Judith (2) is a widow whose wealthy husband left her well provided for. Though quite beautiful, she hides her good looks under the garb of mourning. A righteous woman, she fasts regularly and conducts herself beyond reproach. All people esteem her.
With Judith’s city, Bethulia, under siege, food is scarce, and water is rationed. The mayor promises to surrender in five days, hoping God will miraculously save them by then. But Judith chastises him for his willingness to give up. She has a plan, a bold strategy, to save them, but she won’t tell anyone what it is.
She cleans up and replaces her widow’s clothing with festive attire, complete with perfume, jewelry, and a tiara. It’s her most alluring look. The people can’t believe the transformation. Then she and her maid leave the city and allow themselves to be captured.
Promising to aid the enemy, Judith is taken to their commander, Holofernes. Weaving partial truth into her ruse, Judith unveils her proposal of how she will advise him in taking the city without any loss of life. Enthralled by her beauty, Holofernes believes every word she says. Besides, he also wants to sleep with her.
After a couple of days and willing to wait no longer, he summons her to join him in his tent for dinner. They eat, and he drinks—too much. He sends everyone away so he can seduce her. But he passes out instead, with Judith’s virtue still intact. Judith grabs his sword, prays for supernatural strength, and decapitates him with two blows.
Judith and her maid sneak off before anyone knows what happened, carrying his severed head with them. Arriving home, the people celebrate as she tells them what happened and holds up the proof.
When the soldiers find the body of their headless leader, they’re thrown into a panic and flee. The Jews in Bethulia summon their countrymen throughout Israel to give chase, slaughtering their enemy and enjoying the spoils. The people celebrate Judith for her heroic exploit.
Taking much risk, Judith daringly delivers her people from their enemies, using her beauty to entice, while remaining pure.
Great results often require great risk. How much are we willing to risk to do what God calls us to do?
[Discover more about Judith in Judith 8–16 in The New Jerusalem Bible, Common English Bible (CEB), and New American Bible (NAB). For more information, see “Bonus Material: The Full Picture.”]
Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.