Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Mountains. Greek adds, “and had fortified every summit of a high mountain, and had placed scandals in the plains,” obstructing the passage (Haydock) with ditches, trees, (Calmet) and snares of every description. (Haydock)
Ver. 2. Ammon. Greek adds, “and the satraps of the maritime country,” (Haydock) the Philistines, who had submitted like the rest.
Ver. 3. Them. Greek adds, “Ye sons of Chanaan tell.” He was not acquainted with their origin: the title belonged only to the Phœnicians, (Calmet) who might also be present. (Haydock)
Ver. 4. East. Greek, “west,” which seems more accurate, unless Holofernes was on the sea-coast, (Calmet) or that part of the country went by this name, as it does at present. (Haydock) — He was not absolutely unacquainted with the Jews, but spoke in contempt, (ver. 27.; Worthington; Menochius) and wished to know if they had formed a league with the Egyptians, &c. (Calmet)
Ver. 5. My. Greek, “the mouth of thy slave.” (Haydock)
Ver. 6. Chaldeans. Abraham was a native of Ur, Genesis xii. (Calmet) — This tended to conciliate the favour of the general, who was of the same country. (Menochius)
Ver. 9. Heaven. Greek adds, “the God whom they had known, and they (the Chaldean idolaters) cast them out from the face of their gods, and they fled into Mesopotamia, and dwelt there many days: (Haydock; that is, about two years. Calmet) and their God commanded them to leave their abode, and to go into the land of Chanaan; and they dwelt there, and were enriched;…and when,” &c. — There. Greek, “and were there till they returned; and there they became innumerable.” (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Oppressed. Greek, “craftily inveigled them,” Exodus i. 10.
Ver. 11. Plague. Greek adds, “for which there was no remedy. And the Egyptians cast them out from among them. And God dried up the Red Sea before them, and conducted them to Mount Sinai and Cades-Barne, and cast out all the inhabitants of the desert; and they dwelt in the land of the Amorrhites, and exterminated all of Hesebon, by their power. Then crossing the Jordan, they took as their inheritance all the mountainous parts, and ejected the Chanaanite, Pherezite, Jebusite, Sichem, and all the Gergesites, and dwelt therein many days. And, ” ver. 21. (Haydock) — The environs of Sichem belonged to the Hevites. (Calmet)
Ver. 14. Rested. This is attested, Deuteronomy xxxii. 10., and Jeremias ii. 6. (Menochius)
Ver. 16. Overcame, in the days of Josue, (Menochius) at Jericho, &c. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. Battles. He seems to speak of the captivity of Manasses, (Worthington) of the ten tribes, and of the loss sustained by Achaz, 2 Paralipomenon xxviii. 5. (Menochius) — By many. Greek, “exceedingly; and they were led captive into a land which was not their own, and the temple of their God became as a pavement, and their cities were taken by the enemies. But now, returning to their God, they are come up from the places to which they had been scattered, and have possession of Jerusalem, where is their sanctuary; and they have inhabited the mountainous country, for it was a desert.” (Haydock) — Our adversaries would infer from this, and similar passages, that the siege of Bethulia could not have taken place till after the captivity at Babylon; and this many Catholics allow. But the proof is not conclusive, as all this might be verified under Manasses: (Calmet) “the temple was trampled on,” (Syriac, egennethe eis edaphos) and profaned. See chap. iv. 2., and 1 Machabees iii. 51., and Luke xxi. 24. It had been pillaged by Sesac and the Assyrians, and had stood in need of great repairs under Ezechias, Josias, &c. Several of the Israelites had escaped from the hands of their oppressors, (2 Paralipomenon xxxiv. 9.) and the Jews had regained their strength after the captivity of Manasses, (Calmet) having retired before into their strong holds in the deserts. (Haydock)
Ver. 25. Cannot. Greek, “let my lord indeed pass by, lest their Lord should cover them with a shield, for their God is for them, and we,” &c.
Ver. 26. All the. Greek, “all the people round the tent murmured; and the great men of Holofernes, and all who dwelt in the maritime country, and in Moab, threatened to cut him to pieces. For we shall not fear the children of Israel. Lo! a people without power, strength, or army in battle array! We shall then go up, and they shall be for food to all thy army, lord Holofernes. And,” chap. vi.
Ver. 27. Who. They speak thus through indignation, though they knew Achior well enough. (Worthington) — Their blasphemous presumption was soon punished. (Menochius)
Ver. 29. Other. This foolish attempt was not peculiar to this king. The great Nabuchodonosor was infected with the same vanity, (Daniel vi. 7.) and was imitated by many of the Persian monarchs, and by Alexander. Persas non pie tantum sed etiam prudenter Reges suos inter deos colere: Majestatem enim imperii salutis esse tutelam. (Curtius viii.) Yet most of the Greeks could not brook such flattery, though they were not influenced by religion, but by reason, and their own haughty temper. See Justin vi.; Martial x. 62.
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Achior gives Holofernes an account of the people of Israel.
1 And it was told Holofernes, the general of the army of the Assyrians, that the children of Israel prepared themselves to resist, and had shut up the ways of the mountains.
2 And he was transported with exceedingly great fury and indignation, and he called all the princes of Moab, and the leaders of Ammon,
3 And he said to them: Tell me what is this people that besetteth the mountains: or what are their cities, and of what sort, and how great: also what is their power, or what is their multitude: or who is the king over their warfare:
4 And why they, above all that dwell in the east, have despised us, and have not come out to meet us, that they might receive us with peace?
5 Then Achior, captain of all the children of Ammon, answering, said: If thou vouchsafe, my lord, to hear, I will tell the truth in thy sight, concerning this people, that dwelleth in the mountains, and there shall not a false word come out of my mouth.
6 This people is of the offspring of the Chaldeans.
7 *They dwelt first in Mesopotamia, because they would not follow the gods of their fathers, who were in the land of the Chaldeans.
8 Wherefore, forsaking the ceremonies of their fathers, which consisted in the worship of many gods,
9 They worshipped one God of heaven, *who also commanded them to depart from thence, and to dwell in Charan. And when there was a famine over all the land, **they went down into Egypt, and there for four hundred years were so multiplied, that the army of them could not be numbered.
10 And when the king of Egypt oppressed them, and made slaves of them, to labour in clay and brick, in the building of his cities, they cried to their Lord, and he struck the whole land of Egypt with divers plagues.
11 *And when the Egyptians had cast them out from them, and the plague had ceased from them, and they had a mind to take them again, and bring them back to their service,
12 *The God of heaven opened the sea to them in their flight, so that the waters were made to stand firm as a wall on either side, and they walked through the bottom of the sea, and passed it dry foot.
13 And when an innumerable army of the Egyptians pursued after them in that place, they were so overwhelmed with the waters, that there was not one left, to tell what had happened to posterity.
14 And after they came out of the Red Sea, they abode in the deserts of Mount Sina, in which never man could dwell, or son of man rested.
15 There bitter fountains were made sweet for them to drink, and for forty years they received food from heaven.
16 Wheresoever they went in without bow and arrow, and without shield and sword, their God fought for them, and overcame.
17 And there was no one that triumphed over this people, but when they departed from the worship of the Lord, their God.
18 But as often as, beside their own God, they worshipped any other, they were given to spoil, and to the sword, and to reproach.
19 And as often as they were penitent for having revolted from the worship of their God, the God of heaven gave them power to resist.
20 So they overthrew the king of the Chanaanites, and of the Jebusites, and of the Pherezites, and of the Hethites, and of the Hevites, and of the Amorrhites, and all the mighty ones in Hesebon, and they possessed their lands, and their cities:
21 And as long as they sinned not in the sight of their God, it was well with them: for their God hateth iniquity.
22 And even some years ago when they had revolted from the way which God had given them, to walk therein, they were destroyed in battles by many nations, and very many of them were led away captive into a strange land.
23 But of late returning to the Lord, their God, from the different places wherein they were scattered, they are come together, and are gone up into all these mountains, and possess Jerusalem again, where their holies are.
24 Now, therefore, my lord, search if there be any iniquity of theirs in the sight of their God: let us go up to them, because their God will surely deliver them to thee, and they shall be brought under the yoke of thy power:
25 But if there be no offense of this people in the sight of their God, we cannot resist them, because their God will defend them: and we shall be a reproach to the whole earth.
26 And it came to pass, when Achior had ceased to speak these words, all the great men of Holofernes were angry, and they had a mind to kill him, saying to each other:
27 Who is this, that saith the children of Israel can resist king Nabuchodonosor, and his armies, men unarmed, and without force, and without skill in the art of war?
28 That Achior, therefore, may know that he deceiveth us, let us go up into the mountains: and when the bravest of them shall be taken, then shall he, with them, be stabbed with the sword:
29 That every nation may know that Nabuchodonosor is god of the earth, and besides him there is no other.
7: Genesis xi. 31.
9: Genesis xii. 1. — ** Genesis xlvi. 6.
11: Exodus xii. 33.
12: Exodus xiv. 29.