326) ‘He said, She said;’ Susanna and the Elders (part two)

     (…continued)  The elders stood up in the midst of the people and said, “As we walked in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids.  She shut the garden doors and sent the maids away.  Then a young man, who there was hid, came unto her, and lay with her.  Then we, standing in a corner of the garden and seeing this wickedness, ran to them.  The man we could not hold:  for he was stronger than we.  He opened the door and leaped out.  But having taken this woman, we asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us.  These things do we testify.” 

     Then the assembly believed them, since they were the elders and judges of the people, and so they condemned Susanna to death.  Then she cried out with a loud voice, and said, “O everlasting God, you know all that is secret, and you know all things before they come to be.  You know that these men have borne false witness against me.  And now, I must die, even though I never did such things as these men have maliciously invented against me.”  And the Lord heard her voice. 

     Therefore, when she was being led away to be put to death, the Lord raised up a young man named Daniel, who cried out with a loud voice, “I must be innocent of the blood of this woman.”

     Then all the people turned them toward him and said, “What do you mean by these words that you have spoken?”  Standing in the midst of them, he said, “Are you such fools, you sons of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the truth you will condemn a daughter of Israel?  Return again to the place of judgment, for they have borne false witness against her.” 

    So all the people returned again in haste, and they said to Daniel, “Come, sit down among us, and explain it us, seeing God has given you the honor of an elder.”

    Then Daniel said to them, “Put these two accusers aside, one far from the other, and I will examine them.”  So when they were thus separated, Daniel called one of them, and said to him, “O, you that have grown old in wickedness, now the sins which you have committed in earlier days will come to light.  For you have pronounced false judgment and have condemned the innocent and have let the guilty go free.  But the Lord has said, ‘The innocent and righteous you shall not slay.’  Now then, if you really saw what you said you saw, tell me, under what tree did you see them together?”

     The old judge answered, “It was under a mastic tree.” 

     And Daniel said, “Very well, you have lied against your own head, and the sentence of God will be to cut you in two.”

     So he put him aside, and commanded that the other be brought out, and said to him, “Beauty has deceived you and lust has perverted your heart.  You have done this to other women, and they, for fear, would lie with you.  But this daughter of Judah would not abide your wickedness.  Now therefore tell me, under what tree did you see them together?”

      And the second judge answered, “It was under an oak tree.”

     Then said Daniel to him, “Well, you also have lied against your own head, and the angel of God is waiting with the sword to cut you in two, that you may be destroyed.”
     With that, all the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and praised God, who saves those that trust in him.  And they arose against the two elders, for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth.  And so, according to the law of Moses, the assembly did to the judges what they had maliciously intended to do to Susanna, and they put them to death.  Thus, the innocent blood was saved.  Therefore Chelcias and his wife praised God for their daughter Susanna, with Joacim her husband, and all the kindred, because there was no dishonesty found in her from that day forth.
Exodus 20:16  —  You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.  (The 8th commandment)
Proverbs 12:22  —  The Lord detests lying lips, but he delights in those who are truthful. 
Proverbs 6:16-20  —  There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him:  haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies, and a person who stirs up conflict in the community.
A prayer by Martin Luther on the 8th commandment:
I confess and ask for your grace, because I have so often in my life sinfully spoke with malice and contempt against other people. They depend on me for their honor and reputation, just as I depend on them for the same. Help us all to obey this commandment, giving our neighbor the benefit of the doubt, and explaining their actions in the kindest way. Amen.