Love so pure, so strong, so everlasting is not easy to find. Sadly, many live a life without it. But Judith, who was praised by all Israel, found that love and never let it go all the days of her life.
If you have never read the story of Judith in the Apocrypha, STOP HERE and READ IT!! It is a biblical story of a true Proverbs 31 woman; a woman whose “strength and honor are her clothing,” who “openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” and whose “own works praise her in the gates.”
Judith lived during the reign of King Nabuchodonosor of Assyria who was to make a great war against King Arphaxad of the Medes. Nabuchodonosor commanded that many nations join with him to make war against Arphaxad, but some did not take heed including Israel. When Nabuchodonosor won the battle against Arphaxad, his wrath kindled greatly against all the nations that did not fight with him. He decreed to utterly destroy all those that refused to fight for him and call him their god. Nabuchodonosor sent his captain of the hosts, Holofernes, to execute the massacre. When the elders of Israel had heard how the other nations had been slaughtered, they feared for the people and the temple. They fasted and prayed to the Most High. The elders erroneously declared unto Israel that if the Most High did not send his help within 5 days, that Israel as a nation would turn themselves over to Holofernes so that they would be spared death.
Judith, the widow of Manasses, was a devout woman of great faith who came to the rescue of the elders in their time of weakness. She was a tower against the spiritual and physical death of Israel. She humbly came to the elders to exhort them as it is not right to tempt the Most High with a time frame as to when to help us and threaten to give up should he not help within that time:
“Before thou prayest, prepare thyself; and be not as one that tempteth the Lord.” Ecclesiasticus 18:23 (Apocrypha).
It is our duty to pray for his help and move forward by the commandments with the faith that he will help us in due time should he choose to:
“12And now who are ye that have tempted among the children of men? 13And now try the Lord Almighty, but ye shall never know any thing. 14For ye cannot find the depth of the heart of man, neither can ye perceive the things that he thinketh: then how can ye search out God, that hath made all these things and know his mind, or comprehend his purpose? Nay, my brethren, provoke not the Lord our God to anger. 15For if he will not help us within these five days, he hath power to defend us when he will, even every day, or to destroy us before our enemies. 16Do not bind the counsels of the Lord our God: for God is not as man, that he may be threatened; neither is he as the son of man that he should be wavering. 17Therefore let us wait for salvation of him, and call upon him to help us, and he will hear our voice, if it please him.” Judith 8:12-17 (Apocrypha).
Judith cried aloud and prayed asking the Most High to help her in her mission to kill Holofernes. Because Judith was a godly woman and the elders knew that the spirit of the Most High dwelt in her, they permitted Judith to carry out her duty, the details unknown to them, and pass through the gates of Jerusalem with her maid to where the enemies were encamped. Judith was determined to kill Holofernes herself because she knew with the Most High no enemy can come against her.
“What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
When Judith returned with her maid, she returned with the head of Holofernes saying:
“15…Behold the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold the canopy wherein he did lie in his drunkenness; and the Lord hath smitten him by the hand of a woman. 16As the Lord liveth, who hath kept me in my way that I went, my countenance hath deceived him to his destruction, and yet hath he not committed sin with me, to defile and shame me.” Judith 13:15 (Apocrypha).
And Ozias, one of the elders of Israel, responded and said to her:
“18…O daughter, blessed are thou of the most high God above all the women upon the earth; and blessed be the Lord God, which hath created the heaven and the earth, which hath directed thee to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies. 19For this thy confidence shall not depart from the heart of men, which remember the power of God for ever.” Judith 13:18-19 (Apocrypha).
When I think upon the faith, courage, determination and strength of my sister Judith, it certainly showers and invigorates my spirit to stand up for the law no matter what; it makes me strong even in the hour of darkness. It most certainly encourages me to strive to be a Proverbs 31 woman. I, for one, will never stop praising her and will forever feel indebted to her. The women of Israel felt the same,
“12Then all the women of Israel ran together to see her, and blessed her, and made a dance among them for her: and she took branches in her hand, and gave also to the women that were with her. 13And they put a garland of olive upon her maid that was with her, and she went before all the people in the dance, leading all the women; and all the men of Israel followed in their armour with garlands, and with songs in their mouths.” Judith 15:12-13 (Apocrypha).
If nothing else, the story of Judith forever blows away all the haters of this world that call biblical and righteous women weak and doormats…no weak woman would have been able to go out alone against a fierce man of war and behead him. And she didn’t even have to go commando, nor dress in camouflage, nor fatigues, nor pants, nor sway her neck, nor snap her fingers, nor step right in his face with pride, nor fist fight like a man. Instead, she defeated the enemy using righteously her feminine wiles:
“6But the Almighty Lord hath disappointed them by the hand of a woman. 7For the mighty one did not fall by the young men, neither did the sons of the Titans smite him, nor high giants set upon him: but Judith the daughter of Merari weakened him with the beauty of her countenance.” Judith 16:6-7 (Apocrypha).
Stand back world as the women of the Most High God and Christ are STRONG, VIBRANT, FILLED WITH KNOWLEDGE, WISDOM AND UNDERSTANDING, FATIH, HOPE, COURAGE AND, YES, FILLED WITH PRIDE TO BE LED BY OUR MEN! This is how Judith was known even amongst the heathen:
“There is not such a woman from one end of the earth to the other, both for beauty of face, and wisdom of words.” Judith 11:21 (Apocrypha).
And as if what I have already written about Judith was not enough, there is still yet another facet of Judith that is too often overlooked. At the time Judith first met with the elders of Israel, she had been a widow for just over 3 years. She greatly mourned for her husband Manasses. He must have been a devout and godly man who feared the Lord and instructed Judith very well because Judith was an excellent wife:
“A good wife is a good portion, which shall be given in the portion of them that fear the Lord.” Ecclesiasticus 26:3 (Apocrypha).
“And there was none that gave her an ill word; for she feared God greatly.” Judith 8:8 (Apocrypha).
“28Then said Ozias to her, All that thou hast spoken hast thou spoken with a good heart, and there is one that may gainsay thy words. 29For this is not the first day wherein they wisdom is manifested; but from the beginning of thy days all the people have known thy understanding, because the disposition of thine heart is good.” Judith 8:28-29 (Apocrypha).
When Manasses died, Judith could have lawfully married again. But she chose not to, and not because the opportunity lacked:
“21…Judith went to Bethulia, and remained in her own possession, and was in her time honourable in all the country. 22And many desired her, but none knew her all the days of her life, after that Manasses her husband was dead…” Judith 16:21-22 (Apocrypha).
Judith loved her husband so greatly, that she did not want anyone else to have her, ever! She was devoted to him until her death. What a love story!! When Judith died she was 105 years old and was buried with her husband Manasses.
Judith’s love story reminds me of my own grandmother Rosa. She became a widow at 36 having 6 children, 4 sons and 2 daughters, to raise all by herself. She utterly loved her husband and mourned him gravely. Now, at the ripe old age of 98, she suffers with Alzheimer’s. She hardly recognizes anyone anymore, not even her own children. But to this day, over 60 years after the death of my grandfather and left with hardly any memory at all of the life she has lived, she still remembers her beloved husband whom she loves with passion and devotion as if he were still alive. She, like Judith, never wanted anyone else to have her.
This kind of love is not of fairytales nor movies nor romance novels, it’s true love. It’s the love of obedience, charity, patience, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, benevolence. It’s powerful, it’s passionate, it’s enduring—it’s a blessing. Our fore parents Abraham and Sarah, Tobit and Anna, Aquila and Priscilla, Isaac and Rebekah experienced it and it exists even now.
Judith lived up to her name meaning “she is praised.” She did not live for praise, but she most definitely lived a life worth praising! What a beautiful woman! She will forever be remembered in the hearts of all Israel!
“19For this thy confidence shall not depart from the heart of men, which remember the power of God forever. 20And God turn these things to thee for a perpetual praise, to visit thee in good things, because thou hast not spared thy life for the affliction of our nation, but hast revenged our ruin, walking a straight way before our God. And all the people said, So be it, so be it.” Judith 13:19-20 (Apocrypha).
And the Most High blessed Judith with one of the greatest gifts of all, true love all the days of her life.