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BOOK OF JUDITH
The 2nd Defeat of Sennacherib’s Assyrian Army in 15-Hezekiah
The Temple in Jerusalem is still standing (9:11).
2 Kings 19:34; 2 Ch. 32:19 678 BC / 700(S)
The Book of Judith is the account of a major victory of Israel over an Assyrian army at the hands of the daring Israelite heroin Judith. The book was originally written in Hebrew soon after the events by Eliakim (Joakim), the high priest of the story. The additions about Arioch and Judith’s death were made somewhat later (16:28-30)
The Historical Setting Established: Unfortunately, several serious editing changes made later by those who thought they were correcting errors have frustrated biblical scholars in placing this very significant account of this great Israeli heroine. The California Institute for Ancient Studies, correcting these errors, allows the placing of this event a year after the invasion of Sennacherib and in the 15th year of King Hezekiah. The most significant detail of this story alone (a significant defeat of a massive Assyrian army, of which Judith’s triumph was the final phase), makes this placement the only logical one. New research also shows that this timing aligns with other details of the story and significant tie-ins to the prophets Joel, Micah, Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, and to the life of Tobit. Further, Isaiah’s prophecy to Hezekiah of a further disturbance of the land within a year of the Jerusalem deliverance (2 Kings 19:29) and a promise of yet a further deliverance for Hezekiah and Judah (2 Kings 20:6) make any other historical setting completely out of the question. The significant evidence in Isaiah that Judith’s triumph over the Assyrian king followed shortly after Sennacherib’s defeat at Jerusalem is found in 14:25; 28:5-6; 30:29-33; 33:1, 3; 37:30 and 38:6. These are all predictive promises that only fit the Judith triumph. See also 2 Chronicles 32:26. The Song of Judith also speaks of the Medes and Persians as separate outside witnesses to this triumph, which means that it was impossible that the assaulting army was Medo-Persian (See also the note at 4:2). The Douay Version actually identifies this army camp as Assyrian (16:10). Finally, in establishing Judith’s triumph as an actual historical event, Our Lord Himself made numerous references to the heroism and faith of Judith in His day according to the revelation in The Poem (I, 485; II, 63, 186; III, 812; IV, 138, 485; V, 165, 509, 511, 876).
The California Institute for Ancient Studies, following the reading of an obscure manuscript, reveals that the errors that have so confused scholars for centuries were the very same editor’s errors that have thrown confusion and doubt on the Book of Tobit. Jerome translated his Latin edition from an Aramaic text in great haste and did not help to restore confidence in the historical authenticity of this story.
The Story: This story tells how it came to be that the massive Assyrian army, which was attempting to subdue a much weakened nation of Judah in the time of Hezekiah, was utterly defeated by the faith and courage of one woman. Assyria had obliterated the ten tribes of Israel to the north of Judea nine years before, and now they had come to obliterate Judah and finish what it failed to do a year before under Sennacherib. In a daring and brave move, Judith goes out into the enemy camp in Samaria near Dothan to meet the ruthless Assyrian general herself, which, by an elaborate deception, provides her with an occasion to kill him. The amazing and courageous feat delivers the Israelites from the Assyrian threat in an utterly humiliating defeat unknown in the annals of human warfare.
Textual notations and corrections have been based on the extensive research done by Damien Mackey of the California Institute for Ancient Studies in the document: A Historical Commentary on the Book of Judith, found on their web site: http://www.specialtyinterests.net/judith.html. It should be noted that the obscured and scrambled chronology of the Assyrian kings is far from being properly understood and interpreted.
[In the Book of Judith, alternate numberings are for the RSV and NAB]
Sargon/Sennacherib the last great Assyrian monarch, and Merodach-baladan, king of old Babylonia.
[1:1] IN THE twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar [I - Sargon / Sennacherib]* who ruled over the Assyrians in the great city of Nineveh in the days of Arphaxad [Merodach-baladan], who ruled over the Medes[Chaldeans] in Ecbatana[Babylon for 12 years]. [The RSV]
*Nebuchadnezzar here has been shown to be Sargon/Sennacherib (also one in the same person!) who actually began to rule in Babylon (as Nebuchadnezzar) a year before he began to rule in Assyria. This would mean that Arphaxad is Merodach-baladan. See Sargon is Sennacherib at: www.specialtyinterests.net/sargon.html and Historical Commentary on the Book of Judith by Damien Mackey on the California Institute for Ancient Studies’ web site:
1:1 NOW Arphaxad [Merodach-baladan]* king of the Medes [Chaldeans] had brought many nations under his dominions, and he built a very strong city, which he called Ecbatana [Babylon], 2[2b] of stones squared and hewed. He made its walls seventy cubits broad and thirty cubits high, and its towers he made a hundred cubits high. But on the square of them, each side was extended the space of twenty feet. 3[3,4] And he made its gates according to the height of the towers. 4[4b] And he gloried as a mighty one in the force of his army and in the glory of his chariots. *Merodach-baladan ruled in Babylon at the time that Sargon/Sennacherib ruled over the Assyrians in Nineveh (2 Kings 20:12; Isa. 39:1).
Merodach-baladan, king of old Babylonia, is overcome by Sargon after 12 years.
12-Sargon/Sennacherib. 10-Hezekiah. 683 BC
“Merodach-baladan seems to have seized Babylon immediately after the death of Shalmaneser … and it was not until the 12th year of his reign that Sargon succeeded in ousting him.” ISBE
1:5 Now in the twelfth year of his reign [supported in the Assyrian records], Nebuchadnezzar[I, or Sargon / Sennacherib] king of the Assyrians, who reigned in Nineveh the great city, fought against Arphaxad [Merodach-baladan] and overcame him, 6[5b] in the great plain which is called Ragae [Esdraelon - (RSV, NAB)]. He was joined by those about the Euphrates, and the Tigris, and the Hydaspes, in the plain (where Erioch [Achior (5:5) ]* [later] ruled the Elamites [Elymoeans]). 7[6,7] Then was the kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar [I / Sargon / Sennacherib] exalted [and despite his “mysterious” defeat at Jerusalem by an act of providence], and his heart was elevated and he sent to all who dwelt in Cilicia and Damascus, Lebanon, 8 and to the nations that are in Carmelus, Cedar, to the inhabitants of Galilee in the great plain of Esdraelon, 9[9,10] to all that were in Samaria and beyond the river Jordan even to Jerusalem, and all the land of Jesse until you come to the borders of Ethiopia. 10 To all these Nebuchadnezzar[I / Sargon / Sennacherib] king of the Assyrians sent messengers, 11 but they all with one mind refused and sent them back empty, rejecting them without honor. [If, as we assert Sennacherib’s massive defeat and retreat from Jerusalem in 14-Hezekiah (2 Kings 19-20) took place a year before when they were struck by the hand of God, it certainly would explain this sudden widespread resistance to Assyrian authority. The fact that the coming victory through Judith would take place in Samaria would also explain why this was not included by Jeremiah in Kings or by Ezra in the Chronicles. We must remember that it was extremely important that the focus of the Jews be continually brought to the prominence of Jerusalem and Judah.]
*Achior as we discover from 5:5 ff., is a prominent personage in this story. The Book of Tobit explains that some time after the destruction of Sennacherib’s armies, the person who had been Sennacherib’s Rabshakeh (or Cupbearer) was appointed as king over Elymais (Elam) (Tobit 1:18, 21; 2:10). He is none other than Tobit’s nephew, of the tribe of Naphtali (Tobit 1:1), and at this later time he is chief administrator and royal adviser (“keeper of the seal”) under “Esarhaddon” (Ashurbanipal), who succeeded his grandfather Sennacherib (Tobit 1:21-22; 2:10). Here in 12-Sennacherib, however, Achior is only a high officer in the army. It is certainly Achior who supplies the eyewitness account of this story to Eliakim (Joakim), the high priest.
1:12 Then King Nebuchadnezzar[I / Sargon / Sennacherib] being angry against all that land, swore by his throne and kingdom that he would revenge himself of all those countries.
The council of war against the west. 18-Sargon/Sennacherib. 15-Hezekiah, the year after Sennacherib was defeated at Jerusalem (See 2 Kings 20). Map 211
2:1 IN THE thirteenth year [18th year - RSV] (678 BC / 700 BC(S) of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar[I / Sargon / Sennacherib], the twenty-second day of the first month [springtime, Mch-Apr], the word was given out in the house of Nebuchadnezzar[I / Sargon / Sennacherib] king of the Assyrians, that he would revenge himself. 2 And he called all the ruling elders, all the governors, and his officers of war, and communicated to them the secret of his counsel. 3 And he said that his thoughts were to bring all the earth under his empire. 4 And when this saying pleased them all, Nebuchadnezzar[I / Sargon / Sennacherib], the king, called Holofernes* the general of his armies.
*Holofernes: There has been much talk of this name being Persian. The origin of this name is not Persian but it was given by the Jews in derision of the Assyrian goddess of war, the Morning Star and the star of Ishtar. It has three Hebrew components. Hol is from the Hebrew word “Day Star” (Heylel). Fer (the verbal component) is from the Latin name for Day Star, Lucifer (“Light Bearer”), from the verb ferre, which means to “bring” or “to bear;” and from the Greek version of the Star’s name, Hespherus, Nes is a typical ending. The name fits perfectly with Isaiah’s oracle of the fall of the future Babylonian king in Isaiah 14:12-20. “How are you fallen from Heaven, O Day Star, son of the Dawn! (From Damien Mackey’s A Historical Commentary on the Book of Judith. See www.specialtyinterests.net/judith.html, a California Institute for Ancient Studies web site.) Mackey also effectively demonstrates that “Holofernes” was indeed Esarhaddon, son of Sennacherib and heir to the throne, and that his incredibly disgraceful death on the mountains of Israel was historically obscured in the Assyrian records. Sennacherib was thus succeeded by his grandson Ashurbanipal.
2:5[5-10] And said to him: Go out against all the kingdoms of the west, and against those especially that despised my commandment. 6[11-13] Your eye shall not spare any kingdom and all the strong cities you shall bring under my yoke.
[AMAIC comment: dates still need revision]