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

Chapter 8

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1 NEWS of what was happening reached Judith, daughter of Merari who was the son of Ox, son of Joseph, son of Oziel, son of Helkias, son of Ananias, son of Gideon, son of Raphaim, son of Ahitob, son of Elias, son of Chelkias, son of Eliab, son of Nathanael, son of Salamiel, son of Sarasadae, son of Israel. 2Her husband Manasses, who belonged to the same tribe and clan as she did, had died during the barley harvest. 3While he was out in the fields supervising the binding of the sheaves, he suffered sunstroke; he took to his bed and died in Bethulia his native town and was buried beside his ancestors in the field between Dothan and Balamon. 4For three years and four months Judith had lived in her house as a widow; 5she had a shelter erected on the roof, and she put on sackcloth and always wore mourning. 6After she became a widow she used to fast every day except sabbath eve, the sabbath itself, the eve of the new moon, the day of the new moon, and the Israelite feasts and days of public rejoicing. 7She was beautiful and very attractive. Manasses had left her gold and silver, slaves and slave-girls, livestock and land, and she lived on her property. 8No one had a word to say against her, for she was a deeply religious woman.

9When Judith heard how the people, demoralized by the shortage of water, had made shameful demands on Ozias the magistrate, and how he had given them his oath to surrender the town to the Assyrians at the end of five days, 10she sent her maid who had charge of everything she owned to ask Ozias, Chabris, and Charmis, the elders of the town, to come and see her.

11On their arrival she said: ‘Listen to me, magistrates of Bethulia. It was wrong of you to speak as you did to the people today, binding yourselves and God in a solemn contract to surrender the town to our enemies unless the Lord sends relief within so many days. 12Who are you to put God to the test at a time like this, and to usurp his role in human affairs? 13It is the Lord Almighty you are now putting to the proof! Will you never understand? 14You are unable to plumb the depths of the human heart or grasp the way the mind works; how then can you fathom the Maker of mortal beings? How can you know God's mind and understand his thought? No, my friends, do not provoke the anger of the Lord our God. 15For even if he does not choose to help us within the five days, he has the power to shield us at any time he pleases, or equally he can let us be destroyed by our enemies. 16It is not for you to impose conditions on the Lord our God, because God will neither yield to threats nor be bargained with like a mere mortal. 17So while we wait for the deliverance which is his to give, let us appeal to him for help. If he sees fit, he will hear us.

18‘At the present day there is not one of our tribes or clans, districts or towns, that worships man-made gods, or has done so within living memory. This did take place in days gone by, 19and that was why our forefathers were abandoned to slaughter and pillage, and great was their downfall at the hand of the enemy. 20We, however, acknowledge no god but the Lord, and so have confidence that he will not spurn us or any of our nation. 21If we should lose Bethulia, then all Judaea will be lost; the temple will be sacked, and God will hold us responsible for its desecration. 22The slaughter and deportation of our fellow-countrymen and the devastation of our ancestral land will bring his judgement on our heads, wherever among the Gentiles we become slaves. Our masters will regard us with disgust and contempt. 23There will be no happy ending to our servitude, no return to favour; the Lord our God will use it to dishonour us.

24‘My friends, let us now set an example to our fellow-countrymen, for their lives depend on us, and with us rests the fate of the temple, its precincts, and the altar. 25Despite our peril let us give thanks to the Lord our God, for he is putting us to the test as he did our forefathers. 26Remember how he dealt with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and what happened to Jacob in Syrian Mesopotamia while he was working as a shepherd for his uncle Laban. 27The Lord is subjecting us to the same fiery ordeal by which he tested their loyalty, not taking vengeance on us: it is as a warning that he scourges his worshippers.’

28Ozias replied, ‘You have spoken from the wisdom of your heart, and what you say no one can deny. 29This is not the first time you have given proof of your wisdom; throughout your life we have all recognized your good sense and sound judgement. 30But the people were desperate with thirst, and drove us to make this promise and bind ourselves by an oath we may not break. 31You are a devout woman; pray for us now and ask the Lord to send the rain to fill our cisterns, and then we shall be faint no more.’

32‘Listen to me,’ said Judith. ‘I am going to do something which will be remembered among our countrymen for all generations. 33Be at the gate tonight; I shall go out with my maid and, before the day on which you have promised to surrender the town to our enemies, the Lord will deliver Israel by my hand. 34But do not question me about my plan; I shall tell you nothing until I have accomplished what I mean to do.’ 35Ozias and the magistrates said to her, ‘Go with our blessing, and may you have the guidance of the Lord God as you take vengeance on our enemies.’ 36They then left her roof-shelter and returned to their posts.

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