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Judith - Chapter 7
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1 The following day Holofernes issued orders to his whole army and to the whole host of auxiliaries who had joined him, to break camp and march on Bethulia, to occupy the mountain passes and so open the campaign against the Israelites.
2 The troops broke camp that same day. The actual fighting force numbered one hundred and twenty thousand infantry and twelve thousand cavalry, not to mention the baggage train with the vast number of men on foot concerned with that.
3 They penetrated the valley in the neighbourhood of Bethulia, near the spring, and deployed on a wide front from Dothan to Balbaim and, in depth, from Bethulia to Cyamon, which faces Esdraelon.
4 When the Israelites saw this horde, they were all appalled and said to each other, 'Now they will lick the whole country clean. Not even the loftiest peaks, the gorges or the hills will be able to stand the weight of them.'
5 Each man snatched up his arms; they lit beacons on their towers and spent the whole night on watch.
6 On the second day Holofernes deployed his entire cavalry in sight of the Israelites in Bethulia.
10 These Israelites do not rely so much on their spears as on the height of the mountains where they live. And admittedly it is not at all easy to scale these heights of theirs.
11 'This being the case, master, avoid engaging them in a pitched battle and then you will not lose a single man.
13 since that is what provides the population of Bethulia with their water supply. Thirst will then force them to surrender their town. Meanwhile, we and our men will climb the nearest mountain tops and form advance posts there to prevent anyone from leaving the town.
15 And you will make them pay dearly for their defiance and their refusal to meet you peaceably.'
18 Meanwhile the Edomites and Ammonites went and took up positions in the highlands opposite Dothan, sending some of their men to the south-east opposite Egrebel near Chous on the Wadi Mochmur. The rest of the Assyrian army took up positions in the plain, covering every inch of the ground; their tents and equipment made an immense encampment, so vast were their numbers.
20 For thirty-four days the Assyrian army, infantry, chariots, cavalrymen, had them surrounded. Every water-jar the inhabitants of Bethulia had was empty,
21 their storage-wells were drying up; on no day could a man drink his fill, since their water was rationed.
24 'May God be judge between you and us! For you have done us great harm, by not suing for peace with the Assyrians.
25 And now there is no one to help us. God has delivered us into their hands to be prostrated before them in thirst and utter helplessness.
27 After all, we should be much better off as their booty than we are now; no doubt we shall be enslaved, but at least we shall be alive and not see our little ones dying before our eyes or our wives and children perishing.
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Responsorial Psalm, Psalms 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
Gospel, Mark 12:28-34
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