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

Chapter 13

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1When it grew late, Holophernes' servants made haste to withdraw, and Bagoas closed the tent from outside, shutting out the attendants from his master's presence, and they went off to their beds; the banquet had lasted so long that they were all exhausted. 2Judith was now alone in the tent, with Holophernes lying sprawled on his bed, dead drunk. 3Judith had told her maid to stand outside the sleeping apartment and wait for her to go out as she did on other days; she had said that she would be going out to pray, and had explained this to Bagoas also.

4When all had left and not a soul remained, Judith stood beside Holophernes' bed and prayed silently: ‘O Lord, God of all power, look favourably now on what I am doing to bring glory to Jerusalem, 5for this is the moment to come to the aid of your heritage and to prosper my plan for crushing the enemies who have attacked us.’ 6She went to the bed-rail beside Holophernes' head, reached down his sword, 7and drawing close to the bed she gripped him by the hair. ‘Now give me strength, O Lord, God of Israel,’ she said, 8and struck at his neck twice with all her might and cut off his head. 9She rolled the body off the bed and removed the mosquito-net from its posts; quickly she came out and gave Holophernes' head to her maid, 10who put it in the food-bag. Then the two of them went out together as they always did when they went to pray. They passed through the camp, and went round the valley and up the hill to Bethulia till they approached its gates.

11From a distance Judith called to the guards: ‘Open up! Open the gate! God, our God, is with us, still showing his strength in Israel and his might against our enemies. Today he has shown it!’ 12When the townspeople heard her voice, they hurried down to the gate and summoned the elders of the town. 13Everyone, high and low, came running, hardly able to believe that Judith had returned. They opened the gate, and welcomed in the two women. Then, kindling a fire to give light, they gathered round them. 14Judith raised her voice: ‘Praise God! O praise him!’ she cried. ‘Give praise to God who has not withdrawn his mercy from the house of Israel, but has crushed our enemies by my hand this very night!’ 15She took the head from the bag and showed it to them. ‘Look!’ she said. ‘The head of Holophernes, the Assyrian commander-in-chief! And here is the net under which he lay drunk! The Lord has struck him down by a woman's hand! 16And I swear by the Lord who has brought me safely along the way I have travelled, that, though my face lured him to his destruction, he committed no sin with me, and my honour is unblemished.’

17The people were all astounded at what she had done; and bowing in worship to God, they spoke with one voice: ‘Praise be to you, our God, who has this day humiliated the enemies of your people!’ 18Ozias addressed Judith: ‘Daughter, the blessing of God Most High rests on you more than on any other woman on earth; praise be to the Lord God who created heaven and earth; under his guidance you struck off the head of the leader of our enemies. 19As long as men commemorate the power of God, the sure hope which inspired you will never fade from their minds. 20May God make your deed redound to your honour for ever, and may he shower blessings on you! You risked your life for our nation when it was faced with humiliation. Boldly you went to meet the disaster that threatened us, and firmly you held to God's straight road.’ All the people responded, ‘Amen, Amen.’

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