The Bible – Old Testament
When the Israelites who dwelt in Judea heard of all that Holofernes, commander-in-chief of Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Assyrians, had done to the nations, and how he had despoiled all their temples and destroyed them,
they were in extreme dread of him, and greatly alarmed for Jerusalem and the temple of the Lord, their God.
1 Now, they had lately returned from exile, and only recently had all the people of Judea been gathered together, and the vessels, the altar, and the temple been purified from profanation.
So they sent word to the whole region of Samaria, to Kona, Beth-horon, Belmain, and Jericho, to Choba and Aesora, and to the valley of Salem.
The people there posted guards on all the summits of the high mountains, fortified their villages, and since their fields had recently been harvested, stored up provisions in preparation for war.
2 Joakim, who was high priest in Jerusalem in those days, wrote to the inhabitants of Bethulia (and Betomesthaim), which is on the way to Esdraelon, facing the plain near Dothan,
and instructed them to keep firm hold of the mountain passes, since these offered access to Judea. It would be easy to ward off the attacking forces, as the defile was only wide enough for two abreast.
3 The Israelites carried out the orders given them by Joakim, the high priest, and the senate of the whole people of Israel, which met in Jerusalem.
All the men of Israel cried to God with great fervor and did penance –
4 they, along with their wives, and children, and domestic animals. All their resident aliens, hired laborers, and slaves also girded themselves with sackcloth.
5 And all the Israelite men, women and children who lived in Jerusalem prostrated themselves in front of the temple building, with ashes strewn on their heads, displaying their sackcloth covering before the Lord.
The altar, too, they draped in sackcloth; and with one accord they cried out fervently to the God of Israel not to allow their children to be seized, their wives to be taken captive, the cities of their inheritance to be ruined, or the sanctuary to be profaned and mocked for the nations to gloat over.
The Lord heard their cry and had regard for their distress. For the people observed a fast of many days’ duration throughout Judea, and before the sanctuary of the Lord Almighty in Jerusalem.
The high priest Joakim, and all the priests in attendance on the Lord who served his altar, were also girded with sackcloth as they offered the daily holocaust, the votive offerings, and the freewill offerings of the people.
With ashes upon their turbans, they cried to the Lord with all their strength to look with favor on the whole house of Israel.
1  Returned from exile . . . profanation: these allusions are variously attributed-to the Persian period (538-323 B.C.), or even to a condition in the days of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.).
3  The organization of the Jewish nation as subject to a high priest and a senate, or council of elders, was proper to the Greek period (after 323 B.C.), and is reflected in the coinage of John Hyrcanus (135-104 B.C.).
4  Domestic animals: see note on ⇒ Jonah 3:8.