Reading 141/341, Judith 13-16

...Judith

Now when the evening had come, his servants made haste to depart, and Bagoas shut his tent from without, 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, and Holofernes lying upon his bed, for he was filled with wine. Now Judith had commanded her maid to stand outside her bedchamber, and to wait for her coming back, as she did daily, for she said she would go forth to her prayers, and she spoke to Bagoas with the same purpose. So all went forth and none was left in the bedchamber, neither little nor great. Then Judith, standing by his bed, said in her heart, “O Lord God of all power, look graciously upon the works of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. For now is the time to help your inheritance, and to execute your enterprises to the destruction of the enemies who have risen against us.” Then she came to the bedpost at Holofernes' head, and took down his sword from there, and 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 struck twice upon his neck with all her might, and she took his head away from him. She tumbled his body down from the bed, and pulled down the canopy from the pillars, and after she went forth, and gave Holofernes’ head to her maid, and she put it in her bag of food, so they went together according to their custom to prayer, and when they passed the camp, they compassed the valley, and went up the mountain of Bethulia, and came to the gates.

Then Judith afar off said to the watchmen at the gate, “Open, open now the gate, God, our God, is with us, to show his power yet in Jerusalem, and his forces against the enemy, as he has done this day.” Now when the men of her city heard her voice, they made haste to go 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 unbelievable to them that she had come back, so they opened the gate, and received them, and made a fire for a light, and stood round about. 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 Assyria, and behold the canopy, in which lay in his drunkenness, and the Lord has smitten him by the hand of a woman. As the Lord lives, who has kept me in my way that I went, my countenance has deceived him to his destruction, and yet he has not committed 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 be you, O our God, which has this day brought to nought the enemies of your people.” Then Uzziah said to her, “O daughter, blessed are you by the most high God above all the women upon the earth, and blessed be the Lord God, who has created the heavens and the earth, who has directed you to the cutting off of the head of the chief of our enemies. For this your deed of hope shall not depart from the hearts of men who remember the power of God for ever. May God make these things be for you perpetual praise, to visit you with good things because you have not spared your life for the affliction of our nation, but have revenged our ruin, walking a straight way before our God.” And all the people said, “Amen! Amen!”

Then Judith said to them, “Hear me now, my brethren, and take this head, and hang it upon the highest place of your walls. As soon as the morning shall appear, and the sun shall come forth upon the earth, every one of you take his weapons, and go forth, every valiant man out of the city, and set a captain over them, as though you would go down into the field toward the watch of the Assyrians, but do not go down. Then they shall take their armor, and shall go into their camp, and raise up the captains of the army of Assyria, and shall run to the tent of Holofernes, but shall not find him, then fear shall fall upon them, and they shall flee before your face. So you, and all that inhabit the territory of Israel, shall pursue them, and overthrow them as they go. But before you do these things, call for me Achior the Ammonite, that he may see and know him who despised the house of Israel and sent him to us as to his death.” Then they called Achior out of the house of Uzziah, and when he had come and saw the head of Holofernes in a man's hand in the assembly of the people, he fell down on his face, and his spirit failed. But when they had recovered 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 hearing your name shall be astonished. Now therefore tell me all the things that 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 circumcised the flesh of his foreskin, and was joined to the house of Israel to this day.

As soon as the morning arose, they hung the head of Holofernes upon the wall, and every man took his weapons, and they went forth by bands to the passes of the mountain. But when the Assyrians saw them, they sent to their commanders, who then went to the generals and captains, and to all the other rulers. So they came to Holofernes' tent, and said to him who had charge of all his things, “Wake up our lord, for the slaves have been bold to come down against us to battle, that they may be utterly destroyed.” Then Bagoas went in and knocked at the door of his tent, for he thought that he was sleeping with Judith. But because no one answered, he opened it, and went into the bedchamber, and found him cast upon the floor dead, and his head taken from him. Therefore he cried with a loud voice, with weeping, and sighing, and a mighty cry, and rent his garments. After he went into the tent where Judith lodged, and when he found her not, he leaped out to the people, and cried, “These slaves have dealt treacherously. One woman of the Hebrews has brought shame upon the house of King Nebuchadnezzar, for, behold, Holofernes lies upon the ground without a head.” When the captains of the Assyrians' army heard these words, they rent their garments and their minds were greatly 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 the thing that had been done. Fear and trembling fell upon them, so that there was no man that dared remain in the sight of his neighbor, but, rushing out all together, they fled into every way of the plain, and of the hill country. Those also who had camped in the mountains round about Bethulia fled away.

Then the children of Israel, everyone who was a warrior among them, rushed out upon them. Then Uzziah sent to Betomasthem and Choba and Kona and to all the territories of Israel, to report the things that had been done, and 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 accord, and slew them all the way to Choba, likewise also those who came from Jerusalem, and from all the hill country, (for men had told them what had been done 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 the borders thereof. And the rest who dwelt at Bethulia, fell upon the camp of Assyria, and despoiled them, and were greatly enriched. And the children of Israel who returned from the slaughter had what remained, and the villages and the cities that were in the mountains and in the plain got much spoil, for the multitude was very great.

Then Joakim the high priest, and the elders of the children of Israel who dwelt in Jerusalem, came to behold the good things that God had showed to Israel, and to see Judith, and to salute 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. Blessed be you by the Almighty Lord forevermore.” And all the people said, “Amen!” And the people spoiled the camp for thirty days, and they gave to Judith Holofernes’ tent, and all his plates, and beds, and vessels, and all his things, and she took it and laid it on her mule, and prepared her carts, and put the things on them. Then all the women of Israel ran together to see her, and blessed her, and made a dance among them for her, and she took branches in her hand, and gave also to the women who were with her. And they put a garland of olive upon her and her maid that 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 armor with garlands, and with songs in their mouths.

Then Judith began to sing this thanksgiving in all Israel, and all the people sang after her this song of praise. And Judith said, “Begin a song to my God with timbrels. Sing to my Lord with cymbals. Make him a new psalm, exalt him, and call upon his name. For God breaks the battles, for among the camps in the midst of the people he has delivered me out of the hands of those who persecuted me. Assyria came out of the mountains from the north, he came with ten thousands of his army, the multitude of which stopped the torrents, and their horsemen have covered the hills. He bragged that he would burn up my borders, and kill my young men with the sword, and dash the sucking children against the ground, and make my infants like prey, and my virgins like spoil, but the Almighty Lord has disappointed them by the hand of a woman. For the mighty one did not fall by the young men, nor did the sons of the Titans smite him, nor high giants set upon him, but Judith the daughter of Merari weakened him with the beauty of her countenance. For she put off the garment of her widowhood for the exaltation of those that were oppressed in Israel, and anointed her face with ointment, and bound her hair in a diadem, and took a linen garment to deceive him. Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty took his mind prisoner, and the sword passed through his neck. The Persians quaked at her boldness, and the Medes were daunted at her hardiness. When my afflicted shouted for joy, and my weak ones cried aloud, they were astonished, and they were overthrown. The sons of the damsels have pierced them through, and wounded them as fugitives' children: they perished by the battle of the Lord. I will sing to the Lord a new song: O Lord, you are great and glorious, wonderful in strength, and invincible. Let all creatures serve you, for you spoke, and they were made, you sent forth your spirit, and it created them, and there is no one who can resist your voice. For the mountains shall be moved from their foundations with the waters, the rocks shall melt as wax at your presence, yet you are merciful to those who fear you. For all sacrifice is too little for a sweet savor to you, and all the fat is not sufficient for your burnt offering, but he that fears the Lord is great at all times. Woe to the nations that rise up against my kindred! The Lord Almighty will take vengeance upon them in the day of judgment, in putting fire and worms in their flesh, and they shall feel them, and weep for ever.”

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 possessions of Holofernes, which the people had given her, and gave the canopy, which she had taken out of his bedchamber, 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 everyone returned to their own inheritance, and Judith went to Bethulia, and remained in her own possession, and was in her time honorable in all the country. And many desired her, but no one knew her all the days of her life, after Manasseh her husband had died and was gathered to his people. But she increased more and more in honor, and grew old in her husband's house, being an hundred and five years old. She freed her maid. So she died in Bethulia, and they buried her in the cave of her husband Manasseh. And the house of Israel lamented her seven days, and before she died, she distributed her possessions to all those that were nearest of kin to Manasseh her husband, and to those who were the nearest of her kin. And there was no one who made the children of Israel afraid anymore in the days of Judith, nor a long time after her death.

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