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The Bible Story Part 185

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{92}

And she worshiped G.o.d, and said to them, "Command that they open to me the gate of the city, and I will go forth to accomplish the things whereof ye spoke with me." And they commanded the young men to open unto her, as she had spoken: and they did so.

And Judith went out, she, and her handmaid with her; and the men of the city looked after her, until she was gone down the mountain, until she had pa.s.sed the valley, and they could see her no more. And they went straight onward in the valley: and the outpost of the a.s.syrians met her; and they took her, and asked her, "Of what people art thou?

and whence comest thou? and whither goest thou?"

And she said, "I am a daughter of the Hebrews, and I flee away from their presence; because they are about to be given you to be consumed: and I am coming into the presence of Holofernes the chief captain of your host, to declare words of truth; and I will show him a way, whereby he shall go, and win all the hill country, without losing one of his men."

Now when the men heard her words, and beheld her countenance, they wondered greatly at her beauty, and they said to her, "Thou hast saved thy life, in that thou hast hasted to come down to the presence of our lord: and now come to his tent, and some of us shall conduct thee, until they shall deliver thee into his hands. But when thou standest before him, be not afraid in thine heart, but declare unto him according to thy words; and he will treat thee well." And they chose out of them a hundred men, {93} and appointed them to accompany her and her maid; and they brought them to the tent of Holofernes.

And there was a concourse throughout all the camp, for her coming was noised among the tents; and they came and gathered about, as she stood without the tent of Holofernes, until they told him of her. And they marveled at her beauty, and marveled at the children of Israel because of her, and each one said to his neighbor, "Who shall despise this people, that have among them such women? for it is not good that one man of them be left, seeing that, if they are let go, they shall be able to deceive the whole earth."

And they that lay near Holofernes, and all his servants, went forth and brought her into the tent. And Holofernes was resting upon his bed under the canopy, which was woven with purple and gold and emeralds and precious stones. And they told him of her; and he came forth into the s.p.a.ce before his tent, with silver lamps going before him. But when Judith was come before him and his servants, they all marveled at the beauty of her countenance; and she fell down upon her face, and did reverence unto him: and his servants raised her up.

And Holofernes said to her, "Woman, be of good comfort, fear not in thy heart: for I never hurt any that hath chosen to serve Nebuchadnezzar, the king of all the earth. And now, if thy people that dwelleth in the hill country had not set light by me, I would not have lifted up my spear against them: but they have done these things to themselves. And now tell me wherefore thou didst flee {94} from them and earnest unto us: for thou art come to save thyself; be of good comfort, thou shalt live this night, and hereafter: for there is none that shall wrong thee, but all shall treat thee well, as is done unto the servants of King Nebuchadnezzar my lord."

And Judith said to him, "Receive the words of thy servant, and let thy handmaid speak in thy presence, and I will declare no lie to my lord this night. And if thou shalt follow the words of thy handmaid, G.o.d shall bring the thing to pa.s.s perfectly with thee; and my lord shall not fail of his purposes. As Nebuchadnezzar king of all the earth liveth, and as his power liveth, who hath sent thee for the preservation of every living thing, not only do men serve him by thee, but also the beasts of the field and the cattle and the birds of the heaven shall live through thy strength, in the time of Nebuchadnezzar and of all his house. For we have heard of thy wisdom and the subtle devices of thy soul, and it hath been reported in all the earth, that thou only art brave in all the kingdom, and mighty in knowledge, and wonderful in feats of war.

"And now as concerning the matter: our race shall not be punished, neither shall the sword prevail against them, except they sin against their G.o.d. And now, that my lord be not defeated and his purpose frustrated, and that death may fall upon them, their sin hath overtaken them, wherewith they shall provoke their G.o.d to anger, whensoever they shall do wickedness. Since their victuals failed them, and all their water was scant, they took counsel to lay hands upon their cattle, and determined to consume all {95} those things, which G.o.d charged them by his laws that they should not eat: and they are resolved to spend the first fruits of the corn, and the tenths of the wine and the oil, which they had sanctified, and reserved for the priests that stand before the face of our G.o.d in Jerusalem; the which things it is not lawful for any of the people so much as to touch with their hands.

"Wherefore I thy servant, knowing all this, fled away from their presence; and G.o.d sent me to work things with thee, whereat all the earth shall be astonished, even as many as shall hear it. For thy servant is religious, and serveth the G.o.d of heaven day and night: and now, my lord, I will abide with thee, and thy servant will go forth by night into the valley, and I will pray to G.o.d, and he shall tell me when they have committed their sins: and I will come and show it also to thee; and thou shalt go forth with all thy host, and there shall be none of them that shall resist thee. And I will lead thee through the midst of Judaea, until thou comest over against Jerusalem; and I will set thy seat in the midst thereof; and thou shalt drive them as sheep that have no shepherd, and a dog shall not so much as open his mouth before thee: for these things were told me according to my foreknowledge, and were declared unto me, and I was sent to tell thee."

And her words were pleasing in the sight of Holofernes and of all his servants; and they marveled at her wisdom, and said, "There is not such a woman from one end of the earth to the other, for beauty of face, and wisdom of words."

{96}

And Holofernes said to her, "G.o.d did well to send thee before the people, that might should be in our hands, and destruction among them that lightly regarded my lord. And now thou art beautiful in thy countenance, and wise in thy words: for if thou shalt do as thou hast spoken, thy G.o.d shall be my G.o.d, and thou shalt dwell in the house of King Nebuchadnezzar, and shalt be renowned through the whole earth."

And he commanded to bring her in where his silver vessels were set, and bade that they should prepare for her of his own meats, and that she should drink of his own wine. And Judith said, "I will not eat thereof, lest there be an offense: but provision shall be made for me of the things that are come with me."

And Holofernes said to her, "But if thy provisions should fail, whence shall we be able to give thee the like? for there is none of thy race with us."

And Judith said to him, "As thy soul liveth, my lord, thy servant shall not spend those things that be with me, until the Lord work by my hand the things that he hath determined."

And the servants of Holofernes brought her into the tent, and she slept till midnight, and she rose up toward the morning watch, and sent to Holofernes, saying, "Let my lord now command that they suffer thy servant to go forth to prayer."

And Holofernes commanded his guards that they should not stay her: and she abode in the camp three days, and went out every night into the valley of Bethulia. {97} and washed herself at the fountain of water in the camp. And when she came up, she besought the Lord G.o.d of Israel to direct her way to the raising up of the children of his people. And she came in, and remained in the tent, until she took her food toward evening.

_Holofernes Makes a Feast_.

And it came to pa.s.s on the fourth day, Holofernes made a feast to his own servants only, and called none of the officers to the banquet. And he said to his officer who had charge over all that he had, "Go now, and persuade this Hebrew woman which is with thee, that she come to us, and eat and drink with us."

And the officer went from the presence of Holofernes, and came in to her, and said, "Let not this fair damsel fear to come to my lord, and to be honored in his presence, and to drink wine and be merry with us, and to be made this day as one of the daughters of the children of a.s.shur, which serve in the house of Nebuchadnezzar."

And Judith said to him, "And who am I, that I should deny my lord? for whatsoever shall be pleasing in his eyes I will do speedily, and this shall be my joy unto the day of my death."

And she arose, and decked herself with her apparel and all her woman's attire; and her servant went and laid rugs of soft skins on the ground for her over against Holofernes, which she had received of the officer for her daily use, that she might sit and eat upon them. And {98} Judith came in and sat down, and Holofernes' heart was ravished with her, and his soul was moved, and he desired exceedingly her company.

And Holofernes said to her, "Drink now, and be merry with us."

And Judith said, "I will drink now, my lord, because my life is magnified in me this day more than all the days since I was born."

And she ate and drank before him what her servant had prepared. And Holofernes took great delight in her, and drank exceedingly much wine, more than he had drunk at any time in one day since he was born.

But when the evening was come, his servants made haste to depart, and his officer shut the tent without, and dismissed them that waited from the presence of his lord; and they went away to their beds: for they were all weary, because the feast had been long. But Judith was left alone in the tent, and Holofernes lying along upon his bed: for he was drunk with wine. And Judith had commanded her servant to stand without her bedchamber, and wait for her coming forth, as she did daily: for she said she would go forth to her prayer; and she spoke to the officer according to the same words.

_Judith Kills the Great Captain_.

And all went away from her presence, and none was left in the bedchamber, neither small nor great. And Judith, standing by his bed, said in her heart, "O Lord G.o.d of all power, look in this hour upon the works of my {99} hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. For now is the time to help thine inheritance, and to do the thing that I have purposed to the destruction of the enemies which are risen up against us."

And she came to the rail of the bed, which was at Holofernes' head, and took down his scimitar from thence; and she drew near unto the bed, and took hold of the hair of his head, and said, "Strengthen me, O Lord G.o.d of Israel, this day."

And she smote twice upon his neck with all her might, and took away his head from him, and tumbled his body down from the bed, and took down the canopy from the pillars; and after a little while she went forth, and gave Holofernes' head to her maid; and she put it in her bag of victuals: and they two went forth together unto prayer, according to their custom: and they pa.s.sed through the camp, and the valley, and went up to the mountain of Bethulia, and came to the gates thereof.

And Judith said afar off to the watchmen at the gates, "Open, open now the gate: G.o.d is with us, even our G.o.d, to shew his power yet in Israel, and his might against the enemy, as he hath done even this day."

And it came to pa.s.s, when the men of her city heard her voice, they made haste to go down to the gate of their city, and they called together the elders of the city. And they ran all together, both small and great, for it was strange to them that she was come: and they opened the gate, and received them, making a fire to give light, and gathered them round about. And she said to them {100} with a loud voice, "Praise G.o.d, praise him: praise G.o.d, who hath not taken away his mercy from the house of Israel, but hath destroyed our enemies by my hand this night."

And she took forth the head out of the bag, and shewed it, and said to them, "Behold, the head of Holofernes, the chief captain of the host of a.s.shur, and behold, the canopy, wherein he did lie in his drunkenness; and the Lord smote him by the hand of a woman. And as the Lord liveth, who preserved me in my way that I went, my countenance deceived him to his destruction."

And all the people were exceedingly amazed, and bowed themselves, and worshiped G.o.d, and said with one accord, "Blessed art thou, O our G.o.d, who hast this day brought to nought the enemies of thy people."

And Ozias said to her, "Blessed art thou, daughter, in the sight of the Most High G.o.d, above all the women upon the earth; and blessed is the Lord G.o.d, who created the heavens and the earth, who directed thee to the smiting of the head of the prince of our enemies. For thy hope shall not depart from the heart of men that remember the strength of G.o.d for ever. And G.o.d turn these things to thee for a perpetual praise, to visit thee with good things, because thou didst not spare thy life by reason of the affliction of our race, but didst avenge our fall, walking a straight way before our G.o.d." And all the people said, "Amen! Amen!"

{101}{102}

[Ill.u.s.tration]

Pa.s.s OF UPPER BETH-HORON FROM THE SOUTH, THE SCENE OF MANY HEBRON VICTORIES

Copyright by Underwood & Underwood and used by special permission

Upper and lower Beth-horon are in the northernmost of the three gorges which break through the steep wall of the western front of the central ranges of Palestine. A path leads up the ravine to lower Beth-horon, which stands on a ridge about 1,240 feet above the sea.

Mounting a long and steep ascent, rocky and rough, but with the rock in places cut into steps, the traveler after an hour's climb reaches upper Beth-horon, which stands 1,730 feet above the sea, on a mountain spur with a deep valley both to north and south. The village is small, but exhibits traces of ancient walls and foundations, and to the east of it is a reservoir, apparently of great antiquity.

So situated, the Beth-horons could not fail to be connected with the march and retreat of armies and often hosts swarmed up this avenue or swept down it in flight. More than one memorable battle takes its name from Beth-horon. Thrice the two towns were fortified, by Solomon, by the Syrian general Bacchides, and by the Jews against Holofernes. It was by Beth-horon that Certius Gallus advanced in the first onset of the Roman armies against Jerusalem, and down its gorge he was driven in rout by the insurgent Jews. And Beth-horon saw the first Crusaders march to Jerusalem; and saw Richard, the third Crusader, in vain try to force a pa.s.sage by the same route.

[End ill.u.s.tration]

{103}

And Judith said to them, "Hear me now, my brethren, and take this head, and hang it upon the battlement of your wall. And it shall be, so soon as the morning shall appear, and the sun shall come forth upon the earth, ye shall take up everyone his weapons of war, and go forth every valiant man of you out of the city, and ye shall set a captain over them, as though ye would go down to the plain toward the outposts of the children of a.s.shur; and ye shall not go down. And these shall take up their armor, and shall go into their camp, and rouse up the captains of the host of a.s.shur, and they shall run together to the tent of Holofernes, and they shall not find him: and fear shall fall upon them, and they shall flee before your face. And ye, and all that inhabit every region of Israel, shall pursue them and overthrow them as they go."

_Israel's Victory_.

And as soon as the morning arose, they hung the head of Holofernes upon the wall, and every man took up his weapons, and they went forth by companies unto the pa.s.ses of the mountain. But when the children of a.s.shur saw them, they sent hither and thither to their leaders. And they came to Holofernes' tent, and said to him that was over all that he had, "Waken now our lord: for the slaves have been bold to come down against us to battle, that they may be utterly destroyed."

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The Bible Story Part 185 summary

You're reading The Bible Story. This manga has been translated by Updating. Author(s): Newton Marshall Hall and Irving Francis Wood. Already has 231 views.

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