The period in which this trial befel Susanna is plainly that of the Babylonian Captivity, after the Jews were well settled in their conqueror's land, but not very long after.
The time covered by the narrative itself is obviously a very short one, probably only a few days at the outside.
If the suggestion in Julius Africanus' letter to Origen is correct, Joacim, Susanna's husband, was none other than Jehoiachin, the captive king of Judah. But Africanus is not by any means confident of this; nor does Hippolytus so identify them, but contents himself with commenting on the statement of the text (v.4) that Joacim was a very rich man. Nor is there anything in the Greek of either version to indicate his royalty, though the assertion that |he was more honourable than all others| fits in well with the notion. But if the story was coëval in its first form with the events narrated in it, the fact might be taken as universally known; or it might be thought politic to suppress it, as likely to be unpalatable to the reigning Babylonian monarch, in the written record. Thus it is possible to answer to a great extent Bissell's objection on v.7, |that there seems to be no good reason why it should not have been definitely stated.|
His name is given as Ioakeim both here, in II. Kings xxiv.8, 12, and in I. Esd. i.43, exactly the same as that of his father and predecessor Jehoiakim in I. Esd. i.37 (39). Elsewhere the name is transliterated Iechonias and Ioachim (Bar. i.3, Jer. xxii.24, var. lect., II. Chron. xxxvi.8, 9). In Judith iv.6, xx.8 we have 'Iwakeim, without variation, as the name of the high priest.
If this identification be correct the date must be subsequent to 597 b.c., the year of Jehoiachin's captivity; and probably not long after, since Daniel, who was taken to Babylon in or soon after the third year of Jehoiakim's reign in 603-4, is represented as being still paidarion geoteron in v.45. This phrase is somewhat tautologically rendered by A. V. as a 'young youth,' an instance which might be cited in support of the view that the English of the apocryphal was less excellent than that of the canonical books ; but, strange to say, the awkward expression is continued in R. V.
Without necessarily implying it, v.2 might easily be taken to convey the impression that Jehoiaohin married in Babylon. Thus Hippolytus asserts, Ioakeim paroikos genomenos en Babuloni lambanei ten Sosannan eis gunaika (Migne, Patr. gr. X.689). And, on the same year' of v.5, Reuss gives the interrogative note, |Im Jahre der Verheiratung des Joakim?|
If Susanna's husband really be Jehoiachin, he is the Jechonias who finds a place in the genealogy of Christ, St. Matt. i.11, 12, Jehoiakim (Eliakim) being omitted. Bugati (Dan. p.166) argues that Joakim is not Jehoiachin because of the name: |quo circa erroris arguendus est Jacobus Edessenus, sive auctor scholii ad calcem historiæ Susannæ adjecti in codice Parisiensi, qui Joacem virum Susannæ eum Joachin rege confundat.| Bugati was probably unaware of the above-mentioned variations in the spelling of the name, which neutralize the force of his argument.
Two other doubtful indications of time are given by Hippolytus, viz. that Chelchias was Jeremiah's brother, making Susanna therefore his niece (Westcott's art. Chelcias, Smith's D. B.), and that 'a fit time' in v.15 intimated the feast of the Passover. Unsupported tradition and conjecture look like the grounds of these two indications respectively. Bardenhewer (op. cit. p.75) not unreasonably deems that Hippolytus is thinking of Christian Baptism in connection with Easter, and so throws back the idea into the bath' and the fit time' of the Passover.
The Harklensian Syriac (W, Walton's second Syriac ) asserts both in vv.1 and 45 that Daniel was twelve years old at the date of the story; also that Susanna was a widow after a married life of a few days only (v.5), a statement to which neither Greek version lends any countenance. In fact, v.63 (Th) supposes Joakim to be alive at the end of the tale. Now we know from II. Kings xxv.27 and Jer. xxviii. (xxxv.) 1-4 that Jehoiachin lived some years at least after his deportation. These Syriac insertions therefore as to Daniel's age and Susanna's widowhood are hardly compatible with one another on the supposition that she was the wife of Jehoiachin, king of Judah.
It has been pointed out in the Speaker's Commentary, xlvib, that the insertion of twelve years old' into the text of the Syriac of Susanna may be due to |Christian re-handling,| as also the extension of the final verse about Daniel's fame, |and he increased in favour with the family of Susanna,| etc., so as to produce a correspondence with St. Luke ii.42, 52. This is a possible theory, but one lacking, so far, the support of evidence. The condemnation of Susanna |at the ninth hour| (v.41) might likewise be attributed to the same Christian influence. This was no doubt operative here, as it was with Hippolytus.
In this connection it is worthy of note that in the longer recension of the |Ignatian| Epist. ad Magnes., § iii., Daniel is spoken of as dodekaetes when he gegone katochos to theio pneumati, a phrase evidently reminiscent of the history of Susanna. Bishop Lightfoot notes on this: |His age is not given in the narrative, and it is difficult to see whence it could have been derived.| He dates the longer Ignatian epistles in the second half of the 4th century (I.246), while Thomas of Harkel lived in the 6th and 7th centuries. But, though so much later, this Syriac translation may perhaps afford some clue to the ultimate discovery of Ignatius', or rather his expander's, source of information. The words paidarion neoteron do not of course necessarily imply such extreme youth as twelve years; nor are we in any way tied to the accuracy of this or other Harklensian variations.
Though this Addition therefore has its chronological difficulties, they need not be regarded as absolutely insurmountable.