Researched and prepared by Ruth Magnusson Davis
This post belongs to the series “Principal Matters from the 1537 Matthew Bible.” The purpose of the series is:
(1) To get to know the Table of Principal Matters in the Matthew Bible.
(2) To learn through bible studies from the Reformation.
“As the bees diligently do gather together sweet flowers, to make by natural craft the sweet honey, so have I done with the principal topics contained in the Bible.”
So began John Rogers’ introduction to the Table of Principal Matters in the 1537 Matthew Bible. This Table was a concordance at the front of the book. It set out bible topics in alphabetical order. Under each topic were short headings, with bible verses for further study.
This Principal Matters series follows the topics in the order of the Table. It also sets out in full the bible verses under each entry, taken from the Matthew Bible.
Topic: Adultery (Part 2)
The topic of adultery in the Table of Principal Matters was long, so I have divided it into several shorter posts. This post deals with only one entry. It concerns the story of Susanna, from the apocryphal book named after that woman. Susanna, a beautiful and godly wife, was targeted by some very evil men who were elders and judges in Israel.
People who have a facsimile of the 1537 Matthew Bible might notice that the Bible verse cited under this heading in the Table of Principal Matters was Daniel xiii.c (Daniel 13:22-23). This is because, in the Latin Vulgate Bible, the story of Susanna was the 13th chapter in the book of Daniel. However, in Reformation Bibles the 13th chapter was extracted from Daniel, re-named “Susanna,” and put with the Apocryphal books. Therefore, in modern Bibles, Daniel has only 12 chapters. (It is not until we reach the end of “Susanna” that we learn why it was originally included in the book of Daniel.)
Susanna’s story will be of interest simply because it will be new to many, the Apocryphal books having fallen into disuse after the 17th century. I have given the entire chapter, both because the story is now unknown and because it is an instructive account of the lusts and evil contrivances of man. It shows the worst kinds of sins that evil lusts may lead to, and God’s wrath against such sins. A bible study question would be to identify the incremental sins that arose here from fleshly desire, and to consider the necessity of cutting off all evil roots of lust and affection, which grow into deadly plants.
(5) Susanna would rather die than commit adultery.
Susanna (first draft, updated for the New Matthew Bible):
There dwelt a man in Babylon called Joacim. He took a wife whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Chelcias. She was a very fair woman, and such a one as feared God. Her father and her mother also were godly people, and had taught their daughter according to the law of Moses. Now Joacim her husband was a great, rich man, and had a beautiful orchard adjoining his house. And the Jews commonly resorted to him because he was a man of reputation among them.
That same year, there were appointed two judges, men such as the Lord speaks of: All the wickedness of Babylon comes from the elders; that is, from the judges who seem to rule the people. These men came often to Joacim’s house, and all such people has had anything to do with the law came there to them.
Now when the people returned again in the afternoons, Susanna would go into her husband’s orchard to walk. The elders seeing this – that she went in daily and walked – burned with lust for her. Yea, they were almost out of their wits, and cast down their eyes so that they would not see heaven nor remember that God is a righteous judge. For they were both wounded with the love of her. Neither one told the other of his affliction, and for shame they did not tell her of their inordinate lust, that they desired to have to do with her. Yet they laid wait for her ardently from day to day, so that they might (at the least) have a sight of her.
And the one said to the other, Up, let us go home; for it is time for the mid-day meal. So they went their ways from her. When they returned again, they came across each other. Asking why between themselves, the one told the other of his wicked lust. Then they appointed a time when they might catch Susanna alone.
It happened also that they spied out a convenient time, when she went forth to walk (as her manner was) and no one was with her except two maids. And she was thinking to wash herself in the garden, for it was a hot season. And there was not one person there except the two elders, who had hidden themselves to watch her.
So she said to her maids, Go and fetch me oil and soap, and shut the orchard door so that I may wash myself.
And they did as she bid them and shut the orchard door, and went out themselves at a back door, to fetch the things that she had said. But Susanna did not know that the elders lay there hidden within.
Now, when the maids had gone out, the two elders got up and ran upon Susanna, saying, Now the orchard doors are shut, so that no one can see us! We are in love with you. Therefore, consent to us, and lie with us. If you will not, we will bring a testimony against you, that there was a young fellow with you, and that is why you sent your maids away from you.
Susanna groaned and said, Alas, I am in trouble on every side! If I follow your mind, it will be my death, and if I do not consent to you, I cannot escape your hands. Well, it is better for me to fall into your hands without doing this deed than to sin in the sight of the Lord.
And with that, she cried out with a loud voice. The elders also cried out against her. Then someone ran to the orchard door and forced it open. And when the servants of the house heard the cry in the orchard, they rushed in at the back door to see what the matter was. And when the elders told them, the servants were greatly ashamed, because there was never such a report made of Susanna.
On the next day, the people assembled to Joacim her husband. And the two elders came also, full of mischievous imaginations against Susanna, to bring her to death. And they spoke thus before the people: Send for Susanna the daughter of Chelcias, Joacim’s wife!
And immediately they sent for her. So she came with her father and mother, her children, and all her kindred. Now, Susanna was a refined person, and marvellously fair of face. Therefore the wicked men said to take off the cloths from her face (for she was covered), so that at the least they could be satisfied by her beauty. Then her friends – yea, and all who knew her – began to weep.
These two elders stood up in the midst of the people, and laid their hands upon Susanna’s head. She was weeping and looking up towards heaven, for her heart had a sure trust in the Lord. And the elders said, As we were walking in the orchard alone, this woman came in with her two maids, whom she sent away from her and barred the orchard doors. With that, a young fellow who was hidden there came out to her and lay with her. As for us, we stood in a corner of the orchard. And when we saw this wickedness, we ran to her and perceived that they had meddled together. But we could not hold him, for he was stronger than we. Thus he opened the door and got away. Now, when we seized this woman, we asked her who this young fellow was. But she would not tell us. This is the matter, and we are witnesses of the same.
The common people believed the two men because they were the elders and judges of the people, and so they condemned her to death. Susanna cried out with a loud voice and said, O Everlasting God, searcher of secrets, you know all things before they come to pass! You know that they have borne false witness against me! And behold, I must die, although I never did any such things as these men have maliciously invented against me.
And the Lord heard her voice. For when she was led forth to death, the Lord raised up the spirit of a young child whose name was Daniel, who cried with a loud voice, I am clean from this blood!
Then all the people turned towards him and said, What do these words mean, which you have spoken?
Daniel stood in the midst of them and said, Are you such fools, O ye children of Israel, that you cannot discern? You have here condemned a daughter of Israel to death, and know not the truth of it! Go and sit in judgment again, for they have spoken false witness against her.
And so the people turned back in all haste. And the elders (that is, the principal heads) said to him, Come and sit down here among us, and make known to us this matter, seeing God has given you as great honour as an elder.
And Daniel said to them, Put these two apart one from another, and then I will hear them.
When they were put apart one from another, he called one of them and said to him, O thou old, cankered villain, who has practiced your wickedness for so long! The evil deeds that you have done before are now come to light. For you have given false judgments; you have oppressed the innocent and let the guilty go free, whereas yet the Lord says, The innocent and righteous, see that you slay not. Well then, if you saw her, tell me: under what tree did you see them talking together?
He answered, Under a mulberry tree.
And Daniel said, Very well now, your lie is upon your own head. Lo, the messenger of the Lord has received the sentence from him, to cut you in two.
Then he put him aside and called for the other, and said to him, O thou seed of Canaan, but not of Judah! Beauty has deceived you, and lust has subverted your heart. Thus have you dealt before with the daughters of Israel; and they (for fear) consented to you. But the daughter of Judah would not abide your wickedness. Now tell me then, under what tree did you catch them speaking together?
He answered, Under a pomegranate tree.
Then said Daniel to him, Very well, now your lie is also upon your head. The messenger of the Lord stands waiting with the sword to cut you in two, and to slay you both.
With that, all the whole multitude gave a great shout and praised God, who always delivers those who put their trust in him. And they came upon the two elders (whom Daniel had convicted with their own mouth, that they had given false witness) and dealt with them as they would have done with their neighbouress. Yea, they did according to the law of Moses, and put them to death. Thus the innocent blood was saved that same day.
Then Chelcias and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, with Joacim her husband and all the kindred, that there was no dishonour found in her.
From that day forth, Daniel was had in great reputation in the sight of the people.
~~The end of the story of Susanna~~
– Information about the New Matthew Bible Project is here.
– Sample scriptures from the New Matthew Bible are here.
– To find former topics, on the main blog page search under “Principal Matters Series” for the subcategory with the appropriate letter. For example, for “Abomination,” look under Principal Matters Series/ Principal Matters A/Abomination.