Judith, Canticle of
JUDITH, CANTICLE OF
The Canticle of Judith is a triumphal hymn celebrating Judith's victory over the Assyrian army, presented as the Lord's apocalyptic day of judgment on His enemies. It is found in ch. 16 of the Book of Judith, vv. 2–21 in the Vulgate, 1–17 in the Septuagint (see judith, book of). Like the Canticle of miriam and the Canticle of Deborah, it praises Yahweh for the crushing defeat He inflicted on the enemies of His people. A more careful analysis of this canticle shows its literary relationship to other Biblical passages as well. The prelude (vv. 1–2 following the versification of the Septuagint) and the concluding paean (vv. 13–17) are modeled on the so-called enthronement Psalms [Ps 46 (47); 92 (93); 94–98 (95–99)] especially Ps 97 (98). The body of the hymn (vv. 3–9) describes the events that motivated its composition and should be compared with 2 Kgs 18.9–19.37 and Jgs 5.24–27. The apocalyptic tenor of v. 17 is strikingly reminiscent of Is 66.24, and some regard it as proof that the story of Judith is to be understood as an apocalyptic parable (Steinmann, 118). The most interesting question raised by the canticle is whether it antedates the rest of the book in which it is found. Just as the Canticle of Deborah is much older than the prose account that precedes it (Jgs 4.1–28), so, also, may the case be here. However, if this view is accepted, it does not alter the prevailing opinion that "Judith, the daughter of Merari" is a pseudonymous characterization. There is considerable alternation of voices in the canticle: v. 4 appears to be the sentiment of Yahweh; vv. 5–10 that of an observer who is neither Judith nor the Lord; vv. 11–12 the words of Judith, who, however, assumes here a matriarchal, if not regal, role. This technique, not uncommon in the Psalms, may indicate a liturgical Sitz im Leben for the canticle or, alternatively, a composite origin.
Bibliography: f. zorell, "Canticum Judith," Verbum Domini 5 (1925) 329–332. h. l. jansen, "La Composition du chant de Judith," Acta Orientalia 15 (1937) 63–71. j. steinmann, Lecture de Judith, in Bible de Jérusalem, 43 v. (Paris 1948–54) 1953, 115–119. a. e. cowley, "The Book of Judith," The Apocrypha and Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament in English, ed. r. h. charles et al., 2 v. (Oxford 1913) 1:242, 246–247, 265–267.
[j. e. bruns]