1 The children of Israel in Judea learned what had happened to the other nations at the hands of Holofernes, the chief general of Nebuchadnezzar, the king of the Assyrians, and how he had plundered the neighboring villages and destroyed their sanctuaries. 2 And they trembled with great fear because of him. They were anxious about Jerusalem and the Temple of the Lord their God, 3 since they had only re cently returned from exile. The people of Judea had just come together and the new furnishings of the Altar and the Sanctuary had just been consecrated after being pro faned. 4 They sent messengers to warn all the inhabitants of the territory of Samaria, Kona, Beth-horon, Belmain, Jericho, Choba and Aesora, and the valley of Salem. 5 They occupied all the summits of the mountains, fortified the ramparts of the towns and prepared stores of foodstuff and provisions for the war, since their field had just been harvested.
6 Joakim, the high priest, who was in Jerusalem in those days, wrote to the inhab itants of Bethulia and Betomes thaim opposite Es draelon, at the en trance to the plain of Dothan. 7 He told them to seize and fortify the mountain passes be cause it was by them that Holofernes would enter Judea. There it would be easy to stop those who were advancing since the narrow passes allowed no more than two men to go forward at a time.
8 The children of Israel obeyed the orders of Joakim and of the Council of the Elders which assembled in Jeru salem. 9 All the peo ple of Israel called upon God with great fervor and humbled themselves before him. 10 Men, women and children, including the animals, all the foreigners who resided among them, their laborers and slaves, all clothed themselves in sackcloth. 11 All the men of Israel in Jerusalem, with their wives and children, bowed before the Temple, sprinkled ashes on their heads and held out their hands in supplication before the Lord. 12 They covered the Altar in sackcloth, and with one voice earnest ly begged the God of Israel not to let their children be massacred, their wives raped, their towns destroyed and their Sanc tuary profaned, that they might not be come the laughingstock of other nations.
13 The Lord heard their prayer and looked upon their anguish. The people throughout the whole of Judea fasted for many days, and those in Jerusalem fasted before the Sanctuary of the Lord Almighty. 14 The high priest Joakim, with all the priests and ministers, stood before the Lord dressed in sackcloth, and offered continual sacrifice, pray ers and the voluntary gifts of the people. 15 They put ashes on their turbans and cried out with all their strength to the Lord, asking him to watch over the whole house of Israel.