The next day Holofernes gathered his whole army together, as well as his allied forces. It was an immense army, consisting of 170,000 infantry and 12,000 cavalry, not counting the support troops who took care of the equipment. He ordered them to march on Bethulia, seize the mountain passes, and attack the Israelites. So they moved out
and set up camp beside the spring in the valley near Bethulia. The camp was so wide that it spread out toward the town of Dothan as far as Balbaim, and so long that it stretched from Bethulia to Cyamon, which faces Jezreel Valley.
When the Israelites saw the size of the army, they were terrified and said to one another, "Those soldiers are going to eat up everything in sight. There's not enough food in the mountains, valleys, and hills put together to feed an army like that."
But in spite of their fear, all the Israelites took up their weapons, lighted signal fires on the towers, and remained on guard duty all night.
The next day Holofernes led out his entire cavalry so that the Israelites in Bethulia could see them.
He inspected the approaches to the town and the springs that supplied its water. He seized the springs and stationed guards there, before returning to camp.
All the leaders of the Edomite and Moabite forces, along with the commanders of the troops from the Mediterranean coast, came to Holofernes and said,
"Sir, if you listen to our advice, your troops will not suffer heavy losses.
These Israelites do not rely on their weapons for defense but rather on the height of the mountains where they live, since the mountains are not easy to climb.
So then, General Holofernes, if you do not make a direct attack on them, your whole army will suffer no casualties.
Stay in your camp and keep your soldiers in their quarters. Just command your men to blockade the springs at the foot of the mountains,
because that's where the people of Bethulia come to draw their water. Then, when they are dying of thirst, they will surrender their town to you. Meanwhile, we and our men will go up to the tops of the surrounding mountains, where we will set up camp and keep anyone from leaving the town.
Everyone will starve to death - men, women, and children. Even before we attack, the streets will be littered with their corpses.
In this way you can make them pay for their rebellion and for refusing to surrender peacefully to you."
Holofernes and his entire staff were pleased with this suggestion, so he gave orders to put the plan into action.
The Moabites and 5,000 Assyrians moved their camp into the valley to control the source of the town's water.
The Edomites and the Ammonites went up into the mountains and set up their camp opposite the town of Dothan. They sent some of their men to the southeast in the direction of Acraba, near Chusi, which is beside the Mochmur River. The rest of the Assyrian army set up camp in the valley. Their camp was spread out over the whole countryside, because the number of tents and the amount of equipment needed for such a large army were immense.
Then the Israelites cried out to the Lord their God for help. They had lost their courage, for with the enemy all around them there was no way to escape.
The entire Assyrian army - infantry, chariots, and cavalry - blockaded Bethulia for thirty-four days until the town ran out of water.
All the reservoirs and cisterns went dry, so that the drinking water had to be rationed, and not a day passed when there was enough water to go around.
Children were becoming weak; everywhere throughout the town women and young people were collapsing. No one had any strength left.
All the people of the town - men, women, and children alike - gathered around Uzziah and the town officials and shouted in protest,
"God will punish you for what you have done to us! You are to blame for what is happening, because you did not make peace with the Assyrians.
There is no one to help us now! God has put us in their power. We are exhausted and dying of thirst.
Call the Assyrians now and surrender to them, and let Holofernes and his army take the town and loot it.
We are better off as prisoners of war. They will make us slaves, but at least we will be alive, and we won't have to watch our wives and children dying before our eyes.
Heaven and earth are witnesses against you, and so is our God, the Lord of our ancestors, who is punishing us for their sins as well as ours. We can only hope and pray that he will not let these terrible things happen to us today."
Everyone there began to weep loudly and to pray to the Lord their God.
Then Uzziah said to them, "Don't give up, my friends! Let's wait five more days to see if the Lord our God will be merciful to us. Surely he will not abandon us completely.
But if no help comes after five days, then I will do as you say."
So Uzziah dismissed the people. All the men returned to their guard posts on the walls and towers, while the women and children went back to their homes. The morale of the entire town was very low.