chapter
5 Pages

of of

doomed "god"

Upon her return, the seeds of Judith's threat begin to flower in Israel. By her actions and by her presence, she offers those previously marginal to or excluded from the power base-Jewish women, Achior the gentile, the maidservant-roles in society and cult. The conditions under which gender-determined, ethnic, and class-based integration occur, however, differ according to the text's treatment of women, proselytes, and slaves. Before Judith entered the Israelite public sphere, the Jewish women were separated from their husbands and from the place of action by their leaders' command (7:32). In 15:12-13, "all the women of Israel" (pasagyne Israel) gather to see her and bless her; some even dance in her honor. In turn, she distributes branches (thyrsa) to her companions. 18 These women, who then "crowned themselves with olive wreaths," reveal their transformation into active agents. Last, Judith leads "all the women" (pason tongynaikon) while "every man" (pas aner Israel) followed them. Thus the female popu1ation of Israel, like the sword-brandishing (13:6-8) and head-bearing (13:15) Judith, become both graphically and by their actions phallic women. 19 Such inversions of malefemale leadership patterns are permitted if not necessitated by the extraordinary circumstances of Judith's deed and Israel's rescue. However, they cannot be allowed to continue unchecked. Only by remaining unique and apart can Judith be tolerated, domesticated, and even treasured by Israelite society. The women consequently must return to their home and their husbands.