Susanna. 1In Babylon there lived a man named Joakim, 2who married a very beautiful and God-fearing woman, Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah; 3her parents were righteous and had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses. 4Joakim was very rich and he had a garden near his house. The Jews had recourse to him often because he was the most respected of them all.
5That year, two elders of the people were appointed judges, of whom the Lord said, “Lawlessness has come out of Babylon, that is, from the elders who were to govern the people as judges.” 6These men, to whom all brought their cases, frequented the house of Joakim. 7When the people left at noon, Susanna used to enter her husband’s garden for a walk. 8When the elders saw her enter every day for her walk, they began to lust for her. 9They perverted their thinking; they would not allow their eyes to look to heaven, and did not keep in mind just judgments. 10Though both were enamored of her, they did not tell each other their trouble, 11for they were ashamed to reveal their lustful desire to have her. 12Day by day they watched eagerly for her. 13One day they said to each other, “Let us be off for home, it is time for the noon meal.” So they went their separate ways. 14But both turned back and arrived at the same spot. When they asked each other the reason, they admitted their lust, and then they agreed to look for an occasion when they could find her alone.
15One day, while they were waiting for the right moment, she entered as usual, with two maids only, wanting to bathe in the garden, for the weather was warm. 16Nobody else was there except the two elders, who had hidden themselves and were watching her. 17“Bring me oil and soap,” she said to the maids, “and shut the garden gates while I bathe.” 18They did as she said; they shut the garden gates and left by the side gate to fetch what she had ordered, unaware that the elders were hidden inside.
19As soon as the maids had left, the two old men got up and ran to her. 20“Look,” they said, “the garden doors are shut, no one can see us, and we want you. So give in to our desire, and lie with us. 21If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was here with you and that is why you sent your maids away.”
22“I am completely trapped,” Susanna groaned. “If I yield, it will be my death; if I refuse, I cannot escape your power. 23Yet it is better for me not to do it and to fall into your power than to sin before the Lord.” 24Then Susanna screamed, and the two old men also shouted at her, 25as one of them ran to open the garden gates. 26When the people in the house heard the cries from the garden, they rushed in by the side gate to see what had happened to her. 27At the accusations of the old men, the servants felt very much ashamed, for never had any such thing been said about Susanna.
28When the people came to her husband Joakim the next day, the two wicked old men also came, full of lawless intent to put Susanna to death. 29Before the people they ordered: “Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, the wife of Joakim.” When she was sent for, 30she came with her parents, children and all her relatives. 31Susanna, very delicate and beautiful, 32was veiled; but those transgressors of the law ordered that she be exposed so as to sate themselves with her beauty. 33All her companions and the onlookers were weeping.
34In the midst of the people the two old men rose up and laid their hands on her head. 35As she wept she looked up to heaven, for she trusted in the Lord wholeheartedly. 36The old men said, “As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman entered with two servant girls, shut the garden gates and sent the servant girls away. 37A young man, who was hidden there, came and lay with her. 38When we, in a corner of the garden, saw this lawlessness, we ran toward them. 39We saw them lying together, but the man we could not hold, because he was stronger than we; he opened the gates and ran off. 40Then we seized this one and asked who the young man was, 41but she refused to tell us. We testify to this.” The assembly believed them, since they were elders and judges of the people, and they condemned her to death.
42But Susanna cried aloud: “Eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be: 43you know that they have testified falsely against me. Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things for which these men have condemned me.”
44The Lord heard her prayer. 45As she was being led to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, 46and he cried aloud: “I am innocent of this woman’s blood.” 47All the people turned and asked him, “What are you saying?” 48He stood in their midst and said, “Are you such fools, you Israelites, to condemn a daughter of Israel without investigation and without clear evidence? 49Return to court, for they have testified falsely against her.”
50Then all the people returned in haste. To Daniel the elders said, “Come, sit with us and inform us, since God has given you the prestige of old age.” 51But he replied, “Separate these two far from one another, and I will examine them.”
52After they were separated from each other, he called one of them and said: “How you have grown evil with age! Now have your past sins come to term: 53passing unjust sentences, condemning the innocent, and freeing the guilty,a although the Lord says, ‘The innocent and the just you shall not put to death.’ 54Now, then, if you were a witness, tell me under what tree you saw them together.” 55“Under a mastic tree,”* he answered. “Your fine lie has cost you your head,” said Daniel; “for the angel of God has already received the sentence from God and shall split you in two.” 56Putting him to one side, he ordered the other one to be brought. “Offspring of Canaan, not of Judah,” Daniel said to him, “beauty has seduced you, lust has perverted your heart. 57This is how you acted with the daughters of Israel, and in their fear they yielded to you; but a daughter of Judah did not tolerate your lawlessness. 58Now, then, tell me under what tree you surprised them together.” 59“Under an oak,” he said. “Your fine lie has cost you also your head,” said Daniel; “for the angel of God waits with a sword to cut you in two so as to destroy you both.”
60The whole assembly cried aloud, blessing God who saves those who hope in him. 61They rose up against the two old men, for by their own words Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness.b They condemned them to the fate they had planned for their neighbor: 62in accordance with the law of Moses they put them to death. Thus was innocent blood spared that day.
63Hilkiah and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, with Joakim her husband and all her relatives, because she was found innocent of any shameful deed. 64And from that day onward Daniel was greatly esteemed by the people.
* [13:1–14:42] The short stories in these two chapters exist now only in Greek and other translations, but probably were first composed in Hebrew or Aramaic. They were never part of the Hebrew-Aramaic Book of Daniel, or of the Hebrew Bible. They are excluded from the Protestant canon of Scripture, but the Catholic Church has always included them among the inspired writings; they existed in the Septuagint, which was used as its Bible by the early church.
* [13:55–59] The contrast between the mastic tree, which is small, and the majestic oak emphasizes the contradiction between the statements of the two elders. In the Greek text there is a play on words between the names of these two trees and the mortal punishment decreed by Daniel for the elders. The mastic tree (schinon) sounds like the verb “to split” (schisai). The oak tree (prinon) suggests a play on poisai (to saw).