Judith: Chapter 11 Commentary

Paolo Veronese (circle of), Judith Falling to Her Knees, Oil on canvas, The Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford, England, UK

I’m pleased to make available a draft of my translation of the commentary by the Blessed Rabanus Maurus on the eleventh chapter of Judith. The entire translation project is also available for viewing: An Explanation of the Book of Judith.

At the end of chapter ten, Judith arrives in the camp of Holofernes and bows before him, showing respect. In chapter eleven, she very cleverly employs a goodly bit of truth to beguile Holofernes into believing that she has defected to his side and wants to help him conquer the Jews. Holofernes, being charmed by Judith’s divinely enhanced beauty, falls for her.

Judith’s speech is an interesting one. The Blessed Rabanus Maurus, our expositor, finds in her words a prophecy of distant future events described by Josephus through the proxies of Eusebius of Caesarea and Tyrannius Rufinus. Rabanus quotes extensively from Rufinus’ history to demonstrate the fulfillment of Judith’s prophecy. Rufinus is a historian who extended, revised, and translated Eusebius’ history (into Latin). And Eusebius himself quoted extensively from Josephus’ account of Titus’ siege of Jerusalem in AD 70.

Eusebius’ commentary on the events highlights the intent behind Rabanus’ citation (verse 4):

However, the Church that had been assembled in Jerusalem was commanded in a response received from God to leave and go over to a certain town across the Jordan, Pella by name; so that with the holy and just men withdrawn from the city, it might become a place of retribution for heaven, as much upon the sacrilegious city as upon the impious people, through the destruction of the fatherland and for the imposing of expulsion.

This aligns with what Judith told Holofernes (verse 1):

For it is certain that our God is so offended with sins, that he hath sent word by his prophets to the people, that he will deliver them up for their sins. And because the children of Israel know they have offended their God, thy dread is upon them.

But how does Holofernes respond to Judith’s description of the future? Judith is a knockout, and Holofernes seems to be lured into her trap by her beauty, buying most of what she says. But, Rabanus juxtaposes Holofernes with Herod, revealing a parallel between Holofernes’ apparent interest in the God of the Jews and Herod’s exploitation of the wise men. Maybe Holofernes is more shrewd than we thought. Wrapping up the chapter, Rabanus makes this practical (verse 16).

…blessed is he who receives an ambassador of the truth, not with a depraved spirit, but with pure disposition of heart; because whoever pretends to seek out God Himself with perverse intent, together with Holofernes and Herod (cf. Mt 2:8), will never, joyful at the sight of His glory, rejoice to reach Him, but in the end he will be sorry that he suffers the well deserved punishments of his iniquity.

For further information about this translation project, please see my series of posts on Judith.

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