Occurring Scripture for the
Hour of Matins
Here begins the Book of Judith
Now Arphaxad king of the Medes had
brought many nations under his dominions, and he built a very strong city,
which he called Ecbatana, of stones squared and hewed: he made the walls
seventy cubits broad, and thirty cubits high, and the towers he made a
hundred cubits high. But on the square of them, each side was extended the
space of twenty feet. And he made the gates thereof according to the
height of the towers: And he gloried as a mighty one in the force of
his army and in the glory of his chariots.
Now in the twelfth year of his reign,
Nabuchodonosor king of the Assyrians, who reigned in Ninive the great city,
fought against Arphaxad and overcame him in the great plain which is called
Ragua, about the Euphrates, and the Tigris, and the Jadason, in the plain of
Erioch the king of the Elicians. Then was the kingdom of
Nabuchodonosor exalted, and his heart was elevated: and he sent to all that
dwelt in Cilicia and Damascus, and Libanus, and to the nations that
are in Carmelus, and Cedar, and to the inhabitants of Galilee in the great
plain of Esdrelon, and to all that were in Samaria, and beyond the river
Jordan even to Jerusalem, and all the land of Jesse till you come to the
borders of Ethiopia. To all these Nabuchodonosor king of the
Assyrians, sent messengers: But they all with one mind refused, and sent
them back empty, and rejected them without honor. Then king Nabuchodonosor being angry against all that land, swore by his throne and
kingdom that he would revenge himself of all those countries.
In the thirteenth year of
the reign of Nabuchodonosor, the two and twentieth day of the first month,
the word was given out in the house of Nabuchodonosor king of the Assyrians,
that he would revenge himself. And he called all the ancients, and all
the governors, and his officers of war, and communicated to them the secret
of his counsel: And he said that his thoughts were to bring all the
earth under his empire.
From the Book on Elijah and Fasting
of Saint Ambrose, Bishop
It is not for kings to
drink wine, nor for princes strong drink, lest they drink and forget the law
(cf. Proverbs 31:4-5). The rulers drank wine even unto
drunkenness, who planned to deliver themselves into the hand of Holofernes,
captain of the host of the King of the Assyrians but the woman Judith drank
not, who fasted all the days of her widowhood, saving the solemn Feast-days.
She went forth in the harness of this abstinence, and over-reached the whole
army of the Assyrians. By the clear thought of her soberness she took away
the head of Holofernes, kept her chastity, and carried off the victory.
Armed with fasting, she
entered the camp of the strangers. He lay soaked in wine, so that he could
not feel the blow that slew him. And thus the fast of one woman overthrew
the countless armies of the Assyrians. Esther also became fairer by fasting
for the Lord gave favor to her for her soberness. She delivered all her
nation, that is, the whole people of the Jews, from the fierceness of
persecution, so that she brought down the King himself under her will.
Thus also (Esther) who
fasted three days, and washed her body with water, found greater favor, and
obtained vengeance, whereas Haman, who boasted himself at the King's table,
paid the penalty of his drunkenness, even while yet he was in his cups.
Fasting, therefore, is a sacrifice of reconciliation, a means of strength,
whereby in the might of grace, women wax manful. Fasting knows not usury,
nor the gain of the usurer. The faster's table smells not of usury, but the
fast itself gives favor to them that sit at meat. A banquet is all the
pleasanter after hunger, whereas by constant use it becomes unattractive,
and when it is long carried on it comes to be but lightly esteemed. Fasting
is a good sauce for meat. The keener the appetite, the more toothsome the
A reading from the Book of Judith
Then the children of
Israel, who dwelt in the land of Juda, hearing these things, were
exceedingly afraid of him. Dread and horror seized upon their minds,
lest he should do the same to Jerusalem and to the temple of the Lord, that
he had done to other cities and their temples. And they sent into all
Samaria round about, as far as Jericho, and seized upon all the tops of the
mountains: And they compassed their towns with walls, and gathered
together corn for provision for war.
And Eliachim the priest wrote to all
that were over against Esdrelon, which faces the great plain near Dothain,
and to all by whom there might be a passage of way, that they should take
possession of the ascents of the mountains, by which there might be any way
to Jerusalem, and should keep watch where the way was narrow between the
mountains. And the children of Israel did as the priest of the Lord
Eliachim had appointed them, And all the people cried to the Lord with
great earnestness, and they humbled their souls in fastings, and prayers,
both they and their wives. And the priests put on haircloths, and they
caused the little children to lie prostrate before the temple of the Lord,
and the altar of the Lord they covered with haircloth.
And they cried to the Lord the God of
Israel with one accord, that their children might not be made a prey, and
their wives carried off, and their cities destroyed, and their holy things
profaned, and that they might not be made a reproach to the Gentiles.
Then Eliachim the high priest of the Lord went about all Israel and spoke to
them, saying: "Know ye that the Lord will hear your prayers, if you continue
with perseverance in fastings and prayers in the sight of the Lord.
Remember Moses the servant of the Lord, who overcame Amalec that trusted in
his own strength, and in his power, and in his army, and in his shields, and
in his chariots, and in his horsemen, not by fighting with the sword, but by
A reading from the Book of Judith
Now it came to pass, when Judith a
widow had heard these words [of Jewish surrender to Holofernes, she] who was
the daughter of Merari, the son of Idox, the son of Joseph, the son of Ozias,
the son of Elai, the son of Jamnor, the son of Gedeon, the son of Raphaim,
the son of Achitob, the son of Melehias, the son of Enan, the son of
Nathanias, the son of Salathiel, the son of Simeon, the son of Ruben:
And her husband was Manasses, who died in the time of the barley harvest:
For he was standing over them that bound sheaves in the field; and the heat
came upon his head, and he died in Bethulia his own city, and was buried
there with his fathers. And Judith his relict was a widow now three
years and six months.
And she made herself a private chamber
in the upper part of her house, in which she abode shut up with her maids.
And she wore haircloth upon her loins, and fasted all the days of her life,
except the Sabbaths, and new moons, and the feasts of the house of Israel.
And she was exceedingly beautiful, and her husband left her great riches,
and very many servants, and large possessions of herds of oxen, and flocks
of sheep. And she was greatly renowned among all, because she feared
the Lord very much, neither was there any one that spoke an ill word of her.
When therefore she had heard that Ozias
had promised that he would deliver up the city after the fifth day, she sent
to the ancients Chabri and Charmi. And they came to her, and she said
to them: What is this word, by which Ozias hath consented to give up the
city to the Assyrians, if within five days there come no aid to us?
And who are you that tempt the Lord?
A reading from the Book of Judith
And it came to pass, when she had
ceased to cry to the Lord, that she rose from the place wherein she lay
prostrate before the Lord. And she
called her maid, and going down into her house she took off her haircloth,
and put away the garments of her widowhood, And she washed her body, and
anointed herself with the best ointment, and plaited the hair of her head,
and put a bonnet upon her head, and clothed herself with the garments of her
gladness, and put sandals on her feet, and took her bracelets, and lilies,
and earlets, and rings, and adorned herself with all her ornaments. And
the Lord also gave her more beauty: because all this dressing up did not
proceed from sensuality, lent from virtue: and therefore the Lord increased
this her beauty, so that she appeared to all men's eyes incomparably lovely. And she gave to her maid a bottle of wine to carry, and a vessel of
oil, and parched corn, and dry figs, and bread and cheese, and went out. And when they came to the gate of the city, they found Ozias,
and the ancients of the city waiting. And when they saw her they were
astonished, and admired her beauty exceedingly. But they asked her no
question, only they let her pass, saying: "The God of our fathers give thee
grace, and may he strengthen all the counsel of thy heart with his power,
that Jerusalem may glory in thee, and thy name may be in the number of the
holy and just." And they that were there said, all with one voice: "So be
it, so be it." But Judith praying to the Lord, passed through the gates,
she and her maid.
And it came to pass, when she went down
the hill, about break of day, that the watchmen of the Assyrians met her and
stopped her, saying: "Where have you come from? or where are you
going?" And she answered: "I am a daughter of the Hebrews, and I have fled from them, because I knew they would
be made a prey to you, because they despised you, and would not of their own
accord yield themselves, that they might find mercy in your sight. For
this reason I thought with myself, saying: I will go to the presence of the
prince Holofernes, that I may tell him their secrets, and show him by what
way he may take them, without the loss of one man of his army."
And when the men had heard her words, they beheld her face, and their eyes
were amazed, for they wondered exceedingly at her beauty. And they said to
her: "You have saved your life by taking this resolution, to come down to our
And be assured of this, that when you stand before him, he
will treat you well, and you will be most acceptable to his heart. And
they brought her to the tent of Holofernes, telling him of her. And
when she had come into his presence, Holofernes was immediately caught by
his eyes. And his officers said to him: "Who can despise the people of the
Hebrews who have such beautiful women, that we should not think it worth our
while for their sakes to fight against them?" And Judith seeing Holofernes sitting under a canopy, which was woven of purple and gold, with
emeralds and precious stones: After she had looked on his face bowed
down to him, prostrating herself to the ground. And the servants of Holofernes lifted her up, by the command of their master.
A reading from the Book of Judith
And he commanded his chamberlains, that
she might go out and in, to adore her God as she pleased, for three days.
And she went out in the nights into the valley of Bethulia, and washed
herself in a fountain of water. And as she came up, she prayed to the
Lord the God of Israel, that he would direct her way to the deliverance of
his people. And going in, she remained pure in the tent, until she
took her own meat in the evening. And it came to pass on the fourth
day, that Holofernes made a supper for his servants, and said to Vagao his
eunuch: Go, and persuade that Hebrew woman, to consent of her own accord to
dwell with me. For it is looked upon as shameful among the Assyrians, if a
woman mock a man, by doing so as to pass free from him. Then Vagao
went in to Judith, and said: "Let not my good maid be afraid to go in to my
lord, that she may be honored before his face, that she may eat with him and
drink wine and be merry." And Judith answered him: "Who am I, that I should
gainsay my lord?"
And when it was grown
late, his servants made haste to their lodgings, and Vagao shut the chamber
doors, and went his way. And they were all overcharged with wine.
And Judith was alone in the chamber. But Holofernes lay on his bed,
fast asleep, being exceedingly drunk. And Judith spoke to her maid to
stand without before the chamber, and to watch: And Judith stood
before the bed praying with tears, and the motion of her lips in silence,
Saying: "Strengthen me, O Lord God of Israel, and in this hour look on the
works of my hands, that as Thou promised, Thou may raise up Jerusalem thy
city: and that I may bring to pass that which I have purposed, having a
belief that it might be done by Thee.
And when she had said this, she went to the pillar that
was at his bed's head, and loosed his sword that hung tied upon it.
And when she had drawn it out, she took him by the hair of his head, and
said: "Strengthen me, O Lord God, at this hour." And she struck twice
upon his neck, and cut off his head, and took off his canopy from the
pillars, and rolled away his headless body. And after a while she went out,
and delivered the head of Holofernes to her maid, and bade her put it into
A reading from the Book of Judith
And when all the army heard that
Holofernes was beheaded, courage and counsel fled from them, and being
seized with trembling and fear they thought only to save themselves by
flight: So that no one spoke to his neighbor, but hanging down the
head, leaving all things behind, they made haste to escape from the Hebrews,
who, as they heard, were coming armed upon them, and fled by the ways of the
fields, and the paths of the hills. So the children of Israel seeing
them fleeing, followed after them. And they went down sounding with trumpets
and shouting after them. And because the Assyrians were not united
together, they went without order in their flight; but the children of
Israel pursuing in one body, defeated all that they could find.
And Ozias sent messengers through all
the cities and countries of Israel. And every country, and every city,
sent their chosen young men armed after them, and they pursued them with the
edge of the sword until they came to the extremities of their confines.
And the rest that were in Bethulia went into the camp of the Assyrians, and
took away the spoils, which the Assyrians in their flight had left behind
them, and they were laden exceedingly. But they that returned
conquerors to Bethulia, brought with them all things that were theirs, so
that there was no numbering of their cattle, and beasts, and all their
movables, insomuch that from the least to the greatest all were made rich by
And Joachim the high priest came from Jerusalem to
Bethulia with all his ancients to see Judith. And when she was come
out to him, they all blessed her with one voice, saying: "You are the glory
of Jerusalem, you art the joy of Israel, you art the honor of our people:
For you have done manfully, and your heart has been strengthened, because
you have loved chastity, and after your husband have not known any other:
therefore also the hand of the Lord has strengthened you, and therefore you shalt be blessed for ever." And all the people said: So be it, so be
The Canticle of Judith
For private recitation
Then Judith sang this canticle to the
Lord, saying: "Begin ye to the Lord with timbrels, sing ye to the Lord with
cymbals, tune unto Him a new psalm, extol and call upon His name. The
Lord puts an end to wars, the Lord is His name. He has set His camp in
the midst of his people, to deliver us from the hand of all our enemies.
The Assyrian came out of the mountains from the north in the multitude of
his strength: his multitude stopped up the torrents, and their horses
covered the valleys. He bragged that he would set my borders on fire,
and kill my young men with the sword, to make my infants a prey, and my
virgins captives. But the almighty Lord has struck him, and has
delivered him into the hands of a woman, and has slain him. For their
mighty one did not fall by young men, neither did the sons of Titan strike
him, nor did tall giants oppose themselves to him, but Judith the daughter
of Merari weakened him with the beauty of her face. For she put off
her the garments of widowhood, and put on her the garments of joy, to give
joy to the children of Israel. She anointed her face with ointment,
and bound up her locks with a crown, she took a new robe to deceive him.
Her sandals ravished his eyes, her beauty made his soul her captive, with a
sword she cut off his head. The Persians quaked at her constancy, and
the Medes at her boldness. Then the camp of the Assyrians howled, when
my lowly ones appeared, parched with thirst. The sons of the damsels
have pierced them through, and they have killed them like children fleeing
away: they perished in battle before the face of the Lord my God. Let
us sing a hymn to the Lord, let us sing a new hymn to our God.
O Adonai, Lord, great
art Thou, and glorious in Thy power, and no one can overcome Thee.
Let all thy creatures serve Thee: because Thou hast spoken, and they
were made: Thou didst send forth thy spirit, and they were created,
and there is no one that can resist thy voice. The mountains
shall be moved from the foundations with the waters: the rocks shall
melt as wax before Thy face. But they that fear Thee, shall be
great with Thee in all things. Woe be to the nation that rises
up against my people: for the Lord almighty will take revenge on
them, in the day of judgment He will visit them. For He will
give fire, and worms into their flesh, that they may burn, and may
feel for ever.
A reading from the Book of Judith
And it came to pass after these things,
that all the people, after the victory, came to Jerusalem to adore the Lord:
and as soon as they were purified, they all offered holocausts, and vows,
and their promises. And Judith offered for an anathema of oblivion all
the arms of Holofernes, which the people gave her, and the canopy that she
had taken away out of his chamber.
And the people were joyful
in the sight of the sanctuary, and for three months the joy of this victory
was celebrated with Judith. And after those days every man returned to
his house, and Judith was made great in Bethulia, and she was most renowned
in all the land of Israel. And chastity was joined to her virtue, so
that she knew no man all the days of her life, after the death of Manasses
her husband. And on festival days she came forth with great glory.
And she abode in her husband's house a
hundred and five years, and made her handmaid free, and she died, and was
buried with her husband in Bethulia. And all the people mourned for
seven days. And all the time of her life there was none that troubled
Israel, nor many years after her death. But the day of the festivity
of this victory is received by the Hebrews in the number of holy days, and
is religiously observed by the Jews from that time until this day.