Susanna and Bel and the Dragon

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Neither of these two additions to the Book of Daniel has come down in a Hebrew text, but instead in the Theodotion, LXX and Latin Vulgate recensions.  They were thus never included as part of the accepted text by the wider community of Israel, but were used regularly by the early Church which used the Greek translations as their Scripture and found much in these tales that they could use for their own purposes.  They were, however, not regarded as part of the received “canon” of Scripture by all of the churches, but as that which was early on beneficial to be read in the churches.  Even in the KJV these additions were originally included (although they were found not attached to Daniel but in a section labeled “Apocrypha” meaning “hidden” with the notion that these were not considered a part of the received canon of Scripture but were still read in the churches) up until as late as 1826.  While these tales do not add anything essential to the story of Daniel, they do offer examples of wisdom in persistent faithfulness to the LORD in the face of wickedness and false worship…something which the Book of Daniel spells out again and again, and something we would do well to pay heed to in our own day.
Susanna 1:1 There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim. 2 He married the daughter of Hilkiah, named Susanna, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord. 3 Her parents were righteous, and had trained their daughter according to the law of Moses.
            4 Joakim was very rich, and had a fine garden adjoining his house; the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honored of them all. 5 That year two elders from the people were appointed as judges. Concerning them the Lord had said: “Wickedness came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people.” 6 These men were frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had a case to be tried came to them there. 7 When the people left at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden to walk. 8 Every day the two elders used to see her, going in and walking about, and they began to lust for her. 9 They suppressed their consciences and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering their duty to administer justice. 10 Both were overwhelmed with passion for her, but they did not tell each other of their distress, 11 for they were ashamed to disclose their lustful desire to seduce her. 12 Day after day they watched eagerly to see her.
 13 One day they said to each other, “Let us go home, for it is time for lunch.” So they both left and parted from each other. 14 But turning back, they met again; and when each pressed the other for the reason, they confessed their lust. Then together they arranged for a time when they could find her alone.
 15 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 a hot day. 16 No one was there except the two elders, who had hidden themselves and were watching her. 17 She said to her maids, “Bring me olive oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I can bathe.” 18 They did as she told them: they shut the doors of the garden and went out by the side doors to bring what they had been commanded; they did not see the elders, because they were hiding. 19 When the maids had gone out, the two elders got up and ran to her. 20 They said, “Look, the garden doors are shut, and no one can see us. We are burning with desire for you; so give your consent, and lie with us. 21 If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away.” 22 Susanna groaned and said, “I am completely trapped. For if I do this, it will mean death for me; if I do not, I cannot escape your hands. 23 I choose not to do it; I will fall into your hands, rather than sin in the sight of the Lord.”
 24 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her. 25 And one of them ran and opened the garden doors. 26 When the people in the house heard the shouting in the garden, they rushed in at the side door to see what had happened to her. 27 And when the elders told their story, the servants felt very much ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.
 28 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. In the presence of the people they said, 29 “Send for Susanna daughter of Hilkiah, the wife of Joakim.” 30 So they sent for her. And she came with her parents, her children, and all her relatives. 31 Now Susanna was a woman of great refinement and beautiful in appearance. 32 As she was veiled, the scoundrels ordered her to be unveiled, so that they might feast their eyes on her beauty. 33 Those who were with her and all who saw her were weeping.
 34 Then the two elders stood up before the people and laid their hands on her head. 35 Through her tears she looked up toward Heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord. 36 The elders said, “While we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids. 37 Then a young man, who was hiding there, came to her and lay with her. 38 We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them. 39 Although we saw them embracing, we could not hold the man, because he was stronger than we, and he opened the doors and got away. 40 We did, however, seize this woman and asked who the young man was, 41 but she would not tell us. These things we testify.” Because they were elders of the people and judges, the assembly believed them and condemned her to death.
 42 Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said, “O eternal God, you know what is secret and are aware of all things before they come to be; 43 you know that these men have given false evidence against me. And now I am to die, though I have done none of the wicked things that they have charged against me!” 44 The Lord heard her cry.
 45 Just as she was being led off to execution, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel, 46 and he shouted with a loud voice, “I want no part in shedding this woman’s blood!” 47 All the people turned to him and asked, “What is this you are saying?” 48 Taking his stand among them he said, “Are you such fools, O Israelites, as to condemn a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts? 49 Return to court, for these men have given false evidence against her.”
 50 So all the people hurried back. And the rest of the elders said to him, “Come, sit among us and inform us, for God has given you the standing of an elder.” 51 Daniel said to them, “Separate them far from each other, and I will examine them.” 52 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, 53 pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and acquitting the guilty, though the Lord said, ‘You shall not put an innocent and righteous person to death.’ 54 Now then, if you really saw this woman, tell me this: Under what tree did you see them being intimate with each other?” He answered, “Under a mastic tree.” 55 And Daniel said, “Very well! This lie has cost you your head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will immediately cut you in two.”
 56 Then, putting him to one side, he ordered them to bring the other. And he said to him, “You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has beguiled you and lust has perverted your heart. 57 This is how you have been treating the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but a daughter of Judah would not tolerate your wickedness. 58 Now then, tell me: Under what tree did you catch them being intimate with each other?” He answered, “Under an evergreen oak.” 59 Daniel said to him, “Very well! This lie has cost you also your head, for the angel of God is waiting with his sword to split you in two, so as to destroy you both.”
 60 Then the whole assembly raised a great shout and blessed God, who saves those who hope in him. 61 And they took action against the two elders, because out of their own mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness; they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do to their neighbor. 62 Acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death. Thus innocent blood was spared that day. 63 Hilkiah and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, and so did her husband Joakim and all her relatives, because she was found innocent of a shameful deed. 64 And from that day onward Daniel had a great reputation among the people. (Susanna 1:1-64 – NRS)
Discussion of Susanna
This particular story is usually numbered as chapter thirteen of the Book of Daniel; however, in some Greek texts it was put as the very first chapter which would be awkward as well.  This was written to account for Daniel’s standing among his own people, but nowhere else in the book of Daniel is this at issue.  The book of Daniel is presented simply as an account of Daniel’s rise among the Gentiles as one possessed of wisdom and understanding to demonstrate the sovereignty of the Lord over all the other nations.  So this particular addition becomes rather difficult to include in light of the overall scheme of Daniel.  The text included above (translated by the NRS) is largely taken from the much longer recension of Theodotion as opposed to the much briefer LXX recension.  The account notes false judges who attempt to abuse a righteous woman trying to use the Law against her by offering false testimony in order to put her to death (Lev.24:14), but instead they are put to death as false witnesses  when proven to be false by the wisdom of Daniel (Deut.19:18ff).  “Against the background of accepted theism the narrative showed that the divine will was given normative expression in the Torah of Moses, and that injustice was unequivocally condemned by the written Word.  Her experience of God led Susanna to choose death rather than sin, but in making this decision she was actually placing her entire confidence in the divine ability to answer prayer and vindicate the innocent suppliant.  By contrast, however, the deceitful wicked were unmasked and exposed, despite their hypocritical pretensions to justice and religion” (Harrison 1251).
Bel and the Dragon 1:1 When King Astyages was laid to rest with his ancestors, Cyrus the Persian succeeded to his kingdom. 2 Daniel was a companion of the king, and was the most honored of all his friends.
 3 Now the Babylonians had an idol called Bel, and every day they provided for it twelve bushels of choice flour and forty sheep and six measures of wine. 4 The king revered it and went every day to worship it. But Daniel worshiped his own God. So the king said to him, “Why do you not worship Bel?” 5 He answered, “Because I do not revere idols made with hands, but the living God, who created heaven and earth and has dominion over all living creatures.” 6 The king said to him, “Do you not think that Bel is a living god? Do you not see how much he eats and drinks every day?” 7 And Daniel laughed, and said, “Do not be deceived, O king, for this thing is only clay inside and bronze outside, and it never ate or drank anything.”
 8 Then the king was angry and called the priests of Bel and said to them, “If you do not tell me who is eating these provisions, you shall die. 9 But if you prove that Bel is eating them, Daniel shall die, because he has spoken blasphemy against Bel.” Daniel said to the king, “Let it be done as you have said.” 10 Now there were seventy priests of Bel, besides their wives and children. So the king went with Daniel into the temple of Bel. 11 The priests of Bel said, “See, we are now going outside; you yourself, O king, set out the food and prepare the wine, and shut the door and seal it with your signet. 12 When you return in the morning, if you do not find that Bel has eaten it all, we will die; otherwise Daniel will, who is telling lies about us.” 13 They were unconcerned, for beneath the table they had made a hidden entrance, through which they used to go in regularly and consume the provisions.
 14 After they had gone out, the king set out the food for Bel. Then Daniel ordered his servants to bring ashes, and they scattered them throughout the whole temple in the presence of the king alone. Then they went out, shut the door and sealed it with the king’s signet, and departed. 15 During the night the priests came as usual, with their wives and children, and they ate and drank everything.
 16 Early in the morning the king rose and came, and Daniel with him. 17 The king said, “Are the seals unbroken, Daniel?” He answered, “They are unbroken, O king.” 18 As soon as the doors were opened, the king looked at the table, and shouted in a loud voice, “You are great, O Bel, and in you there is no deceit at all!” 19 But Daniel laughed and restrained the king from going in. “Look at the floor,” he said, “and notice whose footprints these are.” 20 The king said, “I see the footprints of men and women and children.” 21 Then the king was enraged, and he arrested the priests and their wives and children. They showed him the secret doors through which they used to enter to consume what was on the table. 22 Therefore the king put them to death, and gave Bel over to Daniel, who destroyed it and its temple.
 23 Now in that place there was a great dragon, which the Babylonians revered. 24 The king said to Daniel, “You cannot deny that this is a living god; so worship him.” 25 Daniel said, “I worship the Lord my God, for he is the living God. 26 But give me permission, O king, and I will kill the dragon without sword or club.” The king said, “I give you permission.” 27 Then Daniel took pitch, fat, and hair, and boiled them together and made cakes, which he fed to the dragon. The dragon ate them, and burst open. Then Daniel said, “See what you have been worshiping!”
 28 When the Babylonians heard about it, they were very indignant and conspired against the king, saying, “The king has become a Jew; he has destroyed Bel, and killed the dragon, and slaughtered the priests.” 29 Going to the king, they said, “Hand Daniel over to us, or else we will kill you and your household.”
 30 The king saw that they were pressing him hard, and under compulsion he handed Daniel over to them. 31 They threw Daniel into the lions’ den, and he was there for six days. 32 There were seven lions in the den, and every day they had been given two human bodies and two sheep; but now they were given nothing, so that they would devour Daniel.
 33 Now the prophet Habakkuk was in Judea; he had made a stew and had broken bread into a bowl, and was going into the field to take it to the reapers. 34 But the angel of the Lord said to Habakkuk, “Take the food that you have to Babylon, to Daniel, in the lions’ den.” 35 Habakkuk said, “Sir, I have never seen Babylon, and I know nothing about the den.” 36 Then the angel of the Lord took him by the crown of his head and carried him by his hair; with the speed of the wind he set him down in Babylon, right over the den. 37 Then Habakkuk shouted, “Daniel, Daniel! Take the food that God has sent you.” 38 Daniel said, “You have remembered me, O God, and have not forsaken those who love you.” 39 So Daniel got up and ate. And the angel of God immediately returned Habakkuk to his own place.
 40 On the seventh day the king came to mourn for Daniel. When he came to the den he looked in, and there sat Daniel! 41 The king shouted with a loud voice, “You are great, O Lord, the God of Daniel, and there is no other besides you!” 42 Then he pulled Daniel out, and threw into the den those who had attempted his destruction, and they were instantly eaten before his eyes.
 (Bel and the Dragon 1:1-42 – NRS)
(NRS = New Revised Standard Version. Copyright © 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America)
Discussion of Bel and the Dragon
These two accounts were placed at the conclusion of the Book of Daniel in the Greek recensions and were numbered as the fourteenth chapter in the Latin Vulgate (even though Jerome called them “fables” [Latin fabulas] in his preface to Daniel).  The first of the accounts concerns the chief deity of Babylon from about 2275BC onward known as Bel (otherwise known as Marduk).  In the neo-Babylonian period (626-538BC) his worship was particularly emphasized under the auspices of Nebuchadnezzar II with his building of the great temple known as Esagila.  Apparently after the Medo-Persian conquest of Babylon (according to the tale), Cyrus of Persia also worshipped Bel there and believed Bel to consume considerable amounts of food and wine every day.  Daniel, however, knew better and sets out to demonstrate to the king that it was not Bel who consumed it all, but the priests and their families which he succeeds in proving and thereby leads to the destruction of this temple of Bel and the deaths of the priests and their families.
It seems possible that the account of the “dragon” (Greek δράκων can be read as “serpent”) was added to the one of Bel because they both deal with the theme of Daniel demonstrating the falsity of worshipping gods that are not the true God (Harrison 1253).  This dragon was apparently kept as a god and worshipped, but Daniel wanted to demonstrate that it was not a god so he devised a plan to kill it by convincing it to eat tar.  When it died, the people of Babylon were distraught at all that had happened and feared that Daniel had gained influence over the king so they demanded the death of Daniel by having him kept for a week in a hungry den of lions.  However, the prophet Habakkuk was taken by the angel of the LORD (by the “hair of his head” cf. Eze.8:3) from Judah to Daniel in Babylon to feed him in the lion’s den.  When the week had ended and Daniel was shown to have been preserved (cf. Dan.6) those who had Daniel cast in were themselves thrown in and the king confessed the God of Daniel to be God.
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