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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

Chapter 1

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1 IN Babylon there lived a man named Joakim, 2who had married Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful and devout woman. 3Her parents were godfearing people who had brought up their daughter according to the law of Moses. 4Joakim was very rich, and his house had adjoining it a fine garden; this was a regular meeting-place for the Jews, because he was the man of greatest distinction among them.

5Now that year the judges appointed were two of the community's elders; of such the Lord had said, ‘Wickedness came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges and were supposed to guide my people.’ 6These men were constantly at Joakim's house, and everyone who had a case to be tried came to them there.

7At noon, when the people went away, Susanna would go and walk in her husband's garden. 8Every day the two elders used to see her entering the garden for her walk, and they were inflamed with lust. 9Their minds were perverted; their thoughts went astray and were no longer turned to God, and they did not keep in mind the demands of justice. 10Both were infatuated with her; but they did not disclose to each other what torments they suffered, 11because they were ashamed to confess they wanted to seduce her. 12Day after day they watched eagerly for a sight of her.

13One day, having said, ‘Let us go home; it is time to eat,’ 14they left and went off in different directions; but turning back they found themselves face to face, and on questioning each other about this, they admitted their passion. Then they agreed on a time when they might find her alone.

15While they were watching for an opportune moment, Susanna went into the garden as usual, accompanied only by her two maids; it was very hot, and she felt a desire to bathe in the garden. 16No one else was there apart from the two elders, who had hidden and were spying on her. 17She said to the maids, ‘Bring me olive oil and unguents, and shut the garden doors so that I may bathe.’ 18They did as she said: they made fast the garden doors and went out by the side entrance for the things they had been told to bring; they did not see the elders, because they were in hiding.

19As soon as the maids had gone, the two elders got up and ran to Susanna. 20‘Look, the garden doors are shut,’ they said, ‘and no one can see us! We are overcome with desire for you; consent, and yield to us. 21If you refuse, we shall swear in evidence there was a young man with you and that was why you sent your maids away.’ 22Susanna groaned and said: ‘It is a desperate plight I am in! If I do this, the penalty is death; if I do not, you will have me at your mercy. 23My choice is made: I will not do it! Better to be at your mercy than to sin against the Lord!’ 24With that she called out at the top of her voice, but the two elders shouted her down, 25and one of them ran and opened the garden door. 26The household, hearing the uproar in the garden, rushed in through the side entrance to see what had happened to her. 27When the elders had told their story, the servants were deeply shocked, for no such allegation had ever been made against Susanna.

28Next day, when the people gathered at her husband Joakim's house, the two elders arrived, intent on their criminal design to have Susanna put to death. 29In the presence of the people they said, ‘Send for Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, Joakim's wife.’ She was summoned, 30and came with her parents and children and all her relatives. 31Now Susanna was a woman of great beauty and delicate feeling. 32She was closely veiled, but those scoundrels ordered her to be unveiled so that they might feast their eyes on her beauty. 33Her family and all who saw her were in tears.

34Then the two elders stood up before the people and put their hands on her head, 35she meanwhile looking towards heaven through her tears, for her trust was in the Lord. 36The elders said: ‘As we were walking by ourselves in the garden, this woman came in with her two maids. She shut the garden doors and dismissed her maids, 37and then a young man, who had been in hiding, came and lay with her. 38We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran towards them. 39We saw them in the act, but we could not hold the man; he was too strong for us, he opened the door and got clean away. 40We seized the woman and asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us. That is our evidence.’

41Because they were elders of the people and judges, the assembly believed them and condemned her to death. 42Then raising her voice Susanna cried: ‘Eternal God, you know all secrets and foresee all things, 43you know that their evidence against me is false. And now I am to die, innocent though I am of the charges these wicked men have brought against me.’

44The Lord heard her cry, 45and as she was being led off to execution, God inspired a devout young man named Daniel to protest. 46He shouted out, ‘I will not have this woman's blood on my hands.’ 47At this the people all turned towards him and demanded, ‘What do you mean?’ 48He stepped forward and said: ‘Are you such fools, you Israelites, as to condemn a woman of Israel, without making careful enquiry and finding out the truth? 49Reopen the trial; the evidence these men have given against her is false.’

50Everyone hurried back, and the rest of the elders said to Daniel, ‘Come, take your place among us and state your case, for God has given you the standing of an elder.’ 51He said, ‘Separate these men and keep them at a distance from each other, and I shall examine them.’ 52When they had been separated, Daniel summoned one of them. ‘You hardened reprobate,’ he began, ‘the sins of your past have now come home to you. 53You have given unjust decisions, condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty, although the Lord has said, “You must not cause the death of the innocent and guiltless.” 54Now, if you really saw this woman, then tell us, under what tree did you see them together?’ He answered, ‘Under a clove a 54 clove: lit. mastic. tree.’ 55Daniel retorted, ‘Very good! This lie has cost you your life, for already God's angel has received your sentence from God, and he will cleave b 54–55 clove…cleave: there is a play on words in the Greek. you in two.’ 56He ordered him to stand aside, and told them to bring forward the other.

He said to him: ‘Spawn of Canaan, no son of Judah, beauty has been your undoing and lust has perverted your heart! 57So this is how the two of you have been treating the women of Israel, terrifying them into yielding to you! But here is a woman of Judah who would not submit to your villainy. 58Now tell me, under what tree did you surprise them together?’ ‘Under a yew c 58 yew: lit. oak. tree,’ he replied. 59Daniel said to him, ‘Very good! This lie has cost you also your life, for the angel of God is waiting sword in hand to hew d 58–59 yew…hew: there is a play on words in the Greek. you down and destroy the pair of you.’

60At that the whole assembly shouted aloud, praising God, the Saviour of those who trust in him. 61They turned on the two elders, for out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of giving false evidence; 62they dealt with them according to the law of Moses, putting them to death as they in their wickedness had intended to do to their neighbour. So an innocent life was saved that day. 63Then Hilkiah and his wife gave praise for their daughter Susanna, as did also her husband Joakim and all her relatives, because she was found innocent of a shameful deed.

64From that day forward Daniel was held in great esteem among the people.

Notes:

g 54 clove: lit. mastic.

h 54–55 clove…cleave: there is a play on words in the Greek.

i 58 yew: lit. oak.

j 58–59 yew…hew: there is a play on words in the Greek.

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