Nevertheless, there have been various attempts by both scholars and clergy to understand the characters and events in the Book as allegorical representations of actual personages and historical events. Much of this work has focused on linking Nebuchadnezzar with various conquerors of Judea from different time periods and, more recently, linking Judith herself with historical female leaders, including Queen Salome Alexandra, Judea’s only female monarch (76-67 BCE) and its last ruler to die while Judea remained an independent kingdom.
The identity of Nebuchadnezzar was unknown to the Church Fathers, but some of them attempted an improbable identification with Artaxerxes III Ochus (425–338 BC), not on the basis of the character of the two rulers, but because of the presence of a “Holofernes” and a “Bagoas” in Ochus’ army. This view also gained currency with scholarship in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
In his comparison between the Book of Judith and Assyrian history, Catholic priest and scholar Fulcran Vigouroux (1837–1915) attempts an identification of Nabuchodonosor king of Assyria with Ashurbanipal (668–627 BC) and his rival Arphaxad king of the Medes with Phraortes (665–653 BC), the son of Deioces, founder of Ecbatana. As argued by Vigouroux, the two battles mentioned in the Septuagint version of the Book of Judith are a reference to the clash of the two empires in 658–657 and to Phraortes’ death in battle in 653, after which Ashurbanipal continued his military actions with a large campaign starting with the Battle of the Ulaya River (652 BC) on the 18th year of this Assyrian king. Contemporary sources make reference to the many allies of Chaldea (governed by Ashurbanipal’s rebel brother Shamash-shum-ukin), including the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah, which were subjects of Assyria and are mentioned in the Book of Judith as victims of Ashurbanipal’s Western campaign.