1 Judith was informed at the time of what had happened. She was the daughter of Merari son of Ox, son of Joseph, son of Oziel, son of Elkiah, son of Ananias, son of Gideon, son of Raphaim, son of Ahitub, son of Elijah, son of Hilkiah, son of Eliab, son of Nathanael, son of Salamiel, son of Sarasadai, son of Israel.
2 Her husband Manasseh, of her own tribe and family, had died at the time of the barley harvest.
3 He was supervising the men as they bound up the sheaves in the field when he caught sunstroke and had to take to his bed. He died in Bethulia, his home town, and was buried with his ancestors in the field that lies between Dothan and Balamon.
4 As a widow, Judith stayed inside her home for three years and four months.
5 She had had an upper room built for herself on the roof. She wore sackcloth next to the skin and dressed in widow's weeds.
6 She fasted every day of her widowhood except for the Sabbath eve, the Sabbath itself, the eve of New Moon, the feast of New Moon and the joyful festivals of the House of Israel.
7 Now she was very beautiful, charming to see. Her husband Manasseh had left her gold and silver, menservants and maidservants, herds and land; and she lived among all her possessions
8 without anyone finding a word to say against her, so devoutly did she fear God.
9 Hearing how the water shortage had demoralised the people and how they had complained bitterly to the headman of the town, and being also told what Uzziah had said to them and how he had given them his oath to surrender the town to the Assyrians in five days' time,
10 Judith immediately sent the serving-woman who ran her household to summon Chabris and Charmis, two elders of the town.
11 When these came in she said: 'Listen to me, leaders of the people of Bethulia. You were wrong to speak to the people as you did today and to bind yourself by oath, in defiance of God, to surrender the town to our enemies if the Lord did not come to your help within a set number of days.
12 Who are you, to put God to the test today, you, of all people, to set yourselves above him?
13 You put the Lord Almighty to the test! You do not understand anything, and never will.
14 If you cannot sound the depths of the human heart or unravel the arguments of the human mind, how can you fathom the God who made all things, or sound his mind or unravel his purposes? No, brothers, do not provoke the anger of the Lord our God.
15 Although it may not be his will to help us within the next five days, he has the power to protect us for as many days as he pleases, just as he has the power to destroy us before our enemies.
16 But you have no right to demand guarantees where the designs of the Lord our God are concerned. For God is not to be threatened as a human being is, nor is he, like a mere human, to be cajoled.
17 Rather, as we wait patiently for him to save, let us plead with him to help us. He will hear our voice if such is his good pleasure.
18 'And indeed of recent times and still today there is not one tribe of ours, or family, or village, or town that has worshipped gods made by human hand, as once was done,
19 which was the reason why our ancestors were delivered over to sword and sack, and perished in misery at the hands of our enemies.
20 We for our part acknowledge no other God but him; and so we may hope he will not look on us disdainfully or desert our nation.
21 'If indeed they capture us, as you expect, then all Judaea will be captured too, and our holy places plundered, and we shall answer with our blood for their profanation.
22 The slaughter of our brothers, the captivity of our country, the unpeopling of our heritage, will recoil on our own heads among the nations whose slaves we shall become, and our new masters will look down on us as an outrage and a disgrace;
23 for our surrender will not reinstate us in their favour; no, the Lord our God will make it a thing to be ashamed of.
24 So now, brothers, let us set an example to our brothers, since their lives depend on us, and the sanctuary -- Temple and altar -- rests on us.
25 'All this being so, let us rather give thanks to the Lord our God who, as he tested our ancestors, is now testing us.
26 Remember how he treated Abraham, all the ordeals of Isaac, all that happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he kept the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother.
27 For as these ordeals were intended by him to search their hearts, so now this is not vengeance that God is exacting on us, but a warning inflicted by the Lord on those who are near his heart.'
28 Uzziah replied, 'Everything you have just said comes from an honest heart and no one will contradict a word of it.
29 Not that today is the first time your wisdom has been displayed; from your earliest years all the people have known how shrewd you are and of how sound a heart.
30 But, parched with thirst, the people forced us to act as we had promised them and to bind ourselves by an inviolable oath.
31 You are a devout woman; pray to the Lord, then, to send us a downpour to fill our storage-wells, so that our faintness may pass.'
32 Judith replied, 'Listen to me, I intend to do something, the memory of which will be handed down to the children of our race from age to age.
33 Tonight you must be at the gate of the town. I shall make my way out with my attendant. Before the time fixed by you for surrendering the town to our enemies, the Lord will make use of me to rescue Israel.
34 You must not ask what I intend to do; I shall not tell you until I have done it.'
35 Uzziah and the chief men said, 'Go in peace. May the Lord show you a way to take revenge on our enemies.'
36 And leaving the upper room they went back to their posts.