Then Holofernes said to her: “Take courage, lady; have no fear in your heart! Never have I harmed anyone who chose to serve Nebuchadnezzar, king of all the earth.
Nor would I have raised my spear against your people who dwell in the mountain region, had they not despised me and brought this upon themselves.
But now tell me why you fled from them and came to us. In any case, you have come to safety. Take courage! Your life is spared tonight and for the future.
No one at all will harm you. Rather, you will be well treated, as are all the servants of my lord, King Nebuchadnezzar.”
Judith answered him: “Listen to the words of your servant, and let your handmaid speak in your presence! I will tell no lie to my lord this night,
and if you follow out the words of your handmaid, God will give you complete success, and my lord will not fail in any of his undertakings.
By the life of Nebuchadnezzar, king of all the earth, and by the power of him who has sent you to set all creatures aright! not only do men serve him through you; but even the wild beasts and the cattle and the birds of the air, because of your strength, will live for Nebuchadnezzar and his whole house.
Indeed, we have heard of your wisdom and sagacity, and all the world is aware that throughout the kingdom you alone are competent, rich in experience, and distinguished in military strategy.
“As for Achior’s speech in your council, we have heard of it. When the men of Bethulia spared him, he told them all he had said to you.
So then, my lord and master, do not disregard his word, but bear it in mind, for it is true. For our people are not punished, nor does the sword prevail against them, except when they sin against their God.
But now their guilt has caught up with them, by which they bring the wrath of their God upon them whenever they do wrong; so that my lord will not be repulsed and fail, but death will overtake them.
Since their food gave out and all their water ran low, they decided to kill their animals, and determined to consume all the things which God in his laws forbade them to eat.
They decreed that they would use up the first fruits of grain and the tithes of wine and oil which they had sanctified and reserved for the priests who minister in the presence of our God in Jerusalem: things which no layman should even touch with his hands.
They have sent messengers to Jerusalem to bring back to them authorization from the council of the elders; for the inhabitants there have also done these things.
On the very day when the response reaches them and they act upon it, they will be handed over to you for destruction.
“As soon as I, your handmaid, learned all this, I fled from them. God has sent me to perform with you such deeds that people throughout the world will be astonished on hearing of them.
Your handmaid is, indeed, a God-fearing woman, serving the God of heaven night and day. Now I will remain with you, my lord; but each night your handmaid will go out to the ravine and pray to God. He will tell me when the Israelites have committed their crimes.
Then I will come and let you know, so that you may go out with your whole force, and not one of them will be able to withstand you.
I will lead you through Judea, till you come to Jerusalem, and there I will set up your judgment seat. You will drive them like sheep that have no shepherd, and not even a dog will growl at you. This was told me, and announced to me in advance, and I in turn have been sent to tell you.”
Her words pleased Holofernes and all his servants; they marveled at her wisdom and exclaimed,
“No other woman from one end of the world to the other looks so beautiful and speaks so wisely!”
Then Holofernes said to her: “God has done well in sending you ahead of your people, to bring victory to our arms, and destruction to those who have despised my lord.
You are fair to behold, and your words are well spoken. If you do as you have said, your God will be my God; you shall dwell in the palace of King Nebuchadnezzar, and shall be renowned throughout the earth.”