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William Griffin

Five Intertestamental Beauties

Don't mess with these women.

"Are there any more babes like you up there? If so, we don't stand a chance!" (Judith 10:19).[1] That was an Assyrian military officer speaking to the Jewish Judith. She'd come down from her hillside village, heading toward the Assyrian general's tent with murder in her heart.

The same statement could just as well have been applied, mutatis mutandis, to such other extraordinary women found in intertestamental literature as Esther, Vashti, Sophia, and Susanna. Which is to say, they were the sort who, despite a blindfold, could take creation apart and reassemble it again as though it were a Rubik's Cube.

First thing one notices about these women is that they were smart.

Susanna was educated in the intricacies of Mosaic law at her father's behest. Judith had a plan to resist when all the Jewish elders on the hillside village, fearing they'd be overrun, wanted to surrender. Sophia, an abstract Greek noun translated into English as wisdom, is spoken of so intimately by the author of the Book of Wisdom that she becomes a person; she's personified as Dame Wisdom or Lady Wisdom or just plain Sophia. As such, she was educated beyond our competence to comprehend:

[God] introduced her to the various branches of knowledge; composition of the earth and names of the elements; measurement of time and calculation of calendars; seasons and cycles; festival days and ferial days; planets and stars; animal husbandry and animal behavior; wind power and the power of reason; horticulture and pharmacology. (Wisdom 7:17-20)

Inductive and deductive Sophia was, but she was also intuitive: "She's more splendid than the sun, but like the stars prefers spot lighting, bright but not blinding, which is good after dark; owlish about evil, she can spot mischief at midnight" (Wisdom 7:29-30).

Second thing is that these women had guts, courage, intestinal fortitude.

Judith sweet-talked her way into the Persian encampment on the plain below. When the moment presented itself—about to rape her, the king fell ...

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