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Judith - Chapter 4

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1 When the Israelites living in Judaea heard how Holofernes, general-in-chief of Nebuchadnezzar king of the Assyrians, had treated the various nations, plundering their temples and destroying them,

2 they were thoroughly alarmed at his approach and trembled for Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord their God.

3 They had returned from captivity only a short time before, and the resettlement of the people in Judaea and the reconsecration of the sacred furnishings, of the altar, and of the Temple, which had been profaned, were of recent date.

4 They therefore alerted the whole of Samaria, Kona, Beth-Horon, Belmain, Jericho, Choba, Aesora and the Salem valley.

5 They occupied the summits of the highest mountains and fortified the villages on them; they laid in supplies for the coming war, as the fields had just been harvested.

6 Joakim the high priest, resident in Jerusalem at the time, wrote to the inhabitants of Bethulia and of Betomesthaim, two towns facing Esdraelon, towards the plain of Dothan.

7 He ordered them to occupy the mountain passes, the only means of access to Judaea, for there it would be easy for them to halt an attacking force, the narrowness of the approach not allowing men to advance more than two abreast.

8 The Israelites carried out the orders of Joakim the high priest and of the people's Council of Elders in session at Jerusalem.

9 All the men of Israel cried most fervently to God and humbled themselves before him.

10 They, their wives, their children, their cattle, all their resident aliens, hired or slave, wrapped sackcloth round their loins.

11 All the Israelites in Jerusalem, including women and children, lay prostrate in front of the Temple, and with ashes on their heads stretched out their hands before the Lord.

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12 They draped the altar itself in sackcloth and fervently joined together in begging the God of Israel not to let their children be carried off, their wives distributed as booty, the towns of their heritage destroyed, the Temple profaned and desecrated for the heathen to gloat over.

13 The Lord heard them and looked kindly on their distress. The people fasted for many days throughout Judaea as well as in Jerusalem before the sanctuary of the Lord Almighty.

14 Joakim the high priest and all who stood before the Lord, the Lord's priests and ministers, wore sackcloth round their loins as they offered the perpetual burnt offering and the votive and voluntary offerings of the people.

15 With ashes on their turbans they earnestly called on the Lord to look kindly on the House of Israel.

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