The Israelites living in Judea heard about everything that Holofernes the general of King Nebuchadnezzar, of the Assyrians, had done to all the other nations and how he had looted and destroyed all of their temples.
They were especially terrified of his coming and were anxious about the safety of Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord their God.
They had just recently returned from captivity in exile. All the people of Judea had only just gathered together again, and the temple together with its altar and equipment had been newly dedicated to God after being polluted.
They sent word, therefore, to all the regions of Samaria and to Kona, Beth-horon, Belmain, Jericho, and to Choba, Aesora, and the Salem Valley.
Preparing for war, they occupied all the high hilltops, reinforced the villages on them, and stockpiled the food recently harvested from their fields.
Then Joakim, the high priest in Jerusalem at that time, wrote to the residents of Bethulia and Betomasthaim, which is opposite Esdraelon, facing the plain near Dothan,
telling them to guard the mountain passes because they were the entrance to Judea. It would be easy to stop anyone trying to enter through them, because the passages were narrow and allowed for only two men at the most to pass through.
So the Israelites did everything that they were told to do by Joakim the high priest and the council of the Israelites that was meeting in Jerusalem.
Every man in Israel humbled himself and cried out earnestly to God.
They, along with their wives, their children, and their cattle, and every immigrant, hired worker, and slave put funeral clothing around their waists.
And all the Israelite men, women, and children living in Jerusalem fell on their faces before the temple, putting ashes on their heads and stretching out their funeral clothing before the Lord.
They even laid funeral clothing around the altar. They earnestly cried out in unison to the God of Israel not to let their children and women be carried off like stolen goods, nor the cities they inherited to be destroyed and the sanctuary polluted and defiled—giving the nations something to gloat over.
The Lord heard their cries and looked kindly on their troubles, for the people fasted many days throughout all Judea and in Jerusalem in front of the sanctuary of the Lord Almighty.
The high priest Joakim and all of the priests who stood before the Lord ministering to the Lord, wearing funeral clothing around their waists, offered the daily entirely burned offerings along with the prayers and spontaneous gifts of the people.
With ashes on their turbans, they continued to cry out to the Lord with all their strength to look with favor upon the whole house of Israel.