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God’s Word for You

Susanna 1:45-49 Objection

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Sunday, July 30, 2023

45 Just as she was being led off to be put to death, God stirred up the holy spirit of a young boy named Daniel, 46 and he shouted with a loud voice, “I have no part in shedding the blood of this woman!” 47 All the people turned to him and asked, “What is it you are saying?” 48 Taking his stand among them he said, “You foolish sons of Israel, have you condemned a daughter of Israel without examining her and without learning the truth? 49 Return to the place where you judged her, for these men have given false witness against her.”

Here the reader is thrilled that young Daniel appears, and the Bible student scratches his head and asks, how can Daniel possibly appear? The chronology is all wrong, for how can this be the Biblical Daniel, who was taken away with the very first deportation of Jews to Babylon with King Jehoiakim (Daniel 1:1-6; 2 Chronicles 36:5-7)? This being the historical fact, how could the Jehoiakim of our text—not the king of the Jews but another Jew, supposedly an ordinary if wealthy man—have obtained such a lavish villa in Babylon already at this early date (Susanna 1:1-4)? In the historical Daniel’s early years in captivity, he was to be educated for three years in the king’s palace, so that at the end of that time he could be stationed in the king’s court (Daniel 1:4-5). So what is such a schoolboy doing here? And why would anyone listen to the protestations of a boy? It is also proclaimed in the Scriptures that Daniel was indeed assigned a place in the king’s own court and remained there “until the first year of King Cyrus” (Daniel 1:19-21). That was 539 BC, when Daniel was in his eighties or nineties.

Professor Gerhard makes many other objections about this book and the other apocryphal books being outside the canon of Scripture. Some of these objections include:

  1. It was not written in Hebrew, but in Greek (we will see this without a doubt when we read the next chapter, called “Bel and the Dragon”).
  2. It was not written by a Prophet. The Daniel mentioned here cannot be the Scriptural Daniel; not least of which because the Scriptural Daniel was from the tribe of Judah (Daniel 1:6, 2:25, 5:13, 6:13) but the apocryphal Daniel was from Levi according to the Septuagint (Bel and the Dragon 1:1, LXX).
  3. It conflicts with historical truth. This is especially on account of the appearance of the prophet Habakkuk in Bel and the Dragon, who lived about the time of the Battle of Carchemish (see Habakkuk 1:5-6) before the captivity.
  4. The lack of approval of the Church. Jerome, Africanus, and Augustine do not treat the book as part of Scripture, and many Catholic scholars such Ludovicus Vives and others (including Erasmus) did not include it.

That is enough for now. We will return to the fictional nature of these little stories, I suppose, when we see an angel grab poor old Habakkuk by the hair with his ladle in one hand and a pot of stew in the other and fly off to Babylon to feed Daniel in yet another lion’s den (Bel and the Dragon 1:36). But to continue with the text, the boy called Daniel questions the verdict of the mob. He already has the case wrapped up in his mind based on a simple detail; a question he will ask to each of the accusers, those young rulers of the Jews. In this way he is surely the ancestor of Sherlock Holmes and his modern mirror, Adrian Monk.

But the matter in this book is a question of profound importance, and since we will finish the story next weekend we must begin to ask: What here is law, and what is gospel? If the book were a part of Scripture, we would be able to ask that question, for “Whatever is Scripture is either law or gospel. One of the two must triumph: the law leads to despair, the gospel leads to salvation” (Luther, Table Talk, number 626). Luther was doing nothing more than applying 2 Timothy 2:15, “A workman need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” But there is not really any gospel here, even though there is a kind of happy ending. We cannot imply a gospel message, as we do with Esther or Ecclesiastes, or find Christ as if present under every leaf and petal of the garden as we do in Song of Solomon. This book is a lesson in righteousness and right living, but with nothing more than a vengeful rescue. In this way it is profitable to read, worth having read, but sad, for it does not point us to Christ. The true Daniel leaves Nebuchadnezzar praising God and lifting Daniel to new heights, but this book will only lift up a couple of necks.

Therefore, as with any work of fiction, we are driven back into the word of God to seek for our dear Savior who is the true answer to our troubles and the true Savior from all of our sins. The true God, the true Daniel writes: “is the living God, and he endures forever; his kingdom will not be destroyed, his dominion will never end. He rescues and he saves” (Daniel 6:26-27).

And Paul echoes Daniel’s words when he comforts us: “Jesus rescues us from the coming wrath” (1 Thessalonians 1:10).

Sing to the Lord!
Praise the Lord!
For he has delivered the life of the needy.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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