story of judith in bible
Inner-biblical references are noteworthy: as God acted through Moses’ hand (Ex 10:21–22; 14:27–30), so God delivers “by the hand of a female,” Judith. Like Jael, who drove a tent peg through the head of Sisera (Jgs 4), Judith kills an enemy general. Like Deborah (Jgs 4–5), Judith “judges” Israel in the time of military crisis. Like Sarah, the mother of Israel’s future (Gn 17:6), Judith’s beauty deceives foreigners, with the result that blessings redound to Israel (Gn 12:11–20). Her Hebrew name means “Jewish woman.” Her exploits captured the imagination of liturgists, artists, and writers through the centuries. The book is filled with double entendres and ironic situations, e.g., Judith’s conversation with Holofernes in 11:5–8, 19, where “my lord” is ambiguous, and her declaration to Holofernes that she will lead him through Judea to Jerusalem (his head goes on such a journey).
There are four Greek recensions of Judith (Septuagint codices Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and Basiliano-Vaticanus), four ancient translations (Old Latin, Syriac, Sahidic, and Ethiopic), and some late Hebrew versions, apparently translated from the Vulgate. Despite Jerome’s claim to have translated an Aramaic text, no ancient Aramaic or Hebrew manuscripts have been found. The oldest extant text of Judith is the preservation of 15:1–7 inscribed on a third-century A.D. potsherd. Whatever the reasons, the rabbis did not count Judith among their scriptures, and the Reformation adopted that position. The early Church, however, held this book in high honor. The first-century Pope, St. Clement of Rome, proposes Judith as an example of courageous love (1 Corinthians 55). St. Jerome holds her up as an example of a holy widow and a type of the Church (To Salvina: Letter 79, par. 10; see also To Furia: Letter 54, par. 16) and, in another place, describes Mary as a new Judith (To Eustochium: Letter 22, par. 21). The Council of Trent (1546) included Judith in the canon; thus it is one of the seven deuterocanonical books.
The book relates that Nebuchadrezzar, king of Assyria, sent his general Holofernes on an expedition against Palestine. At the siege of the Jewish city of Bethulia, a general named Achior warned Holofernes of the danger of attacking the Jews. A beautiful Jewish widow named Judith left the besieged city in pretended flight and foretold to Holofernes that he would be victorious. Invited into his tent, she cut off his head as he lay in drunken sleep and brought it in a bag to Bethulia. A Jewish victory over the leaderless Assyrian forces followed.
The work’s historicity is suspect because of numerous historical and chronological errors. Some scholars have suggested that the existence of similar accounts in the Bible (e.g., Jael in the Book of Judges) and in the interpretive stories of the Midrash point to an early, common source (perhaps from the 6th century bce ) now lost. Others, however, view the story as sheer fiction and attribute it to an anonymous Palestinian Jew who wrote shortly after the end of the Maccabean revolt (2nd century bce ). According to this view, Judith was meant to be the female counterpart of Judas Maccabeus, leader of the revolt, and the book, discussing a contemporary situation in the guise of an ancient historical setting, was written to encourage the Judaean Jews in the uneasy period of independence following the wars precipitated by the Maccabean uprising.
In medieval Christian art, the predominance of church patronage assured that Judith’s patristic valences as “Mulier Sancta” and Virgin Mary prototype would prevail: from the 8th-century frescoes in Santa Maria Antigua in Rome through innumerable later bible miniatures. Gothic cathedrals often featured Judith, most impressively in the series of 40 stained glass panels at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris (1240s). [ citation needed ]
During that period, as in the Book of Judith, there was no king in Judah since the legitimate sovereign, Manasseh of Judah, was being held captive in Nineveh at this time.  As a typical policy of the time, all leadership was thus transferred in the hands of the High Priest of Israel in charge, which was Joakim in this case (Judith 4:6). The profanation of the temple (Judith 4:3) might have been that under king Hezekiah (see 2 Chronicles, xxix, 18–19), who reigned between c. 715 and 686 BC.
I. Assyrian Threat (1:1–3:10)
The Book of Judith relates the story of God’s deliverance of the Jewish people. This was accomplished “by the hand of a female”—a constant motif (cf. 8:33; 9:9, 10; 12:4; 13:4, 14, 15; 15:10; 16:5) meant to recall the “hand” of God in the Exodus narrative (cf. Ex 15:6). The work may have been written around 100 B.C., but its historical range is extraordinary. Within the reign of Nebuchadnezzar (1:1; 2:1), it telescopes five centuries of historical and geographical information with imaginary details. There are references to Nineveh, the Assyrian capital destroyed in 612 B.C., to Nebuchadnezzar, the ruler not of Assyria but of Babylon (605/604–562), and to the second Temple, built around 515. The postexilic period is presumed (e.g., governance by the High Priest). The Persian period is represented by two characters, Holofernes and Bagoas, who appear together in the military campaigns of Artaxerxes III Ochus (358–338); there seem to be allusions to the second-century Seleucid ruler Antiochus IV Epiphanes. Several mysteries remain: Judith herself, Arphaxad, and others are otherwise unknown. The geographical details, such as the narrow defile into Bethulia (an unidentified town which gives access to the heart of the land), are fanciful. The simple conclusion from these and other details is that the work is historical fiction, written to exalt God as Israel’s deliverer from foreign might, not by an army, but by means of a simple widow.
That midrash, whose heroine is portrayed as gorging the enemy on cheese and wine before cutting off his head, may have formed the basis of the minor Jewish tradition to eat dairy products during Hanukkah.  
B. Judith plans to save Israel (8:9–10:8) C. Judith and her maid leave Bethulia (10:9–10) D. Judith beheads Holofernes (10:11–13:10a)