Achior in the Assyrian War Council.* 1It was reported to Holofernes, the ranking general of the Assyrian forces, that the Israelites were ready for battle, had blocked the mountain passes, fortified the high hilltops, and placed roadblocks in the plains. 2In great anger he summoned all the rulers of Moab, the governors of Ammon, and all the satraps of the coastlanda 3and said to them: “Now tell me, you Canaanites, what sort of people is this that lives in the hill country? Which cities do they inhabit? How large is their force? In what does their power and strength consist? Who has set himself up as their king and the leader of their army? 4Why have they alone of all the inhabitants of the west refused to come out to meet me?”
5* Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, said to him: “My lord, please listen to a report from your servant. I will tell you the truth about this people that lives in the hill country near here. No lie shall escape your servant’s lips.
6“These people are descendants of the Chaldeans. 7They formerly lived in Mesopotamia, for they did not wish to follow the gods of their ancestors who were in the land of the Chaldeans.b 8Since they abandoned the way of their ancestors, and worshiped the God of heaven,* the God whom they had come to know, their ancestors expelled them from the presence of their gods. So they fled to Mesopotamia and lived there a long time. 9Their God told them to leave the place where they were living and go to the land of Canaan. Here they settled, and grew very rich in gold, silver, and a great abundance of livestock.c 10Later, when famine had gripped the land of Canaan, they went down into Egypt. They stayed there as long as they found sustenance and there they grew into such a great multitude that the number of their people could not be counted.d 11e The king of Egypt, however, rose up against them, and shrewdly forced them to labor at brickmaking; they were oppressed and made into slaves. 12But they cried to their God, and he struck the whole land of Egypt with plagues for which there was no remedy. So the Egyptians drove them out. 13Then God dried up the Red Sea before themf 14and led them along the route to Sinai and Kadesh-barnea. They drove out all the inhabitants of the wilderness 15and settled in the land of the Amorites. By their strength they destroyed all the Heshbonites,g crossed the Jordan, and took possession of all the hill country.h 16They drove out before them the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Shechemites,* and all the Gergesites,i and they lived there a long time.
17j “As long as the Israelites did not sin in the sight of their God, they prospered, for their God, who hates wickedness, was with them. 18* But when they abandoned the way he had prescribed for them, they were utterly destroyed by frequent wars, and finally taken as captives into foreign lands. The temple of their God was razed to the ground, and their cities were occupied by their enemies.k 19But now they have returned to their God, and they have come back from the Diaspora where they were scattered. They have reclaimed Jerusalem, where their sanctuary is, and have settled again in the hill country, because it was unoccupied.
20l “So now, my master* and lord, if these people are inadvertently at fault, or if they are sinning against their God, and if we verify this offense of theirs, then we will be able to go up and conquer them. 21But if they are not a guilty nation, then let my lord keep his distance; otherwise their Lord and God will shield them, and we will be mocked in the eyes of all the earth.”
22Now when Achior had finished saying these things, all the people standing round about the tent murmured; and the officers of Holofernes and all the inhabitants of the seacoast and of Moab alike said he should be cut to pieces. 23m “We are not afraid of the Israelites,” they said, “for they are a powerless people, incapable of a strong defense. 24Therefore let us attack, master Holofernes. They will become fodder for your great army.”
* [5:1–6:13] The scene shifts to the Assyrian camp below Bethulia where Holofernes talks with Achior and then expels him to the foot of the hill below the little town.
* [5:5–21] Achior (Heb. “brother of light”) traces the covenant of Israel from Abraham to the exile and defends the inviolability of the people because their powerful God will defend them if they do not sin. He later identifies the head Judith displays as that of Holofernes (14:6–10). He may be modeled on the famous sage, Ahiqar (see note on Tb 1:21). Achior is wise, but the wisdom granted Judith by God is more effective than his.
* [5:8] God of heaven: a common expression in Persian times; see also 6:19; 11:17 (cf. 7:28; 9:12; 13:18).
* [5:16] Shechemites: perhaps anticipates the allusion in Judith’s prayer (9:2) to Simeon’s revenge on these people.
* [5:18–19] Knowledge of the Babylonian exile is presupposed; cf. also 4:3.
* [5:20] Master: the Greek word despota, usually applied to God in the Septuagint, is applied to Holofernes five times in the Book of Judith (vv. 20, 24; 7:9, 11; 11:10), and only once to God (9:12).
a. [5:2] Dt 2:21; 2 Kgs 24:2.
d. [5:10] Gn 42:1–5; 46:1–7; Ex 1:7.
e. [5:11–12] Ex 1:10–14; 5:1–21; 7:1–11:10.
f. [5:13] Ex 14:21; Jos 2:10; 4:23; Ps 106:9; Wis 19:7; Heb 11:29.
g. [5:15] Nm 21:25–28, 30, 34; Dt 1:4; 2:24, 26, 30; 3:2, 6; 4:46.
i. [5:16] Gn 10:16; 15:20; Dt 7:1; Jos 3:10; 24:12; 1 Chr 1:14.
j. [5:17–18] Dt 28–30; Jgs 2:11–15; Ps 106:40–46.
l. [5:20–21] Jdt 8:18–23; 11:10; Tb 3:3.