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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Religious Beliefs and Practices.

1.

Although the book of Judith has few references to divine intervention ( 4:13 ), theological concerns are paramount. Sounding somewhat like Rahab (Josh 2 ), Achior the Ammonite gives a relatively complete summary of God's relationship to Israel and concludes with the warning, ‘their Lord and God will defend them’ ( 5:21 ).

2.

Notable are the volume's depiction of personal piety and struggle for a faithful approach to the problem of theodicy. Concerning the former: Judith, like her sisters in the OT Apocrypha (Susanna, Esther of the Greek Additions, Sarah of the book of Tobit) prays; like them as well, she is pious, well schooled in the traditions of her community, and chaste even in the presence of lecherous threat.

3.

The innocence of these women leads directly to the question of theodicy. Esther, Susanna, and Sarah are all tested and are all found worthy; so too, Judith argues against the Deuteronomic theology mouthed by Uzziah, the Bethulian leader, which insists that the onslaught of the enemy general Holofernes is punishment for the people's sins. Judith responds that the Assyrian campaign is not a punishment but the means by which God proves the people's fidelity. More, she condemns Uzziah's willingness to put God to the test by stating that, if divine help does not come within five days, he will surrender.

4.

Like Greek Esther and, especially, the book of Daniel (a work probably composed during or immediately after the Maccabean revolt), the book of Judith emphasizes Jewish self- definition by accentuating dietary concerns: Greek Esther speaks of avoiding the Persian king's libations; Daniel refuses to dine at Nebuchadnezzar's table (Dan 1:8 ) and so, along with his friends, resorts to a vegetarian regime; Judith eats only kosher food ( 10:5; 11:13; 12:2 ). Finally, like the story of Tobit, the book of Judith emphasizes the Jerusalem Temple ( 4:2–3, 12; 8:21, 24; 9:8, 13; 16:20 ) as a place to be protected, to be entered undefiled, and to serve as the location for votive offerings, celebrations, and worship.

5.

Such concerns for piety have been regarded both as indicative of Pharisaic piety and as in contravention of it. The former suggestion can also be supported by Judith's calendrical observances and ritual washings; the latter suggestion is premised upon the conversion of the Ammonite Achior, despite Deuteronomy's prohibition of Ammonites (and Moabites) entering the covenant community (Deut 23:3 ). However, lack of secure information on Pharisaic thought of the Hasmonean period makes any suggestion tentative.

6.

Similar problems apply to explanations for Judith's absence from the canon of the synagogue. Justifications ranged from the conversion of the Ammonite, to his conversion apart from ritual immersion, to the volume's universalism seen as incompatible with (hypothetical) Pharisaic exclusiveness, to the (more likely) arguments that the book was known to be late (Daniel gained entry because of its back-dating to the Babylonian Exile), fictional, and/or composed originally in Greek. Again, any argument on the absence of Judith from the canon of Judaism must remain tentative.

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