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Judith and Jael

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The heroines in the Book of Judges and in the Book of Judith are powerful women executing the men who were against God. The difference is that Jael, wife of Heber the Kenite killed the man who wanted to destroy the Israelites, the commander of King Jabin of Canaan; Sisera, by sudden inspiration, when he came to her for safety. On the other hand, Judith, a widow from the town of Judea had a carefully thought out plan for her assassination of Holofernes, the chief general of Nebuchadnezzar King of the Assyrian’s. Each book represents these women as saviors to their people, and as a force of God’s judgment.

Judith is represented as a beautiful, wise woman with much devotion to God. All the people in her town of Judea looked up to her for the wisdom and understanding she had in the Lord God, and believed along with her that God will help them to defeat Holofernes, and his army. In the book of Judges, Deborah, the only female judge, ordered that Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali to go and defeat Sisera the general of King Jabin’s army. Barak diminishes his heroic stature when he says “If you will go with me, I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go” (Judges 4:8). He does not realize that in the end the defeat of Sisera will be at the hand of a woman. The difference is that Judith had much confidence in going up against Holofernes, believing that God will be her guide. It seems as if Barak did not believe in Deborah’s message, and would only carry out the orders if he had her by his side.

When Judith prepares to set out on her mission against Holofernes she prays to God for his blessing and announces that she plans to tear down their arrogance, “Look at their pride, and send your wrath upon their heads. Give to me, a widow, the strong hand to do what I plan” (Judith 9:9). Judith dressed in her nicest attire and put on her fanciest jewelry all with the idea in mind to entice and trick Holofernes and his army with her beauty. Judith did not wait for the enemy to come to her, rather she arranged and took it upon herself while facing great danger by going into their territory to commit murder to their chief general. Jael alternatively did not set out, nor plan that she was going to defeat King Jabin’s army by killing Sisera. Rather it seems as if it was all “meant to be” when Sisera fled from the battle with Barak, and went to Jael’s tent for safety. When Sisera arrived at her tent, Jael welcomed him with hospitality, gave him a drink, and a rug for cover. It is not stated when Jael decided to kill Sisera, but her hospitable behavior threw Sisera off, and made it easier for Jael to carry out the murder, at whatever point she did decide to do so.

Judith having perfectly planned out her mission against Holofernes, it was smart of her to decide in bringing her maid along with her. Although the maid’s name is never mentioned, she seems to play an important role in the instrumental killing of Holofernes. Judith was able to deceive everyone in the army camp by having her maid carry along a food bag, which inside was the only food she would eat. In reality, Judith was smart in her preparation because she would be using the food bag later on to carry the head of Holofernes back to her village of Judea. This expresses the detail to which Judith planned. It can also be assumed that Judith knew that she would be killing Holofernes by decapitating him. When Jael killed Sisera, her weapons which included

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