81At that time, Judith heard about Uzziah's decision. She was the daughter of Merari, the granddaughter of Ox and the great-granddaughter of Joseph. Joseph's ancestors were Oziel, Elkiah, Ananias, Gideon, Raphaim, Ahitub, Elijah, Hilkiah, Eliab, Nathanael, Salamiel, Sarasadai, and Israel. 2Judith's husband Manasseh, who belonged to the same tribe and clan, had died during the barley harvest. 3He had got sunstroke while in the fields supervising the farm workers and later died in bed at home in Bethulia. He was buried in the family tomb in the field between Dothan and Balamon.
4For three years and four months, Judith had lived as a widow. 5
In her grief she built a little shelter on the roof of her house and lived there, wearing sackcloth. 6She fasted during that entire period except when fasting was forbidden: the day before the Sabbath and the Sabbath itself, the eve of the New Moon Festival and the Festival itself, and all the festivals and holidays observed by the people of Israel. 7Judith was a very beautiful woman. Her husband had left her gold and silver, servants and slaves, livestock and fields. She continued to supervise the estate, 8and no one ever said anything bad about Judith. She was a very religious woman.
9Judith heard how the people were complaining bitterly against Uzziah, now that the water shortage had broken their morale. She learnt that in answer to their complaints he had promised to surrender the town to the Assyrians after five days. 10Judith sent a slave, the woman who managed her business affairs, to invite Uzziah,8.10 Uzziah; some Greek manuscripts do not have this word. Chabris, and Charmis, the town officials, to her home.
11When the officials arrived, Judith said to them, “Please listen to me. You are the leaders of the people of Bethulia, but you were wrong to speak to the people as you did today. You should not have made a solemn promise before God that you would surrender the town to our enemies if the Lord did not come to our aid within a few days. 12
What right have you to put God to the test as you have done today? Who are you to put yourselves in God's place in dealing with human affairs? 13It is the Lord Almighty that you are putting to the test! Will you never learn? 14
There is no way that you can understand what is in the depths of a human heart or find out what a person is thinking. Yet you dare to read God's mind and interpret his thoughts! How can you claim to understand God, the Creator? No, my friends, you must stop arousing the anger of the Lord our God! 15If he decides not to come to our aid within five days, he still may rescue us at any time he chooses. Or he may let our enemies destroy us. 16But you must not lay down conditions for the Lord our God! Do you think that he is like one of us? Do you think you can bargain with him or force him to make a decision? 17No! Instead, we should ask God for his help and wait patiently for him to rescue us. If he wants to, he will answer our cry for help. 18We do not worship gods made with human hands. Not one of our clans, tribes, towns, or cities has ever done that, even though our ancestors used to do so. 19That is why God let their enemies kill them and take everything they had. It was a great defeat! 20But since we worship no other God but the Lord, we can hope that he will not reject us or any of our people.
21“If our town is taken by the enemy, the entire region of Judah will then fall, and our Temple in Jerusalem will be looted. And God will make us pay with our lives for allowing the Temple to be defiled. 22He will hold us responsible for the slaughter and captivity of our people and for the destruction of the land we have inherited. We will be despised and mocked by the people in those nations to which we will be taken as slaves. 23We are not going to win the favour of our enemies by surrendering to them now.8.23 We are not… now; or No good will ever come out of our slavery. If we do surrender, the Lord our God will see that we are put to shame.
24“No, my friends, we should set an example for our own people. Not only their lives, but the fate of the Temple and the altar depend on us. 25The Lord our God is putting us to the test, just as he tested our ancestors, and we should be thankful for that. 26
Remember how he put Abraham and Isaac to the test, and what happened to Jacob while he was working as a shepherd for his uncle Laban in Mesopotamia. 27God is not testing our loyalty as severely as he did theirs. God is not sending this punishment on us as revenge, but as a warning to us who worship him.”
28Then Uzziah answered Judith, “Everything you have said makes good sense, and no one can argue with it. 29This is not the first time you have shown wisdom. Ever since you were a child, all of us have recognized the soundness and maturity of your judgement. 30But our people are dying of thirst. They forced us to say what we did and to make a solemn promise, which we cannot break. 31So now, since you are a deeply religious woman, pray for our people; ask the Lord to send rain to fill our cisterns, so that we can get our strength back.”
32“All right,” Judith replied, “I am going to do something which our Jewish people will never forget. 33Tonight, the three of you must stand guard at the gate so that my slave woman and I can leave the town. And before the day comes on which you have promised to surrender, the Lord will use me to rescue the people of Israel. 34But you must not ask me what I am going to do; I will explain it to you when it is all over.”
35Uzziah and the other officials said to her, “You have our blessing. May the Lord our God guide you as you take revenge on our enemies.” Then they left Judith's roof-top shelter and returned to their posts.
91Then Judith put ashes on her head, opened her robe to reveal the sackcloth she was wearing under her clothes, and bowed down with her face to the floor. It was the time that the evening incense was being offered in the Temple in Jerusalem, and Judith prayed in a loud voice: 2
“O Lord, the God of my ancestor Simeon, remember how you armed Simeon with a sword to take revenge on those foreigners who seized Dinah, who was a virgin, tore off her clothes,9.2 Probable text clothes; Greek unclear. and defiled her; they stripped her naked and shamed her; they raped her and disgraced her, even though you had forbidden this. 3That is why you let their leaders be killed — put to death on the same bed where they had raped the girl.9.3 Probable text put to death… woman; Greek unclear. You destroyed them all, slaves, princes, and rulers on their thrones. 4You let their wives be carried off, their daughters taken captive, and their possessions plundered by the Israelites, your chosen people, who were eager to do your will. Dinah's brothers were furious because of this disgrace to their family, so they called on you for help.
“O my God, listen to my prayer, the prayer of a widow. 5Your hand guided all that happened then, and all that happened before and after. You have planned it all — what is happening now, and what is yet to be. Your plans have always been carried out. 6Whatever you want to be done is as good as done. You know in advance all that you will do and what decisions you will make. 7Now the Assyrians are stronger than ever; they take pride in their cavalry and their infantry. They rely on their weapons, but they do not know that you, O Lord, are a warrior who ends war. The Lord is your name. 8In your anger, use your power to shatter their mighty army. They plan to defile your Temple, where you are worshipped, and to hack off the corners of your altar with their swords. 9Look how proud and boastful they are! Pour out your fury upon them! I am only a widow, but give me the strength to carry out my plan. 10Use my deceitful words to strike them all dead, master and slave alike. Let a woman's strength break their pride. 11Your power does not depend on the size and strength of an army. You are a God who cares for the humble and helps the oppressed. You give support and protection to people who are weak and helpless; you save those who have lost hope. 12Now hear my prayer, O God of my ancestor Simeon, the God in whom Israel trusts, ruler of heaven and earth, creator of the rivers and the seas, king of all creation. Hear my prayer and 13
let my deceitful words wound and kill those who have planned such cruelty against your covenant and your holy Temple, against Mount Zion and the land you have given to your people. 14Make your whole nation and every tribe recognize that you are God, almighty and all-powerful, and that you alone protect the people of Israel!”
101When Judith had finished her prayer to the God of Israel, 2she stood up, called her slave woman, and went down into the house as she always did on Sabbaths and festival days. 3She took off her sackcloth and her widow's clothes, had a bath, and put on rich perfumes. She brushed her hair, tied a ribbon round it, and dressed herself in the fine clothes she used to wear on joyful occasions when her husband Manasseh was still alive. 4She put on sandals and all her finest jewellery: rings and earrings, and bracelets on her wrists and ankles. She made herself so beautiful that she was sure to attract the attention of any man who saw her. 5Judith gave her slave woman a leather bag of wine and a jar of oil to carry. She filled a bag with roasted barley, cakes of dried figs, and several loaves of bread baked according to Jewish food laws. She carefully wrapped all the food and dishes and gave them to her slave. 6Then the two women left the house and went to the gates of Bethulia, where they found Uzziah and the town officials, Chabris and Charmis, standing guard. 7When the men saw Judith after she had changed her clothes and put on make-up, they were struck by her beauty and said to her, 8“May the God of our ancestors bless you and make your plan successful, so that you may bring glory to Jerusalem and victory to Israel.”
Judith prayed 9and then said, “Order the gates to be opened for me. I am on my way to do what we were talking about.” Then they ordered the young men to open the gates for her, 10and Judith and her slave left the city. The men watched her as she went down the mountain into the valley, until she was out of sight.
11As the two women were walking through the valley, an Assyrian patrol met them. 12They arrested Judith and questioned her, “What is your nationality? Where did you come from, and where are you going?”
“I am a Hebrew,” she answered, “but I am running away from the Israelites because God is going to let you destroy them. 13I am on my way to see Holofernes, the general in command of your army, to give him some reliable information. I can show him how to advance into the mountains and take control of the entire region without a single casualty.”
14The men stared at her because she was so beautiful. They listened to her story and said, 15“You have saved your life by coming down here to see our general. Some of us will take you to his headquarters and present you to him. 16Do not be afraid of him. Just tell him what you have told us, and he will treat you well.” 17They assigned a hundred men to escort Judith and her slave to the headquarters of Holofernes.
18There was great commotion in the Assyrian camp as news of Judith's arrival spread from tent to tent. While she stood outside the tent of Holofernes waiting to be presented to him, many Assyrian soldiers came and stood round her. 19They were greatly impressed by her beauty and wondered what kind of people the Israelites were. “Who can feel contempt for people whose women are so beautiful?” they asked one another. “We had better kill all the men, or else these Jews will be able to charm the whole world.”
20Then Holofernes' bodyguard and his personal servants came out and led Judith into the tent. 21Holofernes was resting on his bed under a mosquito net woven of purple and gold thread and decorated with emeralds and other precious stones. 22When the men told him that Judith had arrived, he came to the outer part of the tent. Silver lamps were carried ahead of him. 23When Judith came towards him and his servants, they were all astonished at her beauty. She bowed down to the ground before Holofernes, but his servants helped her to her feet.