In the twelfth year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, who reigned in Nineveh, the great city, in the days of Arphaxad, who reigned over the Medes in Ecbatane and who built walls around Ecbatane out of stones hewn three cubits wide and six cubits long, and made the height of the wall seventy cubits and its width fifty cubits, and set the towers of its gates a hundred cubits high and at the foundation sixty cubits wide, and made its gates so that they were raised to a height of seventy cubits and a width of forty cubits, for the going forth of his mighty armies and for the setting in array of his foot soldiers, in those very days, king Nebuchadnezzar made war with king Arphaxad on the great plain, which is the plain on the borders of Ragau.
And all those who lived in the hill country came to him there; and all who lived by the Euphrates and the Tigris and the Hydaspes, and on the plain of Arioch the king of the Elymeans, and very many nations of the sons of Chelod assembled themselves for the battle. Then Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians sent to all who lived in Persia, and to all who lived westward, and to those who lived in Cilicia and Damascus and Libanus and Antilibanus, and to all who lived upon the sea coast, and to those among the nations who were from Carmel and Galaad and the higher Galilee and the great plain of Esdrelom, and to all who were in Samaria and its cities, and beyond the Jordan to Jerusalem and Bethany and Chelus and Kadesh, and the river of Egypt, and Taphnes and Ramesse, and all the land of Gesem, and even to beyond Tanis and Memphis, and to all the inhabitants of Egypt, all the way to borders of Ethiopia.
But all the inhabitants of the land made light of the commandment of Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians; neither did they go into the battle with him, for they were not afraid of him. Yes, they considered him to be only one man; and they sent his ambassadors away from them with nothing to show except disgrace. Therefore Nebuchadnezzar was very angry with all this country; and he swore by his throne and kingdom that he would surely be avenged upon all those coasts of Cilicia and Damascus and Syria, and that he would slay with the sword all the inhabitants of the land of Moab, and the children of Ammon, and all Judea, and all who were in Egypt, up to the very borders of the two seas.
Then he marched in battle array with his power against king Arphaxad in the seventeenth year, and he prevailed in his battle, for he overthrew all the power of Arphaxad and all his horsemen and all his chariots, and became lord of his cities. And he came to Ecbatane and took the towers and pillaged its streets and turned its beauty into shame. He also overpowered Arphaxad at the mountains of Ragau and struck him through with his darts, and destroyed him utterly on that day. So he returned afterward to Nineveh, both he and all his company of diverse nations, who were a very great multitude of men of war; and there he took his ease and banqueted, both he and his army, for one hundred twenty days.
And in the eighteenth year, on the twenty-second day of the first month, there was talk in the house of Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians that he should, as he had said, avenge himself upon all the earth. So he called all his officers to him, and all his nobles, and discussed with them his secret plan, and, with his own mouth, he ensured the scourging of the whole earth. Then they decreed the destruction of all flesh, of all who didn’t obey the commandment of his mouth.
And when he had ended his counsel, Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians called Holofernes the chief captain of his army, who was next to him, and said to him: “Thus says the great king, the lord of the whole earth, ‘Behold, you will go forth from my presence and take with you men who trust in their own strength, one hundred twenty thousand foot soldiers; and the number of horses with their riders, twelve thousand. And you will go against all the west country, because they disobeyed my commandment. And you will declare to them that they should prepare for me earth and water, for I will go forth in my wrath against them and will cover the whole face of the earth with the feet of my army, and I will give them as prey to them, so that their slain will fill their valleys, and brooks and the river will be filled with their dead until it overflows, and I will lead them as captives to the utmost parts of all the earth. You therefore will go forth and capture for me beforehand all their coasts; and if they will yield themselves to you, you will reserve them for me until the day of their punishment. But concerning those who rebel, do not allow your eyes to pity them, but slaughter them and plunder them wherever you go. For as I live, and by the power of my kingdom, whatsoever I have spoken, I will do by my own hand. And take heed that you transgress none of the commandments of your lord, but accomplish them fully, as I have commanded you, and do not defer to them.’ ”
Then Holofernes went forth from the presence of his lord, and called all the governors and captains, and the officers of the army of Assur. And he mustered the chosen men for the battle, as his lord had commanded him, to a force of one hundred twenty thousand, plus twelve thousand archers on horseback; and he arrayed them just as a great army is ordered for war. And he took camels and asses for their carriages, a very great number; and sheep and oxen and goats without number for their provision, and plenty of rations for every man of the army, and very much gold and silver from the king’s house. Then he went forth with all his power to precede king Nebuchadnezzar on the journey, and to cover all the face of the earth westward with their chariots and horsemen, and their chosen foot soldiers. Also a great number of diverse countries came with them, like locusts and like the sand of the earth, for their multitude was without number.
And they went forth from Nineveh for three days’ journey toward the plain of Bectileth, and pitched camp outside Bectileth, near the mountain which is at the left hand of upper Cilicia. Then he took all his army, his foot soldiers, and horsemen and chariots, and went from there into the hill country; and he destroyed Phud and Lud, and pillaged all the children of Rasses, and the children of Israel who were toward the wilderness at the south of the land of the Chellians. Then he went over the Euphrates, and went through Mesopotamia, and destroyed all the high cities along the river Arbonai, all the way to the sea. And he captured the borders of Cilicia, and killed all who resisted him, and came to the borders of Japheth, toward the south, opposite Arabia. He also encircled all the children of Madian, and burned up their tabernacles, and plundered their sheep pens.
Then he went down into the plain of Damascus, at the time of the wheat harvest, and burnt up all their fields, and destroyed their flocks and herds; he also pillaged their cities, and utterly laid waste to their countries, and struck down all their young men with the edge of the sword. Therefore the fear and dread of him fell upon all the inhabitants of the sea coasts, who were in Sidon and Tyrus, and those who lived in Sur and Ocina, and all who lived in Jemnaan. And those who lived in Azotus and Ascalon feared him greatly.
So they sent ambassadors to him to entreat him for peace, saying, “Behold, we, the servants of Nebuchadnezzar the great king, lie before you; use us as it seems good in your sight. Behold, our houses and all our places, and all our fields of wheat, and flocks and herds, and all the lodges of our tents lie before your face; use them as it pleases you. Behold, even our cities and their inhabitants are your servants; come and deal with them as it seems good to you.” So the men came to Holofernes and made declaration before him in this way.
Then he came down toward the sea coast, both he and his army, and set garrisons in the high cities, and took out of them chosen men to assist them. So they and all the surrounding country received them with garlands, with dances, and with timbrels. Yet he cast down their barriers and cut down their sacred groves; for he had decreed the destruction of all the gods of the land, so that all nations should worship Nebuchadnezzar only, and so that all tongues and tribes should call upon him as god. He also came across Esdraelon near Dothaim, across the great strait of Judea. And he pitched camp between Geba and Scythopolis, and he delayed there a whole month, so that he could gather together all the carriages of his army.
Now the children of Israel, who lived in Judea, heard all that Holofernes the chief captain of Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians had done to the nations, and in what way he had pillaged all their temples and brought them to nothing. Therefore they were exceedingly afraid of him, and were troubled for Jerusalem and for the temple of the Lord their God. For they were newly-returned from the captivity, and all the people of Judea had only recently gathered together; and the vessels and the altar and the house had been sanctified after the profanation. Therefore they sent into all the coasts of Samaria and the villages, and to Bethoron and Belmen and Jericho, and to Choba and Esora, and to the valley of Salem; and they captured for themselves in advance all the tops of the high mountains, and fortified the villages which were in them, and stored up food as provisions for war, for their fields had been recently reaped.
Also, Joacim the high priest, who was in those days in Jerusalem, wrote to those who lived in Bethulia and Betomestham, which is opposite Esdraelon toward the open country near Dothaim, charging them to hold the passages of the hill country; for through them there was an entrance into Judea, and it was easy to stop those who would come up, because the passage was narrow, for two men at the most. And the children of Israel did as Joacim the high priest had commanded them, with the elders of all the people of Israel, who lived at Jerusalem. Then every man cried to God with great fervor, and they humbled their souls with great vehemence, and both they and their wives and their children, and their cattle, and every stranger and hired hand, and their servants bought with money, put sackcloth on their loins. Thus every man, and the women and little children, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, fell before the temple and cast ashes upon their heads and spread out their sackcloth before the face of the Lord; they also put sackcloth around the altar. And they cried to the God of Israel, all with one consent earnestly, so that he would not give over their children as prey and their wives for a spoil and the cities of their inheritance to destruction and the sanctuary to profanation and reproach, for the nations to rejoice over them.
So God heard their prayers and looked upon their afflictions; for the people fasted many days in all Judea and Jerusalem before the sanctuary of the Lord Almighty. And Joacim the high priest, and all the priests who stood before the Lord and those who ministered to the Lord, had their loins dressed with sackcloth, and offered the daily burnt offerings with the vows and free gifts of the people, and had ashes on their liturgical headdresses; and they cried to the Lord with all their power, so that he would look upon all the house of Israel graciously.
Then was it declared to Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, that the children of Israel had prepared for war and had shut up the passages of the hill country and had fortified all the tops of the high hills and had laid impediments in the open plains. Because of this, he was very angry, and he called all the princes of Moab and the captains of Ammon and all the governors of the sea coast, and he said to them, “Tell me now, you sons of Canaan, who is this people, who dwell in the hill country, and which cities do they inhabit, and what is the multitude of their army, and wherein is their power and strength, and what king or captain of their army is set over them, and why are they resolved not to come and meet me, more so than all the inhabitants of the west?”
Then Achior, the captain of all the sons of Ammon, said, “Let my lord now hear a word from the mouth of your servant and I will declare to you the truth concerning this people, who dwell near you and inhabit the hill countries, and no lie will come out of the mouth of your servant. This people is descended from the Chaldeans, and they resided temporarily and until recently in Mesopotamia, because they would not follow the gods of their fathers, who were in the land of Chaldea. For they left the way of their ancestors and worshipped the God of heaven, the God they knew; so they cast them out from the face of their gods, and they fled into Mesopotamia and lodged there for many days. Then their God commanded them to depart from the place where they lived and to go into the land of Canaan; there they lived and were increased with gold and silver and with very much cattle. But when a famine covered all the land of Canaan, they went down into Egypt and lodged there; meanwhile they were nourished and became a great multitude there, so that one could not number their nation. Therefore the king of Egypt rose up against them, and he dealt subtly with them and brought them low with labor in brick and made them slaves. Then they cried to their God and he smote all the land of Egypt with incurable plagues, so the Egyptians cast them out of their sight. And God dried the Red Sea before them and brought them to mount Sinai and Kadesh-Barnea, and cast out all who lived in the wilderness. So they lived in the land of the Amorites, and by their strength they destroyed all those who were of Esebon, and passing over the Jordan they possessed all the hill country. And they cast out before them the Canaanite, the Pherezite, the Jebusite, and the Sychemite, and all the Gergesites, and they lived in that country for many days.
“While they did not sin before their God, they prospered, because the God who hates iniquity was with them. But when they departed from the way which he appointed for them, they were destroyed in many battles very badly and were led captive into a land which was not their own, and the temple of their God was cast to the ground, and their cities were taken by the enemies. But now are they returned to their God and have returned from the places where they were scattered and have possessed Jerusalem, where their sanctuary is, and are seated in the hill country, for it had been desolate. Now therefore, my lord and governor, if there is any ignorance in this people and they sin against their God, let us consider that this will be their ruin, and let us go up and we will overcome them. But if there is no iniquity in their nation, let my lord now pass by, lest their Lord defend them and their God be for them, and we become a reproach before all the world.”
And when Achior had finished these sayings, all the people standing around the tent murmured; and the chief men of Holofernes, and all who lived by the seaside and in Moab, were saying that he should kill him. For they said, “We will not be afraid of the faces of the children of Israel, for we see that they are a people who have no strength or power for a strong battle. Now therefore, lord Holofernes, we will go up and they will be a prey to be devoured by all your army.”
And when the tumult of men who were around the council were quiet, Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, said to Achior and all the Moabites in front of all the company of the other nations: “And who are you, Achior and the hired hands of Ephraim, that you would prophesy against us as today and would say that we should not make war with the people of Israel because their God will defend them? And who is God but Nebuchadnezzar? He will send his power and will destroy them from the face of the earth and their God will not deliver them; but we, his servants, will destroy them as if they were one man; for they are not able to withstand the power of our horses. For with them, we will tread them under foot, and their mountains will be drunken with their blood and their fields will be filled with their dead bodies and their footsteps will not be able to stand before us, for they will utterly perish, as king Nebuchadnezzar, lord of all the earth, has said. And he said, ‘None of my words will be in vain.’
“And you, Achior, a hired hand of Ammon, who has spoken these words on the day of your iniquity, will see my face no more from this day forward, until I take vengeance on this nation which came out of Egypt. And then the sword of my army and the multitude of those who serve me will pass through your sides, and you will fall among their slain, when I return. Now therefore, my servants will bring you back into the hill country and will set you in one of the cities of the passages; and you will not perish, until you are destroyed with them. And if you persuade yourself in your mind that they will be taken, do not let your countenance fall; I have spoken it and none of my words will be in vain.”
Then Holofernes commanded his servants, who served in his tent, to take Achior and bring him to Bethulia and deliver him into the hands of the children of Israel. So his servants took him and brought him out of the camp into the plain, and they went from the midst of the plain into the hill country, and they came to the fountains which were under Bethulia. And when the men of the city saw them, they took up their weapons and went out of the city to the top of the hill, and every man who was armed with a sling kept them from coming up by casting stones against them. Nevertheless, having gotten secretly under the hill, they bound Achior and threw him down, and they left him at the foot of the hill and returned to their lord.
But the Israelites descended from their city and came to him, and they freed him and brought him to Bethulia, and presented him to the governors of the city, who were in those days Uzziah the son of Micah of the tribe of Simeon, and Chabris the son of Gothoniel, and Charmis the son of Melchiel. And they called together all the elders of the city, and all their youth ran together, and their women, to the assembly, and they set Achior in the midst of all their people. Then Uzziah asked him what had happened. And he answered and declared to them the words of the council of Holofernes, and all the words which he had spoken in the midst of the princes of Assur, and whatsoever Holofernes had spoken proudly against the house of Israel. Then the people fell down and worshipped God, and cried to God saying, “O Lord God of heaven, behold their pride and pity the low estate of our nation and look upon the face of those who are sanctified for you this day.” Then they comforted Achior and praised him greatly. And Uzziah took him out of the assembly to his house and made a feast for the elders. And they called on the God of Israel all that night for help.
The next day Holofernes commanded all his army and all his people who had arrived take his side that they should remove their camp from opposite Bethulia and capture in advance the ascents of the hill country in order to make war against the children of Israel. Then their strong men removed their camps on that day; and the army of the men of war was one hundred seventy thousand foot soldiers, and twelve thousand horsemen, besides the baggage and the other men who were afoot among them, a very great multitude. And they camped in the valley near Bethulia, by the spring, and they spread themselves in width across Dothaim even to Belmaim, and in length from Bethulia to Cynamon, which is opposite Esdraelon.
Now the children of Israel, when they saw their multitude, were greatly troubled, and everyone said to his neighbor, “Now these men will wipe clean the face of the earth, for neither the high mountains, nor the valleys, nor the hills, are able to bear their weight.” Then every man took up his weapons of war, and when they had kindled fires on their towers, they remained and watched all that night. But on the second day, Holofernes brought forth all his horsemen in the sight of the children of Israel, who were in Bethulia, and viewed the passages up to the city; and he went to the origins of their waters and captured them, and he set garrisons of men of war over them, and he himself returned toward his people.
Then they came to him, all the chiefs of the children of Esau and all the governors of the people of Moab and the captains of the sea coast, and they said, “Let our lord now hear a word, so that there will not be a loss among your army. For this people of the children of Israel do not trust in their spears, but in the height of the mountains where they dwell, for it is not easy to come up to the tops of their mountains. Now therefore, my lord, do not fight against them in battle array and not so much as one man among your people will perish. Remain in your camp and keep all the men of your army there, and let us your servants take hold of the springs of water, which issue forth at the foot of the mountain. For all the inhabitants of Bethulia have their water there; so thirst will kill them and they will give up their city, and we and our people will go up to the tops of the mountains nearby and will camp on them to watch so that none can go out of the city. So they and their wives and their children will be consumed with fiery thirst, as if it were a sword brought against them, and so they will be overthrown in the streets where they dwell. Thus will you render them an evil reward, because they rebelled and didn’t meet your person peaceably.” And these words pleased Holofernes and all his servants, and he decided to do as they had said.
So the camp of the children of Ammon departed, and with them five thousand of the Assyrians, and they pitched camp in the valley and captured the waters and the origins of the waters of the children of Israel. Then the children of Esau went up with the children of Ammon and camped in the hill country opposite Dothaim. And they sent some of them toward the south and toward the east opposite Ekrebel, near Chusi upon the brook Mochmur; and the rest of the army of the Assyrians camped in the plain and covered the face of the whole land; and their tents and carriages were pitched for a very great multitude.
Then the children of Israel cried to the Lord their God, because their heart failed, for all their enemies had surrounded them and there was no way to escape out from among them. Thus all the company of Assur remained around them, both their foot soldiers, chariots, and horsemen, for thirty-four days, so that all their vessels of water ran dry for all the inhabitants of Bethulia and the cisterns were emptied. And they didn’t have enough water to drink their fill for even one day, for they rationed their water. Therefore their young children lost heart, and their women and young men fainted for thirst and fell down in the streets of the city and by the passageways of the gates; and there was no longer any strength in them.
Then all the people assembled before Uzziah and the chiefs of the city, including young men and women and children, and they cried with a loud voice and said before all the elders, “God be judge between us and you, for you have done us great injury in that you have not made peace with the children of Assur. For now we have no helper, but God has sold us into their hands, so that we should be thrown down before them with thirst and great destruction. Now therefore call them to you and deliver the whole city for a spoil to the people of Holofernes and to all his army. For it is better for us to be made a spoil for them than to die of thirst; for we will be his servants, so that our souls may live and we will not see the death of our infants before our eyes, nor the dying of our wives or our children. We present as witness against you: the heaven and the earth, and our God and Lord of our fathers, who punishes us according to our sins and the sins of our fathers, so that he will not allow what we have described to happen on this day.”
Then there was great weeping in the midst of the assembly, all with one consent; and they cried to the Lord God with a loud voice. Then Uzziah said to them, “Brethren, be courageous. Let us endure yet five days, in that period of time the Lord our God may turn his mercy toward us, for he will not forsake us utterly. And if these days pass and no help comes to us, I will do according to your word.” And he dispersed the people, each to their own posts; and they went to the walls and towers of their city, and sent the women and children into their houses; and they were brought very low in the city.
Now at that time Judith heard about this; she was the daughter of Merari, the son of Ox, the son of Joseph, the son of Ozel, the son of Elcia, the son of Ananiah, the son of Gedeon, the son of Raphaim, the son of Acitho, the son of Eliu, the son of Eliab, the son of Nathanael, the son of Samael, the son of Salasadal, the son of Israel. And Manasseh was her husband, of her tribe and kindred, who died during the barley harvest. For as he stood overseeing those who bound sheaves in the field, the heat affected his head, and he fell on his bed, and died in the city of Bethulia; and they buried him with his fathers in the field between Dothaim and Balamo. So Judith was a widow in her house three years and four months. And she made her a tent on the top of her house; and she put sackcloth on her loins and wore her widow’s clothing. And she fasted all the days of her widowhood, except for the eves of the sabbaths and the sabbaths, and the eves of the new moons and the new moons, and the feasts and solemn days of the house of Israel. She also had a graceful temperament and was very beautiful to behold. And her husband Manasseh had left her gold and silver, and menservants and maidservants, and cattle and lands, and she remained with them. And there was no one who spoke an ill word about her, for she feared God greatly.
Now she heard the evil words of the people against the governor and that they fainted for lack of water; for Judith had heard all the words that Uzziah had spoken to them and that he had sworn to deliver the city to the Assyrians after five days. So then she sent her woman servant, who was in charge of everything that she had, to call Uzziah and Chabris and Charmis, the elders of the city. And they came to her, and she said to them, “Hear me now, you governors of the inhabitants of Bethulia; for your words which you spoke before the people this day are not right, concerning this oath which you made and pronounced between God and yourselves, and your promise to deliver the city to our enemies, unless within these days the Lord turns to help you. And now who are you to have tempted God this day, and to stand among the children of men instead of God? And now test the Lord Almighty, but you will never know anything. For you cannot find the depth of the heart of man, neither can you perceive the things which he thinks; so then how can you search out God, who has made all these things, and know his mind or comprehend his purpose? No, my brethren, do not provoke the Lord our God to anger.
“For if he will not help us within these five days, he has power to defend us when he will, even every day, or to destroy us before our enemies. Do not bind the plans of the Lord our God; for God is not like man as if he could be threatened; neither is he like the son of man so that he would be wavering. Therefore let us wait for salvation from him and call upon him to help us, and he will hear our voice, if it pleases him. For there arose none in our age, neither is there any now in these days, neither tribe, nor family, nor people, nor city among us, who worship gods made with hands, as has happened in past times. For this reason our fathers were given to the sword and as a spoil and had a great fall before our enemies. But we know no other God, therefore we trust that he will not despise us, nor any of our nation.
“For if we are overcome, then all Judea will lie waste and our sanctuary will be pillaged; and he will place the blame for the profanation of it at our mouth; and the slaughter of our brethren and the captivity of the country and the desolation of our inheritance, he will blame on our heads among the Gentiles, wherever we will be in captivity; and we will be an offence and a reproach to all those who possess us. For our servitude will not be directed towards our benefit, but the Lord our God will turn it to our dishonor. Now therefore, O brethren, let us show an example to our brethren, because their hearts depend on us, and the sanctuary and the house and the altar rest on us. Moreover, let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who tests us, even as he did our fathers. Remember the things he did to Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and what happened to Jacob in Mesopotamia of Syria, when he kept the sheep of Laban his mother’s brother. For he has not tested us in the fire, as he did them for the examination of their hearts, neither has he taken vengeance on us; but the Lord does scourge those who come near to him, to admonish them.”
Then Uzziah said to her, “All that you have spoken, you have spoken with a good heart and there is no one who can refute your words. For this is not the first day that your wisdom has been manifested; but from the beginning of your days all the people have known your understanding, because the disposition of your heart has been good. But the people were very thirsty; and they compelled us to do to them as we have spoken and to bring an oath on ourselves, which we will not break. Now therefore pray for us, because you are a godly woman, and then the Lord will send us rain to fill our cisterns and we will faint no more.”
Then Judith said to them, “Listen to me and I will do something which will be remembered throughout all generations among the children of our nation. You will watch this night at the gate, and I will go forth with my woman servant; and, within the days that you have promised to deliver the city to our enemies, the Lord will visit Israel by my hand. But do not ask me what I will do, for I will not reveal it to you until the things that I do are completed.” Then Uzziah and the princes said to her, “Go in peace, and may the Lord God go before you to take vengeance on our enemies.” So they returned from the tent and went to their posts.
Judith fell upon her face and put ashes on her head and uncovered the sackcloth she was wearing; and, about the time that the incense of that evening was offered in Jerusalem in the house of the Lord, Judith cried with a loud voice, and said, “O Lord God of my father Simeon, to whom you gave a sword to take vengeance on the strangers, who loosened the girdle of a maid to defile her, and uncovered the thigh to her shame, and polluted her virginity to her reproach; for you said, ‘It will not be so,’ and yet they did so. Therefore you gave their rulers to be slain, so that they dyed their bed in blood, being deceived, and you struck the servants with their lords and the lords upon their thrones; and you have given their wives for a prey and their daughters to be captives and all their spoils to be divided among your dear children, who were moved with your zeal and abhorred the pollution of their blood and called upon you for aid. O God, my God, hear me also for I am a widow.
“And you have wrought not only those things, but also the things which happened before and which followed afterwards; you have thought about the things which are now and which are to come. Yes, the things you established were ready at hand, and they said, ‘Lo, we are here,’ for all your ways are prepared and your judgments are in your foreknowledge. For, behold, the Assyrians are multiplied in their power; they are exalted with horse and man; they glory in the strength of their foot soldiers; they trust in shield and spear and bow and sling; and they do not know that you are the Lord who breaks the battles: the Lord is your name. Throw down their strength in your power and bring down their force in your wrath; for they have resolved to defile your sanctuary and to pollute the tabernacle where your glorious name rests and to cast down with sword the horn of your altar. Behold their pride and send your wrath upon their heads; give into my hand, the hand of a widow, the power that I have conceived. Strike, by the deceit of my lips, the servant with the prince, and the prince with the servant; break down their stateliness by the hand of a woman. For your power is not found in numbers, nor your might in strong men; for you are a God of the afflicted, a helper of the oppressed, an upholder of the weak, a protector of the forlorn, a savior of those who are without hope.
“I pray to you, I beg you, O God of my father and God of the inheritance of Israel, Lord of the heavens and the earth, Creator of the waters, King of every creature, hear my prayer; and make my speech and deceit to be their wound and stripe, who have resolved cruel things against your covenant and your hallowed house, and against the top of Zion and the house of the possession of your children; and so make every nation and tribe acknowledge that you are the God of all power and might, and that there is no other who protects the people of Israel but you.”
Now after this, she ceased to cry to the God of Israel, and she completed all these words. She rose where she had fallen down and called her maid; and she went down into the house in which she lived on the sabbath days and on her feast days, and she pulled off the sackcloth which she had on, and put off the garments of her widowhood, and washed her body all over with water, and anointed herself with precious ointment, and braided the hair of her head and put a headdress on it, and put on her garments of gladness, which she used to wear during the life of Manasseh her husband. And she put sandals on her feet, and she put on her bracelets and her chains and her rings and her earrings and all her ornaments, and she decked herself out boldly, to allure the eyes of all men who might see her.
Then she gave her maid a bottle of wine and a cruse of oil, and filled a bag with parched grain and lumps of figs and with fine bread; so she folded all these things together and laid them upon her. Thus they went forth to the gate of the city of Bethulia, and they found standing there Uzziah and the elders of the city, Chabris and Charmis. And when they saw her, that her countenance was altered and her apparel was changed, they wondered at her beauty very greatly and said to her, “May God, the God of our fathers, give you favor and accomplish your endeavors to the glory of the children of Israel and to the exaltation of Jerusalem.” Then they worshipped God. And she said to them, “Command the gates of the city to be opened for me, so that I may go forth to accomplish the things that you have discussed with me.” So they commanded the young men to open it for her, as she had said. And when they had done so, Judith went out, she and her maid with her; and the men of the city looked after her, until she had gone down the mountain and had passed the valley and they could see her no more.
Thus they went straight ahead in the valley, and the first watch of the Assyrians met her and captured her; and they asked her, “Of what people are you? And where have you come from? And where are you going?” And she said, “I am a woman of the Hebrews, and I have fled from them, for they will be given over to you to be consumed. And I am going before Holofernes the chief captain of your army, to declare words of truth; and I will show him a way, by which he can go and win all the hill country, without losing the body or life of any of his men.” Now when the men heard her words and beheld her countenance, they wondered greatly at her beauty and said to her, “You have saved your life because you have hurried to come down to the presence of our lord. Now therefore come to his tent, and some of us will conduct you, until they have delivered you to his hands. And when you stand before him, do not be afraid in your heart, but reveal to him what you have said, and he will treat you well.”
Then they chose from among them a hundred men to accompany her and her maid; and they brought her to the tent of Holofernes. Then a crowd began to assemble from throughout all the camp, for the news of her arrival had spread among the tents, and they gathered around her as she stood outside the tent of Holofernes, until they had told him about her. And they wondered at her beauty and admired the children of Israel because of her, and each one said to his neighbor, “Who could despise this people, who have such women among them? Surely it is not good for one man among them to be left, who, being set free, might deceive the whole earth.” And those who lay near Holofernes went out, and they and all his servants brought her into the tent. Now Holofernes rested on his bed under a canopy, which was woven with purple and gold and emeralds and precious stones. So they informed him about her; and he came out in front of his tent with silver lamps going before him. And when Judith was presented before him and his servants, they all marveled at the beauty of her countenance; and she fell down upon her face and did him reverence, and his servants lifted her up.
Then Holofernes said to her, “Woman, be of good comfort; fear not in your heart. For I have never hurt any who were willing to serve Nebuchadnezzar, the king of all the earth. Now therefore, if your people who dwell in the mountains had not treated me heedlessly, I would not have lifted up my spear against them, but they have done these things to themselves. But now tell me how you have fled from them and come to us; for you have reached safety, so be of good comfort; you will live this night and hereafter. For none will hurt you, but they will treat you well, as they do the servants of king Nebuchadnezzar my lord.”
Then Judith said to him, “Receive the words of your servant and permit your handmaid to speak in your presence, and I will declare no lie to my lord this night. And if you will follow the words of your handmaid, God will bring something perfectly to pass by you, and my lord will not fail in his purposes. As Nebuchadnezzar king of all the earth lives, and as his power lives, he has sent you for the upholding of every living thing; for not only men will serve him by you, but also the beasts of the field, and the cattle and the birds of the air, will live by your power under Nebuchadnezzar and all his house. For we have heard of your wisdom and your policies, and it is reported across all the earth, that you alone are excellent in all the kingdom, and mighty in knowledge, and wonderful in feats of war.
“Now as concerning the matter which Achior spoke about in your council, we have heard his words; for the men of Bethulia saved him, and he declared to them all that he had spoken to you. Therefore, O lord and governor, respect not his word, but store it in your heart, for it is true; for our nation will not be punished, nor can sword prevail against them, unless they sin against their God. And now, so that my lord will not be defeated and frustrated in his purpose, even death has now fallen upon them and their sin has overtaken them, and therefore they will provoke their God to anger whenever they do what is not right to be done. For their food stores fail them and their water supply is scant, and they have decided to lay hands on their cattle, and have resolved to consume all those things which God has forbidden them to eat by his laws. And they are resolved to use up the first fruits and the tenths of wine and oil, which they had sanctified and which are reserved for the priests who serve in Jerusalem before the face of our God, the things it is not lawful for any of the people so much as to touch with their hands. For they have sent an envoy to Jerusalem, because those who dwell there have also done the same, to bring them a license from the senate. Now when they bring them word, they will immediately do it, and they will be given to you to be destroyed the same day.
“Therefore I, your handmaid, knowing all this, have fled from their presence; and God has sent me to work things with you, things at which all the earth will be astonished, whosoever hears it. For your servant is religious and serves the God of heaven day and night. Therefore, my lord, I will remain with you now, and your servant will go out by night into the valley, and I will pray to God, and he will tell me when they have committed their sins. And I will return and reveal it to you. Then you will go forth with all your army, and there will be none among them who will withstand you. And I will lead you through the midst of Judea, until you come against Jerusalem, and I will set your throne in the midst thereof; and you will drive them as sheep which have no shepherd, and a dog will not so much as open his mouth at you; for these things were told to me according to my foreknowledge, and they were declared to me, and I am sent to tell you.”
Then her words pleased Holofernes and all his servants; and they marveled at her wisdom and said, “There is no other such woman from one end of the earth to the other, both for beauty of face and wisdom of words.” Likewise Holofernes said to her, “God has done well to send you before the sons of your people, so that strength might be in our hands and destruction be on those who regard my lord lightly. And now you are both beautiful in your countenance and clever in your words; surely if you do as you have spoken, your God will be my God, and you will dwell in the house of king Nebuchadnezzar and will be renowned throughout the whole earth.”
Then he commanded them to bring her in to where his plate was set; and he directed them to prepare for her from his own meats and that she should drink from his own wine. And Judith said, “I will not eat of it, lest I offend, but provision will be made for me from the things which I have brought.” Then Holofernes said to her, “If your provisions should fail, how should we give you the like? For there are none among us from your nation.” Then Judith said to him, “As your soul lives, my lord, your handmaid will not use up those things which I have before the Lord works by my hand the things he has determined.”
Then the servants of Holofernes brought her into the tent, and she slept until midnight, and she arose when it was toward the morning watch. And she sent to Holofernes, saying, “Let my lord now command that your handmaid may go forth to prayer.” Then Holofernes commanded his guard not to prevent her; thus she resided in the camp for three days, and went out in the night into the valley of Bethulia and washed herself in a spring of water by the camp. And when she came out, she beseeched the Lord God of Israel to direct her way in order to accomplish the raising up of the children of her people. So she came in clean and remained in the tent until she ate her meat in the evening.
And on the fourth day, Holofernes made a feast for his own servants only, and he called none of the officers to the banquet. Then he said to Bagoas the eunuch, who was in charge of all that he had, “Go now and persuade this Hebrew woman who is with you that she should come to us, and eat and drink with us. For, see, it will be a shame upon our person, if we let such a woman go without having had her company; for if we do not draw her to us, she will laugh at us in scorn.” Then Bagoas went from the presence of Holofernes, and he came to her and said, “Let not this fair gentlewoman fear to approach my lord and to be honored in his presence, and to drink wine and be merry with us, and to become this day like one of the daughters of the Assyrians, who serve in the house of Nebuchadnezzar.” Then Judith said to him, “Who am I now, that I should contradict my lord? Surely whatever pleases him I will do without hesitation, and it will be my joy until the day of my death.”
So she arose, and she decked herself out with her apparel and all her woman’s attire. And her maid went and laid soft skins on the ground for her opposite Holofernes, which she had received from Bagoas for her daily use, so that she might sit and eat upon them. Now when Judith came in and sat down with Holofernes, his heart was inflamed with her, and his mind was stirred up, and he greatly desired her company; for he had been waiting for sometime to deceive her, even from the day that he had first seen her. Then Holofernes said to her, “Drink now and be merry with us.” So Judith said, “I will drink now, my lord, because my life is exalted in me this day more than all the days since I was born.” Then she took and ate and drank before him the things which her maid had prepared. And Holofernes took great delight in her, and he drank more wine than he had drunk at any time in one day since he was born.
Now when evening had arrived, his servants hurried to depart, and Bagoas shut his tent from the outside and dismissed the waiters from the presence of his lord; and they went to their beds, for they were all weary because the feast had been long. And Judith was left alone in the tent with Holofernes lying by himself on his bed, for he was filled with wine. Now Judith had commanded her maid to stand outside her bedroom and to wait for her to go forth, as she did daily; for she said she would go forth to her prayers, and she spoke to Bagoas towards the same purpose.
So everyone left and no one was left in the bedroom, neither little nor great. Then Judith, standing by his bed, said in her heart: “O Lord God of all power, look at this time upon the works of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. For now is the time to help your inheritance and to execute your purposes for the destruction of the enemies who have risen against us.” Then she went to the pillar of the bed, which was at Holofernes’ head, and took down his broadsword from there. And she approached his bed, and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, “Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel, this day.” And she twice struck his neck with all her might, and she took his head away from him. And she tumbled his body down from the bed, and pulled down the canopy from the pillars; and, soon after, she went out and gave the head of Holofernes to her maid. And she put it in her bag of meat, so these two went together, according to their custom, to prayer; and when they passed the camp, they circled the valley and went up the mountain of Bethulia and came to its gates.
Then Judith said, from far off to the watchmen at the gate, “Open, open the gate now! God, our God, is with us to show his power yet in Jerusalem and his forces against the enemy, as he has truly done on this day!” Now when the men of her city heard her voice, they hurried down to the gate of their city and they called the elders of the city. And then they ran all together, both small and great, for it was surprising to them that she had returned. So they opened the gate and received them; and they made a fire for a light, and they stood all around them.
Then she said to them with a loud voice, “Praise, praise God, praise God, I say, for he has not taken away his mercy from the house of Israel, but has destroyed our enemies by my hands this night.” So she took the head out of the bag and showed it and said to them, “Behold the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the army of Assur, and behold the canopy where he had lain in his drunkenness; and the Lord has struck him by the hand of a woman. As the Lord lives, who has preserved me in the path that I took, my attractiveness has deceived him to his destruction, and yet he did not commit sin with me, to defile and shame me.” Then all the people were wonderfully astonished, and bowed themselves and worshipped God, and said with one accord, “Blessed are you, O our God, who has this day brought to nothing the enemies of your people!”
Then Uzziah said to her, “O daughter, blessed are you of the most high God above all the women upon the earth; and blessed is the Lord God, who has created the heavens and the earth, who guided you in cutting off the head of the chief of our enemies. Because of this, your resoluteness will not depart from the heart of men, who will remember the power of God for ever. And may God turn these things to your benefit as a perpetual praise, to assist you in good things because you have not withheld your life during the affliction of our nation, but have revenged our ruin, walking a straight path before our God.” And all the people said, “Amen! Amen!”
Then Judith said to them, “Hear me now, my brethren! Take this head and hang it on the highest place of your walls! And so, as soon as morning appears and the sun shines upon the earth, everyone must take his weapons and go forth, every valiant man out of the city, and with a captain set over them, as though you were going down into the field toward the watch of the Assyrians; but do not go down. Then they will take their amour and go into their camp and call for the captains of the army of Assur; and they will run to the tent of Holofernes, but will not find him; then fear will fall upon them, and they will flee before your face. So then you, and all who inhabit the coast of Israel, will pursue them and overthrow them as they go. But before you do these things, call Achior the Ammonite to me, so that he may see and know him who despised the house of Israel and who sent him to us as if to his death.”
Then they called Achior out of the house of Uzziah; and when he arrived and saw the head of Holofernes in a man’s hand in the assembly of the people, he fell down on his face and fainted. But when they had revived him, he fell at Judith’s feet and reverenced her and said, “Blessed are you in all the tents of Judah and in all nations, who when they hear your name will be astonished. Now therefore tell me all the things which you have done in these days.” Then Judith declared to him in the midst of the people all that she had done, from the day that she went forth until that hour when she spoke to them. And when she had finished speaking, the people shouted with a loud voice and made a joyful noise in their city. And when Achior had seen all that the God of Israel had done, he believed in God greatly; and he circumcised the flesh of his foreskin and was joined to the house of Israel unto this day.
And as soon as morning arose, they hung the head of Holofernes on the wall, and every man took his weapons, and they went forth by bands to the straits of the mountain. But when the Assyrians saw them, they sent word to their leaders, who went to their captains and tribunes, and to every one of their rulers. So they came to Holofernes’ tent, and said to him who had the charge of all his things, “Awaken our lord now, for the slaves have been so bold as to come down against us in battle, so that they may be utterly destroyed.”
Then Bagoas went in and knocked at the door of the tent; for he thought that he had slept with Judith. But, because no one answered, he opened it and went into the bedroom; and he found him cast upon the floor dead, and his head had been taken from him. Therefore he cried with a loud voice, with weeping and sighing and a mighty cry, and he tore his garments. After this, he went into the tent where Judith lodged, and when he didn’t find her, he dashed out to the people and cried, “These slaves have dealt treacherously; one woman of the Hebrews has brought shame on the house of king Nebuchadnezzar; for, behold, Holofernes lies on the ground without a head!” When the captains of the Assyrians’ army heard these words, they tore their coats, and their minds were exceptionally troubled; and there was a cry and a very great noise throughout the camp.
And when those who were in the tents heard, they were astonished at what had happened. And fear and trembling fell upon them, so that there was no man who dared to remain in the sight of his neighbor, but rushing out all together, they fled in every direction of the plain and of the hill country. Those who had camped in the mountains surrounding Bethulia also fled away. Then the children of Israel, every one who was a warrior among them, rushed out upon them.
Then Uzziah sent to Betomasthem and to Bebai and Chobai and Cola and to all the coasts of Israel, to declare all that had happened and to tell them that all should rush forth upon their enemies to destroy them. Now when the children of Israel heard it, they all fell upon them with one consent and slew them all the way to Chobai; and those who came from Jerusalem and from all the hill country did likewise, for men had told them what had happened in the camp of their enemies, and those who were in Galaad and in Galilee chased them with a great slaughter, until they were past Damascus and its borders. And the remnant who lived at Bethulia fell upon the camp of Assur and pillaged them, and they were greatly enriched. And the children of Israel who had returned from the slaughter took what remained; and the villages and the cities, which were in the mountains and on the plain, obtained many spoils, for their number was very great.
Then Joacim the high priest and the elders of the children of Israel who lived in Jerusalem came to behold the good things that God had done for Israel, and to see Judith and greet her. And when they came to her, they blessed her with one accord and said to her, “You are the exaltation of Jerusalem, you are the great glory of Israel, you are the great rejoicing of our nation. You have done all these things by your hand. You have done much good to Israel, and God is pleased with it; you will be blessed by the Almighty Lord for evermore.” And all the people said, “Amen!”
And the people despoiled the camp for the space of thirty days. And they gave the tent of Holofernes to Judith, and all his plates and beds and vessels and all his belongings; and she took it and laid it on her mule; and she prepared her cart and laid them on it. Then all the women of Israel ran together to see her, and they blessed her and made a dance among them for her; and she took branches in her hand and gave some also to the women who were with her. And they put a garland of olive upon her and on her maid who was with her; and she went before all the people in the dance, leading all the women; and all the men of Israel followed in their amour with garlands, and with songs in their mouths.
Then Judith began to sing this thanksgiving for all Israel, and all the people sang after her this song of praise. And Judith said,
Now as soon as they entered into Jerusalem, they worshipped the Lord; and as soon as the people were purified, they offered their burnt offerings and their free offerings and their gifts. Judith also dedicated all the belongings of Holofernes, which the people had given her, and she gave the canopy, which she had taken out of his bedroom, as a gift to the Lord. So the people continued feasting in Jerusalem before the sanctuary for the space of three months; and Judith remained with them.
After this time, every one returned to his own inheritance. And Judith went to Bethulia and remained in her own possession; and during her time she was held in honor throughout the country. And many desired her, but none knew her all the days of her life, after Manasseh her husband was dead and was gathered to his people. But she increased more and more in honor; and she grew old in her husband’s house, reaching the age of one hundred five years; and she made her woman servant free. So she died in Bethulia, and they buried her in the cave of her husband Manasseh. And the house of Israel lamented for her seven days. And before she died, she distributed her goods to all those who were the nearest kindred of Manasseh her husband and to those who were the nearest of her kindred. And there was no one who made the children of Israel afraid again during the days of Judith, nor for a long time after her death.
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