Introduction#sn The story of Susanna has been called the gem of the several deuterocanonical additions to Daniel; it is “one of the best short stories in the world’s literature” and “a model of artistic fiction” that “qualifies as great literature” (B. M. Metzger, Introduction to the Apocrypha, 107, 110). Not surprisingly the influence of this remarkable story can be seen both in literature and in art down through the centuries, as great masters have portrayed through written or visual media the triumph of a devout person wrongly accused by evildoers. The placement of Susanna varies in the manuscript tradition. The Greek text of Theodotion has Susanna prior to Daniel 1. However, in Greek MS 88, the Syrohexapla, and the Latin Vulgate Susanna appears after Daniel 12, while in Greek papyrus MS 967 Susanna appears after Bel and the Dragon. English Bibles that include the deuterocanonical books usually present Susanna as chapter 13 of Daniel, with Bel and the Dragon appearing as chapter 14.
1 There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim. 2 He married a woman#tn Grk “took a wife.” whose name was Susanna. She was the daughter of Hilkiah, and she was a very beautiful and devout#tn Grk “fearing the Lord.” woman. 3 Her parents were righteous people, and they instructed their daughter in#tn Grk “according to.” the law of Moses. 4 Joakim was very wealthy, and he had a garden#tn The Greek word paradeisos is used for an attractive garden or enclosed park. This word is borrowed from old Persian, where it is used often (but not exclusively) in reference to lush parks such as those available to Persian nobility. In Gen 2:8 the LXX uses this word to refer to the garden of Eden. The garden is mentioned in Susanna as an evidence of Joakim’s wealth, and we can assume that it was a pleasant and attractive place mainly used for private relaxing and casual enjoyment. adjacent to his home.#tn Grk “house.” So also in vv. 13, 28. The Jews used to gravitate#tn Grk “gather.” to him, because he was held in greater esteem than all of them. 5 In that year#sn That is, the same year that Joakim had married Susanna, unless something has dropped out of the text as we now have it. According to the old Greek translation of v. 30 Susanna already had four children, which presupposes the passing of a greater length of time than just one year. See further the discussion in C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 95. two elders of the people were appointed as judges.#sn Origen and Jerome were familiar with a Jewish tradition that identified the anonymous elders in Susanna as the adulterous prophets Ahab son of Kolaiah and Zedekiah son of Maaseiah (cf. Jer 29:21-23), but there is no adequate basis for this suggestion apart from the common theme of adultery on the part of religious leaders. For the relevant textual data see J. Braverman, Jerome’s Commentary on Daniel, CBQMS 7, 126-31. Concerning such judges#tn Grk “concerning whom.” the Lord#tn Grk “Master.” had said, “Iniquity proceeded from Babylon from elders who were judges, the very ones who were supposed to be governing the people.”#sn This quotation is not found as such in the Old Testament, although it may be an allusion to Jer 23:14-15. 6 These men used to frequent the home of Joakim, and all those who were in need of legal decisions#tn Grk “all those being judged.” used to come to them.
Two Elders Attempt to Seduce Susanna
7 It so happened#tn Grk “and it came to pass.” Cf. vv. 15, 19. The expression is a Hebraism. that when the people were departing at mid-day, Susanna used to enter and walk about in her husband’s garden. 8 Day after day the two elders used to watch her entering and walking about, and they began to have#tn Grk “they became.” The verb is an ingressive aorist. lustful desires toward her.#tn Grk “in lust of her.” The pronoun is an objective genitive. 9 Their minds became twisted,#tn Grk “they perverted their own mind.” In this instance the expression has been understood by some scholars to refer to a casting aside of reason (e.g., “they threw reason aside,” Knox; “reason they dethroned,” Knox) or to a suppression of conscience (e.g., “they suppressed their consciences,” NRSV and NAB). and they turned their attention#tn Grk “eyes.” from focusing#tn Grk “not to look.” on heaven#tn The word “heaven” is used here as a metonymy for God. Cf. the familiar New Testament expression “kingdom of heaven.” or paying attention#tn Grk “to remember.” to righteous decisions. 10 Both of them were enamored#tn The Greek word katanusso normally has the sense of “to be sorely pricked,” “bewildered,” or “stunned” (see LSJ 903; J. Lust et al., Lexicon of the Septuagint, 2:240). Here it is used of the overwhelming and inappropriate sexual attraction that the two elders felt toward Susanna. It is possible that the Greek word in Susanna is based on a misunderstanding of a word in its putative Hebrew Vorlage, since the root hll (“to wound”) is very similar in appearance to hlh (“to be sick”). The root hlh is sometimes used of love-sickness (see HALOT 1:316), a meaning which would clearly fit the context of Susanna. See further F. Zimmermann, “The Story of Susanna and Its Original Language,” JQR 48 (1957-1958): 239-40. of her, but neither one told the other of his anguish.#tc The old Greek translation adds “nor did the woman know this thing,” stressing the complete innocence of Susanna in the matter. 11 For they were ashamed to disclose#tn Grk “announce.” their lust and how they longed to have sexual relations with her.#tc In addition to having significant differences in content as compared to Theodotion’s text, the old Greek translation lacks vv. 11, 15-18, 20-21, 24-27, 42-43, 46-47, 49-50, 63-64. Most scholars regard the old Greek translation as the earlier of the two texts. 12 Day after day they eagerly watched for her.#tc The old Greek translation reads v. 12 as follows: “And when morning came, apart from one another’s awareness they came rushing to see who could first appear to her and speak with her.”
13 Then one day#tn The words “one day” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity. So also in v. 15. they said to one another, “Let’s go home, for it is time for dinner. And departing, they separated from one another. 14 But having looped back, they came together again. After inquiring of one another for an explanation, they admitted#tn Or “confessed.” their lust. Then in collusion they arranged for a time when they would be able to find her alone.
15 It so happened that one day while they were looking for an opportune time,#tn Grk “day.” she entered as was her habit#tn Grk “yesterday and a third day.” The expression is a Hebraism. with only two female attendants. She intended#tn Grk “she desired.” to bathe in the garden, for it was a hot day. 16 No one else was there except for the two elders who were carefully watching her from a concealed position.#tn Grk “having been hidden.” 17 She said to her female attendants, “Bring me some olive oil and soap#tn The Greek word smegma (= smema) means “soap” or “unguent” (LSJ 1619; J. Lust et al., Lexicon of the Septuagint, 2:432). In English versions the word has been translated as “ointments” (RSV, NRSV), “perfume” (TEV), “washing balls” (KJV, Douay), or “balsam” (New Jerusalem Bible). and close the doors to the garden, so that I may bathe.” 18 They did as she had instructed#tn Grk “said.” and closed the doors to the garden. They then exited by the side doors in order to bring the things she had requested#tn Grk “the things having been commanded to them.” of them. They did not notice#tn Grk “know.” the elders, for they were concealed.
19 After the female attendants had exited, the two elders got up and ran over to her. 20 They said, “Look! The doors to the garden have been closed, and no one is watching us. We are attracted to you. So agree that you will have sex with us.#tn Grk “and be with us.” 21 If you don’t, we will bring charges against you, alleging that a young man was in your company and that this was the reason you sent your female attendants away from you.
22 Susanna groaned aloud and said, “I am trapped with no hope of escape!#tn Grk “distress to me on all sides.” The expression is a Hebraism. For if I do this thing it will result in my death.#sn Under the Mosaic law adultery was punishable by death. See Lev 20:10; Deut 22:20-24; cf. John 8:5. But if I don’t do it, I won’t escape from your hands. 23 My choice is not to do this and to fall into your hands rather than to sin in the Lord’s sight.”
24 Then Susanna cried out loudly,#tn Grk “with a great voice.” Susanna’s response is exactly what the Mosaic law dictated for a woman in such circumstances. A woman experiencing sexual attack was to call out loudly for help (see Deut 22:24, 27). As v. 3 indicates, Susanna’s parents had trained her in the law; her reaction here illustrates how well she had learned those lessons. and the two elders cried out against her. 25 One of them ran and opened the doors to the garden.#sn The purpose for opening the garden doors was apparently to add credence to the false allegation that a romantic suitor had escaped from the elders’ grasp and had fled from the garden. 26 When those from the house#tn Grk “those out of the house.” The expression apparently refers to the household servants (so KJV, Douay, RSV, Knox). heard the crying in the garden, they rushed in through the side door in order to see what had happened to her. 27 When the elders told their account, the servants were very embarrassed, for never before had anything like this been said about Susanna.
The Elders Accuse Susanna
28 On the following day, as the people gathered at the home of her husband Joakim,#sn According to the old Greek translation of v. 28 the setting for the trial of Susanna was not at the estate of Joakim but rather at a local synagogue. the two elders came, consumed by#tn Grk “full of.” their unrestrained#tn Grk “lawless.” intentions to have Susanna put to death. In the presence of the people they said, 29 “Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, the wife of Joakim!” So they sent for her.#tn The words “for her” are not in the Greek text but have been added in the translation for clarity. 30 And she came, along with her parents, her children, and all her relatives.#tc According to the old Greek translation of v. 30 Susanna arrived at the trial with her father, her mother, her five hundred attendants, and her four children. The surprisingly large number of attendants is apparently intended to underscore the wealth of this family.
31 Now Susanna was a very refined#tn Or, “delicate.” and beautiful#tn Grk “good with regard to appearance.” woman. 32 These lawless men demanded#tn Grk “commanded.” that she be unveiled (for she was wearing a veil),#tn Clearly in Theodotion this “uncovering” refers to the removal only of Susanna’s veil. The old Greek translation, however, lacks the parenthetical comment “for she was wearing a veil,” leading some scholars to wonder whether in that version the idea may be that Susanna was “uncovered” in the sense of being stripped of most or all of her clothing. According to Ezek 16:35-42 the punishment of an adulterous woman could include her being stripped naked in the presence of witnesses. so that they could take in#tn Grk “be filled with.” her beauty. 33 But those who were with her and all those who were observing her#tn Or “the onlookers.” were in tears. 34 The two elders stood up in the midst of the people and put their hands on her head. 35 In tears she looked up to the sky,#tn Or “heaven.” for in her heart she was trusting the Lord. 36 The elders said, “While we were walking alone in the garden, this woman entered with two female attendants and closed the doors to the garden and dismissed the female attendants. 37 Then a young man who had been concealed came to her and lay with her. 38 We were in the corner of the garden. But when we saw this iniquity, we ran up to them. 39 And even though we observed them engaged in sexual relations, we weren’t able to restrain the man, for he was stronger than we. He opened the doors and escaped on foot. 40 So we apprehended this woman and inquired about who the young man was. 41 But she didn’t want to tell us. We testify to these things.”
The assembly believed them, since they were elders and judges of the people. And they condemned her to death.#sn Cf. Lev 20:10; Deut 22:22-24. 42 Then Susanna cried out loudly#tn Grk “with a great voice.” and exclaimed,#tn Grk “said.” “O eternal God! You are the one who knows what is hidden#sn Cf. Deut 29:29. and who comprehends all things before they happen. 43 You know that they have testified falsely against me. Look! I am about to be put to death, even though I have done nothing that these men have contrived#tn Grk “wickedly done.” against me.”
44 And the Lord paid attention to her cry.#tn Grk “voice.” 45 As she was being led away to be put to death, God aroused the holy spirit of a young#sn In patristic literature the similarity between this story and the New Testament account of the boy Jesus confounding the teachers in the temple (Luke 2:41-52) was not overlooked, with some writers even drawing the conclusion that at this point Daniel (like Jesus) was twelve years of age. boy#sn It is possible only to have a very general idea of Daniel’s age on the basis of this term. The Greek word used for “boy” (paidarion) can refer to a very young boy or a youth who is entering adulthood (e.g., Tobit 5:17 et passim). whose name was Daniel.#sn Surprisingly, this is the first mention of Daniel in the story. It is only in the final third of the narrative that Daniel actually plays a role; everything prior to this has emphasized Susanna’s plight as a righteous person falsely accused. Although in this concluding section Daniel receives attention as one wise beyond his years, it is clearly Susanna who is the main focus overall. Furthermore, Daniel’s presence during these events in Babylon creates a problem for the placement of this story in relation to the canonical portions of Daniel. As Collins points out, the fact that Daniel in this story is already present in Babylon renders the placement of Susanna before Daniel 1 somewhat anachronistic, since the first chapter of Daniel recounts Daniel’s deportation from Jerusalem to Babylon. See J. J. Collins, Daniel, Hermeneia, 433. 46 He cried out loudly,#tn Grk “with a great voice.” “I am innocent of this blood!”#sn Cf. the similar words of Pilate recorded in Matt 27:24. 47All the people turned toward him and exclaimed,#tn Grk “said.” “What is this thing#tn Grk “word.” that you have spoken?” 48 Then he stood up in their midst and said, “Are you so foolish, you Israelites?#tn Grk “sons of Israel.” Have you condemned a daughter of Israel without ascertaining the facts and without knowing for certain what transpired? 49 Go back to court,#tn Grk “return to the place of judgment.” Cf. TEV: “Reopen the case.” for these men have brought false charges against her.”
50 So all the people went back quickly. The elders said to Daniel,#tn Grk “him.” “Come! Sit in our midst and clarify#tn Grk “announce.” things for us. For God has granted you this right.”#Or, “the prestige of old age” (NAB). 51 So Daniel said to them, “Separate them a good distance from one another, and I will examine them.” 52 When they had been separated from one another, he summoned one of them and said to him, “You mean old rascal!#tn Grk “you (are) one being old of bad days.” The expression is a pejorative and demeaning form of address, implying that one’s entire life has been characterized by wicked behavior. The expression has been variously translated in the English versions (e.g., “you old relic of wicked days,” RSV and NRSV; “How you have grown evil with age!” NAB; “You wicked old man,” TEV; “Grown so old in years, and years ill spent!” Knox; “You have grown old in wickedness,” New Jerusalem Bible). Now your sins that you committed previously have come full circle! 53 You are enacting legal decisions in an unjust way, and you are condemning the innocent and releasing the guilty, even though the Lord has said, ‘You shall not put to death the innocent or the righteous.’#sn The citation is from Exod 23:7. 54 Now therefore, if you actually saw this woman, tell me: Under what tree did you see them having sexual relations?” He replied,#tn Grk “said.” “Under a mastic tree.”#sn The mastic tree is the Pistacia Lentiscus (so LSJ 1746). 55 Daniel replied, “Well said! You have lied at the risk of your own life.#tn Grk “on your own head.” So also in v. 59. For the angel of God has already received your sentence from God, and he will split you apart!”#sn A striking wordplay is used here so as twice to connect the name of the tree and the consequence that Daniel announces to the elders for their false testimony. The first elder claims to have seen Susanna involved in inappropriate sexual activity under a mastic tree (Greek, schinon). Daniel commends this answer, since God will exact judgment on the lying elder by splitting (Greek, schisei) him in two. Later, in vv. 58-59 there is a similar pun. The second elder claims that he observed sinful behavior taking place under an oak tree (Greek, prinon). Daniel then warns that an angel will soon saw (Greek, prisai) this elder in two. Attempts to preserve these wordplays in English have usually resulted in sacrifice of accuracy in representing some of the terms that are used in the story. (But for some interesting possibilities see C. A. Moore, The Additions, AB 44, 110. Moore’s own attempts are “clove tree . . . cleave you in half” and “a yew . . . hew you in half.”) These wordplays (or paronomasia) are sometimes taken as evidence that the original language of Susanna must have been Greek, since it is extremely difficult to reproduce such puns in translation. However, it is possible that the puns were entirely the work of a Greek translator, in which case they tell us nothing about the original language of this composition.
56 When he had stood him to the side, he instructed#tn Grk “commanded.” them to bring in the other one. He said to him, “You offspring#tn Grk “seed.” of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you, and lust has perverted your heart! 57 This is the way that the two of you#tn The Greek text does not have the word “two.” It has been added in the translation to bring out the fact that the pronoun “you” is plural here. So also in v. 59. were dealing with the daughters of Israel, and those women were having sexual relations with you because they were afraid. But a daughter of Judah#sn Cf. “daughter of Israel” in v. 48. would not put up with your lawlessness. 58 Now therefore tell me, under which tree did you apprehend them as they were having sexual relations?” He replied,#tn Grk “said.” “Under an oak tree.”#sn The Greek word prinos can refer to the holm-oak (Quercus Ilex) or to the kermes-oak (Quercus cocoifera). See LSJ 1464. 59 Daniel said to him, “Well said! You too have lied at the risk of your own life. For the angel of God awaits with a sword to saw you in two, that he may completely destroy both#tn The word “both” is not in the Greek text but is used in the translation to bring out the fact that the second-person pronoun “you” is plural. of you!”
60 Then all the assembly cried out loudly#tn Grk “with a great voice.” and blessed God who delivers those who place their hope in him. 61 They rose up against the two elders, for Daniel had convicted them of perjury on the basis of their own words.#tn Grk “out of their mouth.” They did to them the very thing that those men had maliciously devised against their neighbor: 62 they put them to death in accord with the law of Moses. In this way innocent blood was saved in that day.
63 And Hilkiah and his wife praised God#tn The word “God” is not in the Greek text but has been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity. for their daughter, along with Joakim her husband and all her relatives. For no shameful deed was discovered with regard to her. 64 Now from that day forward Daniel enjoyed a great reputation#tn Grk “became great.” in the estimate of the people.#tn The Latin Vulgate includes a verse at the end of Susanna that is not found in the Greek text: “And King Astyages was gathered to his fathers, and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom.”