Susanna and the Elders
One legend related to bathing that has been a particularly rich source of inspiration for painters is the Old Testament story of Susanna and the Elders, or how Daniel gained acceptance as a prophet.
Susanna, a very beautiful and God-fearing woman, is married to the wealthy Joakim. The couple lives in Babylon in a fine house with an orchard. Being wealthy and respected, many Jews come to the couple's house to settle their disagreements in the presence of two elders chosen from among the people for their wisdom.
In the afternoon when the people have departed, Susanna is in the habit of walking in the orchard. The two old judges pass her every day and, without admitting it to one another because they are ashamed, begin to desire her passionately.
One day, having parted for dinner and unable to bear it any longer, they each separately retrace their steps to spy on her... and only to meet up again! They confess their desire for Susanna to one another and decide to act together.
Hidden in the orchard waiting for the right moment, the two lustful elders overhear a conversation between Susanna and two maids accompanying her. Susanna asks them to close the doors of the orchard and to fetch oil and perfumes so she can bathe, as it is hot weather.
When the maids have left, the elders come out of their hiding place and try to blackmail Susanna, saying: "Behold the doors of the orchard are shut, and nobody seeth us, and we are in love with thee; wherefore consent to us, and lie with us. But if thou wilt not, we will bear witness against thee, that a young man was with thee, and therefore thou didst send away thy maids from thee."
Thinking she is lost whatever she decides, Susanna chooses not to give in to them to avoid sinning. So she cries out, as do the two crafty fellows while at the same time opening the doors of the orchard. People come running and listen to the elders' lies.
The next day, the people are assembled at Joakim's house. The two elders, who have the credibility that accompanies their role as judges of the people, reiterate their accusation:
"As we walked in the orchard alone, this woman came in with two maids, and shut the doors of the orchard, and sent away the maids from her. Then a young man that was there hid came to her, and lay with her. But we that were in a corner of the orchard, seeing this wickedness, ran up to them, and we saw them lie together. And him indeed we could not take, because he was stronger than us, and opening the doors, he leaped out. But having taken this woman, we asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us: of this thing we are witnesses."
"O eternal God, who knowest hidden things, who knowest all things before they come to pass, Thou knowest that they have borne false witness against me; and behold I must die, whereas I have done none of these things, which these men have maliciously forged against me."
God hears Susanna and awakens the holy spirit of Daniel, a young boy, as she is being led to her death. Daniel then asks to question the two elders separately. He asks the first under what tree Susanna and her lover were conversing. The man claims that it was a mastic tree.
The second elder, to whom Daniel puts the same question, mentions a holm-oak. Daniel having proved that the two elders were lying, they are condemned to death and Susanna is cleared of the suspicion of adultery.
"And Daniel became great in the sight of the people from that day, and thence forward."