She inspires us to speak out – Judith

How Judith from the Apocrypha encourages to struggle against violence today.


‘The Wife’

This week I watched a good film. It stars Glenn Close and tells of an American author, played by Jonathan Pryce, who wins the Nobel Prize for literature. He travels to Stockholm on Concorde to receive the award from the Swedish King. His long-suffering, self-effacing and loyal wife accompanies him. They laud him to the rooftops and when asked does his wife write – he invariably says ‘No’.

But, the story unfolds to tell us it was the wife who wrote the books and the husband only put his name to them.

It’s a great story.

But is it scripture?

Well no, it isn’t.

Yet does it tell us something about our culture, our attitudes and our relationships?

Yes – it does.


Today we could go on a Summer expedition and look at some writings that do not appear in our Protestant Bibles. However, the Greek and Latin translations of the Old Testament include them.

We often refer to these books as Apocryphal. But that does not mean they are untrue. Since they reveal so much as ‘The Wife’ did about being human. They reveal much about God’s nature.


Now the reason that the wife in the movie started to write the award-winning books was330px-Judith_Beheading_Holofernes-Caravaggio_(c.1598-9) she had little chance of being published as a woman author in the late 50s. And it is this prejudice that the apocryphal book of Judith takes head-on.

However, I must admit that its reading is not for the faint-hearted as it would rate as a horror story today.

For the heroine, Judith sees the Israelite leadership as far too compliant with a conquering general. They are frightened to confront him despite the invading army’s huge human rights abuses.

She does something about it. So she takes herself off, uses her charms to ingratiate herself with the military supremo then waits until he is in his cups and does him in. She then uses this act to encourage her fellow countrymen to ‘man’ up and get on with defending God’s justice and people.

Well, let’s not focus too much on the gory bits of the tale but find courage instead in Judith’s hymn of thanksgiving towards the end of the book that bears her name.

Judith 16:13-16

 I will sing to my God a new song:

O Lord, you are great and glorious,

wonderful in strength, invincible.

Let all your creatures serve you,

for you spoke, and they were made.

You sent forth your spirit, and it formed them;

there is none that can resist your voice.

For the mountains shall be shaken to their foundations with the waters;

before your glance the rocks shall melt like wax.

But to those who fear you

you show mercy.

For every sacrifice as a fragrant offering is a small thing,

and the fat of all whole burnt-offerings to you is a very little thing;

but whoever fears the Lord is great for ever.

‘Judiths’ of Today

Well, I’d like to think the acts of barbarity that Judith had taken up her sword against were not part of our 21st Century world. But I would delude myself. Since acts of violence at home and abroad are part of our daily news.

Perhaps even part of your personal experience.

Too often when witnessing such outrages in the news, we switch off as there seems so little we can do. Yet that forgets the line in Judith that goes:

Let all your creatures serve you,

for you spoke, and they were made.

You sent forth your spirit,and it formed them;

there is none that can resist your voice.

For here I think of creatures as not so much individuals but groups of individuals. Charities and other agencies that try to make this world a better place for those least able to do that for themselves.

And that is what this short video clip from Christian Aid remind us of. It tells of the work of a nurse in Africa called, none other than, Judith; let’s watch it now

Here then is a reminder that God calls us to pray, support and work for any grouping that is going out like Judith. Charities which are unafraid to get their hands dirty for those with nothing to clean them with. Even local teams giving of their time and efforts to the solving of small problems as build-blocks to fixing the bigger ones.

For in banding together in Christ’s name we are affirming the heroism of all the Judiths yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Or as Florence Nightingale had it:

Rather, ten times, die in the surf, heralding the way to a new world, than stand idly on the shore.

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