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scripture

 

CHAPTER 13

Judith Beheads Holofernes. 1When it grew late, his servants quickly withdrew. Bagoas closed the tent from the outside and dismissed the attendants from their master’s presence. They went off to their beds, for they were all tired because the banquet had lasted so long. 2Judith was left alone in the tent with Holofernes, who lay sprawled on his bed, for he was drunk with wine. 3Judith had ordered her maidservant to stand outside the bedchamber and to wait, as on the other days, for her to come out; she had said she would be going out for her prayer. She had also said this same thing to Bagoas.

4When all had departed, and no one, small or great, was left in the bedchamber, Judith stood by Holofernes’ bed and prayed silently, “O Lord, God of all might, in this hour look graciously on the work of my hands for the exaltation of Jerusalem. 5Now is the time for aiding your heritage and for carrying out my design to shatter the enemies who have risen against us.”a 6She went to the bedpost near the head of Holofernes, and taking his sword from it, 7she drew close to the bed, grasped the hair of his head, and said, “Strengthen me this day, Lord, God of Israel!” 8Then with all her might she struck his neck twice and cut off his head.b 9She rolled his body off the bed and took the canopy from its posts. Soon afterward, she came out and handed over the head of Holofernes to her maid, 10who put it into her food bag. Then the two went out together for prayer as they were accustomed to do.

Judith and Her Maid Return to Bethulia. They passed through the camp, and skirting that valley, went up the mountain to Bethulia, and approached its gates. 11From a distance, Judith shouted to the guards at the gates: “Open! Open the gate! God, our God, is with us. Once more he has shown his strength in Israel and his power against the enemy, as he has today!”

Judith Displays the Head of Holofernes. 12* When the citizens heard her voice, they hurried down to their city gate and summoned the elders of the city. 13All the people, from the least to the greatest, hurriedly assembled, for her return seemed unbelievable. They opened the gate and welcomed the two women. They made a fire for light and gathered around the two. 14Judith urged them with a loud voice: “Praise God, give praise! Praise God, who has not withdrawn his mercy from the house of Israel, but has shattered our enemies by my hand this very night!” 15Then she took the head out of the bag, showed it to them, and said: “Here is the head of Holofernes, the ranking general of the Assyrian forces, and here is the canopy under which he lay in his drunkenness. The Lord struck him down by the hand of a female!* 16Yet I swear by the Lord, who has protected me in the way I have walked, that it was my face that seduced Holofernes to his ruin, and that he did not defile me with sin or shame.”

17All the people were greatly astonished. They bowed down and worshiped God, saying with one accord, “Blessed are you, our God, who today have humiliated the enemies of your people.” 18Then Uzziah said to her, “Blessed are you, daughter, by the Most High God, above all the women on earth; and blessed be the Lord God, the creator of heaven and earth, who guided your blow at the head of the leader of our enemies.c 19Your deed of hope will never be forgotten by those who recall the might of God.d 20May God make this redound to your everlasting honor, rewarding you with blessings, because you risked your life when our people were being oppressed, and you averted our disaster, walking in the straight path before our God.” And all the people answered, “Amen! Amen!”e

* [13:1220] Elements from chaps. 89 are echoed here. The assembly of the people at Judith’s return parallels the meeting of the town officials summoned by Judith in 8:10. Uzziah blesses Judith in 8:5 and again in 13:1820.

* [13:15] By the hand of a female: cf. 16:5 and note on 9:910.

a. [13:5] Gn 24:45; 1 Sm 1:13.

b. [13:8] Jgs 4:21; 1 Sm 17:51; 31:9.

c. [13:18] Jgs 5:24; Lk 1:42.

d. [13:19] Sir 35:9.

e. [13:20] Dt 27:1526; Ps 41:14; 72:19; 89:53.

V. VICTORY AND THANKSGIVING*




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