A man named Joakim once lived in Babylon.
His wife Susanna, Hilkiah's daughter, was very beautiful and honored the Lord.
Her parents were good people, and they taught their daughter according to the Law from Moses.
Joakim was very rich, and he had a large private garden next to his home. The Jews came to him because he was the most honored among them.
Two elders among the people had been appointed as judges that year. It was about them that the Lord had spoken: "Lawless disorder has come out of Babylon, from elders, from judges who were supposed to guide the people."
These men spent a lot of time at Joakim's house, and all the people with lawsuits came to them.
When the people went away in the middle of the day, Susanna would walk around her husband's private garden.
Every day the two elders would see her coming in and walking around, and they desired her sexually.
They ceased thinking clearly, neither looking to heaven nor caring about justice.
Both of them thought about her and nothing else, but they didn't tell each other their craving,
because they were ashamed to admit how they desired her and wanted to be with her.
But they were on the lookout every day, eager to get a glimpse of her.
One said to the other, "It's time for lunch. Let's go home." They split up and left,
but doubling back, they met again at the same place. They started asking each other for an explanation, and so each confessed his desire. Then they plotted together for a time when they would be able to find her alone.
When they were watching closely for the right moment, Susanna came by, just as she had the day before and the day before that, alone with her two female servants. She wanted to bathe in the privacy of the garden, since it was hot.
No one was there except the two elders, who were hidden and spying on her.
She said to her female servants, "Please bring me some olive oil and lotion and lock the gates so I can bathe."
They did just what she said. They locked the gates to the garden and went through the side doors into the house to fetch the things she had wanted. They didn't see the elders, since they were hiding.
When the female servants went out, the two elders stood up and ran at her.
They said, "Look, the gates are locked, and nobody can see us. We desire you, so do what we want and have sex with us.
If you don't, we'll swear that you were meeting with a young man, and that's why you sent your female servants away."
Susanna groaned. "I'm trapped! If I do this, it's death; but if I don't, I still won't escape your plotting.
But I'd rather not do this and fall into your hands, than sin in the Lord's sight."
So Susanna screamed, and at the same time the two elders called out.
One of them ran and opened the gates to the garden.
When people in the house heard the shouting in the garden, they ran out through the side doors to see what had happened to Susanna.
When the two elders had their say, the servants were very ashamed because nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.
The next day when the people came to her husband Joakim, the two elders came too, full of their immoral scheme to have Susanna killed. They said in front of the people,
"Call Susanna, Hilkiah's daughter, who is married to Joakim." So they called her in.
She came with her parents, her children, and all her relatives.
Now Susanna was elegant, beautiful in appearance.
The criminals ordered the veil that she was wearing to be removed so they could soak in her beauty.
But her household and all who saw her were crying.
Upon taking the stand in front of everybody, the elders laid their hands on Susanna's head to give testimony.
But she looked up to heaven while crying because she trusted the Lord.
The elders said, "While we were walking around the large garden by ourselves, this woman came in with two female servants. She locked the gates of the garden and sent away the female servants.
Then a young man, who had been hiding, came and lay with her.
We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this lawless act, we went running to them.
We saw them having sex, but we couldn't hold on to the man because he was stronger than we were. He opened the gates and ran away.
So we grabbed this woman and asked who the young man was,
but she wouldn't tell us. To this we swear." The assembly believed them because they were the people's elders and judges. So they sentenced Susanna to death.
Susanna screamed out: "Eternal God, you know what is hidden; you see everything before it happens.
You know they've lied in this court about me! Look, I'm going to die, although I didn't do any of the things these men accuse in their malice!"
The Lord heard her cry.
As she was being led away to die, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young man named Daniel.
He shouted out loud, "I'm innocent of this woman's blood!"
All the people turned to him and asked, "What are you saying?!"
He stood among them and said, "Are you so stupid, Israelites, that you've sentenced an Israelite woman to death without cross-examining or finding the facts?
Go back to court: these men have given false testimony against her."
Everyone rushed back. The other elders said to Daniel, "Sit here with us and advise us, since God has given you the status of an elder."
Daniel told them, "Separate them from each other, and I'll cross-examine them."
When they had been separated from each other, he called in one of the judges and said to him, "The sins you did earlier are catching up to you now at the end of a long evil life.
You judged unfairly, sentencing the innocent to death, and letting the guilty go, even though the Lord says, ‘You will not sentence innocent and good people to death.'
Now then, if you really saw this woman, tell me this. Under what tree did you see them having sex?" He said, "Under a clove tree."
Daniel said, "Right! You lied! It's on your own head! Already God's angel has orders to cleave you down the middle!"
Then setting that one aside, he ordered them to bring in the other judge. He said to him, "You're a Canaanite and not from Judah. Beauty seduced you, and sexual desire twisted your mind.
You treated women from Israel this way, and they had sex with you because they were afraid of you. But this woman from Judah wouldn't tolerate your lawless immorality.
So tell me now: Under what tree did you catch them having sex with each other?" He said, "Under a yew."
Daniel said to him, "Right! You lied too! It's on your own head. God's angel waits with his sword to hew you down the middle, to destroy both of you."
Then the whole assembly started shouting out praises to the God who saves those who hope in him.
They rose up against the two elders, because Daniel had shown from their own words that they were false witnesses. They treated them in the same way that they had plotted to treat their neighbor.
By following the Law from Moses, they killed them. Innocent blood was saved that day.
Hilkiah and his wife gave thanks that their daughter Susanna had not been found guilty of a shameful crime. Her husband Joakim and all their relatives also gave thanks.
From that day Daniel was honored among the people.