The next day Holofernes ordered his entire army and all his allies to break camp and move out against Bethulia, occupy the mountain passes, and engage the Israelites in battle.
So the entire force broke camp that day. The strength of their forces was one hundred seventy thousand infantry and twelve thousand cavalry, not including the baggage and the men handling it—a very great multitude.
They positioned themselves in the valley near Bethulia, beside the spring, and they spilled over Dothan as far as Balbaim, extending from Bethulia as far as Cyamon, which is opposite Esdraelon.
When the Israelites saw the great multitude, they were extremely frightened and said to each other: "These people will now devour the whole countryside! Neither the highlands nor the valleys nor the foothills will be able to support their weight!"
Nevertheless, they each grabbed their weapons and, after lighting fires on their towers, remained on guard all that night.
On the second day, Holofernes led out his entire cavalry in full view of the Israelites who were in Bethulia.
He examined the approaches to their city, inspected the springs of water, seized them, and placed guards around them. Then he returned to the camp.
Then all the rulers of the Edomites, all the leaders of the Moabites, and the commanders of the coastland came to him and said:
"May our master listen to our advice, and your army won't suffer any losses.
These people, the Israelites, don't rely on their spears but on the height of the hills where they live, because it isn't easy to climb up to their hilltops.
Therefore, Master, don't fight them in the usual way, and not one of your men will fall.
Instead, wait in your camp, keeping all the men of your army there, and let your servants seize the spring of water that flows out from the base of the hill,
because this is the water source for all those who live in Bethulia. Thirst will be their undoing, and it will force them to surrender their city. In the meantime, we and our people will go up to occupy the tops of the nearby hills and set up guard, to make sure that no man leaves the city.
Then they, their wives, and their children will wither with hunger in the streets where they live before a sword even comes near them.
Thus you will repay them with evil because they rebelled and didn't welcome you peacefully."
Their plan pleased Holofernes and his advisors, and he directed them to do as they had said.
So the Ammonites together with five thousand Assyrians moved their camp to the valley and seized the Israelite water supply and springs.
Meanwhile, the Edomites and the Ammonites went up and camped in the highlands opposite Dothan and sent some of their men to the south and the east to Egrebeh, which is near Chusi, beside the Mochmur ravine. The rest of the Assyrian army camped on the plain and covered the whole countryside, and their tents and baggage stretched out over a vast encampment. They were indeed a very great multitude.
The Israelites cried out to the Lord their God, for their spirits were low, because their enemies had completely surrounded them, and no escape was in sight.
The whole Assyrian army remained around them, the infantry and chariots and cavalry, for thirty-four days until the water supplies of everyone who lived in Bethulia ran dry.
Their reservoirs were nearly empty, and because drinking water was being rationed, on no day did anyone have enough to drink.
Their children were discouraged, and the women and young men fainted from thirst in the city streets, collapsing at the entrance to the gates. They had no strength left.
Then all the people—the young men, the women, and the children—gathered around Uzziah and the rulers of the city. They cried out before all the elders with a loud voice, saying:
"Let God judge between you and us! You have done us great wrong by not making peace with the Assyrians.
Now there's no one to help us. Instead, God has handed us over to them to be scattered before them in thirst and great destruction.
Call them, therefore, and surrender the whole city as plunder to the people of Holofernes and his army.
It would be better for us to be captured by them.a Even though we would become slaves, we would save our lives and not have to see with our own eyes the deaths of our little ones, nor watch our wives and children losing their lives.
"We testify against you by heaven and earth and our God, the Lord of our ancestors, who punishes us for our sins and the sins of our ancestors, if you don't do everything we have spoken today."
The whole congregation was wailing aloud together as they cried out to the Lord with a loud voice.
Uzziah said to them, "Be brave, brothers and sisters. Let's wait five more days for the Lord our God to come to our aid. Surely he won't abandon us in the end.
But if the days pass by and help hasn't arrived, I'll do as you have said."
Then he dismissed the people. They went back to their various posts on the walls and towers of the city, and Uzziah sent the women and children home. They were in great misery throughout the city.