Susanna and the dirty old men
Book of Daniel chapter 13 (expanded)
IN BABYLON where the Jews lived in exile, there was a rich man named Joakim. He took a wife named Susanna, daughter of Hilkiah, a beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord. Her parents were righteous, and had taught their daughter according to the law of Moses.
Joakim had a spacious garden adjoining his house. The local Jews used to visit him, hang out in his garden and enjoy his free meals because being wealthy, he was honoured by them.
In that year two elders from the people were appointed as judges. These men were also seen frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had complaints and suits against their neighbours would bring them to the judges at Joakim’s house.
When the people departed at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden to walk. The two elders used to see her every day, going into the garden and walking about, and the sight of her slender form and full breasts stirred the fire in their loins.
Both were overwhelmed with passion for her, but they felt ashamed to tell each other their lustful desire to fuck her. And so they came to the garden every day just to feast their eyes on Susanna.
Late one afternoon, they said to each other, “Let us go home, for it is meal time.” And when they went out, they parted from each other. But turning back, they met again; and when each pressed the other for the reason, they confessed their lust. And then together they arranged for a time when they could find Susanna alone.
Once, while they were watching for an opportunity, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe by the crystal pool in the garden, for it was very hot. And no one was there except the two dirty old men who had hidden themselves and were watching her.
Thinking there was no one else around, Susanna disrobed and stood completely naked, displaying her pearly-white skin. How delightful, she thought, if her husband was here to caress her limbs and take those sweet nipples in his lips.
Shaking herself out of her reverie, she said to her maids, “Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I may bathe.” The maids did as she said, shut the garden doors, and went out by the side doors to bring what they had been commanded; and they did not see the elders, because they were hidden.
When the maids had gone out, the two elders rose and ran to Susanna. One of them grabbed her by her right breast and squeezed the nipple while the other stretched forth his hand to cup the love mound hidden in a tuft of golden hair between her legs. They said to her: “Look, the garden doors are shut, no one sees us, and we are in love with you; so let us take turns to mount you so that we may satisfy our desire. If you refuse, we will testify against you that we saw a young man making love to you, and this was why you sent your maids away.”
Susanna groaned in disgust and said, “I am hemmed in on every side. If I let you do this to me which is allowed only to my husband, it is death for me. But if I do not, I shall not escape your accusation. I choose not to let you do it to me for I will not sin in the sight of the Lord. Let me face your evil accusation then!”
Susanna thereupon screamed, and the two elders also shouted. And one of them ran and opened the garden doors. When the household servants heard the shouting in the garden, they rushed in at the side door to see what had happened to her.
And when the elders told their tale, the servants were ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.
The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to have Susanna put to death. They said before the people, “Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, who is the wife of Joakim.” So they sent for her. And she came, with her parents, her children, and all her relatives.
Now Susanna was a woman of refinement and modesty. As she was veiled, the wicked men ordered her to be unveiled, that their eyes might feed upon her beauty. But her family and friends who saw her wept.
Then the two elders stood up in the midst of the people, and laid their hands upon her head. And she, weeping, looked up toward heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord.
The elders said, “As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. Then a young man, who had been hidden, came to her, took off her robes and made love to her. We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. But we could not hold the man, for he was too strong for us, and he opened the doors and dashed out. So we seized this woman and asked her who the young man was, but she would not tell us. These things we testify.”
The assembly believed them, because they were elders of the people and judges; and the people condemned Susanna to death.
Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, “O eternal God, who discerns what is secret, who art aware of all things before they come to be, thou knowest that these men have borne false witness against me. And now I am to die! Yet I have done none of the things that they have wickedly invented against me!”
The Lord heard her cry.
And as she was being led away to be put to death, the Holy Spirit of God roused a young man named Daniel; and he cried aloud, “I am innocent of the blood of this woman!”
All the people turned towards him, and asked, “What is this that you have said?”
Taking his stand in the midst of them, he said, “Are you such fools, you sons of Israel? Have you condemned a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? Return to the place of judgment. For these men have borne false witness against her.”
Then all the people returned in haste. And the two elders, suspecting nothing, said confidently to him, “Come, sit among us and give us your judgment, for it seems that God has given you wisdom to discern what is right and true.”
And Daniel said to the people, “Separate the elders far from each other, and I will examine them one at a time.” When they were separated far from each other, he summoned one of them to him and said to him, “You wicked man, your sins have now come home, which you have committed in the past, pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and letting the guilty go free, though the Lord said, Do not put to death an innocent and righteous person.
“Now then, if you really saw her, tell me this: Under what tree did you see her having sex with the young man?” The first elder answered, “Under a mastic tree.”
And Daniel said, “Very well! You have lied against your own head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will slice your body in two.”
Then he put him aside, and commanded them to bring the other elder. And he said to him, “You evil son of a donkey, beauty has deceived you and lust has perverted your heart. This is how you both have been dealing with the daughters of Israel, and they were forced to have sex with you through fear. But today a daughter of Judah would not endure your wickedness.
“Now then, tell me: Under what tree did you catch them being intimate with each other?” He answered, “Under an evergreen oak.”
And Daniel said to him, “Very well! You also have lied against your own head, and the angel of God is waiting with his sword to slice you in two.”
When the assembly heard the different versions from the two elders, they shouted loudly and praised God, who saves those who hope in him. And the assembly rose against the two elders, for out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness. And acting in accordance with the law of Moses, the people stoned the two elders to death. Thus innocent blood was saved that day.
And Hilkiah and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, and so did Joakim her husband and all her kindred, because nothing shameful was found in her. And from that day on Daniel developed a reputation among the people for his wisdom and righteous judgment.