Judith possessed a maid who served and helped her.
Nebuchadnezzar's general Holofernes sought to conquer and destroy Israel. When the people of Israel heard this, they humbled themselves and prayed to God, and God heard them (Judith 4:13 (NABRE)).
Holofernes besieged Bethulia. Thirst drove the city's people to demand that its leaders surrender the city to Holofernes and the Assyrians. One of the city's Uzziah conceded and promised to surrender God does not save them within five days.
Judith lived in the city and heard what Uzziah said. She had her maid summon the three elders of the city (Uzziah, Chabris, and Charmis). The elders went to Judith, and she denounced their promise to surrender the city to Holofernes. She stated that it was wrong for them to test God by setting a deadline upon God. She told to pray to God and wait for salvation, since the Israelites had been faithful in recent generations. She also told them that God would hold them accountable for the fall Judea and the Temple if they surrender, since their surrender would mean the conquest and destruction of Judea and the Temple. Judith told them to set an example for their people. She reminded them of the stakes: the lives of their people and the safety of the Temple. She told them to thank God, since God was testing them, as God had done to their ancestors.
Uzziah praised Judith's wisdom and virtue, but he refused to back out of his promise to the people of the city. Instead, he asked Judith to pray for rain.
Judith then announced that she was taking action and that God would save Israel through her. Uzziah and the other elders wished her well and asked God to help her in her mission.
Judith prays and prepares
Judith prostrated, placed ashes upon her head, displayed her sackcloth, and prayed to God.
After she finished praying, she and her maid went into her house, which she only used on sabbaths and feast days. She replaced her widow clothing with festival clothing, washed herself, anointed herself with ointment, arranged her hair, and put on jewelry and a diadem. Judith gave her maid wine, oil, and food to carry.
They left the house, and at the city gates, Uzziah and the elders recognized her beauty and asked God to help her in her plan. Judith bowed to God an asked the elders to order the gates to be opened. The gates were opened, and Judith and her maid went out.
Judith meets with Holofernes
An Assyrian patrol took them into custody and asked her about her ethnicity and intentions. She lied; she claimed to be a Hebrew who was fleeing from the supposedly doomed city and who sought to deliver information to Holofernes that would supposedly help him conquest Israel without a single battle. The Assyrians believed the lie, and they escorted her to Holofernes.
Holofernes went out of his tent, and he and his men marveled at Judith's beauty. She bowed and payed feinted homage to Holofernes. Holofernes told her that she was safe and asked her to recount why she was here. Judith flattered Holofernes with praise. She claimed that the Israelites were sinning and that Holofernes was destined to win because of it. She claimed to be in contact with God. She claimed that if she were allowed to pray to God each night, God would tell her when Israel would be delivered to the Assyrians.
Holofernes and his attendants believed flattery and lies. Holofernes ordered a meal to be set up for her, but Judith declined, stating she cannot eat their food and that she had brought her own food. For three nights, Judith went out to bath and then pray. She prayed for God to help the Israelites.
Judith slays Holofernes
On the fourth day, Holofernes had a banquet prepared for the servants of the camp; officers were not invited to it. Holofernes ordered his eunuch Bagoas to persuade Judith to come to the banquet.
Bagoas asked Judith to come to the banquet, and Judith agreed. Holofernes sought to seduce Judith. They ate and drank, with Judith eating the food and drinking the wine that her maid brought and prepared. Holofernes drank too much and became drunk.
Holofernes' servants retired for the night, and Judith told her maid to wait outside the bedchamber; thus, Judith was left alone with an unsuspecting and drunk Holofernes. Judith made a silent prayer, asking God to help fulfill her plan. She took Holofernes' sword, which Holofernes had at his bedpost, and grabbed Holofernes' head by its hair. She asked God for strength and chopped off Holofernes' head. She took Holofernes' prized canopy and handed Holofernes' head to her maid. The maid placed the head in her food bag, and they left, as if it were merely another night of Judith going off to pray.
They returned to Bethulia and told them what happened. The people were amazed, and they praised God. Judith instructed the Israelites on how to defeat the now leaderless Assyrians. The Israelites followed her plan, defeated the Assyrians, and celebrated.
Judith later freed her maid.