During that period, as in the Book of Judith, there was no king in Judah since the legitimate sovereign, Manasseh of Judah, was being held captive in Nineveh at this time. As a typical policy of the time, all leadership was thus transferred in the hands of the High Priest of Israel in charge, which was Joakim in this case (Judith 4:6). The profanation of the temple (Judith 4:3) might have been that under king Hezekiah (see 2 Chronicles, xxix, 18–19), who reigned between c. 715 and 686 BCE.
Although Judith and Ashurbanipal’s campaigns show direct parallels, the main incident of Judith’s intervention has never been recorded in official history. Also, the reasons for the name changes are difficult to understand, unless the text was transmitted without character names before they were added by the Greek translator, who lived centuries later. Moreover, Ashurbanipal is never referenced by name in the Bible, except perhaps for the corrupt form “Asenappar” in 2 Chronicles and Ezra 4:10 or the anonymous title “The King of Assyria” in the 2 Kings, which means his name might have never been recorded by Jewish historians.
Identification of Nebuchadnezzar with Tigranes the Great
Modern scholars argue in favor of a 2nd – 1st century context for the Book of Judith, understanding it as a sort of roman à clef, i.e. a literary fiction whose characters stand for some real historical figure, generally contemporary to the author. In the case of the Book of Judith, Biblical scholar Gabriele Boccaccini, identified Nebuchadnezzar with Tigranes the Great (140–56 BCE), a powerful King of Armenia who, according to Josephus and Strabo, conquered all of the lands identified by the Biblical author in Judith.
Under this theory, the story, although fictional, would be set in the time of Queen Salome Alexandra, the only Jewish regnant queen, who reigned over Judea from 76 to 67 BC. Like Judith, the Queen had to face the menace of a foreign king who had a tendency to destroy the temples of other religions. Both women were widows whose strategical and diplomatic skills helped in the defeat of the invader. Both stories seem to be set at a time when the temple had recently been rededicated, which is the case after Judas Maccabee killed Nicanor and defeated the Seleucids. The territory of Judean occupation includes the territory of Samaria, something which was possible in Maccabean times only after John Hyrcanus reconquered those territories. Thus, the presumed Sadducee author of Judith would desire to honor the great (Pharisee) Queen who tried to keep both Sadducees and Pharisees united against the common menace.
Later artistic renditions