Jig Is Up
Judicial trials are held in a large house owned by Joakim, who is very rich and has a great-looking wife.
Last month, on a hot day, the court recessed for lunch. Ahab and I each headed to our respective homes. But then I turned back. [Daniel 14:1-4]]|
I must confess it won't make any difference now I was infatuated with Joakim's wife Susanna. I dreamed of seducing her. She always took a walk in her garden at noon, and I liked to watch. [14:8-12]|
However, when I arrived at the garden wall, I suddenly found myself standing face to face with Ahab.
What am I doing? What are you doing? Didn't I see you leave for lunch?
So did I.
Well, no, actually, in the garden here.
How could I not? I wish I could be alone with that beautiful creature.
That's unfortunate. But look, the garden doors are open. We could sneak in and hide among the bushes and spy on the women.
We heard Susanna's musical voice, asking her maids to bring bath oil because she wanted to bathe, right there in the garden pool. We were going to see her naked! But first, shut the garden doors, for privacy. The maids closed the outer doors and went into the house for the oil, leaving Susanna alone.
Seeing our chance, we ran to her. We are overcome with desire for you, fair lady! Ahab blurted. She gasped.
Look, I said, the gate is shut, and no one can see us. Ahab begged, Let us make love to you! [14:17-20]|
She shrank back from our advances, of course. Her father Hilkiah had brought her up to obey the Law of Moses. She was never going to commit adultery, especially not with a couple of lecherous old men like us. [14:2-3]|
No! she said. I won't do it! Better to be at the mercy of your court than to sin against God!
She opened her mouth and screamed as loud as she could. We tried to shout her down. With all that commotion, the whole household began to rush into the garden.
If we're going to claim that she'd been having sex with a young man, I thought, where is her lover now? I ran and opened the gate to make it look as though he had escaped. [14:21-26]|
Though we would have preferred to lie with her, now we had no choice but to lie about her. We couldn't admit why we were in the garden. If we did, we might be charged with attempted theft of Joakim's property, namely his wife. The result of our lies would be that she would be condemned to death for adultery. It would serve her right for rejecting us, two upstanding elders of the community.
The trial was held the next day. When the defendant came in, we wanted to gaze one last time on that lovely face. We ordered her veil removed. She was in tears. So were her relatives. No one, least of all her husband, could believe that she was guilty of adultery. Yet there she stood, on trial. We put our hands on her bare head. [14:27-35]|
Zedekiah and I, Ahab testified, were strolling in the garden by ourselves. This woman came in. The defendant, here. She didn't see us, because we were in a corner of the garden. She had two maids with her, but she shut the doors and dismissed them. Then a young man came and lay with her. He must have been hiding somewhere. They did it right there in the garden, under a tree.
Yes, under a tree, I concurred.
We were shocked! Ahab continued. We ran in and caught them in the act. But we weren't strong enough to hold the man, and he got away.
I added, We asked the woman who he was, but she wouldn't tell us.
We were elders and judges. She was only a woman. Therefore the assembly believed us and condemned her to death. [14:36-41]|
I don't know why he suspected us of lying. He was a very bad man, not loyal to authority at all. He demanded that the two of us should be questioned separately. We objected on the grounds of judicial privilege, but he insisted and the guards escorted Ahab out into the garden. Unfortunately, we hadn't taken the trouble of conferring to get all the details of our stories straight. [14:45-51]|
Now then, Zedekiah, he said to me. The sins of your past are coming home to you!
What sins? I protested.
You've been a terrible judge. You have condemned the innocent, and you have acquitted the guilty. Tell us, if you really saw these two people making love under a tree, what kind of tree was it?
You judges are no sons of Judah. You must be Canaanites, from the way you mistreat the women of Israel. You have terrified them into submitting to your villainy. You have given false evidence against this blameless woman. You shall be put to death!
King Cyrus confirmed the sentence. So now Ahab and I sit here awaiting the hangman, while that upstart cross-examiner is held in great esteem. [14:57-64]|Now he's a Friend of the King. They call him Daniel, which means God has judged.
The story is that Cyrus once worshiped a god called Bel, often going into Bel's temple and bowing down before the idol. As a Jew, Daniel refused to do that, of course. I don't bow before idols made with hands, he said. I worship the living God! [15:1-5]|
Bel is a living god, the king retorted. How you can think otherwise? Don't you see how much he eats and drinks? I deliver a great offering to his altar daily, 12 bushels of flour and 40 sheep and 50 gallons of wine, and by the next day all that food is gone.
Daniel laughed. Don't be deceived, your majesty. This Bel is just clay covered with bronze. He's never eaten anything. [15:6-7]|No, the offering is being stolen by the priests who serve this temple. There's no miracle. [15:10]|
The priests denied this, of course, all 70 of them. They made a bet with the king. We're going to leave now, they said. Lay the provisions before the god as usual, then lock the temple door and seal it with your signet. Tomorrow when you return, if you don't discover that Bel has eaten all the food, let us be put to death. But if Daniel's accusations against us prove false, let him die.
Next morning the king was up early, and Daniel was with him. The king asked, Are the seals intact? They were. Then break them and open the door.
The morning sun shone in. The king took one look at the altar, where there was nothing but debris: sheep bones and overturned baskets and empty wine bottles. Obviously Bel had feasted. The king shouted, Great are you, O Bel! In you there is no deception whatever.
He started to step across the threshold and bow before the idol, but Daniel just laughed and held him back. Look at the floor, Daniel said.
I see footprints, said the king. Wait a moment. Bel has no feet! But I see footprints of men in the ashes. And footprints of women and children too!
He had the priests arrested. They confessed everything and were put to death, and Daniel destroyed the idol and the temple both. [15:16-22]|
That was not the only false god in Babylon. They also had a huge snake they called a dragon.
The king said, Now Daniel, you can't tell me this god is not living. Bow down to the sacred dragon.
What?" asked the king. Are you threatening to stab him or beat him to death?
The king granted permission, and Daniel boiled up a concoction of tar and hair and pushed it down the snake's throat. The snake choked on the viscous hairball and died. Daniel scoffed, See what things you people worship! [15:23-27]|
The people are unhappy with what Daniel has done. They're also unhappy with their king. They fear he's converting to the immigrants' side and becoming a Jew. They hold him responsible for the death of the dragon as well as for pulling down Bel and putting his priests to the sword. They're threatening to kill the king unless he hands over the troublemaker Daniel. [15:28-29]|
I wish I could tell you how that's going all going to turn out. But I'll never know.
(a retelling of the apocryphal chapters of Daniel)
Click here for other Bible stories I've retold in the first person.