In the book of Judith, the Ammonite official Achior tries to dissuade Holofernes from engaging in war against the people of Israel. In fact, he is convinced that the God of Israel will protect his people. Achior’s description of these “mountain folk” is an example of how the identity of an entire people can be conceived. Like a single person’s identity, collective identity finds its roots in memory and, by consequence, within the various human memory systems. In particular, one can distinguish an episodic (“remembering” events or situations already experienced) and and a semantic (“knowing” about events, concepts, objects, ideas or facts) memory.
The present study attempts to describe how episodic and semantic memories contribute in constructing and narrating the identity of the people of Israel. Achior’s speech also allows for a distinction between two other facets of identity, as described by Paul Ricoeur: that of “sameness” (“idem” identity, based on uninterrupted continuity or permanence in time) and that of “selfhood” (“ipse” identity, based on self-constancy or self-maintenance). Thus, the narration of such a collective identity enables Achior to project himself into the future and to affirm that the God of Israel would protect his people against the Assyrian army.