Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Sung. Greek, “Gave out this confession, in all Israel: and all the people echoed this praise;” (Haydock) either repeating the whole after her, or singing the first verse as a chorus, Exodus xv. 20., 1 Kings xviii. 6., and 1 Paralipomenon xvi. 8. (Calmet) — Saying. Greek, “And Judith said: Begin ye to my Lord.” (Haydock) — It is time for us to break silence, and to sound forth the praises of God. (Calmet)
Ver. 3. Wars, or destroys armies. (Haydock) — God is often represented as a mighty warrior, Isaias i. 24., Jeremias ii. 20., and Romans ix. 29. (Calmet) — This passage is quoted by St. Ephrem (ser. de 2. Adv.) as a part of Scripture. (Worthington) — Lord is. Greek, “For he has drawn me from the hands of my persecutors, into his camp, in the midst of the people.” (Haydock)
Ver. 5. Mountains of Cilicia, and through the defiles of Libanus and Hermon, on the north of Palestine, by which road they were forced to come. The desert Arabia was impassable for a large army. (Calmet) — North, inclining to the east. (Haydock) (Isaias xiv. 13., Jeremias i. 13., and Ezechiel i. 4.) — Torrents, drinking them up, as Sennacherib boasted; (4 Kings xix. 24.) and the Greeks assert the same of the army of Xerxes. (Herodotus vii. 108.)
—–Epotaque flumina Medo
Prandente.—– (Juvenal x.)
The Greek seems to insinuate that the Assyrians “stopped up the springs,” to distress the country, as Philopator did. (Calmet) — Valleys. Greek, “hills.”
Ver. 6. To make. Greek, “that he would throw my children at the breast, on the pavement, and make,” &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 7. Stuck. Literally, “hurt him, overturning all his projects, (Calmet) as the Greek (ethetesen) intimates. (Menochius) — Him. Greek, “them, by the hand of a woman: For,” &c.
Ver. 8. Men; soldiers, chap. xiv. 6., and Genesis xiv. 24. — Titan. So the Septuagint render Raphaim, 2 Kings v. 18. The Greek translator of this work seems to have read the poets, who pretend that the Titans attempted to take heaven by storm. (Calmet) — Neither such giants as those who lived before the flood, (Genesis vi.) nor such as were seen after, (Numbers xiii.; Worthington) attacked Holofernes. (Haydock) — Neither does the Vulgate give any authority to poetic fictions, but only adopts terms which are best understood. (Tirinus) (St. Jerome in Amos v. 8.)
Ver. 9. And put. Greek, “for the exaltation of those who laboured in Israel.”
Ver. 10. Crown. Greek, “mitre,” or ribband, ornamented with jewels, chap. x. 3. Syriac, “net-work.” — New. Greek, “linen stole,” which was a long robe, usually of linen, and worn both by men and women. (Calmet) — Deceived him; as he would make love to her, and thus give her an opportunity to perform what she had designed. (Haydock) — She was not actuated by the desire of being admired, but sought to deliver her people, ver. 9. (Menochius)
Ver. 11. Sandals. The bandages which tied the shoe-soles (Haydock) to the feet, were most ornamental, Isaias iii. The city of Antylla was assigned to furnish sandals for the queens of Egypt. (Herodotus xii. 98.) (Calmet) — With. Greek, “a sword (acinace) passed through his neck.”
Ver. 12. Medes. This is the first mention of these two nations, who afterwards became so famous. Nabuchodonosor had overcome Phraortes, chap. i. (Calmet)
Ver. 13. Then. Greek, “Than my lowly ones (Haydock; she speaks thus contemptuously of the Assyrians.; Calmet) howled, my weak ones cried out through fear; they raised their voice, and were overthrown.” (Haydock) — Others think that she is speaking of her fellow-citizens, (Tirinus) or both. (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Damsels; young boys. Syriac, “they run them through, as if they had been damsels.” — Children, or “slaves.” (Syriac) Being thus overtaken, what could they do but sue for pardon? (Calmet) — Before. Greek, “of the Lord,” &c.
Ver. 15. Let. Greek, “I will sing a new hymn to the Lord. Lord, thou art great.” (Haydock)
Ver. 17. Spirit, and they. Greek, “he built” the world, Genesis i. 8., and Psalm xxxii. 9. (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Waters, by earthquakes and storms, Job ix. 5., Isaias v. 25., and Psalm xvii. 8.
Ver. 19. Great. Greek, “treated mercifully by thee: for little with thee is all sacrifice, for the odour of sweetness; and all fat is but the least for thy holocausts. But he who fears the Lord, is ever great.” (Haydock) — This text is remarkable, as it shews (Calmet) that no sacrifice can please God, without interior holiness. Outward magnificence will be otherwise rejected with contempt. (Worthington)
Ver. 20. He will visit them, is not in Greek, and only expresses the same again. (Haydock)
Ver. 21. Flesh, which is thus punished for ever, (St. Augustine, City of God xxv. 4.) while the soul is still more tormented with the loss of God’s vision. (Worthington) — The bodies of those who persecute God’s people, will not only be thrown out with ignominy, but the impenitent shall suffer eternal torments. These worms and fires do not cease. They are not merely figurative, but real, according to the Fathers. (Serarius, q. 1.) (Tirinus) (Essais de Mor.) — Though the damned have not yet their bodies, they are no less affected with pain; as people who have lost a member, often seem to feel pain in it. That our soul should even now suffer, when the body is hurt, depends on God’s appointment. The Jews spoke of eternal torments in similar terms, Ecclesiasticus vii. 19., Isaias lxvi. 24., and Mark ix. 45.
Ver. 22. And. Greek, “But as soon as they arrived at Jerusalem, they adored God; and when the people were purified, they offered their holocausts, and free gifts, and presents.” (Haydock) — They stood in need of purification, as they had shed blood, and had touched so many things of the Assyrians, which were to them unclean. (Calmet) (Numbers xxxi. 24.)
Ver. 23. An anathema of oblivion. That is, a gift or offering made to God, by way of an everlasting monument, to prevent the oblivion or the forgetting of so great a benefit. (Challoner) — Yet some would read (Calmet) oblationis, instead of oblivionis. (Tirinus) — Greek and Syriac say nothing of oblivion. The Scriptures, and pagan histories, are full of such monuments of gratitude, to perpetuate the memory of benefits received from above. (Calmet) — Greek, “to the Lord, all the vessels,” or furniture, chap. xv. 14. (Haydock) — Joseph called one of his sons, Manasses, because God had caused him to forget his former toils, Genesis xli. 51. (Menochius) — Judith’s husband had the same name; and this victory made her forget past sorrow. (Haydock)
Ver. 24. Three. Syriac, “one entire month.” (Calmet) — Joy. Greek, “and Judith remained with them.”
Ver. 25. Was made. Greek, “returned also to Bethulia, and dwelt on her own possessions; and in her time, was honourable throughout all the land.”
Ver. 26. Chastity. Greek, “many desired to have her, (Haydock; in marriage.; Worthington) but no man knew her,” &c. (Haydock) — She again practised the same mortifications which she had done before. (Suidas) (Calmet) — Husband. Greek adds, “when he was removed to his people. And proceeding, (to the temple, or advancing in age) she was very great, and she grew old in her,” &c. (Haydock) — She probably went up to Jerusalem at the great festivals. (Menochius)
Ver. 28. Five. Suidas alone reads, “fifty.” Some would suppose that Judith lived 105 years after her husband’s death; so that she might have been in all 125 years old. But she would thus have survived the siege of Jerusalem under Nabuchodonosor; (Calmet) and the text does not require this sense. (Haydock) See Exodus xii. 40. (Tirinus) — Free; as she had been her assistant in such a glorious work. (Menochius) — Died. Greek adds, “in Bethulia; and they buried her in the cave of her husband, Manasses.” See chap. viii. 3.
Ver. 29. Seven days. The usual term; (Ecclesiasticus xxii. 13.) but it was extra ordinary for the whole province (Calmet) to mourn for an individual. Greek and Syriac add, “And she divided all her possessions, before her death, among the nearest relations of her husband, Manasses, and among her own,” (Haydock) which was very equitable, as she had no children, (Calmet) we may suppose. (Tirinus) (Haydock)
Ver. 30. Years. Greek, “days.” See the preface. (Haydock) — Judith was a widow near seventy years, shewing an excellent pattern to all in that state. Notwithstanding the many inducements which she might have had to marry again, she chose to abstain, for greater perfection, Matthew xix., and 1 Corinthians vii. (Worthington) — From the death of Holofernes (the year of the world 3348) to that of Josias, (the year 3394) only forty-six years of peace would occur in Juda. Hence Hardouin would suppose that the text speaks of the kingdom of Israel. But it would be hard to prove that it existed at that time, after the ten tribes had been led away. (The year 3283.) As the Scripture does not specify how old Judith was when she addressed Holofernes, (Calmet) she might be sixty-five. (Vitre.) — If, therefore, we should make this peace last till the coming of Nabuchodonosor, to attack Jerusalem, about forty-six years might elapse before the period here assigned. (Calmet) — It is, however, much more probable, (Haydock) that the peace subsisted from the 11th of Manasses to the death of Josias, 73 (Greek, 78) years; (Tirinus) and that she was not above forty when she performed her exploit; as she was then styled a beautiful girl, (chap. xii. 12.) and many desired to marry her. (Haydock) — No instance can be produced, of the Jews entering into such contracts with those who were past child-bearing. Freret, who seems afraid to allow this book the same authority as the additions to Daniel, though both are equally rejected by Protestants, supposes that Bethulia was besieged in the 11th or 12th year of Josias; and, of course, that Judith would then be about eighty-four years old! (Houbigant)
Ver. 31. But. This is taken from the Chaldean of St. Jerome, though omitted in the old Vulgate, as well as in the Greek and Syriac. We find no express mention of this festival in the Jews’ Calendar, (Calmet) though no one can doubt but it once was kept. (Du Hamel) — It probably ceased during the captivity; as that, in memory of the victory over Nicanor, (which was kept in the days of Josephus, [Antiquities?] xii. 16.) has been long since abolished, (Calmet) with many others. (Du Hamel) — Many suppose (Calmet) that the feast of Judith concurred with that of the new fire, when the temple was renewed under Judas the Machabee, on the 25th of Casleu, (Salien, &c.) in December, though the victory of Judith was obtained about August. The point is not easily decided. As the festival was of human institution, it might be abrogated by the same authority. (Calmet) — In Judith we behold a widow indeed, such as the apostle commends, 1 Timothy v. 3. (St. Jerome ad Furiam.) — We may also raise our minds still higher, and contemplate in her a glorious figure of the Christian Church, which is spotless; and by the practice of all virtues, overcomes the power of persecutors, giving all the glory to God. After victory, she continues in silence to practise her former austerities, which render her secure in peace and terrible in war. (Calmet)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
The canticle of Judith: her virtuous life and death.
1 Then Judith sung this canticle to the Lord, saying:
2 Begin ye to the Lord with timbrels, sing ye to the Lord with cymbals, tune unto him a new psalm, extol, and call upon his name.
3 The Lord putteth an end to wars, the Lord is his name.
4 He hath set his camp in the midst of his people, to deliver us from the hand of all our enemies.
5 The Assyrian came out of the mountains from the north in the multitude of his strength: his multitude stopped up the torrents, and their horses covered the valleys.
6 He bragged that he would set my borders on fire, and kill my young men with the sword, to make my infants a prey, and my virgins captives.
7 But the Almighty Lord hath struck him, and hath delivered him into the hands of a woman, and hath slain him.
8 For their mighty one did not fall by young men, neither did the sons of Titan strike him, nor tall giants oppose themselves to him, but Judith, the daughter of Merari, weakened him with the beauty of her face.
9 For she put off her the garments of widowhood, and put on her the garments of joy, to give joy to the children of Israel.
10 She anointed her face with ointment, and bound up her locks with a crown, she took a new robe to deceive him.
11 Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty made his soul her captive, with a sword she cut off his head.
12 The Persians quaked at her constancy, and the Medes at her boldness.
13 Then the camp of the Assyrians howled, when my lowly ones appeared, parched with thirst.
14 The sons of the damsels have pierced them through, and they have killed them like children fleeing away: they perished in battle before the face of the Lord, my God.
15 Let us sing a hymn to the Lord, let us sing a new hymn to our God.
16 O Adonai, Lord, great art thou, and glorious in thy power, and no one can overcome thee.
17 *Let all thy creatures serve thee: because thou hast spoken, and they were made: thou didst send forth thy Spirit, and they were created, and there is no one that can resist thy voice.
18 The mountains shall be moved from the foundations with the waters: the rocks shall melt as wax before thy face.
19 But they that fear thee, shall be great with thee in all things.
20 Woe be to the nation that riseth up against my people: for the Lord Almighty will take revenge on them; in the day of judgment he will visit them.
21 For he will give fire, and worms into their flesh, that they may burn, and may feel for ever.
22 And it came to pass after these things, that all the people, after the victory, came to Jerusalem to adore the Lord: and as soon as they were purified, they all offered holocausts, and vows, and their promises.
23 And Judith offered for an anathema of oblivion all the arms of Holofernes, which the people gave her, and the canopy that she had taken away out of his chamber.
24 And the people were joyful in the sight of the sanctuary, and for three months the joy of this victory was celebrated with Judith.
25 And after those days every man returned to his house, and Judith was made great in Bethulia, and she was most renowned in all the land of Israel.
26 And chastity was joined to her virtue, so that she knew no man all the days of her life, after the death of Manasses, her husband.
27 And on festival days she came forth with great glory.
28 And she abode in her husband’s house a hundred and five years, and made her handmaid free, and she died, and was buried with her husband in Bethulia.
29 And all the people mourned for her seven days.
30 And all the time of her life there was none that troubled Israel, nor many years after her death.
31 But the day of the festivity of this victory is received by the Hebrews in the number of holy days, and is religiously observed by the Jews, from that time until this day.
17: Psalm xxxii. 9.