Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 2. Twenty. Greek, seventy; Syriac, sixty-two. (Calmet) — Two, &c. Greek, twelve, as above, chap. ii. 7. (Menochius) — Syriac, twenty-two. Some of these texts must be inaccurate. (Calmet) — Yet the cavalry of Holofernes (Haydock) might be increased, since he began the war. — Taken. Syriac, “servants, and those who had joined them in great numbers.”
Ver. 3. Hill side, on the coast of the Mediterranean, leaving the mountains of Ephraim, (Calmet) which were so strait, (Haydock) on the left, as well as Jerusalem, as he intended to go into Egypt. Bethulia alone opposed his progress, chap. vi. 7.
Ver. 4. Of them. Greek adds, “were greatly afraid, and each one said to his neighbour: Now these will consume (Complutensian, shut up) the face of the earth, and neither the high mountains, nor the vales, nor the hills, will bear their weight. Then taking their arms, and lighting fires upon their towers, they kept guard all that night: but the second day, Holofernes brought out all his cavalry against the Israelites, in Bethulia, and he reconnoitred the ascent of their city, and came to the fountains of their waters, and took them; and leaving a guard of soldiers, he returned to his men,” &c., ver. 8. (Haydock) — The Syriac is also silent about the aqueduct and the small springs. (Calmet) — The servants of God first humble themselves, and then take arms, confiding in God. (Worthington)
Ver. 6. An aqueduct: the fountain must therefore have been on a higher ground than the city, though the latter was on an eminence. (Calmet) — Yet water may be forced to ascend by pipes. (Haydock)
Ver. 8. Children of. Greek and Syriac, “the chiefs of the sons of Esau,” as Idumea had been conquered, chap. iii. 14. They omit Ammon, and after Moab subjoin “the generals of the maritime countries;” Tyrians and Philistines. (Haydock)
Ver. 10. Spring. Greek and Syriac intimate that the Ammonites and Moabites, with 5,000 Assyrian infantry, guarded the springs: the rest of the army, according to the old Vulgate, was stationed in the plain. Greek and Syriac specify over-against Dothaim, which seems too remote; (Calmet) though such an immense army might cover a great part of the country, as all would not be necessary to besiege Bethulia; and it was agreed only to blockade the place, in order that no men might be lost, and the army might be ready to march against the more distant and powerful nations of Egypt. Another detachment was (Haydock) “southward, at Ecrebel, (Syriac Ekarbat, probably Akrabim, the ascent of the scorpions) near Cush, (or Arabia) which is above the torrent Mochmur, (Syriac Peor, or Bezor; Calmet) and the rest of the army of the Assyrians encamped in the plain, and covered the face of the earth.” (Haydock)
Ver. 11. Days. Greek, “and all the collection of the Assyrians continued round them….thirty-four days.” (Haydock) — Old Vulgate, “twenty-four days.” Syriac, “two months and four days.” — Measure. Greek adds, “the infants, women, and young men fainted, and fell down dead.” (Haydock)
Ver. 13. Hands. We shall be treated as miserable slaves. (Calmet)
Ver. 15. Assemble. Greek, “call them, and give up all the city to plunder to the,” &c.
Ver. 17. Conjuring. Greek, “and the sins of our parents, that he may not treat us thus to-day,” and deliver us up to death. (Haydock)
Ver. 18. Saying. Greek, “And Ozias said to them: Take courage, brethren.,” ver. 23. (Haydock)
Ver. 23. Five. Sulpitius reads, fifteen. (Calmet) — But instead of decim, we should read demum. (Haydock)
Ver. 25. Spoken. Greek and Syriac add, “and he dispersed the people to their tents, and they went upon the walls and towers of the city, and sent their wives and children home. And they were under great humiliation in the city.”
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Holofernes besiegeth Bethulia. The distress of the besieged.
1 But Holofernes, on the next day, gave orders to his army, to go up against Bethulia.
2 Now there were in his troops a hundred and twenty thousand footmen, and two and twenty thousand horsemen, besides the preparations of those men who had been taken, and who had been brought away out of the provinces and cities, of all the youth.
3 All these prepared themselves together to fight against the children of Israel, and they came by the hill side to the top, which looketh toward Dothain, from the place which is called Belma, unto Chelmon, which is over-against Esdrelon.
4 But the children of Israel, when they saw the multitude of them, prostrated themselves upon the ground, putting ashes upon their heads, praying, with one accord, that the God of Israel would shew his mercy upon his people.
5 And taking their arms of war, they posted themselves at the places, which by a narrow path-way lead directly between the mountains, and they guarded them all day and night.
6 Now Holofernes, in going round about, found that the fountain which supplied them with water, ran through an aqueduct without the city, on the south side: and he commanded their aqueduct to be cut off.
7 Nevertheless, there were springs not far from the walls, out of which they were seen secretly to draw water, to refresh themselves a little rather than to drink their fill.
8 But the children of Ammon, and Moab, came to Holofernes, saying: The children of Israel trust not in their spears, nor in their arrows, but the mountains are their defense, and the steep hires and precipices guard them.
9 Wherefore, that thou mayst overcome them without joining battle, set guards at the springs, that they may not draw water out of them, and thou shalt destroy them without sword, or at least being wearied out, they will yield up their city, which they suppose, because it is situate in the mountains, to be impregnable.
10 And these words pleased Holofernes, and his officers, and he placed all round about a hundred men at every spring.
11 And when they had kept this watch for full twenty days, the cisterns, and the reserve of waters, failed among all the inhabitants of Bethulia, so that there was not within the city enough to satisfy them, no not for one day, for water was daily given out to the people by measure.
12 Then all the men and women, young men, and children, gathering themselves together to Ozias, all together with one voice,
13 Said: *God be judge between us and thee, for thou hast done evil against us, in that thou wouldst not speak peaceably with the Assyrians, and for this cause God hath sold us into their hands.
14 And therefore there is no one to help us, while we are cast down before their eyes in thirst, and sad destruction.
15 And now, assemble ye all that are in the city, that we may, of our own accord, yield ourselves all up to the people of Holofernes.
16 For it is better that, being captives, we should live and bless the Lord, than that we should die, and be a reproach to all flesh, after we have seen our wives and our infants die before our eyes.
17 We call to witness this day heaven and earth, and the God of our fathers, who taketh vengeance upon us according to our sins, conjuring you to deliver now the city into the hand of the army of Holofernes, that our end may be short by the edge of the sword, which is made longer by the drought of thirst.
18 And when they had said these things, there was great weeping and lamentation of all in the assembly, and for many hours with one voice they cried to God, saying:
19 *We have sinned with our fathers, we have done unjustly, we have commited iniquity:
20 Have thou mercy on us, because thou art good, or punish our iniquities, by chastising us thyself, and deliver not them that trust in thee to a people that knoweth not thee,
21 That they may not say among the Gentiles: Where is their God?
22 And when, being wearied with these cries, and tired with these weepings, they held their peace,
23 Ozias, rising up all in tears, said: Be of good courage, my brethren, and let us wait these five days for mercy from the Lord.
24 For perhaps he will put a stop to his indignation, and will give glory to his own name.
25 But, if after five days be past, there come no aid, we will do the things which you have spoken.
13: Exodus v. 21.
19: Psalm cv. 6.