Posted by: religionthink | September 10, 2009

Thoughts on Susanna: A Modern Perspective Of A Biblical Sex Crime

Thoughts on Susanna- A Modern Perspective of a Biblical Sex Crime

By A. D. Wayman

The text of Susanna in the Apocrypha has some interesting events occur that warrants more attention then most scholars give it. It is not the only one of many stories that portrays the intelligence and righteousness of the hero and prophet Daniel out smarting those in power. It also portrays how sexual crimes may have been carried out at that time. One topic of interest is the sexual characteristics of the two judges who try to conspire to trap Susanna into committing fornication with them by threatening her with the death penalty, and the criminal acts they use to carry out the crime. If it were not for the quick thinking of Daniel, who acts on Susanna’s behalf as her defense attorney, things may have turned out differently. Below is an attempt to understand these judges. An attempt is made at giving a modern day view on the sexual mind set of the judges in the text.

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. Both were overwhelmed with passion for her, but they did not tell each other of their distress, for they were ashamed to disclose their lustful desire to possess her. And they watched eagerly, day after day, to see her. Dan 13:5-13 RSVA

It is interesting on how much the judges dwelt on the beauty of Susanna and how much they watched her. The formation of these fantasies was not possibly the first step in the process of becoming criminals. It is speculated by the author of this essay that the men have committed these sorts of crimes in the past. They were at the point of acting out a crime and they had the paraphilias of stalking, voyeurism and possibly fetishism. If they had cameras they may have snapped images of her and developed them in order to use fantasy to act out their psychosexual desire through masturbation. If telephones existed in that day possibly obscene phone calls and threats would have been made to Susanna. We learn from the text that the role of fantasy was strong, so strong that “both were overwhelmed with passion for her.”

The plot thickens when they decide in their minds that they would like to act out their fantasy. They both come to the same conclusion on how best to do this.

They said to each other, “Let us go home, for it is mealtime.” And when they went out, they parted from each other. But turning back, they met again; and when each pressed the other for the reason, they confessed their lust. And then together they arranged for a time when they could find her alone. Dan 13:13-14 RSVA

Perhaps they were surprised on finding themselves back at the same spot at the same time with the same motives and intentions. Possibly the text here hints at that fact, and serves more then just a good story telling theme. In today’s society those with sexual deviant behavior can have direct communication with each other over the internet. They use this as a means to justify, educate, and trade erotica, victim information and techniques to each other. If one were to obtain a search warrant for the houses of these judges possibly we would find what law enforcement call “collateral materials” or materials that do not connect the offended to the crime but give investigators a view into the offenders sexual preferences and my be used at direct or circumstantial evidence. Some of this collateral evidence would include erotica, educational, and introspective material. This means if we were able to see sketches, notes on how to best commit the crime or read the diaries of these judges, I’m sure it would prove most interesting. So, as the text tells above, the two judges met and admitted their sexual fantasies to each other and compared notes on how to best carry out the crime.

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 out 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. Dan 13:15-24 RSVA

Above we have a very organized and well planned crime being played out according to script. This tells us that the judges may have done this type of crime successfully in the past their crime went unpunished. Also the amount of time they put into stalking Susanna shows just how far they were willing to go to act out their fantasy. As stated above they were in the garden peeping, stalking, and waiting for the perfect moment and opportunity to easily commit their crime. From the text we can gleam that they knew how to enter the garden undetected. Also, they knew how many maids accompanied Susanna for as the text tells us “she went in as before with only two maids”.

In Daniel 13:36-40 we have the account of the crime in an altered version given by the offenders. When the Judges were alone with Susanna they ran to her and told her their intentions and threatened her. After weighing the cost Susanna yelled and so did the men. As planned they accused her of sexual infidelity and had her tried in court in front of the elders. They came up with the most interesting story of a young man who was hidden in the garden and then came out after Susanna’s maids left and laid with her and the judges who were just scrolling about in the garden, religiously ran to them, catching them in an embrace, tried to confine the man but being strong he was able to escape. And as the text says in Daniel 13:41 “The assembly believed them, because they were elders of the people and judges; and they condemned her to death.”

Next we have Susanna’s mournful cry to the Lord for her deliverance;
“O eternal God, who dost discern what is secret, who art aware of all things before they come to be, thou knowest that these men have borne false witness against me. And now I am to die! Yet I have done none of the things that they have wickedly invented against me!” Dan 13:42-43 RSVA

In the following verses 49-62 the Lord in all his wisdom calls the lad Daniel, whom God divinely appointed as Susanna’s defense attorney. And with some smart and cunning investigative techniques proves Susanna’s innocents by proving the Judges were lying and falsely accusing her. Daniel quickly reconvenes the court and chastises the court for not interrogating and looking at the evidence properly. He then splits the Judges and lo and behold they can not even tell under what tree Susanna and her lover were having intercourse. It apparently was known that the Judges had past offences , for in Daniel 13:57 we read;

“This is how you both 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.”
So Daniel was able to bring about a conviction on the grounds of false witness and the Judges were sentenced to death.

If considered as a sex crime instead of a hero story of Daniel we are brought to the sobering fact that these issues were just as prevalent in the days of the biblical texts as they are today. However, today there are better ways of communication between criminals and those with similar interests which in the long run makes it seem more challenging to keep under control by law enforcement. However, just as it was in the days of the biblical writers, such accounts are still written in history today.

Hazelwood, R. & K. Lanning. (1995). “Collateral Materials in Sexual Crimes,” in R. Hazelwood & A. Burgess (Eds.) Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation. Boca Raton: CRC Press. pp. 183-189.

Hazelwood, R. & J. Warren. (1995). “The Relevance of Fantasy in Serial Sexual Crime Investigations,” in Practical Aspects of Rape Investigation. Boca Raton: CRC Press. pp. 127-137.

All biblical texts were quoted from the New Revised Standard Version Apocrypha.

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