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The New Oxford Annotated Bible New Revised Standard Study Bible that provides essential scholarship and guidance for Bible readers.

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Commentary on Susanna

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1–4 : Introduction.

1 :

Set in Babylon, the story is typically dated during the Babylonian exile (587–538 BCE) because of its connection to Daniel; however, an exact date is never specified. Joakim does not appear to be connected to others with the same name in 2 Kings 24.15; Neh 12.10,12 26; or Jdt 4.6; 15.8

2 :

Susanna, the name, which means “lily,” appears in Luke 8.3 , but not elsewhere in the Jewish or Christian canons. It is attested in Neo‐Babylonian sources. Hilkiah was a common name in priestly circles (2 Kings 22.4; Neh 12.7; Jer 1.1 ) and so perhaps suggests that Susanna's father was a priest. Beauty and piety are typically associated with heroines in the Apocrypha (Jdt 8.7–8; Tob 6.12; Esth 2.7,20 [LXX]).

4 :

The prosperity of some Jews in Babylon is attested by archaeological findings (see also Jer 29.5–7; 2 Esd 3.1b–2 ). Joakim's honor appears based on wealth. Garden (Gk “Paradeisos”) describes Eden (Gen 2–3 ) and the setting of the Song of Solomon ( 4.13 ).

5–14 : The elders' plot.

5 :

The year is not identified. Elders, community leaders (Ruth 4; Ezek 8.1; 14.1; 20.1; Jer 29.1 ). Wickedness came forth is unattested in existing prophetic books, but see Jer 23.14–15; the church fathers Origin and Jerome associate the reference with Jer 29.20–23

8 :

Lust, in violation of Ex 20.17

9 :

Heaven is a circumlocution for God.

15–21 : The attempted rape.

15 :

Contrary to most artistic depictions, Susanna never actually bathes. In the garden, the scene recollects both depictions of luxuriant beauty and physical love in the Song of Solomon and the garden of Eden (Gen 2–3 ) as a site of temptation. Bathe suggests both Bathsheba (2 Sam 11 ) and observations in Jewish‐Hellenistic literature (Jubilees 22 ; Testament of Reuben 3) that Reuben sinned with Bilhah after seeing her bathe. Maids frequently accompany heroines in the Apocrypha (Jdt, Tob, Add Esth )

17 :

Oil and ointments, compare 2 Sam 12.20; Ruth 3.3; Jdt 10.3 . Shut the garden doors attests to Susanna's modesty

20 :

Give your consent, Susanna's choice is adultery or death.

22–27 : Susanna's response.

22 :

Death, because adultery was a capital crime (Lev 20.10; Deut 22.21–24; see John 8.4–5 ). Susanna knows the “law of Moses” (v. 3 )

23 :

Sin in the sight of the Lord is the same concern voiced by Joseph in similar circumstances (Gen 39.9 )

24 :

Deut 22.24 legislates that a woman, facing rape, is to cry out with a loud voice; again, Susanna shows fidelity to the law

27 :

That servants would be ashamed indicates the substantial dishonor adulterous accusations bring to a house‐hold. Although the elders (v. 11 ) and servants feel shame, Susanna is never described in this manner, despite being placed in a situation of public humiliation (vv. 31–32 ). Nothing like this, although carrying an unblemished reputation, Susanna is presumed guilty.

28–41 : Accusation.

30 :

Susanna is accompanied by all her family except Joakim. The Septuagint (LXX) version notes that Susanna had four children.

31 :

Refinement and beauty are attributes of (Gk) Esther.

32 :

Veiled emphasizes her modesty; although the trial occurs in her home, the proceedings are public. To be unveiled in public would be humiliating; the LXX describes Susanna as being stripped (see Hos 2.3–10; Ezek 16.37–39 )

34 :

Laid their hands indicates that the elders serve as witnesses (Lev 24.14; see Lev 8.14,18,22; Ex 29.10,15,19 for sacrificial imagery, and Lev 16.21–22 for the scapegoat ritual). The elders planned to lay their hands upon Susanna in order to have sexual intercourse with her; now their gesture seeks to condemn her. Two witnesses are required (Num 35.30; Deut 17.6; 19.15 )

41 :

Condemned her without cross‐examination (Deut 19.15–21 ) or Susanna's own testimony; the “trial” is illegal according to both biblical and later rabbinic regulations.

42–43 : Susanna's prayer.

Like (Gk) Esther (14.3–19), Judith (9.2–14), and Sarah (Tob 2.10–15), as well as Azariah of the Additions to Daniel, Susanna offers personal prayer in a time of distress

42 :

Know what is secret is a divine attribute stressed in Dan 2.22

43 :

Given false evidence, Susanna's prayer locates God as the (true) judge and jury even as it, again, shows her knowledge of the law (Deut 19.16–21 ). Now I am to die leaves Susanna's request for justice implicit.

44–49 : Daniel responds.

44 :

God responds to Susanna's prayer, not to the events that prompted it.

45 :

Young lad contrasts Daniel with the “elders”; the term indicates a youth of marriageable age (Tob 5.17 ) and subtly recalls the “young man” the elders claimed was with Susanna ( 37–39 ). Holy spirit is associated with both prophetic abilities and the possession of wisdom.

46 :

I want no part, since the community is responsible for justice (Deut 22.20–21; Mt 27.24; Acts 24.26 ).

50–63 : Susanna's acquittal.

48 :

Examination, or cross‐examination, is mandated by Deut 19.15–20 . Daughter of Israel, see also v. 57 , which describes Susanna as a daughter of Judah.

50 :

Daniel's status appears miraculously granted. His youth contrasts with his standing as an elder, even as his words contrast with the wicked elders’ false witness.

50 :

Rest of the elders indicates that not all the leaders are wicked.

53 :

Pronouncing unjust judgments, Daniel accuses the first elder of a pattern of injustice. The citation evokes Ex 23.7 .

54–55 :

A mastic … cut, clove … cleave provides an English version of the Greek pun.

55 :

Angels become increasingly common in Jewish Hellenistic literature (including Daniel; see Isa 37.36; Ezek 9 )

56–57 :

The comment compares three nations. Offspring of Canaan suggests the sexual crimes attributed to the indigenous population of the promised land (Lev 18.24–28 ); daughters of Israel refers to the Northern Kingdom, destroyed by Assyria in 720 (2 Kings 17 ); daughter of Judah, Susanna is from the Southern Kingdom, whose exile created the Babylonian Jewish community and from whom the Jews trace their descent.

58–59 :

Evergreen oak, “Yew” and “hew” recreate the Greek pun.

59 :

Sword recollects Gen 3.24 , as Susanna's garden suggests Eden (Gen 2–3 )

62 :

Law of Moses is Deut 19.16–21 .

64 : Epilogue.

If Susanna is placed at the opening of the book of Daniel, Daniel's great reputation is seen to increase in the subsequent stories.

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