"The revelation of Your words sheds light, giving understanding to the simple." Psalms 119:130
God's word is intended for all people. For thousands of years God has communicated to millions of simple people through His word. In fact, many things are hidden from the learned and clever but revealed to the merest children (Lk 10:21). Of course, God's word is sometimes so difficult to interpret that we need the Church to teach us. Therefore, highly academic Bible study has its place, but it is not the principal approach to God's word. The word is not primarily for an educated elite but for everyday people praying and reading by the power of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, not many books about the Bible are written to help the average person. What most people need is something short, simple, and practical that encourages, motivates and guides. We need something that will help us read the Biblical texts and not just about the text. This is the purpose of this simple Bible reading guide. "We have aimed to please those who prefer simple reading, as well as to make it easy for the studious who wish to commit things to memory, and to be helpful to all (2 Mc 2:25).
Note: The breakdown of the Bible into chapters (although not always adequate) has served God's people for centuries. So in general we will use a chapter-by-chapter structure for our comments.
Be sure to read each chapter of the Bible along with the introductory comments.
P.S. We have prayed before Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament about our choice
of the verses in this reading guide. We hope the Scriptures will have a
prophetic, life-changing power for you.
"Then Nebuchadnezzar fell in a violent rage against all the land, and swore by his throne and his kingdom that he would avenge himself on all the territories of Cilicia and Damascus and Syria, and also destroy with his sword all the inhabitants of Moab, Ammon, the whole of Judea." Judith 1:12
Judea and several other territories refused to join Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, in his war against Arphaxad, king of the Medes. After Nebuchadnezzar won the war, he swore revenge on those who refused to be bullied into joining him in war.
Prayer: Jesus, as You did, may I die for my enemies rather than kill them.
Promise: "They were not afraid of him." 1:11
"There was a discussion in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, about taking revenge on the whole world." Judith 2:1
Like Nebuchadnezzar, there are still many people trying to take revenge on the whole world. Let's forgive and repent of resentment and bitterness.
Prayer: Father, give me the awareness that my battle is not against human forces, but the devil (Eph 6:12).
"Nevertheless, he devastated their whole territory and cut down their sacred groves, for he had been commissioned to destroy all the gods of the earth, so that every nation might worship Nebuchadnezzar alone, and every people and tribe invoke him as a god." Judith 3:8
Holofernes' army steamrolled country after country. The power of the evil one sometimes seems invincible, but read on.
Prayer: Father, may I walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor 5:7).
"All the men of Israel cried to God with great fervor and did penance." Judith 4:9
The Israelites opposed Holofernes' mighty army by praying, fasting, and doing penance.
Prayer: Father, by prayer and fasting may I drive out demons (Mt 17:21).
Promise: "The Lord heard their cry and had regard for their distress. For the people observed a fast of many days' duration throughout Judea, and before the sanctuary of the Lord Almighty in Jerusalem." 4:13
"But if they are not a guilty nation, then your lordship should keep his distance; otherwise their Lord and God will shield them, and we shall become the laughingstock of the whole world." Judith 5:21
Achior the Ammonite informed Holofernes that the Israelites were invincible no matter what the circumstances, if they were obedient to the Lord (see 2 Cor 10:4-6; Rm 16:19-20).
Prayer: Father, may I obey You and thereby be invincible.
Promise: "As long as the Israelites did not sin in the sight of their God, they prospered, for their God, Who hates wickedness, was with them." 5:17
"My servants will now conduct you to the mountain region, and leave you at one of the towns along the ascent. You shall not die till you are destroyed together with them. If you still cherish the hope that they will not be taken, then there is no need for you to be downcast." Judith 6:7-9
Holofernes responded to Achior by handing him over to the Israelites at Bethulia. If the Israelites were obeying God and Achior was right about their invincibility, he would be saved. Otherwise, he would be killed.
Prayer: Father, give the faith to put my life on the line for You.
Promise: "That whole night they called upon the God of Israel for help." 6:21
"Their children fainted away, and the women and youths were consumed with thirst and were collapsing in the streets and gateways of the city, with no strength left in them." Judith 7:22
The Israelites were surrounded by enemy troops who cut off their water supply. They were left to literally die of thirst. After 34 days, the people cried in agony to King Uzziah, who promised to surrender in five days if the Lord did not miraculously deliver His people.
Prayer: Father, work a miracle in the most impossible circumstances.
"No one had a bad word to say about her, for she was a very God-fearing woman." Judith 8:8
With only five days left before the surrender and destruction of Bethulia, a very beautiful and God-fearing widow, Judith, entered the picture. After asking the elders of the city to visit her, she corrected them for giving in to the people's complaints and setting five days as a deadline for God's intervention. She saw the tragic circumstances around her in a very different perspective. She maintained that "we should be grateful to the Lord our God, for putting us to the test, as He did our forefathers" (8:25). "Not for vengeance did the Lord put them in the crucible to try their hearts, nor has He done so with us. It is by way of admonition that He chastises those who are close to Him" (8:27). Finally, Judith promised: "I will do something that will go down from generation to generation among the descendants of our race" (8:32). "Within the days you have specified before you will surrender the city to our enemies, the Lord will rescue Israel by my hand" (8:33).
Prayer: Father, raise up men and women to rescue us.
Promise: "So while we wait for the salvation that comes from Him, let us call upon Him to help us, and He will hear our cry if it is His good pleasure." 8:17
"Judith threw herself down prostrate, with ashes strewn upon her head, and wearing nothing over her sackcloth. While the incense was being offered in the temple of God in Jerusalem that evening, Judith prayed to the Lord with a loud voice." Judith 9:1
Judith prayed a mighty prayer of faith.
Prayer: Lord, "Your strength is not in numbers, nor does Your power depend upon stalwart men; but You are the God of the lowly, the Helper of the oppressed, the Supporter of the weak, the Protector of the forsaken, the Savior of those without hope" (9:11).
Promise: "You, the Lord, crush warfare; Lord is Your name." 9:8
"She made herself very beautiful, to captivate the eyes of all the men who should see her." Judith 10:4
After concluding her prayer, Judith took off her sackcloth and ashes, arranged her hair, put on her best dress and jewelry, and "made herself beautiful." She left the city and went to the enemy commander, Holofernes.
Prayer: Father, may our physical beauty give You glory rather than be an occasion of sin.
Promise: "May the God of our fathers bring you to favor, and make your undertaking a success, for the glory of the Israelites and the exaltation of Jerusalem." 10:8
"You are fair to behold, and your words are well spoken." Judith 11:23
Judith told Holofernes that she would tell him when the Israelites had sinned and thereby had become vulnerable to his attacks. Holofernes had scoffed at this line of thinking in chapter five. Coming from the lovely lips of Judith, however, he now considered it to be wise.
Prayer: Father, may I not believe lies, particularly those presented in a context that arouses my sexual desires.
Promise: "No one at all will harm you." 11:4
"The heart of Holofernes was in rapture over her, and his spirit was shaken. He was burning with the desire to possess her, for he had been biding his time to seduce her from the day he saw her." Judith 12:16
While Judith was careful to eat only kosher food, "Holofernes, charmed by her, drank a great quantity of wine, more than he had ever drunk on one single day in his life" (12:20). Alcohol + lust = death.
Prayer: Father, may I see the connection between alcohol and sin. May I be willing to give up drinking alcoholic beverages.
Promise: "She besought the Lord, the God of Israel, to direct her way for the triumph of His people." 12:8
"Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth, Who guided your blow at the head of the chief of our enemies." Judith 13:18
Judith chopped off the head of the drunken Holofernes, put it in her picnic basket, and went out to pray.
Prayer: Father, give me the courage of Judith in spiritual combat against the devil.
Promise: "Praise God, praise Him! Praise God, Who has not withdrawn His mercy from the house of Israel, but has shattered our enemies by my hand this very night." 13:14
"Summon for me Achior the Ammonite, that he may see and recognize the one who despised the house of Israel and sent him here to meet his death." Judith 14:5
When Achior "saw the head of Holofernes in the hand of one of the men in the assembly of the people, he fell forward in a faint" (14:6). "Now Achior, seeing all that the God of Israel had done, believed firmly in Him. He had the flesh of his foreskin circumcised, and he has been united with the house of Israel to the present day" (14:10).
Prayer: Father, may I always align myself with Your people, no matter what the circumstances.
Promise: "The people cheered loudly, and their city resounded with shouts of joy." 14:9
" At daybreak they hung the head of Holofernes on the wall. Then all the Israelite men took up their arms and went to the slopes of the mountain." Judith 14:11
When the Assyrian army heard about the beheading of Holofernes, they were "overcome with fear and trembling. No one kept ranks any longer; they scattered in all directions, and fled along every road, both through the valley and in the mountains. Those also who were stationed in the mountain district around Bethulia took to flight. Then all the Israelite warriors overwhelmed them" (15:2-3). They seized an enormous quantity of booty and, in Judith's honor, threw a party and started dancing.
Prayer: " 'God is pleased with what you have wrought. May you be blessed by the Lord Almighty forever and ever!' And all the people answered, 'Amen!' " (15:10)
Promise: "She and the other women crowned themselves with garlands of olive leaves. At the head of all the people, she led the women in the dance, while the men of Israel followed in their armor, wearing garlands and singing hymns." 15:13
" Strike up the instruments, a song to my God with timbrels, chant to the Lord with cymbals; sing to Him a new song, exalt and acclaim His name." Judith 16:1
Judith, like Tobit, David, Hannah, Deborah, Moses, Mary, and many others, sang a hymn of praise in thanksgiving to the Lord for His awesome victory. "For three months the people continued their celebration in Jerusalem before the sanctuary, and Judith remained with them" (16:20). After the celebration, Judith went home. She was "renowned throughout the land" and "lived to be very old" (16:21, 23). "During the life of Judith and for a long time after her death, no one again disturbed the Israelites" (16:25).
Prayer: Crucified and risen Jesus, may we continually rejoice in Your total and final victory.
Promise: "You sent forth Your Spirit, and they were created; no one can resist Your word." 16:14
When you finish reading this booklet, give it to someone else. Pray for that person to be motivated to read God's word and make a total commitment to the Lord. Use this book as a tool for evangelization. Right now pray to know the person with whom you are to share this book.
Nihil obstat: Reverend Edward J. Gratsch, June 20, 1996
Imprimatur: †Most Reverend Carl K. Moeddel, Vicar General and Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, June 26, 1996
The Nihil obstat and Imprimatur are a declaration that a book or pamphlet is considered to be free from doctrinal or moral error. It is not implied that those who have granted the Nihil obstat and Imprimatur agree with the contents, opinions, or statements expressed.
Published by: Presentation Ministries, 3230 McHenry Ave., Cincinnati, OH 45211, (513) 662-5378, www.presentationministries.com