Ok ok. So what you have to understand first off is that Judith was a young widow, right? And in ancient Hebrew society, that would be like the single most vulnerable position on the social ladder. She’s a woman, so she can’t own property. She’s already been married but her husband is dead so she can’t re-marry because she isn’t pure. Plus, to top it all off, she has no kids who can take care of her. So Judith is seriously screwed and just living off the kindness of her community. You have to know that right off the bat.
You also need to know that Judaism was the first monotheistic religion possibly ever but definitely in the middle east. Everyone else was pagan and they all thought the Hebrews were nuts. In ancient civ times, if your tribe/town/society was really powerful that meant you had really powerful gods. Gods, plural. No one would want to just be at the mercy of one god, to only be protected by one deity. That’s just simple math. And the pagan societies that lived around the Hebrew tribe were constantly starting shit with them, and the Hebrews lost. A lot.
So Judith, poor poor Judith, lives in a Hebrew city and that city is laid siege one day by a pagan tribe led by this big infamous general named Holofernes. And the city basically shits itself. They have this big town meeting where all the elders and leaders are freaking out and crying and begging God for help. Then Judith speaks up and says, “Yo, instead of asking God to help us, maybe we should help ourselves and pray that God gives us the strength to succeed.” Well, all the powerful men basically laugh in this destitute widow’s face and are like, “Lady, you don’t know shit.” So Judith goes, “Fine. I’ll just do it myself then.”
She just walks out of the city like it’s no big deal, as if a huge army isn’t about 50 yards from the gates, and strolls right in to the camp. Then she basically goes, “I wanna talk to the boss.” and I guess the pagans are so shocked that they do it. When she meets Holofernes, she tells him that she’s decided to defect and join them because they’re obviously the more powerful and stronger and sexier side. Holofernes is pretty pumped because, oh yeah, Judith is gorgeous and she’s laying it on pretty thick. “Just one thing,” she coos, fluttering her lashes, “I have to be allowed to leave the camp every morning to go to the hill and bring a bloody flesh offering to my god.” Well, pagans are all about making bloody flesh offerings to gods, so he agrees, plus, duh, she’s a total hottie.
She hangs out in that camp for three days, every morning doing exactly what she said she’d do. On the third day, the pagan army gets a little buckwild. They think they’ve won, you see, and that soon the Hebrew town will be out of water and they’ll give up and then the army can pillage to their heart’s content. They have this huge party and everyone gets completely schwasted, especially Holofernes. This whole time Judith has been touching his arm, laughing at all his shitty jokes, slowly bending over to pick things up, the works. Finally Holofernes is like, “Hey baby, wanna go back to my tent?” and Judith goes, “Oh I thought you’d never ask.”
So in some versions and translations they say Holofernes was too drunk to fuck and just passes out. That’s probably some sort of misguided attempt to preserve Judith’s virtue. Me, I like it better that she does fuck him. I think she screwed him senseless and I’m proud of her. Either way, dude passes out while Judy is in his tent. So this woman that everyone thinks is so weak and useless, she fucking takes Holofernes’ sword and hacks his head right off. With his own sword, in his own bed, dude! Beheads the guy!
And then do you know what this badass bitch does next? She puts his head in a bag and walks right out of the camp. Walks right out, where everyone can see her. And they just let her go with this bloody heavy sack. You know why, right? Because she fucking SET A PRECEDENT TO DO THAT. For the last three days they’ve all seen her leave with a bloody sack to go make an offering to her god! They didn’t think this morning was any different and they just let her walk out of the camp with their general’s head! Are you kidding me? That is the coolest shit ever, bro.
Anyway, instead of going to the hill, she walks back into her city and throws Holofernes’ head at the feet of all the elders and leaders and goes, “I fucking told you God would help us if we tried to help ourselves.” And the army realizes what happened and runs away because pagans know that if you have a god who helps you behead a man in his own bed, you’re not one to be trifled with.
The official story ends there, just with Judith telling her town to suck it and presenting them with their enemy’s head. But the story of Judith is so much more than just this old narrative. Did you know that like three thousand years later, an Italian artist named Artemisia Gentileschi painted a really brutal, bloody depiction of Judith beheading Holofernes? Her model for Judith: herself. Her model for Holofernes: her rapist. Fuck yeah, feminism.
Gus Allis lives in Oakland, CA with her partner and a really stupid dog. She hates celery and watermelon because crunchy water is gross what’s wrong with you people?