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.
7 He reconnoitred the slopes leading up to the town, located the water-points, seized them and posted pickets over them and returned to the main body.
8 The chieftains of the sons of Esau, all the leaders of the Moabites and the generals of the coastal district then came to him and said,
9 'If our master will be pleased to listen to us, his forces will not sustain a single wound.
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.
12 Stay in camp, keep all your troops there too, while your servants seize the spring which rises at the foot of the mountain,
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.
14 Hunger will waste them, with their wives and children, and before the sword can reach them they will already be lying in the streets outside their houses.
15 And you will make them pay dearly for their defiance and their refusal to meet you peaceably.'
16 Their words pleased Holofernes as well as all his officers, and he decided to do as they suggested.
17 Accordingly, a troop of Moabites moved forward with a further five thousand Assyrians. They penetrated the valley and seized the Israelites' waterpoints and springs.
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.
19 The Israelites called on the Lord their God, dispirited because the enemy had surrounded them and cut all line of retreat.
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.
22 Their little children pined away, the women and young men grew weak with thirst; they collapsed in the streets and gateways of the town; they had no strength left.
23 Young men, women, children, the whole people thronged clamouring round Uzziah and the chief men of the town, shouting in the presence of the assembled elders,
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.
26 Call them in at once; hand the whole town over to be sacked by Holofernes' men and all his army.
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.
28 By heaven and earth and by our God, the Lord of our fathers, who is punishing us for our sins and the sins of our ancestors, we implore you to take this course now, today.'
29 Bitter lamentations rose from the whole assembly, and they all cried loudly to the Lord God.
30 Then Uzziah spoke to them, 'Take heart, brothers! Let us hold out five days more. By then the Lord our God will take pity on us, for he will not desert us altogether.
31 At the end of this time, if no help is forthcoming, I shall do as you have said.'
32 With that he dismissed the people to their various quarters. The men went to man the walls and towers of the town, sending the women and children home. The town was full of despondency.