General of Nebuchadnezzar, mentioned in the apocryphal Book of Judith; killed at Bethulia (Judith xiii. 6-8). The name is evidently of Persian origin, similar information to "Artaphernes," "Dataphernes," "Tissaphernes," the last element of each of which is "pharna" = "glorious" Blochet, in "R. E. J." xxxi. 281). A similar name, "Orophernes," or "Olophernes," occurs in Cappadocian history, and is found on coins at Pirene, in inscriptions at Cnidos, and later in classical writers. According to Diodorus of Sicily, a Holofernes, brother of the satrap Ariarathes of Cappadocia, lived at the time of Artaxerxes Ochus (359-337
It is worthy of notice that, though the longer Hebrew midrash based on the Book of Judith does mention Holofernes, the shorter version (which Gaster, "Proceedings Soc. Bib. Archeology," xvi. 156, believes to be the older) substitutes Seleucus.
According to the Book of Judith, Holofernes is said to have been despatched by Nebuchadnezzar with an army of 120,000 foot and 12,000 horse for the purpose of taking vengeance "on all the earth" (Judith ii. 5). After having devastated many countries, Holofernes reached Esdraelon, and encamped between Geba and Scythopolis to collect his forces. The Jews, resolved to defend themselves, fortified the mountain passes. Holofernes was advised by Achior, the captain of Ammon, not to attack the Jews; but, ignoring the advice, he proceeded against Bethulia. Instead of attacking the city, however, he seized the wells, hoping thereby to compel the inhabitants to capitulate. In this he would have succeeded but for a beautiful widow named Judith who visited him at his camp, and, after a banquet at which Holofernes became drunk, cut off his head and escaped to Bethulia. The death of the general spread confusion through the ranks of the army, which retired in disorder before the attack of the Jews. See Judith.
- Hicks, in Journal of Hellenic Studies, vi. 261;
- Marquardt, in Philologus, liv. 3, p. 509;
- Willrich, Judaica, p. 28;
- Schürer, Gesch. 3d ed., iii. 169.