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Chapter XV.

The Jews, then, having returned, as we have narrated above, to their native land, and the condition of their affairs and of their city being not yet properly settled, the king of the Persians made war on the Medes, and engaged in a successful battle against their king, who was named Arphaxad. That monarch being slain, he added the nation to his empire. He did the same to other nations, having sent before him Holofernes whom he had appointed master of his host, with a hundred and twenty thousand foot-soldiers, and twelve thousand cavalry. He, after having ravaged in war, Cilicia and Arabia, took many cities by force, or compelled them through fear to surrender. And now the army, having moved on to Damascus, had struck the Jews with great terror. But as they were unable to resist, and as, at the same time, they could not bring their minds to acquiesce in the thought of surrender, since they had previously known from experience the miseries of slavery, they betook themselves in crowds to the temple. There, with a general groaning and commingled wailing, they implored the divine assistance; saying that they had been sufficiently punished by God for their sins and offenses; and begging him to spare the remnant of them who had recently been delivered from slavery. In the meantime, Holofernes had admitted the Moabites to surrender, and joined them to himself as allies in the war against the Jews. He inquired of their chief men what was the power on which the Hebrews relied in not bringing their minds to submit to the thought of submission. In reply, a certain 105man called Achior stated to him the facts, viz.: that the Jews being worshipers of God, and trained by their fathers to pious observances, had formerly passed through a period of slavery in Egypt, and that, brought out from that country by the divine aid, and having passed over on foot the sea which was dried up before them, they had at last conquered all the opposing nations, and recovered the territory inhabited by their ancestors. That subsequently, with various fluctuations in their affairs, they had either prospered or the reverse, that, when they did sink into adversity, they had again escaped from their sufferings, finding that God was, in turn, either angry against them, or reconciled towards them, according to their deserts, so that, when they sinned, they were chastised by the attacks of enemies or by being sent into captivity, but were always unconquerable when they enjoyed the divine favor. So then, if at the present time they are free from guilt, they cannot possibly be subdued; but if they are otherwise situated, they will easily be conquered. Upon this, Holofernes, flushed with many victories, and thinking that everything must give way before him, was roused to wrath, because victory on his part was regarded as principally depending on the sin of the Jews, and ordered Achior to be pushed forward into the camp of the Hebrews, that he might perish in company with those who he had affirmed could not be conquered. Now, the Jews had then made for the mountains; and those to whom the business had been assigned, proceeded to the foot of the mountains, and there left Achior in chains. When the Jews perceived that, they freed him from his bonds and conducted him up the hill. On their inquiring the reason of what had happened, he explained it to them, and, being received in peace, awaited the result. I may add that, after the victory, he was circumcised and became a Jew. Well, Holofernes, perceiving the difficulty of the localities, because he could not reach the heights, surrounded the mountains with soldiers, and took the greatest pains to cut off the Hebrews from all water supplies. On that account, they felt all the sooner the misery of a siege. Being therefore overcome through want of water, they went in a company to Ozias, their leader, all inclined to make a surrender. But he replied that they should wait a little, and look for the divine assistance, so that the time of surrender was fixed for the fifth day afterwards.

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