Archive for the ‘Daniel 13’ Tag

Daniel and Susanna   Leave a comment

Above:  Susanna and the Elders

Image in the Public Domain





Daniel 13:1-64


Daniel and Susanna, according to study Bibles I consulted, hails from either the second or the first centuries B.C.E.  A standard description of Daniel 13 is that it is the oldest surviving detective story.  I prefer to think of it as the oldest surviving Perry Mason story.

The cast of named characters is:

  1. Joakim, husband of Susanna;
  2. Susanna, daughter of Hilkiah and wife of Joakim;
  3. Hilkiah, father of Susanna; and
  4. Daniel.

The story does not name the two wicked elders.

This is a story about the miscarriage of justice.  We read that the beautiful and pious Susanna, wife of the wealthy and pious Joakim, refused the sexual advances of the lecherous and homicidal elders, who had hidden in her garden.  The story describes the two elders as predators.  We also read of their perjury and of Susanna’s false conviction, followed by her sentence of death (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:21-22).

This is also a story about justice.  We read of Susanna’s prayer (verses 42-43) and of God’s reply:  sending Daniel to rescue her.  We read of Daniel’s Perry Mason routine, by which he exposed the two elders’ lies with an arborial question:  

Now, if you really saw this woman, then tell us, under what tree did you see them together?”

–Verse 54, The Revised English Bible with the Apocrypha (1989)

We also read of the elders’ execution, in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 19:16-21).  In the Law of Moses, the punishment for committing perjury to convict someone falsely is to suffer the fate one intended for the accused.

The suffering of the innocent and the pious is a major theme in the Book of Daniel.  We also read of God delivering such victims in Daniel 2 and 3.  Yet Daniel 10-12 wrestles with the realities of martyrdoms.

God delivers the innocent and the pious some of the time.  This tension is evident in the Book of Psalms.  Some of those texts sound like Elihu, as well as Job’s alleged friends:  Suffering results from sins, and God delivers the righteous.  Yet other Psalms come from the perspective of the suffering righteous.  The former position fills Proverbs, the Wisdom of Solomon, and Ecclesiasticus/Sirach/the Wisdom of Ben Sira, too.  Ecclesiastes functions as a counter-argument to that excessive optimism.

Why does God deliver some of the righteous and not all of them?  I have no pat answer for such a challenging question.  In Revelation 6:9-11, even the martyrs in Heaven are not always happy.

We who struggle with this vexing question belong to an ancient tradition.  We are the current generation in a long train.  We have reasons to rejoice, at least; God delivers some of the innocent and the pious.








The Food Test   Leave a comment

Above:  Daniel and His Three Friends Refusing the King’s Food

Image in the Public Domain





Daniel 1:1-21


The Book of Daniel is an intriguing portion of the Bible.  

  1. Depending on how one defines the canon of scripture, it has either 12 or 14 chapters.  (For the purpose of this series, I have read the long version.)
  2. Most of the book hails from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion, in the second century B.C.E.  Theological developments, historical references, and linguistic clues confirm this conclusion.  Chapters 1-12, except for the Greek additions in Chapter 3, come from the time of the Hasmonean rebellion.  Chapters 13 and 14 are more recent, from either the second or first centuries B.C.E.
  3. The nonsensical internal chronology of the Book of Daniel contradicts ancient historical records and the rest of the Hebrew Bible.  The Book of Daniel is what it is.  It is not history.

So, what is the Book of Daniel? 

  1. It is partially a collection of folklore. 
  2. It is partially a collection of apocalyptic visions. 
  3. It is a book that teaches how to remain faithful to God in the Jewish diaspora during the second and first centuries B.C.E. 
  4. It is a book that affirms many Gentiles. 
  5. In other words, the Book of Daniel is true without being historically accurate.  Truth and accuracy are different concepts.

Daniel 1:1 provides a fixed point within the narrative of the Book of Daniel.  That fixed point is 605 B.C.E., the third year of the reign (608-598 B.C.E.) of King Jehoiakim/Eliakim of Judah.  (For more about King Jehoiakim, read 2 Kings 23:36-24:7; 2 Chronicles 36:5-8; and 1 Esdras 1:39-42.)  Daniel 1:1 also provides the name of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian king, Nebuchadrezzar/Nebuchadnezzar II (reigned 605-562 B.C.E.).  The chronological problem is that Nebuchadnezzar II captured Jerusalem in 597 B.C.E.  If I were a fundamentalist, this would disturb me.  I am not, and it does not.

To quote a spiritual and theological mentor of mine in the 1990s, 

What is really going on here?

What is really going on in Daniel 1?

  1. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants refused the food King Nebuchadnezzar II offered.  They obeyed the dietary food laws in Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14.  The young men also thrived on a diet of vegetables and water.
  2. God also granted Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants more intelligence and wisdom than they had already.  The ability to interpret dreams proved crucial in subsequent chapters.
  3. Daniel and his fellow Judahite servants received new names–identities–yet retained their Hebrew identities.

People base their identities on different standards.  This is a choice one needs to make wisely.  Psychologists and experiences tell us that many people cling to ideas that are objectively false and proven to be so.  These people cling to these falsehoods and ignore evidence because admitting error and changing their minds would threaten their egos.  This is a serious problem.  Whatever one does or does not do affects other people.  If, for example, one votes for Candidate A over Candidate B because one clings to ego defenses and ignores objective reality, one may hinder the common good.  Or, if one, acting out of ego defenses, ignores objective reality and refuses to behave responsibly by having one’s children vaccinated, one can cause other people’s children to become ill.  As I type these words during the COVID-19 pandemic, many people believe misinformation, cling to conspiracy theories, and refuse to wear masks in public places.  They endanger themselves and others.  Facts should matter.

I seek to acknowledge objective reality and to act accordingly.  I also seek to follow my own advice regarding the proper basis of human identity.  The sole proper basis of human identity is the image of God; every human being bears it.  For we Christians, the particular shading is that Jesus, whom we profess to follow.  Despite my advice, I continue to found my ego mainly on my education and intellect.  Education and intellect are wonderful.  They are blessings.  I, like St. Paul the Apostle, know what I ought to do and frequently do something else.

Psychological identity is a complicated, frequently treacherous matter.  If we are spiritually wise, we will have a healthy ego, which we will maintain without excluding anyone God includes.








The Pursuit of Righteousness   1 comment

Susanna and the Elders, by Albrecht Altdorfer (c.1480-1538)

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Daniel 13:1-9, 15-29, 34-62 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim.  And he took a wife named Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord.  Her parents were righteous, and had taught their daughter according to the Law of Moses.  Joakim was very rich and had a spacious garden adjoining his house; and the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honored of them all.

In that year two elders from the people were appointed as judges.  Concerning them the Lord had said:

Iniquity came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people.

These men were frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had suits at law came to them.

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 in and walking about, and they began to desire her.  And they perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments.

Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was very hot.  And no one was there except the two elders, who had hid themselves and were watching her.  She said to her maids,

Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I may bathe.

They did as she said, shut the garden doors, and went 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 her, and said,

Look the garden doors are shut, no one sees us, and we are in love with you; so give your consent, and lie with us.  If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away.

Susanna sighed deeply, and said,

I am hemmed in on every side.  For if I do this thing, it is death for me; and if I do not, I shall not escape your hands.  I choose not to do it and to fall into your hands, rather than to sin in the sight of the Lord.

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her.  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 greatly 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.

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 and lay with her.  We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them.  We saw them embracing, but we could not hold the man, for hew 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 they condemned her to death.

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said,

O eternal God, who discern what is secret, who are aware of all things before they come to be, you know that these men have borne false witness against me.  And now I am to die!  Yet I have done none of the things they have wickedly invented against me!

The Lord heard her cry.  And as she was being led away to be put to death, God aroused the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel; and he cried with a loud voice,

I am innocent of the blood of this woman.

All the people turned to him, and said,

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 elders said to him,

Come, sit among us and inform us, for God has given you that right.

And Daniel said to them,

Separate them far from each other, and I will examine them.

When they were separated from each other, he summoned one of them and said to him,

You old relic of wicked days, 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 being intimate with each other?

He answered,

Under a mastic tree.

And Daniel said,

Very well!  You have lied against you own head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will immediately cut you in two.

Then he put him aside, and commanded them to bring the other.  And he said to him,

You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust has perverted your heart.  This is how you have been dealing with the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but 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 have lied against your own head, for the angel of God is waiting with his sword to saw you in two, that he may destroy you both.

Then all the assembly shouted loudly and blessed God, who saves all who hope in him.  And they rose against the two elders, for out of their mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness. and they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do their neighbor; acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death.  Thus innocent blood was saved that day.

Psalm 23 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;

he makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil,

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

John 7:53-8:11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

They [the chief priests and Pharisees] went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in their midst they said to him,

Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such.  What do you say about her?

This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him he stood up and said to them,

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw the stone at her.

And once more he bent down  and wrote with his finger on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus looked up and said to her,

Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?

She said,

No one, Lord.

And Jesus said,

Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.

The Collect:

Be gracious to your people, we entreat you, O Lord, that they, repenting day by day of the things that displease you, may be more and more filled with love of you and of your commandments; and, being supported by your grace in this life, may come to the full enjoyment of eternal life in your everlasting kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


The story of Susanna, one of the Greek additions to the Book of Daniel, is canon in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.  It is also an ancient example of a detective story and a courtroom drama.  The two lecherous and would-be murderous elders commit perjury and face the consequences of their actions.  They attempt to blackmail the virtuous (and married) Susanna into having sex with them in violation of the Law of Moses, which proscribes execution for all sexual partners involved in adultery.  The same law code states elsewhere that false witnesses will suffer the same fate they wish upon the innocent party or parties.

This day’s reading from John was originally in Luke, but that is a point of information, not formation.  My approach in these devotions is to seek formation.  So let us proceed, taking the reading on its own terms and in narrative context.

The placement of this story at this point in the Johannine Gospel narrative indicates heightened tensions between Jesus and religious authorities, who try repeatedly to entrap him in his words.  In this case the pawn is a woman caught in adultery.  The text states her guilt of the charge and the existence of a man who does not appear in the story.  He got away, and this fact does not seem to trouble the religious authority figures in front of Jesus.  The Law of Moses called for the execution of the man and the woman committing adultery.  This is a trap for Jesus, and he knows it.  So he exposes their hypocrisy, and they skulk away.  And Jesus sends the woman on her way, granting her a new beginning.

Righteousness does not consist of manipulating religious laws and traditions to cover up nefarious goals.  Nor does it is not involve playing “gotcha” with anyone.  No, I think that righteousness is much like love.  It is patient and kind, eschews arrogance and does not insist on its own way.  Righteousness, like love, rejoices in the truth, not wrongdoing.  Righteousness entails caring about the consequences of one’s actions on others.

Let us pursue righteousness, not self-justification at the expense of others.






Adapted from this post:


Posted February 14, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Daniel 13-14, John 7, Psalm 23

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