tread down the cities and turn them into dust.
LXX Isaiah 10:5–6 [11] , NETS
The first three chapters of the book of Judith seems to encapsulate the notion of an Assyria that acts as God’s tool, ruling over the nearly the entire earth, as it were, including Mesopotamia and Syria, Put and Lud, Egypt and Arabia. Ambiguity, however, arises with the identification of the “lawless nation” of verse 6. Normally, one might construe this to be the people of Israel itself. The invasion by Sennacherib was one such punishment of Judah, recompense for the sorts of idolatrous practices that Hezekiah eventually eliminates from Israelite worship. But Isaiah 10:6 contrasts the “lawless nation” with “my people.” Further, the Book of Judith is set a time when the Israelites were no longer lawless.
Moreover, what was to be done with the prophecies of Isaiah that predicted the destruction of Assyria? Perhaps it was not so satisfying to interpreters of Isaiah that Assyria was finally overcome in 605 BCE by the Babylonians. After all, Isaiah had claimed that it would be the Lord that would be their undoing.
12 And it shall be that when the Lord has finished doing all the things on Mount Sion and Ierousalem, he will bring his wrath against the great mind, the ruler of the Assyrians, and against the loftiness of the glory of his eyes.
13 For he said: “By my strength I will do it, and by the wisdom of my understanding I will remove the boundaries of nations, and I will plunder their strength.
14 And I will shake inhabited cities and take with my hand the whole world like a nest and seize its inhabitants like eggs that have been forsaken, and there is none who will escape from me or contradict me.”
LXX Isaiah 10:12–14, NETS
Indeed, the foretold destruction is to occur in a time when Israel gives up idols of silver and gold and thus reasonably at the hands of the Israelites themselves. See, for instance, Isaiah 31:5–6:
5 ὡς ὄρνεα πετόμενα, οὕτως ὑπερασπιεῖ κύριος ὑπὲρ Ιερουσαλημ καὶ ἐξελεῖται καὶ περιποιήσεται καὶ σώσει.
6 ἐπιστράφητε, οἱ τὴν βαθεῖαν βουλὴν βουλευόμενοι καὶ ἄνομον.
7 ὅτι τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ἐκείνῃ ἀπαρνήσονται οἱ ἄνθρωποι τὰ χειροποίητα αὐτῶν τὰ ἀργυρᾶ καὶ τὰ χρυσᾶ, ἃ ἐποίησαν αἱ χεῖρες αὐτῶν. 8 καὶ πεσεῖται Ασσουρ·
5 Like birds flying, so the Lord will shield Ierousalem; he will deliver and preserve and save it.
6 Turn, you who plan a deep and lawless plan,
7 because on that day people shall disown their handiworks of silver and gold, which their hands have made.
8 Then Assour shall fall;
LXX Isaiah 31:5–6, NETS
According to this passage, Assyria is to fall precisely at a time when the Israelites have abandoned their idolatrous ways. And if the Assyrian armies had already been destroyed in the form of the destruction of Sennacherib’s troops at Jerusalem, when did this second, more deserved destruction occur? My claim is that the book of Judith supplies a concrete narrative to fulfill the conditions of the prophecies regarding Assyria in the book of Isaiah that are not fulfilled with Sennacherib’s defeat. Biblical scholars have long recognized the existence of the vaticinium ex eventu ‘oracle from the event’, a prophecy composed after the time of a historical event and yet set in a historical period prior to that event as if it were a prediction (see Oßwald 1963). Instead, we might describe the book of Judith as historia ex vaticinia ‘history from the oracle’: a historical account created in satisfaction of a prophecy could not otherwise be said to have been fulfilled.
Let us turn some of the other correlations between the book of Judith and the oracles of Isaiah that relate specifically to the key aspects of its narrative. First, the conditions of Israelite piety described in Isaiah 31 are exactly those of the Israelites in the book of Judith. According to Isaiah, “on that day people shall disown their handiworks of silver and gold, which their hands have made. Then Assour shall fall” (Isaiah 31:5). Confirming that these are indeed the conditions of the present conflict, Judith herself states:
18 ὅτι οὐκ ἀνέστη ἐν ταῖς γενεαῖς ἡμῶν οὐδέ ἐστιν ἐν τῇ ἡμέρᾳ τῇ σήμερον οὔτε φυλὴ οὔτε πατριὰ οὔτε δῆμος οὔτε πόλις ἐξ ἡμῶν, οἳ προσκυνοῦσι θεοῖς χειροποιήτοις, καθάπερ ἐγένετο ἐν ταῖς πρότερον ἡμέραις·
19 ὧν χάριν ἐδόθησαν εἰς ῥομφαίαν καὶ εἰς διαρπαγὴν οἱ πατέρες ἡμῶν καὶ ἔπεσον πτῶμα μέγα ἐνώπιον τῶν ἐχθρῶν ἡμῶν.
20 ἡμεῖς δὲ ἕτερον θεὸν οὐκ ἔγνωμεν πλὴν αὐτοῦ· ὅθεν ἐλπίζομεν ὅτι οὐχ ὑπερόψεται ἡμᾶς οὐδ' ἀπὸ τοῦ γένους ἡμῶν.
18 For there has not appeared among our generations, nor is there in this day, either a tribe or a clan or a district or a city from among us, who do obeisance to handmade gods, as happened in former days,
19 on account of which our fathers were handed over for the sword and for plunder and suffered a great fall before our enemies.
20 We however have known no other God except him, for which reason we hope that he will not disregard us nor any of our race.
Judith 8:18–20, NETS
Scholars of the book of Judith have been right to declare these verses in particular as crucial for understanding the meaning of the book as a whole. But their significance only becomes clear when considered against the backdrop of Sennacherib’s invasion. Although he is in other respects the repetition of Sennacherib, Nebuchadnezzar (this time at least!) invades the land of Israel without the benefit of serving as the “rod of God.” The idea that the generation of those returning from Babylon had given up idolatry is not the isolated creation of the Book of Judith, but rather a trope that is developed in later rabbinic literature. Thus in B. Yoma 69b it is claimed that the Men of the Great Assembly had banished from the world the desire for idolatry, and in the opinion of R. Simeon b. Yohai as related in Shir HaShirim Rabbah 7.14, idolatry had been vanquished in the time of Nebuchadnezzar.
Another connection between Judith and the book of Isaiah, and in particular the Septuagint version of Isaiah, was pointed out by Claudia Rakel (Rakel 2003:278–282) and echoed by Barbara Schmitz (Schmitz 2009:83). Although the evidence is limited to a few words, it seems that the book of Judith uses the same vocabulary to describe Judith’s ornaments as is found in the depiction of a future disrobing of women found in the Septuagint to Isaiah 3.
18...in that day. And the Lord will take away the glory of their attire and their adornments (kosmoi) and the braids and the tassels and the crescents
19 and the necklace and the adornment (kosmos) of their face
20 and the collection of glorious adornment and the bracelets (khlidônai) and the armlets (pselia) and the braiding and the bangles and the rings (daktulioi) and the earrings (enôtia)
21 and the garments trimmed with purple and the garments blended with purple
22 and the housecoats and the transparent Laconian fabrics
23 and the garments of fine linen, both the blue ones and the scarlet ones, and the fine linen embroidered with gold and blue thread and the light flowing garments.
24 And instead of a pleasant scent there will be dust and instead of a girdle you will gird yourself with a rope, and instead of a head adornment of gold you will have baldness because of your works, and instead of the tunic blended with purple you will gird yourself about with sackcloth (sakkos).
25 And your most beautiful son, whom you love, shall fall by dagger, and your strong men shall fall by dagger and shall be brought low.
26 And the cases for your adornment (kosmos) shall mourn, and you shall be left alone, and shall be dashed to the ground.
LXX Isaiah 3:18–26, NETS
The punishment of the daughters of Zion described in Isaiah 3 certainly serves as a precursor to the actions of Judith, put precisely in reverse. While Isaiah 3 depicts a time when Jerusalem has stumbled and Judah insults the Lord, Judith is set in a time of perfect obedience. As a result, Judith embodies a reversal of the humiliation of the daughters of Zion through the removal of fine clothing and adornments.
1 And it came to pass, when she had ceased crying out to the God of Israel and had finished all these words,
2 and she rose from falling and summoned her favorite slave and went down into the house, wherein she remained in the days of the sabbaths and in her feasts,
3 and removed the sackcloth (sakkos) which she wore and stripped off the clothing of her widowhood, and she washed herself, all around the body, with water and anointed herself with thick ointment and fixed the hair of her head and placed a turban upon it and put on the clothing of her merriment with which she was accustomed to dress in the days of the life of her husband Manasses,
4 and she took sandals for her feet and put on the anklets (klidônai) and the bracelets (pselia) and the rings (daktulioi) and the earrings (enôtia) and her every ornament (kosmos), and she made herself up provocatively for the charming of the eyes of men, all who would cast eyes upon her.
Judith 10:1–4, NETS
Instead of being stripped of her garments in punishment, she removes the lowly sackcloth of her widowhood and puts on the ornaments of these women to fulfill a divine plan.
In both cases, a favored son is killed by means of a blade, as described in Isaiah 3:25. But could even the vivid detail of Judith’s decapitation of Holofernes, perhaps the most colorful moment of the book, have been prompted by the words of Isaiah? The intertexts of both Judges 4–5 and Genesis 34 may have played a role here. In the case of Yael, the biblical heroine pierces the head of Sisera with a tent peg. Further, as we have seen, Simeon, also a type of Judith, attacks Shechem (according to the book of Judith) with a divine sword. Harmonizing the two scenes, the author of the book of Judith might easily have come up with a heroine that uses a most convenient, almost miraculous sword to do eliminate her victim. It might also be useful to bring to bear an important detail from perhaps the older of the two major manuscript traditions of the Septuagint version to Judges: version A in Rahlfs’ edition, which derives from the Codex Alexandrinus and two manuscript traditions associated with the recensions of Origen and Lucian. [12] In the song of Deborah as found in version A, it is stated that Yael beheaded (apetemen) Sisera (LXX Judges 5:26 Version A). (Incidentally, in this same song, Sisera’s mother is invoked as wondering if her missing husband is “dividing the spoil, showing friendship to friends towards a mighty one’s head.”)
Two scenes from the book of Isaiah might also have helped bridge the gap between the decapitating Yael and a future Assyrian invasion. Above all, why was the author of Judith drawn to Yael to begin with, beyond an immediate attraction to the episode’s villain, Sisera? Why have a female hero at all? The answer seems in part to lie in the “oracle” of Isaiah 14:
24 τάδε λέγει κύριος σαβαωθ
Ὃν τρόπον εἴρηκα, οὕτως ἔσται,
καὶ ὃν τρόπον βεβούλευμαι, οὕτως μενεῖ,
25 τοῦ ἀπολέσαι τοὺς Ἀσσυρίους ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς τῆς ἐμῆς καὶ ἀπὸ τῶν ὀρέων μου,
καὶ ἔσονται εἰς καταπάτημα,
καὶ ἀφαιρεθήσεται ἀπ' αὐτῶν ὁ ζυγὸς αὐτῶν,
καὶ τὸ κῦδος αὐτῶν ἀπὸ τῶν ὤμων ἀφαιρεθήσεται.
24 This is what the Lord Sabaoth says:
As I have said, so shall it be,
and as I have planned, so shall it remain:
25 to destroy the Assyrians from my land and from my mountains,
and they shall be trampled,
and their yoke shall be removed from them,
and their renown shall be removed from their shoulders.
LXX Isaiah 14:24–25, NETS
In the Hebrew Masoretic Text (MT), it is “his burden” (subŏlô) which shall “drop” from the shoulders of the Israelites. In contrast, the Septuagint translates “burden” as kudos ‘renown’, implying that it is the renown of the Assyrians that will be forcibly “removed” (rather than that it will drop of their own accord as in the MT). The metaphor of renown being removed from shoulders is made concrete in Judith, by means of her ingenuity and a handy sharp sword. Another oracle that Isaiah pronounces to Hezekiah has a suggestive statement about a daughter of Jerusalem, in this case shaking her own head in mockery at the Assyrians:
21 Καὶ ἀπεστάλη Ησαιας υἱὸς Αμως πρὸς Εζεκιαν καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Τάδε λέγει κύριος ὁ θεὸς Ισραηλ Ἤκουσα ἃ προσηύξω πρός με περὶ Σενναχηριμ βασιλέως Ἀσσυρίων.
22 οὗτος ὁ λόγος, ὃν ἐλάλησεν περὶ αὐτοῦ ὁ θεός Ἐφαύλισέν σε καὶ ἐμυκτήρισέν σε παρθένος θυγάτηρ Σιων, ἐπὶ σοὶ κεφαλὴν ἐκίνησεν θυγάτηρ Ιερουσαλημ.
21 Then Esaias son of Amos was sent to Hezekias and said to him: “This is what the Lord says, the God of Israel: I have heard the things you have prayed to me concerning King Sennacherim of the Assyrians.
22 This is the word that God has spoken concerning him: Virgin daughter Sion has despised and mocked you, daughter Ierousalem has shaken her head at you.
LXX Isaiah 37:21–22, NETS
In verse 22, the daughter of Jerusalem, depicted as a widow in both Isaiah 47:1 and 47:8 (cf. Lamentations 1), shakes her head dismissively at the blasphemous leader of the Assyrians. Judging from the Hebrew text, it appears that it is her own head that she is shaking in mockery. But Greek ekinêsen (literally “moved”) is easier to read as “set in motion” in a figurative sense (that is, “to have used her head” or planned his destruction). It can even be construed as “removed” (see LSJ, s.v.) in reference to the head of her enemy, as one might be inclined to do if the text were to be read in conjunction with LXX Isaiah 14:25 and the story of Yael (as found in version A of LXX Judges). In any case, the Book of Judith has made the enemy of Assyria a literal woman, if something less than a virgin; nevertheless, Judith’s chastity, though not retroactive, is underscored with some repetitiveness and plays a crucial role in the plot. One might also suggest that daughter Zion’s virginity as predicted in Isaiah 37:22 has been regained by the Israelites as a whole in parallel fashion to Judith herself. They are thus depicted as knowing no idolatry for what might well be the first time in the literary records of the Judaean people.
A further impetus for the search for female heroic types and the basic outline of the events of the book may very well be Isaiah 31, where it is stated that Assyria shall fall “not by the sword of man.”
8 καὶ πεσεῖται Ασσουρ· οὐ μάχαιρα ἀνδρὸς
οὐδὲ μάχαιρα ἀνθρώπου καταφάγεται αὐτόν,
καὶ φεύξεται οὐκ ἀπὸ προσώπου μαχαίρας·
οἱ δὲ νεανίσκοι ἔσονται εἰς ἥττημα,
9 πέτρᾳ γὰρ περιλημφθήσονται ὡς χάρακι
καὶ ἡττηθήσονται,
ὁ δὲ φεύγων ἁλώσεται.
Τάδε λέγει κύριος
Μακάριος ὃς ἔχει ἐν Σιων σπέρμα
καὶ οἰκείους ἐν Ιερουσαλημ.
8 Then Assour shall fall; not a man’s dagger,
nor a human dagger, shall devour him,
and he shall not flee from before a dagger,
but his young men shall be defeated;
9 for they shall be encompassed by a rock, as with a rampart,
and they shall be defeated,
and the one who flees will be caught.
This is what the Lord says:
“Happy is the one who has a seed in Sion
and kinsmen in Ierousalem.”
LXX Isaiah 31:8–9, NETS
In short, the decapitation of Holofernes has a biblical basis in the congruence of Yael’s tent peg and Levi and Simeon’s divine swords. Both episodes resonated with the references to the head of the leader of the Assyrians in Isaiah 14 and 37 and were easily reconciled with the “sword not from a man” in Isaiah 31. In keeping with this link, I would suggest that other details in Isaiah’s oracles against Assyria, including Isaiah 37, an oracle ostensibly given in the context of the oncoming destruction of Sennacherib’s army at Jerusalem under Hezekiah, were used to produce lengthy portions of the book of Judith. The elaborate historical details found in the book of Judith have previously been explained as adding structure to the work or lending verisimilitude to the book’s historical pretensions (e.g. Moore 1985:39). See, for instance, Isaiah 37:
23 Whom have you reviled and provoked?
Or against whom have you raised your voice?
And did you not lift up your eyes on high to the Holy One of Israel!
24 Because by your messengers you have reviled the Lord,
for you said, ‘With the multitude of my chariots
I have gone up to the height of the mountains
and to the utmost limits of Lebanon,
and I cut down the height of its cedar
and the beauty of its cypress,
and I entered into the height of its forest region,
25 and I built a bridge [dam]
and desolated the waters
and every gathering of water.’
26 Have you not heard long ago
of these things that I have done?
From ancient days I ordained them
but now I have exhibited them,
to make desolate the nations that are in strong places
and those who dwell in strong cities.
27 I weakened their hands and they have withered,
and they have become like dry grass on housetops and like wild grass.
28 But now I know your resting place,
your going out and coming in.
29 And your wrath with which you have raged
and your bitterness have come up to me;
so I will put a muzzle on your nose and a bit on your lips;
I will turn you back on the way by which you came.
LXX Isaiah 37:23–29, NETS
Nebuchadnezzar quite deliberately lives up to the outrage to be committed by such a figure, as described in passage 10, in which Holofernes requires Assyria’s vassals worship Nebuchadnezzar as a god:
8 And he razed all their temples and cut down their groves. Indeed, he had been appointed to root out all the gods of the land, that every nation and every tongue should serve Nabouchodonosor and him alone and that their every tribe should invoke him as a god.
Judith 3:8, NETS
This description accords with the charge of blasphemy leveled against the target of Isaiah 37, despite the fact that Nebuchadnezzar elsewhere in biblical books is merely described as an idolator and polytheist, rather than a competitor to a monotheistic god. In fact, the conclusion that Nebuchadnezzar had made such a claim is actually derived by rabbinic interpreters from one such prophecy in Isaiah: “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:14). This verse is widely understood to be the statement of Nebuchadnezzar himself (in Mekhilta Shirata 2.84, 6.49, 8.31; Tosefta Sotah 3.19; and B. Hullin 89a).
The book of Judith also fulfills mention of the ascent to the utmost limits of Lebanon found in Isaiah 37, where the offending individual declares, “and I built a dam (gephura) and desolated the waters and every gathering of water” (Isaiah 37:25; see also Isaiah 10:13). The entire Assyrian strategy against the town of Bethulia described in the book of Judith is to dry up its springs and to prevent its inhabitants from getting water, in order to encourage them to surrender. The dramatic siege of Ecbatana under the king “Arpaxad” (perhaps taken from Genesis 10) that comprises chapter 1 of Judith also accords with this individual’s boast “to make desolate the nations that are in strong places and those who dwell in strong cities” (Isaiah 37:26).
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