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Hebrew Tales

The Story of Judith

Chapter 7 (Full Text)

The extent of Holofernes’ troops frightens the Israelites. They Assyrians decide to block water sources and subject the Israelites to death by thirst. The Israelite leadership estimates they can endure up to five days hoping for divine help; then they must surrender.

[1] The next day Holofernes commanded all his army and all his people who had arrived to 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. [2] 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. [3] 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.

[4] 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.”

[5] 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. [6] But on the second day, Holofernes brought forth all his horsemen in the sight of the children of Israel, who were in Bethulia, [7] 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.

[8] 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,

[9] “Let our lord now hear a word, so that there will not be a loss among your army. [10] 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. [11] Now therefore, my lord, do not fight against them in battle array and not so much as one man among your people will perish.

[12] “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. [13] 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. [14] 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.

[15] “Thus will you render them an evil reward, because they rebelled and didn’t meet your person peaceably.”

[16] And these words pleased Holofernes and all his servants, and he decided to do as they had said.

[17] 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. [18] 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.

[19] 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.

[20] 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 [21] 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. [22] 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.

[23] 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,

[24] “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. [25] 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.

[26] “Now therefore call them to you and deliver the whole city for a plunder to the people of Holofernes and to all his army. [27] For it is better for us to be made plunder 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.

[28] “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.”

[29] 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. [30] 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. [31] And if these days pass and no help comes to us, I will do according to your word.”

[32] 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.

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This text has been reproduced from:

The World English Bible, a copyright-free modern English rendering of a 1901 translation that has now passed into the public domain.