4 The people of Judah heard what Holofernes, the commander of King Nebuchadnezzar's armies, had done to the other nations. They heard how he had looted and destroyed all their temples,2 and they were terrified of him and afraid of what he might do to Jerusalem and to the Temple of the Lord their God.3 They had only recently returned home to Judah from exile and had just rededicated the Temple and its utensils and its altar after they had been defiled.4 So they sent a warning to the whole region of Samaria and to the towns of Kona, Beth Horon, Belmain, Jericho, Choba, and Aesora, and to Salem Valley.5 They immediately occupied the mountaintops, fortified the villages on the mountains, and stored up food in preparation for war. It was fortunate that they had recently harvested their fields.
6 The High Priest Joakim, who was in Jerusalem at that time, wrote to the people in the towns of Bethulia and Betomesthaim, which face Jezreel Valley near Dothan.7 He ordered them to occupy the mountain passes which led into the land of Judah, where it would be easy to withstand an attack, since the approach was only wide enough for two people at a time to pass.8 The Israelites carried out the orders given to them by the High Priest Joakim and the Council which met in Jerusalem.
Prayer before the War
9 The leaders of Israel prayed earnestly to God and fasted.10 They put on sackcloth—they and their wives, their children, their livestock, and every resident foreigner, every slave and hired laborer.11-12 They also covered the altar with sackcloth. Then all the men, women, and children in Jerusalem lay face down on the ground in front of the Temple; they lay there in the Lord's presence, all in sackcloth, their heads covered with ashes. They joined together in earnest prayer to the God of Israel, begging him not to let their children be captured, their wives carried off, or their home towns destroyed. They pleaded with him not to give the Gentiles the satisfaction of destroying the Temple and dishonoring it.13 [a]The Lord heard their prayers and saw their distress. For many days the people of Judah and Jerusalem continued their fast in front of the Temple of the Lord Almighty.14 The High Priest Joakim, the priests, and all the others who served in the Lord's Temple, wore sackcloth when they offered the daily burnt offering, the freewill offerings of the people, and the offerings made to fulfill a vow.15 They put ashes on their turbans and cried out in prayer to the Lord, begging him to have mercy on the whole nation.
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