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Newly returned from captivity in Assyria, the Israelites fear for their city of Jerusalem and for its temple. They prepare to block access routes in Bethulia and Betomestham [unidentified by archaeology] and pray for the Lord’s help.
 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 [Assyrian] 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 plunder 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.
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The World English Bible, a copyright-free modern English rendering of a 1901 translation that has now passed into the public domain.