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Hebrew Tales

The Story of Judith

Chapter 11 (Abridged Text)

Judith tells of the desperation of the Israelites, of their planned violation of their covenant with God, and of his consequent desertion of them. She explains God has sent her to Holofernes “to work things with you.” She will learn from God every night whether the Israelites have sinned enough for God to desert them.

[1] 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. [2] 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. [3] 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. [4] For none will hurt you, but they will treat you well, as they do the servants of king Nebuchadnezzar my lord.”

[5] 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. [6] 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.

[8] 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.

[9] “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. [10] 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.


[11] “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. [12] 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. [13] 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. [14] 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. [15] Now when they bring them word, they will immediately do it, and they will be given to you to be destroyed the same day.

[16] “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. [17] 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.

[18] “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.

[20] Then her words pleased Holofernes and all his servants; and they marveled at her wisdom and said, [21] ”There is no other such woman from one end of the earth to the other, both for beauty of face and wisdom of words.”

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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.

The XVth-century statue of Judith in her finery is from the choir fence in the Cathédral de Ste Cécile at Albi, France.