The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Judith
And now it was late; his attendants were fain to make for their beds, leaving Vagoa, the last of them, to shut the doors of the banqueting-room;
the wine had made drowsy men of them.
In the banqueting-room, Judith was now left alone,
save for Holofernes, that lay full length on his couch by the table, in drunken sleep.
Her maid she left at the door, to keep watch;
she herself, standing by the couch, wept silently, and silently moved her lips in prayer.
Lord God of Israel, she said, give me strength! Now guide these hands aright, and give Jerusalem the relief thou hast promised; now be the task performed, but for the hope of thy aid, undreamed of!
With that, she went to the head of the couch, and unfastened the scimitar that hung there;
unsheathed it, and caught the sleeping man by the hair; Lord God, she said, strengthen me now!
Twice the scimitar fell on his neck, and cut clean through it; down came the canopy from the pillars, down fell the headless body to the earth,
and ere long she was at the doors, giving the severed head to her maid-servant and bidding her thrust it away into the wallet she carried.
Then they went out, both of them, right through the camp, as if bound on their customary errand of prayer; but this time they took the winding path along the valley, right up to the city gates.
Far away rang the cry of Judith to the watchmen on the city walls, Open the gates! God is on our side. Open the gates! His power yet lives in Israel.
These, upon hearing her voice, ran to tell the elders of the city,
and all, high and low, went out to meet her; they had thought never to see her again.
There, by torch-light, they gathered round her, and she, mounting on to higher ground, bade them keep silence. Silence was made,
and thus Judith began, Praise the Lord our God; he does not forsake those who put their trust in him.
Through me, his handmaid, deliverance has come to Israel’s race, as he promised; through me, this night, the enemy of his people lies slain.
With that, she took Holofernes’ head out of the wallet where it lay hidden. Look upon this head, she cried, and know that the Assyrian army has lost its general. Look upon this, the canopy he lay under, in drunken sleep, when the Lord our God smote him, and by the hand of a woman.
And, as the Lord is a living God, well did his angel watch over me, thither going, there abiding, and thence returning. The Lord would not have his own handmaid stained with sin; he has brought me back to you inviolate, to glory in his triumph, my preservation, and your deliverance.
One and all, then, give thanks to the Lord; the Lord is gracious, his mercy endures for ever!
Thereupon all of them offered the Lord worship; and to her they said, With his own power the Lord has blessed thee, and by thy means has brought our enemies to nothing!
And Ozias, that was the Israelites’ commander, said to her, Blessing be thine, my daughter, from the Lord God, the most high, such as no other woman on earth can claim!
Blessed be the Lord, maker of heaven and earth, for sending thee out to wound the head of our arch-enemy.
Such high renown he has given thee this day, that the praise of thee shall never die on men’s lips, so long as they hold the Lord’s power in remembrance. Thy own life thou wouldst not prize, when thy countrymen were in need and great affliction; thou wouldst avert our ruin, with our God to speed thee.
And to that all the people said Amen.
Then Achior was summoned, and thus Judith greeted him: No credit hast thou lost, by averring that the God of Israel did not spare his enemies; by my hand, this night, he has cut down the chief of those who gave thee the lie.
Was it not Holofernes that defied the God of Israel, in his proud insolence, and threatened thyself with death? When Israel was conquered, thou too, he said, shouldst be put to the sword. To prove which was the truer prophet, here is his head.
Upon seeing the head of Holofernes, Achior was in such a great taking of fear that he fell to earth in a swoon.
Then, coming back to his senses and taking heart again, he did reverence, bowing low at her feet;
Wherever the sons of Jacob dwell, said he, God has made thy name a name of blessing; wherever thy renown reaches through the world, the God of Israel shall be glorified in the telling of it.
The Holy Bible