The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Book of Judith
When news reached Holofernes, the Assyrian commander, that the Israelites were for offering resistance, and had secured the mountain passes,
he broke out into a great fury of indignation. He summoned all the chiefs of Moab and Ammon to his presence;
What folk are these, he asked, that would hold the mountain-heights? Are their cities so prosperous or so well defended, are they so brave or so numerous, have they a commander so skilled in war,
that they alone defy us, and will not come out to meet and welcome us, like the other nations around them?
It was Achior, chief paramount of the Ammonites, that answered him. My lord, said he, if thou wilt hear me out, I will tell the whole truth to thy face, about these mountain-folk; never a false word shalt thou hear from me.
They come of Chaldaean stock,
but they made their abode in Mesopotamia, because they had no mind to worship the old gods of Chaldaea;
gods a many their fathers’ worship owned, but they forsook it,
to worship one God only, the God of heaven. He it was bade them remove thence, and dwell in Charan. At a time when famine overspread the world, they took refuge in Egypt; and there, when four hundred years had passed,✻ they had grown so numerous that there was no counting the muster of them.
The king of Egypt oppressed them, forcing them to make bricks of clay and build cities for him; so they cried out to this Lord of theirs, and he smote the whole land of Egypt with plagues of every sort,
till at last the Egyptians were fain to be rid of them. But not for long; plagued no more, they tried to capture the men of Israel and make slaves of them anew.
To these, as they fled, the God of heaven opened a path through the sea, whose waves stood firm as a wall to right and left while they marched across its floor dry-shod;
and when a great army from Egypt sought to follow them, it was overwhelmed in those waters, so that never a man escaped to tell his children the story.
The Red Sea once passed, they took for their own the desert country about Sinai, that never yet gave man a home, gave wanderer a resting-place;
there from brackish fountains fresh water sprang, there, for forty years, heaven itself sent them nourishment.
Go where they would, without bow or arrow, shield or spear, God fought for them, and won the victory;
there was no beating down such a people as this, save when they forsook the worship of the Lord their God;
only when they worshipped some god other than himself, their own God, would he let them be plundered, and slaughtered, and treated with insult.
Even then, did they but repent of their revolt from his allegiance, the God of heaven would give them strength to resist their assailants.
So it was they overthrew kings a many, Chanaanite and Jebusite, Pherezite and Hethite and Hevite; the Amorrhite king, too, and all the warrior chiefs of Hesebon; took possession of their lands, and garrisoned their cities.
All went well with them, so long as no sin of theirs offended his eye, the God that is an enemy to all wrong.
But there was a time, these many years back, when they forsook the old paths God had given them to follow; then, in battle after battle, nation after nation defeated them, and a multitude of them were borne away as captives into an alien land;
it was but lately that they turned to their God again, and he reunited the scattered remnants of them. So they returned to these hills, and took possession anew of Jerusalem, where their sanctuary is.
Of this, then, my lord, assure thyself first; has any guilt of theirs lost them the favour of their God? Then indeed march we against them; none more ready than this God of theirs to hand them over to thee, fit subjects for thy overmastering yoke.
If fault he has none to find with his own people, then meet them in battle we may not; he himself will be their defender, and ours will be a plight for all the world to mock at.
At these words of Achior’s, Holofernes’ lords were full of indignation, and thought to make an end of him. What talk is this? they said to one another.
Can the men of Israel, without arms, without valour, without skill in war, hold out against king Nabuchodonosor and his troops?
Scale we yonder heights, to prove Achior a liar, and when we have mastered the defenders, let Achior be put to the sword with the rest.
Let us prove to the whole world that Nabuchodonosor rules it, and other god there is none.
The Holy Bible