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The Sword of Judith

 | 
Kevin R. Brine
, 
Elena Ciletti
, 
Henrike Lähnemann

Jewish Textual Traditions

5. Shorter Medieval Hebrew Tales of Judith

Deborah Levine Gera

Texte intégral

  • 1 See above, Introduction pp. 31–34 for a general classification of the different medieval Hebrew st (...)

1Judith disappeared from Jewish tradition for well over a thousand years and when she returned, she was, in many instances, quite changed. In this paper, I shall be looking at the portrayal of Judith in a series of medieval Hebrew stories or midrashim, concentrating upon those stories which are not based in their entirety on the Vulgate Judith.1

2Many details of the plot and the characters in these medieval Hebrew stories are not identical with those found in the Book of Judith. The setting of the story is generally Jerusalem, rather than Bethulia. The enemy king Nebuchadnezzar and his commander Holofernes are often conflated into one figure, the leader whom Judith encounters and kills, and his name and country of origin vary considerably from story to story. Even Judith herself is not always named in these stories and her family background varies. Similarly, an Achior figure, a wise counsellor who advises the enemy commander against attacking the Israelites, is found in virtually all the tales, but his name, position, and profession differ in the different stories.

  • 2 I use the names Judith, Holofernes, Achior, etc., for the sake of convenience, even if they appear (...)
  • 3 In the midrashim, the banquet is a large party arranged to celebrate Holofernes’s forthcoming vict (...)
  • 4 For a survey of all these elements in the various tales, see the useful list in André Marie Dubarl (...)

3While the Judith midrashim vary widely in length and detail, they do have many elements in common. In all the tales, Judith’s city is besieged and she decides to intervene and meet with the enemy leader.2 Holofernes attempts to seduce or marry her, arranges a banquet,3 becomes intoxicated, and is murdered by Judith. She returns to her city with his head and the Israelites are filled with joy when they learn of Holofernes’s death. The enemy discover their leader’s body, and are then slaughtered by the Israelites. Their possessions are pillaged.4 All of these elements are found, of course, in the original Book of Judith and they form the very core of the plot. At the same time, several key features are missing in the medieval stories, which add some new elements of their own.

  • 5 Claudia Rakel, Judit – Über Schönheit, Macht, und Widerstand im Krieg (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003), (...)
  • 6 Widow: texts 3 and 4; young girl: 2a, 8, and 9; woman and young girl: 1, 5a, 5c, 5f; widow, woman, (...)
  • 7 Compare Ru 1:3. The Vulgate includes a long genealogy for Judith (Vulg. Jdt 8:1),but does not say (...)
  • 8 In many versions (texts 2a, 5a, 5c, 5f, 7b, 8, 9, 10, 12) Judith allegedly comes to Holofernes in (...)

4The omissions and additions of the Hebrew medieval tales are particularly interesting in relation to the figure of Judith herself and it is worth concentrating on her portrayal in these stories, viewing her through a feminist lens.5 How does Judith fare in the medieval Hebrew stories? For a start, she is sometimes a younger, unmarried woman, rather than a wealthy and independent widow. This makes her a more vulnerable and less experienced figure. In some stories she is called a woman, a girl, and a widow, at one and the same time: perhaps the point is simply that she is a female, a dependent female.6 In the apocryphal book, Judith is assigned an extraordinarily long genealogy, clearly intended to glorify her and stress her importance. In fact, her husband, Manasses, is said to be of her tribe and her(καὶ ὀ ἀνὴϱ αὐτῆς Mαναης τῆς fυλῆς aὐτῆς καὶ τῆς πaτϱιᾶς aὐτῆς LXX Jdt 8:2) clan and such an identification of a husband through his wife is unique in the Bible.7 In the medieval tales, we hear of Judith’s family as well, but in these later stories her family is usually enlisted in order to grant her an identity of sorts and lend her status. Indeed, Judith often uses her family connections to explain her defection to the enemy commander. The medieval Judith introduces herself as the daughter and sister of prophets and/or priests and claims to convey information acquired by her male relatives because of their privileged relationship with God.8 In the apocryphal book, on the other hand, Judith presents herself to Holofernes as someone who receives messages directly from God (LXX Jdt 11:16–17). It is she, rather than her menfolk, who is said to be privy to divine information.

  • 9 See LXX Jdt 8:7, 29; 10:7, 14, 19, 23; 11:20–22, etc.

5Since the short medieval stories are considerably briefer than the Book of Judith, it is only to be expected that less space is devoted to a description of the heroine’s beauty, piety, and cleverness. It is nonetheless surprising to discover that some medieval midrashim do not mention her beauty at all (texts 3 and 4) and only two make note of her intelligence (texts 1 and 12). These are key features of the apocryphal Judith, noted by the narrator and all those who surround her.9 Some of the later tales find room for a bit of her irony and deception, two of the apocryphal Judith’s quintessential qualities. Such irony is particularly apparent when she expresses her tongue-in-cheek desire to go to bed with Holofernes. Thus in text 1, when the commander attempts to seduce Judith, she replies, ”My lord king, I have come here with all my heart solely for this purpose.” In many of the tales her reply to the ”marriage” proposal is, ”I am not worthy to be married to one of your servants, let alone the king.”

  • 10 There is a prayer, (...)

6It is perhaps not surprising that Judith’s scolding speech to Uzziah and the city elders disappears (LXX Jdt 8:10–27); nor do we hear of military advice offered by Judith in any of these tales (cf. LXX Jdt 14:1–4). More unexpected is the fact that there is no trace in the midrashim of Judith’s long prayer (LXX Jdt 9:1–14) and in some of the stories (texts 3, 4, 5a, 5c, 5f, 7a, and 7b) we do not find any prayer by Judith at all.10 Courageous and brave though the medieval Judith may be, none of the later stories include the praise and blessings showered upon her by her grateful community. There is no celebratory song and dance in her honor, as found in the Book of Judith (LXX Jdt 15:12–16, 17). Indeed, in all but one of the medieval stories (text 9), Judith does not receive even a single word of praise. While Judith’s help is not acknowledged in any way, in one account (text 8), she is nonetheless said to reign over the land and judge Israel after her deed is done.

  • 11 Achior appears in different places in the story in the different versions and sometimes is mention (...)

7Since the guards generally do not believe or trust the victorious Judith when she returns with Holofernes’s head, many of the medieval tales introduce a figure based on the apocryphal Achior, the wise counsellor who has warned the enemy leader against attacking. Achior is brought into these stories, sometimes at the very moment of Judith’s return,11 simply so that she can appeal to him to confirm the identity of her victim. The counsellor has so angered the enemy king with his advice against attempting to conquer the Jews that the king hangs him at the city gates. There he waits, literally hanging around, until Judith returns and he can affirm her deed. As brief as these stories may be, Achior needs to be included in order to lend credence and credibility to Judith’s deed: in these Hebrew medieval tales, Judith’s townspeople trust this foreigner more than they trust her. In the Septuagint, Achior is allotted a different role. When Judith returns from killing Holofernes, she has him summoned and shows him Holofernes’s head (LXX Jdt 14:5–8). It is not altogether clear why she does so and the timing is puzzling, for she calls for him immediately after telling the people of Bethulia to hang Holofernes’s head on the wall and arm for battle early the next morning. In the Vulgate (Jdt 13:27–31), Achior is also summoned (with no mention of an agent: ”porro Achior vocatus venit” and Achior being called for came; Vulg. Jdt 13:27) but this takes place, more logically, before Judith suggests that the head be hung on the city wall. The Vulgate Judith shows Holofernes’s head to Achior so that he may see and recognize for himself that God does indeed avenge his enemies, just as Achior has stated. Holofernes’s head enables Achior to understand and confirm the truth of his claim. In the midrashim, their roles are reversed: Achior confirms the truth of Judith’s tale by means of the head and it is she who needs outside witnesses and confirmatory evidence, not Achior.

8In the medieval tales, then, it is easier for Judith to enter and depart enemy territory than her own native town. The interrogation she undergoes at the gates of her own city is in striking contrast to the unsuspecting attitude of the enemy guards, who immediately bring Judith to their commander when she first enters the enemy camp. When Judith and her maid leave the enemy territory, the foreign guards are (at her request) specifically ordered by the king not to approach the two women or even utter one word to them. It is interesting to note that already in the Septuagint account of Judith there is a hint of uneasiness when the heroine leaves Bethulia and passes through the city gates. Judith asks Uzziah and the elders to stand at the gates when she and the maid leave, but specifically tells them not to question her, for she will not tell them of her deed until it is done (LXX Jdt 8:33–34). When she arrives at the gates, after dressing up for her mission, Uzziah and his companions are astounded by her beauty. She has them command the young men to open the gates for her and the elders follow her with their eyes until she is out of sight (LXX Jdt 10:6–10). Judith is not challenged in any way in the Septuagint, just stared at and blessed, but there is a stilling of movement here, a slowing down of the plot. In the Vulgate, too, Uzziah and the elders admire Judith’s beauty when she leaves the city gates, but Jerome adds that they nevertheless do not question her and simply let her pass through, ”qui cum vidissent eam stupentes mirati sunt nimis pulchritudinem eius nihil tamen interrogantes eam dimiserunt transire” (And when they saw her they were astonished and admired her beauty exceedingly. But they asked her no question, and let her pass; Vulg. Jdt 10:7–8). The Vulgate wording seems to imply that it would only be natural to interrogate Judith under the circumstances, as indeed happens with the gatekeepers in the later stories. Jerome also drops the description of the Israelites watching her cross the plain to the enemy camp (LXX Jdt 10:10) and there is no lingering on the male Israelite gaze in the Vulgate.

  • 12 See above, Introduction, p. 34.
  • 13 See Mira Friedman, ”Metamorphoses of Judith,” Jewish Art, 12–13 (1986–87), pp. 225–46 at 225–27 fo (...)
  • 14 Vier Historien des Alten Testaments (Albrecht Pfister: Bamberg May 1462), fol. 41r in The Illustra (...)

9In this context of Judith tarrying at her city’s gates it is worth looking at a manuscript illumination of a special prayer for Hanukkah which includes Judith’s story (text 10). The author of the liturgical poem, Joseph ben Solomon, was active in the first half of the eleventh century and his account is clearly based on the medieval midrashim.12 In a manuscript dated ca. 1434, the Hamburg miscellany (Cod. Heb. 37, fol. 81), we find three illustrations of the section of the poem dedicated to Judith (see above, Fig. 2.1). The first shows Judith and her maid approaching Holofernes who sits outside his tent, the second is the quintessential image of Judith cutting off the sleeping Holofernes’s head, but the third illumination is more unusual. It is placed in close proximity to the words of the poem describing Judith’s encounter with the guards upon returning to her city, ”They saw Holofernes’s head but did not believe her,” and shows Judith entering the city gates with her maid. A head, possibly that of Achior, peeps over the wall.13 It is possible that this particular episode was illustrated precisely because Judith is made to wait at the gates in so many of the medieval tales. In an anonymous fifteenth-century German woodcut, we again see Judith and her maid, who is carrying Holofernes’s head, at the city gates. The two women are gesticulating, while the two male guards blocking the entrance have their arms folded. The body language of the figures seems to indicate that the women are trying to convince the gatekeepers to allow them to enter.14

10A second innovation found in the medieval midrashim is the excuse Judith offers for rejecting Holofernes’s advances: in most of these tales the king almost immediately expresses his desire to marry Judith, minutes after meeting her. It seems that this is a euphemistic way of stating that he would like to have sex with her at once, for Judith invariably agrees to the proposal, but adds that there will be a slight delay. She explains that she is in an impure stage of her menstrual cycle, but will be available to the king that very evening after she undergoes ritual purification at a nearby spring. Consequently she asks the king to order that she and her maid be allowed access to the waters. They are not to be questioned or challenged by the guards at the city springs (and we have seen that they are in fact allowed to move about freely in enemy territory). In the apocryphal Judith, the spring plays a part as well, for Judith allegedly needs to go out in the evenings to commune with God and hear from him if the time to attack the Israelites has come (LXX Jdt 11:17; 12:6–7; Vulg. Jdt 11:14–15; 12:5–7). In the apocryphal book Judith bathes ritually and prays at the spring for three evenings in a row, and this immersion in water is a purification process that is not related to her menstrual cycle. Indeed, the fact that Judith repeats this rite on three successive nights makes it plain that she immerses herself in preparation for prayer; one dipping would have sufficed to end her menstrual impurity. The medieval authors apparently found this purification rite by a woman mystifying or possibly subversive: perhaps this independent, religious woman was too close to God for their taste. At any rate, it is easier for these storytellers to depict an impure, menstruating woman than to envision a holy woman of God, who immerses herself in water in a near-spiritual act of purification, common to men and women alike. All the non-Vulgate-based medieval versions include this detail: in all these stories, Judith’s alleged need to perform a purely physical act reserved for impure women is a crucial feature of the plot.

  • 15 See above Introduction, pp. 30–31.
  • 16 It is unfortunate that Dubarle, who finds the links between the stories late and artificial (Judit (...)

11Judith’s tale is often linked with the story of Hanukkah and many of the medieval midrashim are related to this festival.15 Most of the Hanukkah-Judith stories fall into two parts, with another woman, a member of the Hasmonean family who is generally identified as the sister of Judah Maccabee, playing a critical role in the events preceding Judith’s own deeds. Some of these Hanukkah tales are carefully crafted and we clearly are meant to compare and contrast the two women.16 Interestingly, the Hasmonean heroine, Hannah, as she is sometimes called, is often a stronger character, who seems to have usurped some of Judith’s wisdom and courage.

  • 17 See Gn 34:1–31. Judith alludes to Dina in the Septuagint text (LXX Jdt 9:2–4), but she seems to id (...)

12In the Hanukkah stories, a series of decrees are directed against the Israelites, including the ius primae noctis, the right of an important enemy minister to sleep with a bride before she has sexual relations with her husband. All proceeds quietly — with the Israelites either obeying this decree or postponing all weddings or the brides remaining miraculously untouched — until it is time for a daughter of the Hasmonean family, Hannah, to marry. Hannah does not wish to cooperate with her family’s plan to send her off to the Gentile minister, for she sees herself as an example for other young women and is concerned that if she should compromise, they would all follow suit. At a prenuptial party for family and friends, Hannah removes her pretty clothes and jewelry, puts on rags, and serves wine to the partygoers (see texts 4, 5a, 5c 5f, and 12). In another version of the tale (text 3), she messes her hair, tears her clothing, and stands naked in front of the people. Her family and friends, and her brother Judah, in particular, are embarrassed by Hannah’s behavior and wish to punish her. Indeed, in one account (text 4) the brothers are prepared to burn their wilful sister at the stake. Hannah contends that it is they, the menfolk of the family, who should be ashamed, because they are willing to have her defiled by an uncircumcised Gentile. She compares her plight to that of the biblical Dina, and urges her brothers to behave as the biblical Simeon and Levi did, i.e., kill the minister.17 Hannah’s brothers plot together and then dress their sister in royal finery. They also erect a series of fragrant canopies leading to the foreign official’s house. The minister is pleased by the fuss and honors the Hasmoneans by granting a private audience to Judah and his brothers. Judah cuts off the minister’s head, throws it in the Greek camp, chases away the enemy and kills many of them. The assassination of this official then causes Holofernes to arrive on the scene with his army and we next hear of Judith’s encounter with Holofernes, in the second half of the Hanukkah midrashim.

18
  • 19 See the reproductions in Israel Adler, ”A Chanukah Midrash in a Hebrew Illuminated Manuscript of t (...)

13Wine and drunkenness are an important element in Judith’s tale, and this may have influenced the unexpected detail of a partially dressed Hannah pouring wine for family and friends at her prenuptial party. We do not hear of any wine at the private meeting that the foreign minister arranges for Hannah and her brothers at his house. In text 12, a manuscript of the Hannah-Judith story, we find two illustrations and these seem to point to the exposed Hannah’s confrontation of her family and friends as the highlight of the Hasmonean half of the story. The Judith illustration clearly shows the dramatic climax of that tale: she stands over a headless Holofernes seated in a chair, and holds a sword in one hand and his crowned head in the other. There is a Hanukkah menorah in the background. The second illustration shows a partially dressed Hannah facing a group of men seated around a table with plates and a cup (Fig. 5.1). We see Hannah from the back and her long hair covers the exposed parts of her body, but that does not detract from her audacity and defiance.19

Hanukkah-Story, 16th century. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale 1459.2.

  • 20 D. Samuel Löwinger, Judith-Susanna: New Versions Edited According to Budapest Manuscripts (Budapes (...)
  • 21 Compare too the private audience Yochanan has with Nicanor before killing him, found in another (n (...)

14Hannah’s harsh words and disreputable appearance cause her brothers to take action. While Hannah accompanies her brothers to the minister’s house, it is Judah, sometimes aided by his brothers, who kills the foreigner, cutting off his head with a sword. The parallels with Judith’s assassination of Holofernes are plain and in these Hanukkah midrashim Judith resembles Judah, in addition to Hannah.20 Interestingly, in some accounts (texts 5f and 8) it is Judah (and not Hannah) who has a private audience with the official, just as Judith is left alone with Holofernes in all her tales. This private meeting between Judah and the minister seems influenced by the Judith story, for the historical Judah described in 1 and 2 Maccabees deals with enemy leaders on the battlefield.21 Disguise and deception feature in both the stories: Judah garbs his sister in royal finery and erects a series of green bowers leading to the minister’s house. He organizes a musical procession as well, in order to curry favor with the foreigner and gain entry to his house. Judith simply decorates and presents herself, but both use external devices in order to entrap their victims. The two are enterprising characters who demonstrate a great deal of initiative and the author of text 12 uses a simple literary device to underline this parallel, first asking, ”What did Judah do?” in the first half of the story, before outlining the stages of his plan, and then echoing this rhetorical question, ”What did Judith do?” in the second part, before telling of her deeds.

15Language, the Hebrew language, plays an important part in these medieval tales, for the fact that they are written in Hebrew allows their authors to produce a text replete with biblical echoes and allusions. Some authors do not take advantage of this opportunity and use rather simple language to tell the story of Judith, but others produce rich and allusive texts by means of the biblical quotations and paraphrases they choose to use. A single Hebrew phrase can serve a double function in these tales, both narrating the surface story and pointing subtly to similar biblical scenes and characters that were well known to readers.

  • 22 In the following, I italicize actual biblical phrases used in the medieval texts. The translation (...)

16A simple instance involves the use of phrases from the Book of Esther. There are obvious parallels between Judith and Esther. Both are beautiful and courageous Jewish women, who manage to charm powerful foreign rulers and save their people. In both their stories we find a crucial encounter involving a near-seduction at a banquet. Our medieval texts often quote phrases from the Book of Esther, telling us that Judith ”won grace and favor in the eyes of22 Holofernes (see Est 2:17 and 5:2; texts 1, 2, 8, 9, 12). In both these texts the phrase is used when the heroine arrives unexpectedly, without any invitation, to see the ruler. In several texts (5a, 5c, 5f, 7b, 8) Holofernes even echoes Ahasuerus’s words at this surprising encounter, saying to Judith: ”And what is your request? Even to half the kingdom, it shall be granted you” (Est 5:3). These biblical quotations not only assimilate the medieval Judith to the gentler Esther; they also turn Holofernes into a figure closer to the bumbling but sympathetic Ahasuerus.

  • 23 Ehud hides the dagger under his cloak, while Judith puts it in her sandal; compare LXX Jdt 16:9: ” (...)

17Other biblical quotations found in the medieval tales point to the heroic,perhaps masculine side of Judith’s deed, for she is implicitly compared both to David killing Goliath and to Ehud ben Gera assassinating Eglon, king of Moab, through the use of biblical phrases found in their stories. Thus in text 12 Judith makes herself ”a two-edged dagger” (Jgs 3:16), just as Ehud does.23 (Normally, Judith comes unarmed to Holofernes and uses his own sword against him.) Ehud says, ”Your Majesty, I have a secret message for you” (Jgs 3:19) in order to gain a private audience with the king, and Judith uses the identical words for the identical reason in text 1. Both Ehud and Judith will claim to convey a message from God once they encounter their enemy. In some of the midrashim (e.g., texts 8 and 12) the discovery of Holofernes’s body by his servants is based on the account of the discovery of Eglon’s corpse in Judges 3:25; both medieval texts quote the phrase from Judges: ”and there their master was lying dead on the floor!” Other midrashim (e.g., text 2a) make use of the biblical account of the Philistines’ reaction to the dead Goliath (1 Sm 17:51) – ”When they saw that their warrior was dead, they ran” – when telling of the reaction to Holofernes’s death. David is also the source for the very act of killing Holofernes in text 2a. Judith, like David, ”stood, grasped the sword ... and cut off his head” (1 Sm 17:51) and Judith, like David, ”took her life in her hands” (cf. 1 Sm 19:5). Text 2a, then, contains a cluster of references which assimilate Judith to David in his encounter with Goliath, and this use of multiple references to a single biblical story or character is found in other Judith tales. It seems that these medieval authors deliberately return to the same biblical account several times, subtly underlining the parallels between Judith’s deed and biblical themes or figures. These references are plainly intended to be more than a random use of a biblical phrase.

Spread your robe over your handmaid2425Come over here

18The biblical Tamar, who is raped by her brother Amnon, is also alluded to several times in one of our texts (text 8). Holofernes propositions Judith with the very words Amnon uses to Tamar (2 Sm 13:11): ”Come lie with me, sister.” Amnon has the unfortunate Tamar prepare cakes and feed him by hand, before raping her, and in text 8 we find the same food and feeding by hand described with the identical vocabulary.26 Judith, however, is no victim, and the cakes she feeds Holofernes are very salty, causing him to drink too much and fall asleep. Here the medieval author seems to be playing with our expectations, comparing Judith’s situation to that of Tamar, but underlining the contrast between the two women as well.

”Where have you come from, and where are you going2728
  • 29 See text 3 where the king falls asleep in Judith’s arms ((...)
  • 30 See, e.g., Betsy Merideth, ”Desire and Danger: The Drama of Betrayal in Judges and Judith,” in Mie (...)

19A single, tantalizing Hebrew phrase found in only one midrash points to the most surprising parallel of all, that between Judith and Delilah. In nearly all of the medieval tales it is clear that Holofernes does not manage to touch Judith at all. In the Septuagint (LXX Jdt 13:16), Judith makes a point of telling the people of Bethulia that Holofernes did not commit a sin with her, defile, or shame her, while in the Vulgate version (Jdt 13:20) we hear that an angel of God protected her and saved her from sexual contact with Holofernes. Nearly all the medieval stories preserve this tradition of an untouched Judith,29 but in text 12, Judith (termed here Judith the daughter of Mattathias) is said to hug and kiss the king, once he has cleared the room at her request. She then ”lulled him to sleep on her lap,” the narrator tells us, using the precise expression for what Delilah does to Samson before calling in the Philistines to cut off his hair and cause him to lose his strength (Jgs 16:19). This implied comparison of Judith with Delilah (and Holofernes with Samson) is unexpected, to say the least. While recent feminist scholarship points to the similarities between Delilah and Judith, two deliberately seductive women who manage to deceive and emasculate powerful warriors, such an approach to Judith is, even today, far from conventional.30 The provocative parallel also underlines the resemblance between their two victims, Holofernes and Samson, and the latter is certainly a positive, if flawed figure. It is hard to conceive that our medieval author meant us to see Holofernes as a tragic victim and his choice of biblical phrasing here leaves us puzzled.

20The medieval Hebrew tales of Judith are compelling and undeservedly neglected texts. The translation and publication of a wide sampling of these texts — in their entirety — in English is a scholarly desideratum. The stories are interesting for their additions and omissions in relation to the Septuagint and Vulgate accounts of Judith, and their variations help us read the Greek and Latin apocrypha backwards, so to speak, and approach the older texts in new ways. At the same time, these medieval versions must reflect their authors’ own eras and attitudes, which surely underlie the transformation of the figure of Judith into a less powerful and independent figure. Transformed though she may be, the Hebrew medieval Judith is worth exploring.

Notes

1 See above, Introduction pp. 31–34 for a general classification of the different medieval Hebrew stories of Judith. For bibliographical details of the texts surveyed here (texts 1–5 and 7–12), see the list above, pp. 37–39.

2 I use the names Judith, Holofernes, Achior, etc., for the sake of convenience, even if they appear in different form in some of the stories.

3 In the midrashim, the banquet is a large party arranged to celebrate Holofernes’s forthcoming victory (which Judith has proclaimed), and not simply an intimate dinner intended for the seduction of Judith, as in the apocryphal book.

4 For a survey of all these elements in the various tales, see the useful list in André Marie Dubarle, Judith: Formes et sens des diverses traditions: i: Études; ii: Textes (Rome: Institut Biblique Pontifical, 1966), at ii, pp. 98–99.

5 Claudia Rakel, Judit – Über Schönheit, Macht, und Widerstand im Krieg (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2003), is a recent feminist analysis of the Book of Judith with a rich bibliography. For the changes introduced in these midrashim, see the brief, but illuminating discussion of Leslie Abend Callaghan, ”Ambiguity and Appropriation: The Story of Judith in Medieval Narrative and Iconographic Traditions,” in Telling Tales: Medieval Narratives and the Folk Tradition, ed. Francesca Canadé Sautman, Diana Conchado, and Giuseppe Carlo Di Scipio (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998), pp. 79–99, esp. 87–90.

6 Widow: texts 3 and 4; young girl: 2a, 8, and 9; woman and young girl: 1, 5a, 5c, 5f; widow, woman, and young girl: 7a and 7b.

7 Compare Ru 1:3. The Vulgate includes a long genealogy for Judith (Vulg. Jdt 8:1),but does not say that her husband is from her tribe and her clan (Vulg. Jdt 8:2). Mention of Judith’s ancestors is found in two of the midrashim as well: text 7a lists thirteen ancestors for Judith and text 7b has six forefathers. (This section of these two texts clearly stems from the Vulgate.)

8 In many versions (texts 2a, 5a, 5c, 5f, 7b, 8, 9, 10, 12) Judith allegedly comes to Holofernes in order to intercede for her family and save them.

9 See LXX Jdt 8:7, 29; 10:7, 14, 19, 23; 11:20–22, etc.

10 There is a prayer, Image img01.jpg (”Hear O Israel”), found in virtually all of the stories, but it is uttered by all of the townspeople, not by Judith.

11 Achior appears in different places in the story in the different versions and sometimes is mentioned twice; see Dubarle, Judith, ii, pp. 98–99.

12 See above, Introduction, p. 34.

13 See Mira Friedman, ”Metamorphoses of Judith,” Jewish Art, 12–13 (1986–87), pp. 225–46 at 225–27 for the illustrations.

14 Vier Historien des Alten Testaments (Albrecht Pfister: Bamberg May 1462), fol. 41r in The Illustrated Bartsch, vol. 80 (cf. p. 51). The picture is labeled there ”Judith leaving the city,” but this seems wrong. An earlier illustration of Judith and her maid returning with Holofernes’s head to the closed city gates can be found in the twelfth century Hortus Deliciarum (Fig. 4.2).

15 See above Introduction, pp. 30–31.

16 It is unfortunate that Dubarle, who finds the links between the stories late and artificial (Judith, i, pp. 84–85) omits the first half of these Hanukkah midrashim in his edition of the texts. Dagmar Börner-Klein, Gefährdete Braut und schöne Witwe: Hebräische Judit-Geschichten (Wiesbaden: Marix Verlag, 2007) follows in his footsteps.

17 See Gn 34:1–31. Judith alludes to Dina in the Septuagint text (LXX Jdt 9:2–4), but she seems to identify there with the vengeful brother Simeon, rather than the victim, Dina.

18 Shame is a recurring motif in these stories – see above, pp. 78 and 82. In the Septuagint, Holofernes tells his eunuch Bagoas that he will be shamed if he does not seduce Judith (αἰσχϱòν τῷ προσώπ ῳ ήμ ῶν; LXX Jdt 12:12). In a medieval tale (text 12), Judith pretends to be ashamed when Holofernes wishes to embrace her in front of others and she asks that they be left alone together.

19 See the reproductions in Israel Adler, ”A Chanukah Midrash in a Hebrew Illuminated Manuscript of the Bibliothèque Nationale,” in Charles Berlin (ed.), Studies in Jewish Bibliography, History, and Literature in Honor of I. Edward Kiev (New York: KTAV, 1971), pp. i–viii [in Hebrew], at v and vii.

20 D. Samuel Löwinger, Judith-Susanna: New Versions Edited According to Budapest Manuscripts (Budapest: F. Gewuercz, 1940) [in Hebrew], p. 6; Börner-Klein, Gefährdete Braut, p. 339. Friedman, ”Metamorphoses of Judith,” pp. 225–27 and 230, furnishes instances of the association of Judith with Judah in Jewish art, in manuscript illuminations and Hanukkah menorahs.

21 Compare too the private audience Yochanan has with Nicanor before killing him, found in another (non-Judith) Hanukkah midrash. See Adolph Jellinek, Bet ha-Midrasch (2nd ed.) (Jerusalem: Bamberger and Wahrmann, 1938), i, pp. 137–41.

22 In the following, I italicize actual biblical phrases used in the medieval texts. The translation is that of TANAKH: A New Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1985), slightly modified at times.

23 Ehud hides the dagger under his cloak, while Judith puts it in her sandal; compare LXX Jdt 16:9: ”her sandal ravished his eyes” and see too 10:4.

24 Rahab is another biblical woman in need of protection, and in one story (text 8) Judith echoes her words as well, begging Holofernes to ”spare the lives of my father and mother, and my brothers,” just as Rahab pleads with the spies (Jo 2:13).

25 Compare the Septuagint Judith (LXX Jdt 12:13–14) where the eunuch Bagoas invites Judith to a private party with Holofernes and promises her that she will be treated like one of the Assyrian women serving in Nebuchadnezzar’s palace. She immediately replies: καὶ τίς εἰμι ἐγὼ ἀντεροῦσα τῷ κυρίῳ μου ὅτι πᾶν ὅ ἔσται ἐν τοῖς ὀφθαλμοῖς αὐτοῦ ἀρεστόν, σπεύσασα ποιήσω (”And who am I to contradict my lord? I shall be quick to do whatever is pleasing in his eyes”).

26 Image img08.jpg; see 2 Sm 13:6, 10, and see Weingarten in this volume, pp. 99 and 104–05.

27 Contrast e.g., Jgs 19:17 and Jon 1:8.

28 For further instances of the expression ”to do as one pleases” in a sexual context, see Gn 19:8 and Jgs 19:24 and compare LXX Jdt 12:14.

29 See text 3 where the king falls asleep in Judith’s arms (Image img10.jpg) and contrast text 7b where Judith cradles Holofernes’s head in her bosom after she cuts it off (Image img11.jpg).

30 See, e.g., Betsy Merideth, ”Desire and Danger: The Drama of Betrayal in Judges and Judith,” in Mieke Bal (ed.), Anti-Covenant: Counter-Reading Women’s Lives in the Hebrew Bible (Sheffield: Almond Press, 1989), pp. 61–78.

Table des illustrations

URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/992/img-1.jpg
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Légende Hanukkah-Story, 16th century. Paris, Bibliothèque nationale 1459.2.
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URL http://books.openedition.org/obp/docannexe/image/992/img-7.jpg
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Auteur

Deborah Levine Gera is an Associate Professor of Classics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. She is the author of Xenophon’s Cyropaedia (1993), Warrior Women (1997), and Ancient Greek Ideas on Speech, Language, and Civilization (2003). At present she is working on a commentary on the Book of Judith for the de Gruyter series, Commentaries on Early Jewish Literature, as well as for the Yad Ben-Zvi Hebrew series, Between the Bible and the Mishna.

Acheter