The Books of Maccabees

For a complete list of blog posts in the Journey Through The Word series, please click here.

Where Am I?

The books of the Maccabees are preceeded by the book of Esther, and are followed by the book of Job.

Initial Impressions

It’s the story of God’s salvation of the Israelite people through the rebellion of one family, the family of Mattathias and their skill in war. It should be noted here that the word ‘maccabees’ is believed to mean ‘hammer’ and is applied to Judas, the firstmost of the family to fight, think of the moniker, ‘Judas the Hammer’ and you’ve got a fair idea.

After Mattathias dies, Judas takes leadership of the family (chapters 3-9:22).  After Judas dies, his brother, Jonathan takes over (chapters 9:23-12:53). Jonathan, who is captured by enemy forces and eventually killed, is replaced by his brother, Simon (chapters 13-16), and the first book of Maccabees ends with Simon, and all of his sons being killed.

If the first book focused on the war campaign of the Maccabees dynasty, then the second book focuses on putting the events of the first book in a theological context. The second book of Maccabees covers the desecration of the Temple, the anguish and martyrdom of its people, the blasphemy and ultimate punishment of those who profane the name and holy place of God.

Favorite Verses

Unfortunately, there weren’t any verses that I especially liked or took anything of value out of in either of these books. I’m sure there are people out there who love these books (sorry!) but other than perhaps utilizing some of the strategies and war tactics for a future novel or tabletop campaign, I failed to take away anything that I could really sink my teeth into.

If you’ve been following this series — please don’t give up now!  I’ve got two more deuterocanonical books to cover yet, and I’m hopeful this post is the one-off in the series. Up next, you can look forward to my thoughts on the book of Baruch, and on the additional chapters in the book of Daniel.


*The Bible version I am studying is the New American Bible, Fireside Personal Study Edition, (2006-2007 edition) by Fireside Catholic Publishing. Some of my paraphrases are based on the NIV and NASB versions which I grew up with.

The Book of Esther

For a complete list of blog posts in the Journey Through The Word series, please click here.

Where Am I?

The book of Esther follows the story of another courageous woman of the OT, Judith, and precedes the first and second books of the Maccabees.

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Initial Impressions

I’ve read the book of Esther, many, many times. I’ve also lost track of how many times I’ve seen the films. I’m a bit of a Bible nerd. I think I own at least two different versions and can recall at least three versions that I’ve seen in recent years. If you haven’t already and enjoy historical fiction, I strongly recommend Tommy Tenney’s Hadassah, and the film based off the book, One Night With the King.

What I didn’t know about the book of Esther, is that in the deuterocanonical books, there are selections that are included that were left out of my non-Catholic, Christian Bible. I’ll explain.

One of the signature elements of the book of Esther is the complete lack of any reference of God. As far as I know, it’s the only book of the Bible that never mentions God. Not once. It’s implied, rather than stated, that the dramatic deliverance of the Jews living in the Persian empire is due to intervention beyond that of mortal mankind.

Curiously, when you look at the Catholic Bible’s version of this same book, which includes the Greek additions (107 additional verses), God is reinserted back into the drama, through the prayers of Queen Esther and Mordecai. In my Bible version*, these additional verses are indicated by Chapters lettering A-F, which again, include the aforementioned prayers, and also the royal decrees sent out regarding the destruction of the Jewish people.

Favorite Passages

I guess one of my favorite bits that I discovered was Chapter D, the passage that describes Esther’s confrontation with King Xerses. This is one of the most dramatic moments in the story and in any film version you’re likely to see but left out of the Christian Bibles that I grew up with, the details seemed to be the figment of the imagination of the screenwriters. Not so in the Catholic version, which follows Queen Esther during the entire interaction.

Having the opportunity to read this in person enriched my understanding of the story of Esther, but it’s completely omitted from the Hebrew form in non-Catholic bibles, and it’s such a shame that this has been lost as it adds more color to the narrative. So if the story of Esther is one of your favorites, I’d strongly encourage you to consider giving the Greek version a try, if only to see the bits of the story that (while in the films) are left out of the print versions. Glad to see that Hollywood got something right this time.

Next time, on Journey Through The Word, I’ll be moving on to the Books of the Maccabees. It’s all warfare (oh joy). Looks like it’ll be one for the boys so check back in soon.


*The Bible version I am studying is the New American Bible, Fireside Personal Study Edition, (2006-2007 edition) by Fireside Catholic Publishing. Some of my paraphrases are based on the NIV and NASB versions which I grew up with. Links provided to Bible chapters are from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, which has an online edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE).

The Book of Judith

For a complete list of blog posts in the Journey Through The Word series, please click here.

Where am I?

Judith follows the book of Tobit and precedes the book of Esther in the OT.

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Initial Impressions

It’s a story that will sound familiar to many Christians: a Jewish people threatened by their enemies, and then saved by the courage of one woman willing to be used by God. If your first thought was ‘Esther’, you may have been raised with a Christian background, or at least familiar with one of the films. If your answer was ‘Judith’, you are probably an art fan or have a Catholic background.

I’d never heard of Judith until my first art history class where Artemisia Gentileschi’s portrayal of Judith is recognized as a symbol of the sex and violence the artist experienced in her own tragic rape at the hands of someone she knew. But that doesn’t really do the book of Judith justice.

The Story

The book of Judith opens with King Nebuchadnezzar waging a war campaign against the Medes. After sending his messengers to the neighboring countries with a summons (it’s unclear to me what the summons was meant to do, but in the context, I assume it was to rouse troops), his messengers are ignored and spurned. Driven into a rage, King Nebuchadnezzar vows to lay waste to them all and exile the survivors. He sends his best Assyrian general, Holofernes, to do his will and with a very large force, they carry out Nebuchadnezzar’s wrath.

When Israel hears of it, the whole country is greatly afraid, but they, as a nation, repent and pray and mourn, and are led to take some defensive measures to stop the advancing armies to enter into Jerusalem and destroy the temple. Holofernes hears of their impudence to resist and summons Achior, a general of the Ammonites, to get intel on Israel.

I love Achior’s speech (5:5-24). Even as a non-Israelite, he has grown up with the knowledge of how the Jewish people have been saved, time and time again, by their God, and punished, time and time again, when they’ve turned their backs on their God. I think it must have taken a great deal of courage to give the response to Holofernes that he does, and for that, he’s imprisoned to await his death, AFTER Holofernes conquers Israel.

Holofernes lays seige to the town of Bethulia, which he must take in order to march his troops through the mountain passes to Jerusalem, and affter many days, the elders of the town are ready to surrender, until Judith arrives to speak with them.

The book of Judith is separated into two parts: the first part (chapters 1-7) talk about all of the backstory that I’ve already mentioned, and the second part (chapters 8-16) details Judith’s part to play in the narrative.

I love Judith, I mean, she is awesome! A widow, she’s strikingly beautiful, intelligent, financially independent, faithful to God, and she honors the memory of her husband all the days of her life. This is a good, God-fearing woman right here.

Judith convinces the elders to hold off the surrender of the town for just a little bit longer for she knows, like Achior, that the Israelites have not disobeyed God in recent generations (by worshiping idols) and she believes that God will deliver them from their enemies.

And if you’d like to read and see how it ends, you can jump right into reading chapter eight here.

Favorite Passages

I don’t think that there’s any one passage that particularly struck me as my favorite in this book. Certainly, I love Achior’s courage as an outsider, to stand up for the Israelites. It reminds me of Rahab, aiding the spies. Holofernes’ decision regarding Achior’s punishment is so OT, it feels like something out of a Cecil B. DeMille film. Or maybe, I have it backwards and DeMille was inspired by the book of Judith? Clearly, DeMille knows his Bible, even if he embellishes on it from time to time.

The whole scheme of Judith’s to save Israel is awesome, well-worth the read (or re-read) Offhand, I can’t think of any films that have ever been made on the life of Judith, which is weird. Beauty, war, sexual intrigue, guile, a seige…are you listening yet, Hollywood producers?

Coming up next in the Journey Through the Word, I’ll be tackling another courageous beauty in the OT, Esther. If you’re enjoying the series, please check back, or leave a comment to share your favorite things about Judith (no spoilers!)


*The Bible version I am studying is the New American Bible, Fireside Personal Study Edition, (2006-2007 edition) by Fireside Catholic Publishing. Some of my paraphrases are based on the NIV and NASB versions which I grew up with. Links provided to Bible chapters are from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, which has an online edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE).

The Book of Tobit

For a complete list of blog posts in the Journey Through The Word series, please click here.

Where Am I?

Tobit is the first of the deuterocanonical books in the Catholic Bible, which falls between the books of Nehemiah and Judith in the OT.

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Initial Impressions

The book of Tobit is one of the literary books in the OT, so, it’s approachable for first-time readers (like I was) and is the same type of writing that you’d find in the book of Ruth, or Esther, or Judith, to name a few examples. The short book has some fantastical elements in it, like something out of the Arabian Nights, like a love curse, demons prowling the desert, and supernatural helpers in disguise. The book could rightly be called Near Eastern folklore (set partially in Media, modern-day Iran).

To summarize the story: Tobit was a righteous and wealthy Israelite who was exiled to Ninevah in 721 B.C., where he lived with his wife and son, Tobiah. Like Job, he suffered misfortune and asked God to let him die. When Tobit remembers a large sum of gold he’d deposited in the distant city of Media, he commissions Tobiah to fetch it as his inheritance, and what follows is a charming adventure.

Favorite Passages

Without spoiling the ending, one of the things that I appreciated about the book of Tobit was the re-affirmation that God uses bad things for good (a recurring theme in the Holy Scriptures) and that He works in mysterious ways. We can’t always make sense of His plan or His timing, but if you’re willing to trust God and to be a part of that plan, He may choose to use you in extraordinary ways and impact the lives of you and others.

If you’re interested in reading the book of Tobit and you don’t currently own or have access to a Catholic Bible, click here to begin reading chapter 1. Have any insights on the book of Tobit (psst, no spoilers!), leave a comment and begin a discussion.


*The Bible version I am studying is the New American Bible, Fireside Personal Study Edition, (2006-2007 edition) by Fireside Catholic Publishing. Some of my paraphrases are based on the NIV and NASB versions which I grew up with. Links provided to Bible chapters are from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website, which has an online edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition (NABRE).

Reimagining the Ignatian Examen by Mark E. Thibodeaux

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The Specs:
Title: Reimagining the Ignatian Examen: Fresh Ways to Pray from Your Day
Author: Mark E. Thibodeaux, SJ
Published: 2014 by Loyola Press
Length: 123 pages
Amazon Categories: Meditations
Source: Overdrive (free); Kindle price: $8.79


 Every time I talk about Mark Thibodeaux’s book, I always get the title wrong but when I explain, I think you’ll understand why. While it’s true that the author reimagines the original examen of St. Ignatius of Loyola in a fresh way, after immersing in this book and its devotional exercises for prayer and meditation, I think you will find that it reignites your faith and prayer life. So, I wish on some level that the title was Reigniting the Ignatian Examen, because I think that the contents of this simple prayer has the potential to stir those coals in our hearts and reawaken the embers of our prayer lives. It certainly is rekindling mine.

The book isn’t terribly long for the price and that may be my biggest negative critique. I like a chunky book when I’m paying more than $2.99 for an ebook. But where Thibodeaux could have tripled the length of the book and bogged it down in unnecessarily long treatises on prayer and meditation, or on the background of St. Ignatius and the original examen, he chose to take a different approach.

The first few chapters talk about how he approaches the examen and on creating your own opening and closing ritual. The remainder of the book is thirty-four days of meditations/prayer with different subjects, building upon what you’ve previously gone over. Ideally, one for every day of the month, and a few extras in case one or two just didn’t click for you.

There is also an appendix where Thibodeaux talks about some of the terms he uses (like praydreaming and prayimagining), which helped me immensely as I began my own journey through the examen. For the sake of full disclosure, I am still working my way through the book and God willing, will continue to be doing the meditations for some time to come. Since the majority of the book is just the individual guided prayers/reflections, you’re better off reading them at the pace prescribed, rather than treating the book as something to be rushed through and checked off a list.

The author recommends beginning once a day and advancing to twice a day (at lunch, and at dinner) and when you reflect upon your day, you can reflect upon how your morning went, and how you expect the afternoon to go, and then at the evening examen, review how it actually went, and how you expect tomorrow morning to go. This idea of a daily review, or even a twice-daily review, can really be an excellent way of keeping God at the center of our focus.

The examen will prompt questions such as…

Are we really living each moment to please God? Where are we acting in the faith, hope and charity that all Christians should be? In what areas are we floundering? What can we learn about our mistakes and resolve to do differently the next time? What do we think that God is trying to tell us about this area in our lives (or the areas we are guided to by the reflections)?

If this sounds like something that you’d be interested in exploring, please check out Mark E. Thibodeaux’s book, and leave a comment below and let me know what you think.