Susanna and the four women who follow aren’t in all versions of the Bible. Their stories, however, are in The New Jerusalem Bible, Common English Bible (CEB), and New American Bible (NAB). They also appeared in the original translation of the King James Version (KJV). For more information, see “Bonus Material: The Full Picture.”
Susanna lives in exile in Babylon. She is known for her great beauty and deep reverence for God. Her parents are moral folks, conducting themselves with virtue, which they instill in their daughter. Susanna’s husband is rich and respected by the people. The leading Jews hang out at his house. Aside from being displaced from her homeland, Susanna enjoys an idyllic life.
However, two of the elders, appointed as judges, are obsessed with Susanna. They lust for her. This is consistent with their corrupt behavior as immoral judges. They could have looked away, but they choose not to.
Conspiring to rape her, they hide in her private garden and ogle her. When she is alone, they reveal themselves and solicit her. If she refuses, they threaten to tell everyone they caught her cheating on her husband with another man. The penalty for adultery is death.
Trapped in a no-win situation, Susanna decides to act morally. She turns them down and screams for help.
When people come running, the judges lie, “We caught her having sex with this guy. We tried to stop him, but he got away.” Because of their position, everyone believes them and sentences Susanna to death.
No one asks for her side of the story.
As they haul her off for execution, the Holy Spirit reveals the truth to the young prophet Daniel. He yells out that she’s innocent. Separating the two men, Daniel cross-examines them and they contradict each other, proving they gave false testimony against Susanna. The perverted men are convicted, and the righteous Susanna is freed, with her reputation restored.
Susanna faced a terrible choice: have sex with two men and live or be wrongly convicted of adultery and die. It may have seemed best to give in, but Susanna did the right thing and trusted God to vindicate her. He came through.
How willing are we to do what’s right despite the risk?
[Discover more about Susanna in Daniel 13 in The New Jerusalem Bible and NAB (also known as the book of Susanna in the CEB). For more information, see “Bonus Material: The Full Picture.”]
Read about other biblical women in Women of the Bible, available in audiobook, e-book, paperback, and hardcover.
A lifelong student of the Bible, Peter DeHaan, PhD, wrote the 700-page website ABibleADay.com to encourage people to explore the Bible. His main blog and many books urge Christians to push past the status quo and reconsider how they practice their faith in every area of their lives.