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,
"For never in our generation, nor in these present days, has there been any tribe or family or people or city of ours which worshipped 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.
|<< | Judith: 8 | >>|