Original Research - Special Collection: Septuagint

Personification of empire and Israel and the role of appearance and speech in the Judith story

Jan W. van Henten
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 1 | a7564 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i1.7564 | © 2022 Jan W. van Henten | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 28 March 2022 | Published: 19 August 2022

About the author(s)

Jan W. van Henten, Department of History, Faculty of Humanities, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Department of Old and New Testament, Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University, Stellenbosch, South Africa


This article analyses how the Assyrian Empire and Israel in the Book of Judith are configured through the personification of both: the Assyrian empire is personified by King Nabouchodonosor and his commander Holofernes and the Israelite or Jewish nation is personified by Judith. In her encounter with Holofernes, Judith manages to seduce and mislead Holofernes by her appearance and use of words, which ultimately leads to the defeat of the Assyrian army. The applied methodology builds on narratology concerning space and characterisation and theories of space. It includes a semantic analysis of the key word πρόσωπον (‘face’, ‘presence’, ‘person’).

Contribution: The article demonstrates that personification and appearance are important features of the Judith story.


Judith; Holofernes; personification; appearance; empire; words; God


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