Judith is the principal character in the Book of Judith. She was the daughter of Merari the son of Ox, son of Joseph, son of Oziel, son of Elkiah, son of Ananias, son of Gideon, son of Raphaim, son of Ahitub, son of Elijah, son of Hilkiah, son of Eliah, son of Nathanael, son of Salamiel, son of Sarasadai, son of Israel. Her husband Manasseh, who belonged to her tribe and family, had died during the barley harvest. She had been a widow 3 years and 4 months when Holophernes, chief general of Nebuchadnezzar, sent by him, laid siege to the mountains of Israel, with orders to destroy Jerusalem and enslave the Jews.
When Achior, one of his commanders warned him that he would never be able to destroy them because of the God of the Jews, Holophernes had him bound and left at the foot of the pass. The Jews came down and took him in, and he related the plan of Holophernes. When Judith heard that the leaders of her city, Bethulia, charged with holding the mountain pass, had decided to surrender in 5 days if no help came to them from God, because starvation gripped the city, she rebuked them for a presumptuous lack of courage and faith, and formed a secret plan to save them. They agreed to allow her to go to the camp of the enemy besieging them.
She dressed in her most beautiful attire, took her maid with her, entered the camp, and declared to Holophernes that she had a plan that would allow victory in a few days. Holophernes was attentive, and agreed to what she proposed. She would depart every morning to pray, and when she had a sign that the Jews had violated the Law of Israel, she would inform him that God would then abandon them to destruction for their sin, and Holophernes would be able to overcome them.
On the fourth day, Holophernes invited her to banquet with him, and he drank himself into a stupor. Judith quietly took his sword, cut off his head, put it into her maid's food bag, and took the jeweled canopy off his bed. She departed from the camp with her maid, the guards suspecting nothing, and returned to Bethulia. She showed Holophernes' head, which Achior identified.
When the attendants in Holophernes' camp discovered he had been slain, the army fled in confusion, and the Jews came forth and pursued them. Judith lived until she was 105 years old. She distributed her considerable wealth to her and her husband's nearest relatives, and died in Bethulia.
The Historical Period
The 17th/18th year of Nabuchodonosor. 589 B.C.
Nabuchodonosor/Nebuchadnezzar sent his general Holofernes/ Holophernes (evidently a name of Persian origin)  to take revenge on the whole territory of Cilicia, Damascus, Syria, Moab, Ammon, all Judea, and Egypt. Judith 2:1. The Jews had only recently returned from the captivity (2 Chronicles 34–35), and all the people of Judea were newly gathered together, and the sacred vessels and the altar had been newly consecrated after their profanation. Judith 4:1-3. Baruch 1:8-9.
Joakim/Eliakim son of Hilkiah was high priest in Jerusalem. Judith 4:6; Baruch 1:7. He was the brother of Azariah, son of Hilkiah, son of Shallum, son of Zadok the high priest. Azariah was the father of Seraiah, the father of Jozadak/Jehozadak the father of Jeshua, who was high priest in the days of Zerubbabel after the Exile. (1 Chronicles 6:13-15; Ezra 3:2.)
589. The 9th year, 10th month, 10th day. "The king of Babylon has this day laid siege to Jerusalem." 2 Kings 23:31–24:1; Ezekiel 24:1-2. This was the 9th year of Zedekiah, when Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem. Jeremiah 39:1. Zedekiah sent Zephaniah the priest to Jeremiah asking him to pray for the nation. Jeremiah 21:1-7; 37:3-21.
It was at this time that Judith beheaded Holofernes, the Assyrian army was dismayed and they fled. Judith 14:18–15:2. "no one ever again spread terror among the people of Israel in the days of Judith or for a long time after her death." Judith 16:25. The Book of Jeremiah does say the Chaldeans suddenly withdrew. Jeremiah 37:5. It is a fact that the same year, in 589, Pharaoh Hophra / Apries began his 19-year reign in Egypt (589–570 B.C.). At the beginning of his reign he tried to drive the Babylonian army away from its siege of Jerusalem, and it suddenly withdrew. Jeremiah 37:4-15; 46:17. Jeremiah was afterward imprisoned while the city was at peace, when he attempted to depart to visit his relatives.
From these historical facts, and the centuries-old tradition that the Book of Judith relates a genuinely historical event, it appears that the person of Judith herself can be set within this particular time of history, 589 B.C.. Historians, however, have no certainty that she existed, outside the testimony of the Bible. Since Judith 16:25 states that "no one ever again spread terror among the people of Israel in the days of Judith or for a long time after her death", and yet, at this time, only two years later, in 587 B.C., when Jerusalem was taken, the Temple was burned and the people led off into exile, the assertion in verse 25 has no historical basis and does not represent what actually happened to Jerusalem, but contradicts the historical reality of the captivity and the Exile.
- See A Historical Commentary on the Book of Judith, by Damien Mackey, March 2003—the author identifies Holofernes with Esarhaddon.
- The earlier Assyrian captivity. Hebrew Tales: The Story of Judith, University of California (pages.ucsd.edu)
- The prefatory introduction to the Book of Judith in the Douay-Rheims Bible says that the sacred writer of the book is generally believed to be the high priest Eliachim, also called Joachim (Joakim). The text of Judith in the Douay-Rheims renders Joakim as "Eliachim". Judith 4:5-6, 10; 15:9. See multiple versions of Judith 4:5/4:6:
KJV 1611 Ioacim,
KJV 1769 Joacim,
Vulgate ch. 4 (see v.5) Eliachim,
Septuagint (LXX) ch. 4 scroll down (see v.6) Joacim.
It is not impossible that Joakim/Eliakim/Eliachim the high priest, son of Hilkiah the high priest, as a high-ranking member of the court of Judah, should be appointed by God to also function as master of the palace, steward and prime minister of the country, chief among those charged with overseeing and directing the welfare of the people. He did not need to issue orders in the name of the king or consult with him for permission to act. It is not strange that the ineffective and vacillating King Zedekiah is never mentioned in the Book of Judith. See Isaiah 22:15-25., Zechariah 3:1-7, and Zechariah 6:9-14.
Joakim exercised religious and military authority comparable to that of Jonathan in Maccabean times (see 1 Maccabees 10:18–21)
- "Hophra", Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, p. 781.