1Then he ordered them to lead her into the room where his silver dinnerware was kept, and ordered them to set a table for her with his own delicacies to eat and his own wine to drink. 2But Judith said, “I cannot eat any* of them, because it would be a scandal.a Besides, I will have enough with the things I brought with me.” 3Holofernes asked her, “But if your provisions give out, where can we get more of the same to provide for you? None of your people are with us.” 4Judith answered him, “As surely as you live, my lord, your servant will not use up her supplies before the Lord accomplishes by my hand what he has determined.”
5Then the attendants of Holofernes led her to her tent, where she slept until the middle of the night. Toward the early morning watch, she roseb 6and sent this message to Holofernes, “Give orders, my lord, to let your servant go out for prayer.” 7So Holofernes ordered his guards not to hinder her. Thus she stayed in the camp three days. Each night she went out to the valley of Bethulia, where she bathed herself* at the spring of the camp.c 8After bathing, she prayed to the Lord, the God of Israel, to direct her way for the triumph of her people. 9Then she returned purified to the tent and remained there until her food was brought to her toward evening.d
Judith at the Banquet of Holofernes. 10On the fourth day Holofernes gave a banquet for his servants alone, to which he did not invite any of the officers. 11And he said to Bagoas, the eunuch in charge of his personal affairs, “Go and persuade the Hebrew woman in your care to come and to eat and drink with us. 12It would bring shame on us to be with such a woman without enjoying her. If we do not seduce her, she will laugh at us.”e
13So Bagoas left the presence of Holofernes, and came to Judith and said, “So lovely a maidservant should not be reluctant to come to my lord to be honored by him, to enjoy drinking wine with us, and to act today like one of the Assyrian women who serve in the palace of Nebuchadnezzar.” 14Judith replied, “Who am I to refuse my lord? Whatever is pleasing to him I will promptly do. This will be a joy* for me until the day of my death.”
15So she proceeded to put on her festive garments and all her finery. Meanwhile her servant went ahead and spread out on the ground opposite Holofernes the fleece Bagoas had furnished for her daily use in reclining while eating.f 16Then Judith came in and reclined. The heart of Holofernes was in rapture over her and his passion was aroused. He was burning with the desire to possess her, for he had been biding his time to seduce her from the day he saw her.g 17Holofernes said to her, “Drink and be happy with us!” 18Judith replied, “I will gladly drink, my lord, for today is the greatest day of my whole life.” 19She then took the things her servant had prepared and ate and drank in his presence. 20Holofernes, charmed by her, drank a great quantity of wine, more than he had ever drunk on any day since he was born.
* [12:2] Cannot eat any: the food of Gentiles was avoided by pious Jews (see Dn 1:8, 13, 15; Tb 1:10–11) because it might have been prohibited as unclean (see Lv 11:13–44), sacrificed to idols (see Ex 34:15; Dt 32:37–38), or contaminated with blood (see Lv 7:26–27). In addition, eating together symbolized the sharing of life.
* [12:7] Bathed herself: she bathes to purify herself after contact with the Gentiles. Her nightly departure from the camp provides for her escape (cf. 13:10).
* [12:14] Joy: the irony of this response is obvious; see also the joy of 14:9 and Judith’s “new song” in chap. 16.
a. [12:2] Tb 1:10–11; Est C:28; 1 Mc 1:62–63; 2 Mc 5:27; 6:18–7:2; Dn 1:8.
b. [12:5] Ex 14:24; 1 Sm 11:11.
e. [12:12] Dn 13:37, 54, 57–58.