(1) A wife of Esau, daughter of Beeri the Hittite (Gen 26:34).
(2) The heroine of the Book of Judith in Apocrypha--a pious, wealthy, courageous, and patriotic widow who delivered Jerusalem and her countrymen from the assault of Holofernes. (source: bible-history.com)
(source of pic:http://giffie.free.fr/site/Pages/T6.html)
Today's BBC's "Womans Hour" featured one of the most fascinating women from the Bible : Judith. I find her fascinating not just because of how she saved her town, but also, growing up, she was an enigma to me. At religion class in school ( I went to a Christian school) we weren't allowed to talk about her - she was considered a harlot, a Jezebel; but to my Catholic friends she was a heroine, a savior. So naturally, she piqued my curiosity - who is this woman, so reviled by some and yet adored by others? I set out to read the story of Judith, and this is what I found at BibleTutor.com:
The Assyrian King Nebuchadnezzar sent his chief general Holofernes to lead an army west to Judea. On the way, Holofernes plundered numerous towns, so that news of his approach reached across the land. Despite a warning from one soldier that the people of the western lands were defended by God, Holofernes planned to capture the small Jewish town of Bethulia. Hearing of Holofernes' plot, Judith, a widowed resident of Bethulia, put on beautiful clothes and jewelry and entered the Assyrian camp, purporting to be a spy against the Jewish people. She promised to tell Holofernes how to destroy the Jews; but when Holofernes became drunk at a celebration, she followed him into his tent and cut off his head. Thrown into chaos by the death of their leader, the Assyrian army was easily defeated by the Jews of Bethulia, who celebrated Judith's clever plot against Holofernes. Judith never remarried, but was celebrated for the rest of her life as the heroine of Bethulia.
OK, so from what I read here, she does seem like a brave and courageous woman, so why is she so vilified by some churches? According to Rabbi Marcia Plumb of Southgate Reform Synagogue interviewed by Womanshour, Judith may not have been included in the Old Testaments of all Bibles because she is too strong a woman; she definitely more powerful than Esther, Ruth or any other woman featured in the Bible and besides, she is a seductress who kills a general and perhaps it was too threatening for those who canonize the Bible, to include her. Also, there is not a shred of archaeological evidence to suggest that Judith was a real person...
Judith has been many an artists' muse. She has been painted by Caravaggio, Michaelangelo (in the Sistine Chapel), Artemesia, Christophano Allori, Rembrandt and Gustav Klimt, just to name a few. In some paintings she is fully clothed but in others she is scantily clad perhaps coming across as a seductress to an observer,thus, even in art she is complex!
Whether her story is historical fiction or not, I think it's an inspirational one for women all over. She was brave, courageous and not afraid to speak out clearly and plainly. She refused to be intimidated by the men who told her not to go to Holofernes' tent and she was definitely not afraid to use her feminine charms to do something good for her people. A role model? Definitely!