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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 4

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1A FULL report of the measures undertaken by Holophernes, King Nebuchadnezzar's commander-in-chief, how he had despoiled all the temples of the nations and razed them to the ground, reached the ears of the Israelites living in Judaea. 2His approach filled them with terror, and they trembled for the fate of Jerusalem and the sanctuary of the Lord their God. 3They had just returned from captivity, and only recently had all the people been reunited in Judaea, and the sacred vessels, the altar, and the temple been sanctified after their desecration. 4Accordingly they sent out a warning to the whole of Samaria, Cona, Beth-horon, Belmain and Jericho, Choba and Aesora, and the valley of Salem; 5the tops of all the high hills were occupied, the hill villages fortified, and stores of food from the newly harvested fields laid up in preparation for war. 6Joakim, high priest in Jerusalem at that time, wrote to the people of Bethulia and Bethomesthaim, which is opposite Esdraelon facing the plain near Dothan, 7directing them to hold the passes into the hill-country, because they gave access to Judaea; as the approaches were wide enough for only two men at most, it was easy to prevent the passage of an invader.

8The Israelites complied with the orders issued by Joakim the high priest and by the senate of all Israel in Jerusalem. 9They all cried to God with great fervour, fasting and humbling themselves; 10they put on sackcloth—they, their wives and children, their livestock, and every resident foreigner, hired labourer, and slave. 11In Jerusalem the Israelites, men, women, and children, all prostrated themselves in front of the sanctuary, and, with ashes on their heads, spread out their sackcloth before the Lord. They draped the altar in sackcloth, 12and with one voice they fervently implored the God of Israel not to allow their infants to be captured, their wives carried off, their ancestral cities destroyed, and the temple desecrated and dishonoured, so giving the heathen cause for gloating. 13The Lord heard their prayer and took pity on their distress.

For many days the entire population of Judaea and Jerusalem fasted before the temple of the Lord Almighty. 14Joakim the high priest and the priests who stood in the presence of the Lord, and all who served him, wore sackcloth when they offered the regular whole-offering and the votive and freewill-offerings of the people; 15they put ashes on their turbans, and they cried with all their might to the Lord to look favourably on the whole house of Israel.

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