At that time Judith heard about these things: she was the daughter of Merari the son of Ox, son of Joseph, son of Oziel, son of Elkiah, son of Ananias, son of Gideon, son of Raphaim, son of Ahitub, son of Elijah, son of Hilkiah, son of Eliab, son of Nathanael, son of Salamiel, son of Sarasadai, son of Israel.
Her husband Manasseh, who belonged to her tribe and family, had died during the barley harvest.
For as he stood overseeing the men who were binding sheaves in the field, he was overcome by the burning heat, and took to his bed and died in Bethulia his city. So they buried him with his fathers in the field between Dothan and Balamon.
Judith had lived at home as a widow for three years and four months.
She set up a tent for herself on the roof of her house, and girded sackcloth about her loins and wore the garments of her widowhood.
She fasted all the days of her widowhood, except the day before the sabbath and the sabbath itself, the day before the new moon and the day of the new moon, and the feasts and days of rejoicing of the house of Israel.
She was beautiful in appearance, and had a very lovely face; and her husband Manasseh had left her gold and silver, and men and women slaves, and cattle, and fields; and she maintained this estate.
No one spoke ill of her, for she feared God with great devotion.
When Judith heard the wicked words spoken by the people against the ruler, because they were faint for lack of water, and when she heard all that Uzziah said to them, and how he promised them under oath to surrender the city to the Assyrians after five days,
she sent her maid, who was in charge of all she possessed, to summon Chabris and Charmis, the elders of her city.
They came to her, and she said to them, "Listen to me, rulers of the people of Bethulia! What you have said to the people today is not right; you have even sworn and pronounced this oath between God and you, promising to surrender the city to our enemies unless the Lord turns and helps us within so many days.
Who are you, that have put God to the test this day, and are setting yourselves up in the place of God among the sons of men?
You are putting the Lord Almighty to the test -- but you will never know anything!
You cannot plumb the depths of the human heart, nor find out what a man is thinking; how do you expect to search out God, who made all these things, and find out his mind or comprehend his thought? No, my brethren, do not provoke the Lord our God to anger.
For if he does not choose to help us within these five days, he has power to protect us within any time he pleases, or even to destroy us in the presence of our enemies.
Do not try to bind the purposes of the Lord our God; for God is not like man, to be threatened, nor like a human being, to be won over by pleading.
Therefore, while we wait for his deliverance, let us call upon him to help us, and he will hear our voice, if it pleases him.
"For never in our generation, nor in these present days, has there been any tribe or family or people or city of ours which worshiped gods made with hands, as was done in days gone by --
and that was why our fathers were handed over to the sword, and to be plundered, and so they suffered a great catastrophe before our enemies.
But we know no other god but him, and therefore we hope that he will not disdain us or any of our nation.
For if we are captured all Judea will be captured and our sanctuary will be plundered; and he will exact of us the penalty for its desecration.
And the slaughter of our brethren and the captivity of the land and the desolation of our inheritance -- all this he will bring upon our heads among the Gentiles, wherever we serve as slaves; and we shall be an offense and a reproach in the eyes of those who acquire us.
For our slavery will not bring us into favor, but the Lord our God will turn it to dishonor.
"Now therefore, brethren, let us set an example to our brethren, for their lives depend upon us, and the sanctuary and the temple and the altar rest upon us.
In spite of everything let us give thanks to the Lord our God, who is putting us to the test as he did our forefathers.
Remember what he did with Abraham, and how he tested Isaac, and what happened to Jacob in Mesopotamia in Syria, while he was keeping the sheep of Laban, his mother's brother.
For he has not tried us with fire, as he did them, to search their hearts, nor has he taken revenge upon us; but the Lord scourges those who draw near to him, in order to admonish them."
Then Uzziah said to her, "All that you have said has been spoken out of a true heart, and there is no one who can deny your words.
Today is not the first time your wisdom has been shown, but from the beginning of your life all the people have recognized your understanding, for your heart's disposition is right.
But the people were very thirsty, and they compelled us to do for them what we have promised, and made us take an oath which we cannot break.
So pray for us, since you are a devout woman, and the Lord will send us rain to fill our cisterns and we will no longer be faint."
Judith said to them, "Listen to me. I am about to do a thing which will go down through all generations of our descendants.
Stand at the city gate tonight, and I will go out with my maid; and within the days after which you have promised to surrender the city to our enemies, the Lord will deliver Israel by my hand.
Only, do not try to find out what I plan; for I will not tell you until I have finished what I am about to do."
Uzziah and the rulers said to her, "Go in peace, and may the Lord God go before you, to take revenge upon our enemies."
So they returned from the tent and went to their posts.
Revised Standard Version of the Bible, copyright 1952 [2nd edition, 1971] by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. (Revised Standard Version w/ Apocrypha)