5 When Holofernes, the Assyrian general, heard that the Israelites had prepared for war, blocked the mountain passes, fortified the mountaintops, and set up roadblocks in the plains,2 he boiled over with anger. He called together all the Moabite rulers, all the Ammonite generals, and all the governors of the region along the Mediterranean coast3 and said to them,
You live in Canaan, so tell me about the people who live in these mountains. Which cities do they occupy? How large is their army? What is the source of their power and strength? Who is the king who leads their army?4 Why have they alone, of all the people in the west, refused to come out and surrender to me?
The Speech of Achior
5 Then Achior, the leader of all the Ammonites, answered Holofernes, Sir, if you will please be so kind as to listen to me, I will tell you the truth about these people who live in the mountains near your camp. I will not lie to you.6 These people are the descendants of some Babylonians7-8 who abandoned the ways of their ancestors in order to worship the God of heaven. Finally, they were driven out of their land because they refused to worship their ancestors' gods. Then they fled to Mesopotamia, where they settled and lived for a long time.
9 Afterward, their god told them to leave Mesopotamia and go to the land of Canaan, where they settled and became very rich in gold, silver, and livestock.10 Later, when a famine struck all the land of Canaan, these Israelites, as they were later called, went down to Egypt and stayed there as long as there was enough food. While they were there, they became a large nation with so many people that they could not be counted.11 So the king of Egypt turned against them. He took advantage of them and put them to work making bricks. He oppressed them and made them slaves.12 But they prayed to their god, and he sent disasters that left the Egyptians helpless. When the Egyptians drove them out of the country,13 their god dried up the Red Sea in front of them,14 and then led them along the way to Sinai and Kadesh Barnea.
The Israelites drove out all the people who lived in the southern part of Canaan,15 occupied the land of the Amorites, wiped out the people of Heshbon, crossed the Jordan River, and took possession of the entire mountain region.16 They drove out the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Jebusites, the Shechemites, and all the Girgashites. The Israelites have now lived in these mountains for a long time.
17 Their god hates wickedness, and as long as they did not sin against him, they prospered.18 But when they disobeyed him, they suffered heavy losses in many wars and were finally taken away as captives to a foreign country. The temple of their god was leveled and their cities were occupied by their enemies.19 But now that they have returned to their god, they have come back home from the countries where they had been scattered. They have again taken possession of the city of Jerusalem, where their temple is, and have resettled in the mountains that had remained uninhabited.
20 Sir, if these people are now sinning against their god, even unknowingly, and if we can be sure that they are guilty of some offense, we can successfully attack them.21 But if they have not disobeyed the law of their god, then you should leave them alone, or he will defend them, and we will be disgraced before the whole world.
The Reaction of the Crowd
22 When Achior had finished his speech, all the people standing around the tent began to protest. Holofernes' own senior officers, as well as the Moabites and those from the Mediterranean coast, demanded that Achior be put to death.
23 Why should we be afraid of these Israelites? they asked. They are weak; they can't put up a strong defense.24 Let's go ahead! General Holofernes, your great army will slaughter them easily.
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