a prototypical Gentile who must be inspired by the teachings of our Torah”: http://www.thejewishweek.com/jewish-life/sabbath-week/conversion-ruth). No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the LORD’s assembly; none of their descendants, even to the tenth generation, may ever enter the LORD’s assembly”. Yet of Achior it is said, upon Judith’s victory over the now headless “Holofernes”: “When Achior saw all that the God of Israel had done, he believed firmly in God. So he was circumcised, and joined the house of Israel, remaining so to this day.” – Judith 14.10 (NRSV).
Commentators struggle to deal with this apparently blatant breach of Mosac Law. For example
In … Judith 14.10, Achior becomes a proselyte within the house of Israel. It is interesting to note that at least to the author of the Book of Judith … they seemed to have no problem in letting Achior within the house of Israel. … Since it should be noted that Achior isn’t just any sort of pagan, he’s an Ammonite, a chief leaders, as evidence by Judith 5.5a “Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites.”
But if one remembers Deuteronomy 23.3 it reads that “No Ammonite or Moabite shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord. Even to the tenth generation, none of their descendants shall be admitted to the assembly of the Lord,” So before even going any further, when one looks at Achior, we see in him one of the … unlikeliest men to convert to Judaism.
Despite the rule in Deuteronomy, the Book of Judith has Achior converted. There are of course a variety of different reasons given to why Achior might have been exempted from the rule. Perhaps he was a special case (as was Ruth the Moabitess), perhaps the prohibition has past, Achior being past the tenth generation, or maybe the author is even just expressing the same “universalism,” of the book of Jonah. ….
In any case, despite who Achior is racially, the author of Judith clearly wishes for him to be seen in the light of the other righteous Gentiles of the bible. … Achior is said to believe “firmly,” or “exceedingly, the greek word being σφόδρα which Crowley say “must mean ‘with all his heart,’”…. Thus Achior is indeed a genuine conversion, moreover he moves from the simple “God fearer,” sort of Gentile and now into full proselytism, and hence has “bound himself,” the laws which accompany that. …. So that in spite of all the difficulties which Achior brings, he becomes a symbolic invitation to other would be converts, to the author, Achior is not one secluded case, but instead a representative of all gentiles who would wish to come to faith in the God of Israel. …
[End of quote]
This interpretation, we would suggest, is not the answer. The complete story of Achior is to be found only in the Catholic Bible. Providentially, we Catholics have also for this very same historical period the Book of Tobit, whose Vulgate version likewise tells of this Achior (11:20: …. veneruntque Achior et Nabath consobrini Tobiae gaudentes …), otherwise called Ahikar.
Now, Achior (or Ahikar) was Tobit’s very nephew (Tobit 1:21-22 GNT):
[The Assyrian king] Esarhaddon … put Ahikar, my brother Anael’s son, in charge of all the financial affairs of the empire. This was actually the second time Ahikar was appointed to this position, for when Sennacherib was emperor of Assyria, Ahikar had been wine steward, treasurer, and accountant, and had been in charge of the official seal. Since Ahikar was my nephew, he put in a good word for me with the emperor ….
The Tales of Ahikar (var. Ahiqar), the inspiration for Æsop and Sinbad, are famous in literature. This Ahikar was celebrated in the ancient Near East for his outstanding wisdom. Intriguingly, some of his sayings were appropriated by ‘Mohammed’ and inserted in various Sura of the Koran (http://archive.org/stream/TheStoryOfAhikar/Ahikar_djvu.txt). But Ahikar was no more an Assyrian sage than he was an Ammonite. He was presumably, like his uncle Tobit, an Israelite from the tribe of Naphtali.
What pagan Ammonite would have been able to rattle off the history of Israel so unhesitatingly as Achior (in an historical summary reminiscent of St. Stephen’s to the Sanhedrin, Acts 7:2-47) was able to do when asked by “Holofernes”: ‘… tell me about the people who live in these mountains. Which cities do they occupy? How large is their army? What is the source of their power and strength? Who is the king who leads their army? Why have they alone, of all the people in the west, refused to come out and surrender to me?’ (Judith 5:3-4, 6-19)
This was the Achior who, though belonging to a wholly apostate tribe, except for the pious Tobit (‘But my entire tribe of Naphtali rejected the city of Jerusalem and the kings descended from David’, Tobit 1:4), had latterly come under the influence of his goodly uncle who no doubt reinforced in the mind of the young nephew all the traditions of Israel and its history. The connection of Achior with “Ammonite” in the Book of Judith is indeed problematical - though in Judith 6:5 he is differently linked, by “Holofernes”, with Ephraïm, “Achior, you and your Ephraimite soldiers”. Ephraïm (a designation for northern Israel) would indeed be more fitting for a relative of Tobit’s. In a recent article, “Ahikar Part Two: As a Convert to Yahwism” (http://www.academia.edu/7067422/Ahikar_Part_Two_As_a_Convert_to_Yahwism for Part One, see: http://www.academia.edu/7048703/Ahikar_or_Achior._Part_One), Damien Mackey rejected the possibility of Achior’s having been an Ammonite foreigner:
Ahikar [Achior] … took care of me for two years, until he left for Elam”. We think that there is a verse in the Book of Judith (1:6) that echoes this, thereby binding together the eras of Tobit and Judith. We previously wrote on this (Elam and Elymaïs being synonymous):
There is a gloss later added to the Vulgate version of the Book of Judith which tells that "Arioch [Erioch] ruled the Elymaeans" (1:6). "Arioch" is unknown. Obviously a copyist had failed to realize that this person, given as Arioch [or Erioch], was the same as the Achior who figures so prominently throughout the main story. The copyist, it seems, should have written: "Achior ruled the Elymaeans". From there it is smooth running to make the comparison:
"Achior ... Elymaeans" (Judith); "Ahikar ... Elymaïs" (Tobit).