The Assyrians flee (Jdt 15:1-15:7)

“When the men in the tents heard it, they were amazed at what had happened. Overcome with fear and trembling, they did not wait for one another. With one impulse, all rushed out. They fled by every path across the plain and through the hill country. Those who had camped in the hills around Bethulia also took flight. Then the Israelites, everyone that was a soldier, rushed out upon them. Uzziah sent men to Betomesthaim, Choba, and Kola, and to all the frontiers of Israel, to tell them what had taken place. He urged all the Israelites to rush out upon their enemies to destroy them. When the Israelites heard it, with one accord they fell upon the enemy. They cut them down as far as Choba. Those in Jerusalem and all the hill country also came. They were told what had happened in the camp of the enemy. The men of Gilead and in Galilee outflanked them with great slaughter, even beyond Damascus and its borders. The rest of the people of Bethulia fell upon the Assyrian camp and plundered it, acquiring great riches. The Israelites, when they returned from the slaughter, took possession of what remained. Even the villages and towns in the hill country and in the plain got a great amount of booty, since there was a vast quantity of it.”

When all the foot soldiers in the camp heard what had happened, they were overcome with fear and trembling. Many of them rushed to the various paths to get out of the area. With all this going on, the Israelite soldiers rushed the camp. Meanwhile Uzziah, the lead elder in Bethulia, sent word out by messengers about what had happened there. He sent people to Betomesthaim, Choba, and Kola, but unfortunately no one has been able to pinpoint where these places are, but they probably were close to Dothan. He wanted the men at the frontiers to destroy their enemy as he was escaping. He sent word to Jerusalem and the hill country. Apparently, he was more successful in the northern areas of Galilee and Gilead, as they chased the enemy as far as Damascus. The men of Bethulia attacked the Assyrian camp killing the confused soldiers and taking their stuff as booty, since there were many supplies there for this famished town.

 

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The preparations for the invasion (Jdt 4:4-4:8)

“The Israelites sent word to every district of Samaria, especially to Kona, Beth-horon, Belmain, Jericho, Choba, Aesora, and the valley of Salem. They immediately seized all the high hilltops. They fortified the villages on them. They stored up food in preparation for war, since their fields had recently been harvested. The high priest Joakim, who was in Jerusalem at the time, wrote to the people of Bethulia and Betomesthaim, which faces Esdraelon opposite the plain near Dothan. He ordered them to seize the mountain passes, since by them Judea could be invaded. It would be easy to stop any who tried to enter, for the approach was narrow, only wide enough for two at a time to pass. So the Israelites did as they had been ordered by the high priest Joakim and the senate of the whole people of Israel, in session at Jerusalem.”

The Israelites were aware that Holofernes was coming. They warned the people of Samaria. However, Judah was always separate from Samaria and Holofernes was already there in northern Israel. There were a series of towns in Benjamin named, some of which are difficult to locate except for Beth-horon and Jericho. The valley of Salem may refer to the area around Jerusalem since that might have been ancient name, Jeru-Salem. They took all the high places and fortified them. They stored up food since the harvest had just taken place. The 2 towns of Bethulia and Betomesthaim are difficult to find. They must have been near Dothan, which as far as any identification is possible, was north of Shechem in Manasseh territory. Their high priest Joakim is also hard to identify, since the only priest with that name was after the exile in Nehemiah, chapter 12. This would put it 200 years after King Nebuchadnezzar. There also was no Senate in Jerusalem until the 2nd century BCE. Thus the story has a lot of problematic areas when it comes to specifics about places, peoples, and events in any sort of timeframe.