December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- In the eighteenth year, on the twenty-second day of the first month, there was a discussion in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, about taking revenge on the whole world, as he had threatened.
- He summoned all his ministers and nobles, laid before them his secret plan, and urged the total destruction of those countries.
- They decided to do away with all those who had refused to comply with the order he had issued.
- When he had completed his plan, Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, summoned Holofernes, general in chief of his forces, second to himself in command, and said to him:
- "Thus says the great king, the lord of all the earth: Go forth from my presence, take with you men of proven valor, a hundred and twenty thousand infantry and twelve thousand cavalry,
- and proceed against all the land of the West, because they did not comply with the order I issued.
- 1 Tell them to have earth and water ready, for I will come against them in my wrath; I will cover all the land with the feet of my soldiers, to whom I will deliver them as spoils.
- Their slain shall fill their ravines and wadies, the swelling torrent shall be choked with their dead; 9 and I will deport them as exiles to the very ends of the earth.
- "You go before me and take possession of all their territories for me. If they surrender to you, guard them for me till the day of their punishment.
- As for those who resist, show them no quarter, but deliver them up to slaughter and plunder in each country you occupy.
- 2 For as I live, and by the strength of my kingdom, what I have spoken I will accomplish by my power.
- Do not disobey a single one of the orders of your lord; fulfill them exactly as I have commanded you, and do it without delay."
- So Holofernes left the presence of his lord, and summoned all the princes, and the generals and officers of the Assyrian army.
- He mustered a hundred and twenty thousand picked troops, as his lord had commanded, and twelve thousand mounted archers,
- and grouped them into a complete combat force.
- He took along a very large number of camels, asses, and mules for their baggage; innumerable sheep, cattle, and goats for their food supply;
- abundant provisions for each man, and much gold and silver from the royal palace.
- Then he and his whole army proceeded on their expedition in advance of King Nebuchadnezzar, to cover all the western region with their chariots and cavalry and regular infantry.
- A huge, irregular force, too many to count, like locusts or the dust of the earth, went along with them.
- After a three-day march from Nineveh, they reached the plain of Bectileth, and from Bectileth they next encamped near the mountains to the north of Upper Cilicia.
- From there Holofernes took his whole force, the infantry, cavalry, and chariots, and marched into the mountain region.
- 3 He devastated Put and Lud, and plundered all the Rassisites and the Ishmaelites on the border of the desert toward the south of Chaldea.
- Then, following the Euphrates, he went through Mesopotamia, and battered down every fortified city along the Wadi Abron, until he reached the sea.
- He seized the territory of Cilicia, and cut down everyone who resisted him. Then he proceeded to the southern borders of Japheth, toward Arabia.
- He surrounded all the Midianites, burned their tents, and plundered their sheepfolds.
- Descending to the plain of Damascus at the time of the wheat harvest, he set fire to all their fields, destroyed their flocks and herds, despoiled their cities, devastated their plains, and put all their youths to the sword.
- The fear and dread of him fell upon all the inhabitants of the coastland, upon those in Sidon and Tyre, and those who dwelt in Sur and Ocina, and the inhabitants of Jamnia. Those in Azotus and Ascalon also feared him greatly.
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1  Earth and water: in the Persian period, the offering of these to a conqueror was a symbolic gesture of unconditional surrender.
2  As I live: in the Old Testament, an oath proper to divinity; cf Deut 32:40. Nebuchadnezzar is making himself equal to God; see Judith 6:2. By my power: literally "by my hand." The hand of Nebuchadnezzar raised in opposition to God and to his people is the occasion for Judith's intervention by a woman's hand; cf Judith 9:9, 10; Isaiah 10:5-14.
3  Put and Lud: the same as the "Put and Lud" mentioned in Ezekiel 30:5 as allies of Egypt, and in Ezekiel 27:10 as supplying mercenary soldiers to Tyre. Here they seem inserted to embellish the narrative with assonance and prophetic associations rather than to indicate definite localities.
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