Two Judges Plot To Have Sex with Susanna
1A man named Joakim lived in the city of Babylon 2and was married to a very beautiful woman, Susanna the daughter of Hilkiah. Susanna faithfully worshiped the Lord 3and obeyed the Law of Moses, just as she had been taught by her parents, who were very religious.
4Joakim was very rich and had a large walled garden#4 large walled garden: It seems to have contained a pool of water where Susanna could bathe on warm days (see verses 15-17), several varieties of trees (see verses 53-58), and probably bushes and other plants. next to his house. He was the most highly honored Jewish man in Babylon, and all the other Jews would come and talk with him.
5One year, two of the older Jewish leaders were appointed to be judges for their community in Babylon. The Lord had said he would punish older leaders who refused to obey his laws and rule the people wisely.#5 older leaders … wisely: This may be a reference to Jeremiah 29.20-23. And that is exactly what these leaders did.
6The two judges spent so much time at Joakim's house that people went there to have their cases judged. 7Each day, the people left the house at noon, then Susanna would go for a walk in her husband's garden. 8The two men watched her every day as she walked in the garden, and soon all they could think about was sleeping with her. 9They even stopped praying to God and forgot that they were supposed to be fair when they judged legal cases. 10-11Each of them was so ashamed of his desire for her, that they didn't tell the other how they felt. 12Day after day they would wait around, hoping to get a look at her.
13One day at noon, they said, “It's lunchtime—let's go home.” They left in different directions, 14but before long they both turned around and went back to Joakim's house. They saw one another, and each started asking the other why he had come back. Finally, they both admitted they wanted to sleep with Susanna, so they agreed to find a time when they could catch her alone.
15The two men watched for their chance, and one hot day, Susanna went into the garden to take a bath. Two of her servant girls were there with her, 16though no one else was in the garden, except the two men, who were watching her from their hiding place. 17Susanna told her servants, “Bring me some soap and lotion, then close the gates to the garden so I can bathe.”#17 close the gates … bathe: The garden was probably surrounded by high stone walls with solid wood gates, so Susanna thought she would have privacy.
18The servants did what she said. They shut the main gates to the garden, then they went into the house through the side gate and brought her some soap and lotion. But they did not see the two men.
19As soon as the servants had gone, the men left their hiding places. They ran over to Susanna 20and said, “Look, the gates are shut, and no one can see us here in the garden. We both want you, and so you had better agree to what we want! 21If you refuse, we will testify in court that we saw you send your servant girls away so you could make love with a young man.”
22 # Lv 20.10; Dt 22.22. “I'm trapped, and there's no way out,” Susanna moaned. “If I give in to you, I could be put to death.#22 put to death: If a woman was unfaithful to her husband, she could be put to death (see Deuteronomy 22.22). If I refuse, you will have me killed. 23But it is better to refuse and to suffer what you can do to me, than to sin against God.”
24Susanna screamed for help,#24 screamed for help: Susanna could not be considered innocent if she did not scream for help (see Deuteronomy 22.23,24). and the two leaders began shouting at her. 25One of them ran to the main gates of the garden and opened them. 26The household servants heard the noise, and they all rushed in through the side gate to see what had happened to Susanna. 27But when they heard the two men accusing her, the servants were ashamed. No one had ever said such things about Susanna before.
Susanna Is Put on Trial
28The next day, the Jewish people in Babylon came together at Joakim's house. The two men also arrived, ready to go ahead with their terrible plans to have Susanna put to death. 29They went to the front of the crowd and said, “Someone bring in Joakim's wife Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah.”
30Susanna came in, along with her parents, her children, and all her relatives. 31Susanna was a beautiful woman with a very good figure. 32When she came in, her face was covered with a veil. But the two evil men wanted to get one last good look at her, so they ordered her to take off her veil. 33Susanna's family was crying, and so was everyone else.
34The two men stood in the middle of the group and put their hands on Susanna's head, so they could officially accuse her.#34 put their hands … accuse her: It was a custom for the accusers in a trial to place their hands on the head of the accused (see Leviticus 24.14). 35But Susanna trusted the Lord to rescue her, and as she cried, she looked up toward heaven. 36Then the two men said:
While we were walking in the garden, Susanna came in with two servant girls. She shut the gates and told them to leave. 37Then a young man came out of hiding and went over to her, and they lay down and started making love. 38We were over in the corner of the garden, and we realized they were disobeying God's Law, so we ran over to them. 39We saw them making love, but we weren't able to catch the young man, because he was stronger than we were. He opened the gates and ran off.
40We grabbed Susanna and asked her who the young man was, 41but she refused to tell us. We swear we are telling the truth.
Both men were leaders and judges, and so everyone believed them and agreed that Susanna should be put to death.
Daniel Rescues Susanna
42Susanna cried out, “Eternal God, you know all secrets and everything that will happen in the future. 43You know these two men have told evil lies against me in court today. Now I am going to be killed, even though I haven't done anything wrong.”
44The Lord heard Susanna's prayer, 45and as she was being led away to be executed, he chose a young man named Daniel to help her. Daniel was upset 46and shouted, “I will not take part in murdering this woman!”
47The crowd turned to him and asked, “What do you mean?”
48Daniel went to the center of the crowd and said, “People of Israel, are you fools? You have condemned one of your own women to death, and you haven't even tried to find out what really happened. 49Go back to court, and I will prove that the two men who accused Susanna were lying.”
50Everyone rushed back to the place where the trial was held, and the group of leaders told Daniel, “So God has chosen you to be a leader, too! Sit down and tell us what you mean.”
51Daniel said, “Separate the two men who accused Susanna, and take them far enough away that they can't hear us. Then I will call them over one at a time and question them.”
52When the two had been taken to different places, Daniel called the first one over and said:
You are an evil old man, and it's clear that you've been sinning for a long time. 53#Ex 23.7. You've been giving unfair decisions in court. You have set the guilty free and condemned innocent people, even though the Lord said not to put an innocent person to death. 54Now, you have testified that Susanna was making love with a young man under a tree. So tell us, what kind of a tree was it?
“It was a small gum tree,” the man answered.
55“Is that so?” Daniel replied. “You will pay for that lie with your head! God has already sent his angel to cut you in half.”#54,55 small gum tree … cut you in half: In Greek, the word for “small gum tree” sounds like the word for “cut in half.”
56Daniel ordered the people to take the first man aside and to bring over the second one. Daniel told him:
You're not a Jew; you're a filthy Canaanite! You were under the spell of Susanna's beauty, and your desire for her made you do wrong instead of right. 57You two men have been frightening women from Israel into sleeping with you. But this faithful Jewish woman wouldn't stand for your evil ways. 58Now tell me, when Susanna and this young man were making love, what tree were they under?
“They were under a big oak tree,” the man answered.
59“Is that so?” Daniel replied. “You will pay for that lie with your head! The Lord's angel is waiting to chop you in half,#58,59 big oak tree … chop you in half: In Greek, the word for “big oak tree” sounds like the word for “chop in half.” and then both of you leaders will be dead.”
60The crowd shouted praises to God, because he rescues those who trust him. 61-62#Dt 19.16-21. Then they condemned the two leaders, since their answers to Daniel's questions proved they had lied in court to have Susanna killed. The Law of Moses says that anyone who does this should be put to death, and that is what quickly happened to the two men. And so an innocent woman's life was saved.
63Susanna's father and mother praised God, and so did her husband Joakim and all her relatives, because she had been found innocent of a shameful crime. 64And from then on, Daniel was famous.