In the eighteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar's reign, on the twenty-second day of the first month of that year, he and his advisers decided to carry out his threat to take revenge on all those countries that had refused to help him.
The king called his general staff and senior officers together and reported in detail how those countries had betrayed him. He and his officers agreed that everyone who had refused to help him in the war should be put to death. Then he described to them his plan of attack.
At the close of the meeting, Nebuchadnezzar gave the following command to Holofernes, who was the general in command of his armies and second in command to the king:
"I, Nebuchadnezzar, the great king and ruler of all the earth, command you to choose some experienced soldiers: 120,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry.
Then attack the lands to the west because they refused to respond to my appeal for help.
Warn them that they must prepare their offerings of earth and water to show that they have surrendered unconditionally. I will make them feel the full force of my anger and completely destroy them. My armies will march over every foot of their land and plunder it as they go.
I will fill the valleys with their dead bodies and will choke up every stream and river with so many corpses that they will all overflow.
I will take captive all those who are left alive and carry them off to the ends of the earth.
"But you, Holofernes, are ordered to go ahead of me and occupy all their territories in advance. If they surrender to you, hold them for me until I come to punish them.
But if they resist, do not spare them. Kill them and loot the entire region under your control.
I have taken a solemn vow, and at the risk of my life and my royal power I am determined to do what I have vowed to do.
Do not disobey me in any way. I am your king; remember that, and carry out without delay every order that I have given you."
So Holofernes left the king and called together all the commanders, generals, and officers of the Assyrian army.
Just as the king had ordered, he chose 120,000 of the best infantrymen and 12,000 of the best mounted archers
and arranged them in battle formation.
He also took along a very large number of camels, donkeys, and mules to carry the equipment, as well as many sheep, cattle, and goats for food.
Every soldier received plenty of rations and a large payment of gold and silver from the royal treasury.
Then Holofernes and his entire army set out, advancing ahead of King Nebuchadnezzar. The chariots, the cavalry, and the infantry marched out to overrun the entire western region.
Other troops went with them. There were so many that it was impossible to count them - they were like a swarm of locusts or like grains of sand in the desert.
Three days after they had left the city of Nineveh, they reached the plains around Bectileth near the mountains north of Cilicia, where they set up camp.
From there Holofernes advanced into the hill country with his entire army, his infantry, cavalry, and chariots.
He totally destroyed the countries of Libya and Lydia, then plundered all the people of Rassis and the Ishmaelites who lived on the edge of the desert, south of the land of the Chelleans.
Then Holofernes crossed the Euphrates River and marched through the land of Mesopotamia, completely destroying all the walled towns along the Abron River as far as the sea.
He seized the territory of Cilicia, killing everyone who resisted him, and went as far as the southern borders of the land of Japheth, near Arabia.
He surrounded the Midianites, burned down their tents, and slaughtered their sheep.
Holofernes went down into the plains around Damascus during the wheat harvest, burned all the fields, slaughtered the flocks and herds, looted the towns, devastated the entire countryside, and killed all the young men.
Panic seized all the people who lived along the Mediterranean Sea, and they shook with fear. Everyone in the towns of Tyre, Sidon, Sur, Ocina, Jamnia, Ashdod, and Ashkelon was terrified.