Judith , CHAPTER 7
The following day Holofernes ordered his whole army, and all the troops who had come to join him, to break camp and move against Bethulia, seize the passes into the hills, and make war on the Israelites.
That same day all their fighting men went into action. Their forces numbered a hundred and seventy thousand infantry and twelve thousand cavalry, not counting the baggage train or the men who accompanied it on foot, a very great army.
They encamped at the spring in the valley near Bethulia, and spread crosswise toward Dothan as far as Balbaim, and lengthwise from Bethulia to Cyamon, which faces Esdraelon.
When the Israelites saw how many there were, they were greatly distressed and said to one another, “Soon they will strip the whole land bare. Neither the high mountains nor the valleys nor the hills will bear their weight.”
Yet they all seized their weapons, lighted fires on their towers, and kept watch throughout the night.
On the second day Holofernes led out all his cavalry in the sight of the Israelites who were in Bethulia.
He reconnoitered the ascents to their city and located their springs of water; these he seized, stationing armed detachments around them, while he himself returned to his troops.
All the rulers of the Edomites, all the leaders of the Moabites, together with the generals of the coastal region, came to Holofernes and said:
“Master, please listen to what we have to say, that there may be no losses among your forces.
These Israelite troops do not rely on their spears, but on the height of the mountains where they dwell, for it is not easy to reach the summit of their mountains.
Therefore, master, do not attack them in regular formation, and not a single one of your troops will fall.
Stay in your camp, and spare every man of your force. Have some of your servants keep control of the spring of water that flows out at the base of the mountain,
for that is where the inhabitants of Bethulia get their water. Then thirst will destroy them, and they will surrender their city. Meanwhile, we and our troops will go up to the nearby hilltops and encamp there to guard against anyone’s leaving the city.
They and their wives and children will languish with hunger, and even before the sword strikes them they will be laid low in the streets where they live.
Thus you will render them dire punishment for their rebellion and their refusal to meet you peacefully.”
Their words pleased Holofernes and all his attendants, and he ordered their proposal to be carried out.
So the Ammonites moved camp, together with five thousand Assyrians. They encamped in the valley and held the water supply and the springs of the Israelites.
The Edomites and the Ammonites went up and encamped in the hill country opposite Dothan; and they sent some of their men to the southeast opposite Egrebel, near Chusi, which is on Wadi Mochmur. The rest of the Assyrian army was encamped in the plain, covering all the land. Their tents and equipment were spread out in profusion everywhere, and they formed a vast multitude.
The Israelites cried to the Lord, their God, for they were disheartened, since all their enemies had them surrounded, and there was no way of escaping from them.
The whole Assyrian army, infantry, chariots, and cavalry, kept them thus surrounded for thirty-four days. All the reservoirs of water failed the inhabitants of Bethulia,
and the cisterns ran dry, so that on no day did they have enough water to drink, for their drinking water was rationed.
Their children were listless, and the women and youths were fainting from thirst and were collapsing in the streets and gateways of the city, with no strength left in them.
So all the people, including youths, women, and children, went in a crowd to Uzziah and the rulers of the city. They cried out loudly and said before all the elders:
“May God judge between you and us! You have done us grave injustice in not making peace with the Assyrians.
There is no one to help us now! God has sold us into their hands by laying us prostrate before them in thirst and utter exhaustion.
So now, summon them and deliver the whole city as plunder to the troops of Holofernes and to all his forces;
we would be better off to become their prey. Although we would be made slaves, at least we would live, and not have to see our little ones dying before our eyes, and our wives and children breathing their last.
We adjure you by heaven and earth and by our God, the Lord of our ancestors, who is punishing us for our sins and the sins of our ancestors,* that this very day you do as we have proposed.”
All in the assembly with one accord broke into shrill wailing and cried loudly to the Lord their God.
But Uzziah said to them, “Courage, my brothers and sisters! Let us endure patiently five days more for the Lord our God to show mercy toward us; for God will not utterly forsake us.
But if these days pass and help does not come to us, I will do as you say.”
Then he dismissed the people. The men returned to their posts on the walls and towers of the city, the women and children went back to their homes. Throughout the city they were in great misery.