In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim,
who was married to Susanna, daughter of Hilkiah. Susanna was a beautiful woman and deeply religious.
Her parents were devout Jews who had brought up their daughter to live according to the Law of Moses.
Her husband Joakim was very wealthy. Lovely gardens surrounded his house, and the other Jews often gathered there for meetings, because they all thought so highly of him.
Everyone who had a legal case to present would also go to Joakim's house, where two judges held court. These two leaders of the Jewish community had recently been appointed to office. They were the ones about whom the Lord said, "There is wickedness in Babylon; judges are failing to give guidance to the people."
Every day at noon, when all the people left for lunch, Susanna used to take a walk in the gardens.
The two judges were so attracted to her that they would wait around and watch for her.
They became so obsessed with their desire for her that they lost interest both in prayer and in their responsibility as judges.
They each wanted Susanna, but neither told the other how he felt,
for each was ashamed to admit his lust.
So day after day they watched eagerly to catch sight of her.
One day at noon they said to each other, "It's time for lunch; let's go home."
So they both left and went their separate ways, but soon each one came back for a look at Susanna, and by accident they met each other. At first each tried to explain what he was doing there, but finally they both confessed their desire for Susanna. They decided to watch for a time when they might find her alone.
So they kept waiting for the right opportunity. One day Susanna went into the garden as usual with her two servant women. No one else was there, except the two judges, who had hidden themselves and were watching Susanna. It was very hot and she decided to take a bath. So she said to her servants, "Bring me some bath oil and some perfume, and lock the gates, so that I won't be disturbed."
The servants locked the main gates and went out by the side door to get what Susanna had asked for. They did not notice the two men.
As soon as the servants had left, the two judges jumped out from their hiding place, ran to Susanna,
and said to her, "The gates are locked and no one will see us. We are burning to have sex with you, so give us what we want.
If you don't, we will go to court and swear that we saw you send your servants away, so that you could be alone with a young man."
"There is no way out," Susanna moaned. "If I give in to you, I could be put to death for adultery. If I refuse, you will still have me trapped. 1
But I would rather be your innocent victim than sin against the Lord."
So she started screaming as loud as she could, and the two judges began shouting accusations,
while one of them ran and unlocked the gates.
As soon as the servants in the house heard all the noise, they ran into the gardens through the side door to find out what had happened to Susanna.
The judges told their story, and the servants were shocked and ashamed. Such a thing had never before been said about Susanna.
The next day, when the people assembled at Joakim's house, the two judges arrived, fully determined to carry out their wicked plan to have Susanna put to death.
In front of all the people they said, "Send for Joakim's wife Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah." When she was called,
she came in with her parents, her children, and all her other relatives.
Susanna was so graceful and beautiful
that the two wicked men ordered her veil to be removed, so that they might enjoy looking at her.
Her family and everyone else were in tears.
Then the two judges stood up in front of the people, placed their hands on Susanna's head, and began making their accusations against her.
She was crying, but she looked up to heaven because she trusted the Lord.
The two men gave the following testimony: "We were walking in the gardens when this woman came in with her two servant women. She locked the main gates and asked the servants to leave.
Then a young man who had been hiding in the gardens came to her, and they lay down together.
We were in a corner of the gardens, and when we saw what was happening, we ran over
and caught them in the act. We tried to hold on to the man, but he was too strong for us. He ran and opened the gates and got away,
but we were able to hold the woman. We asked her who the man was, but she refused to tell us. We swear that our testimony is true."
Because the two men were not only leaders in the community but also judges, the people believed their story and condemned Susanna to death.
Then Susanna cried out in a loud voice, "Eternal God, nothing can be kept secret from you; you know everything before it happens.
Here I am about to die, but you know that I am innocent, that these men are lying. Why must I die?"
The Lord heard her prayer
and led a young man named Daniel to speak out, just as Susanna was being taken away to her death.
He shouted, "I refuse to be a party to her death!"
Everyone turned around to look at him and asked, "What are you talking about?"
Daniel stood up before them and said, "People of Israel, how foolish can you be? Are you going to condemn an Israelite woman to death on this kind of evidence? You haven't even tried to find out the truth.
Reopen the case. The testimony these men gave was a lie."
So all the people hurried back to where the trial had taken place, and the officials said to Daniel, "God has given you wisdom beyond your years, so come and join us and explain to us what you mean."
Daniel said to them, "Separate the two judges, and let me question them one at a time."
Then Daniel called the first judge and said, "You wicked old man, now you will have to answer for all the sins you have committed.
You have been giving unjust sentences. You have condemned the innocent and released the guilty, even though the Lord has said, "Do not put an innocent person to death.' 2
Now if you really did see this couple making love, tell me, what tree were they under?" "Under a small gum tree," he answered.
Daniel said, "All right! That lie will cost you your life. God's angel has already been given orders to chop you in two."
Then the first judge was led away and the second one was brought before Daniel. "You are more like a Canaanite than a Jew," Daniel said to him. "This woman's beauty has warped your judgment, and lust has corrupted your thinking.
You are used to having your way with the women of Israel because they have been afraid of you, but here is a Jewish woman, and she would not give in.
Now, tell me what tree you saw them under." "Under a large oak tree," he answered.
Daniel said, "All right! That lie will cost you your life; God's angel is waiting with his sword in his hand, ready to cut you in two. Then we shall be rid of you both."
Then all the people shouted and praised God, who saves those who put their trust in him.
They turned against the two judges because Daniel had proved that they had lied under oath.
The Law of Moses states that people who give false testimony shall receive the same punishment that the accused person would have received. And so the two judges were put to death, and the life of an innocent woman was saved. 3
Susanna's parents, her husband, and all her relatives praised God because she had been proved innocent of the charges.
From that day on, Daniel was held in high regard.