Introduction. The narrative introduces Susanna as a beautiful, pious, and righteous woman, trained in Torah and living in the Babylonian exile.
The names of her husband, Joakim, and her father, Hilkiah, are the names of a king of Judah (Jehoiakim, 2 Kings 24.15
) and a high priest under Josiah (2 Kings 22.4
), and accentuate her high status. The name Susanna derives from the Hebrew “Shoshanna” (lily), which appears in Song 2.1
as a symbol of beauty and sexuality.
The two wicked elders. The two elders notice Susanna and begin to stalk her.
Wickedness came forth from Babylon …: The source of the quotation is unknown (see Jer 23.14–15; 29.20–23; Isa 48.20–23; 51.4
The attempted seduction. The action of the elders borders on rape because they threaten Susanna with blackmail. Adultery requires the death penalty,
but an engaged woman who cries for help is considered innocent (Lev 20.10; Deut 22.22–24
The trial of Susanna. The two elders falsely accuse Susanna of adultery with a young man. The elders' story appears to draw upon the motifs
of the narrative
of the attempted seduction of Joseph by Potiphar's wife (Gen 39
). Susanna's unveiling reflects various statements that one of the punishments for a woman accused of adultery is to be stripped
(Ezek 16.37–39; Hos 2.3–10
Daniel rescues Susanna. A full investigation is required in a case of false testimony. A false witness receives the penalty intended for the accused
). The two elders give different stories under cross-examination. The sentencing employs puns in Greek.
A mastic tree: Greek, “schinon.” Cut you: Greek, “schisei sou.”
An evergreen oak: Greek, “prinon.” Split you: Greek, “kataprisei se.”
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