Susanna and the Elders
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June 13, 2010
Susanna and the Elders
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READINGSFROM THE BIBLE:
Daniel 13 (Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition)
1Now there was a man that dwelt in Babylon, and his name was Joakim:
2And he took a wife whose name was Susanna, the daughter of Helcias, a very beautiful woman, and one that feared God.
3For her parents being just, had instructed their daughter according to the law of Moses.
4Now Joakim was very rich, and had an orchard near his house: and the Jews resorted to him, because he was the most honourable of them all.
5And there were two of the ancients of the people appointed judges that year, of whom the Lord said: Iniquity came out from Babylon from the ancient judges, that seemed to govern the people.
6These men frequented the house of Joakim, and all that had any matters of judgment came to them.
7And when the people departed away at noon, Susanna went in, and walked in her husband's orchard.
8And the old men saw her going in every day, and walking: and they were inflamed with lust towards her:
9And they perverted their own mind and turned away their eyes that they might not look unto heaven, nor remember just judgments.
10So they were both wounded with the love of her, yet they did not make known their grief one to the other:
11For they were ashamed to declare to one another their lust, being desirous to have to do with her.
12And they watched carefully every day to see her. And one said to the other:
13Let us now go home, for it is dinner time. So going out they departed one from another.
14And turning back again, they came both to the same place: and asking one another the cause, they acknowledged their lust; and then they agreed upon a time, when they might find her alone.
15And it fell out, as they watched a fit day, she went in on a time, as yesterday and the day before, with two maids only, and was desirous to wash herself in the orchard: for it was hot weather.
16And there was nobody there, but the two old men that had hid themselves and were beholding her.
17So she said to the maids: Bring me oil, and washing balls, and shut the doors of the orchard, that I may wash me.
18And they did as she bade them: and they shut the doors of the orchard, and went out by a back door to fetch what she had commanded them, and they knew not that the elders were hid within.
19Now when the maids were gone forth, the two elders arose, and ran to her, and said:
20Behold 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.
21But 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.
22Susanna sighed, and said: I am straitened on every side: for if I do this thing, it is death to me: and if I do it not, I shall not escape your hands.
23But it is better for me to fall into your hands without doing it, than to sin in the sight of the Lord.
24With that Susanna cried out with a loud voice: and the elders also cried out against her.
25And one of them ran to the door of the orchard, and opened it.
26So when the servants of the house heard the cry in the orchard, they rushed in by the back door to see what was the matter.
27But after the old men had spoken, the servants were greatly ashamed: for never had there been any such word said of Susanna. And on the next day,
28When the people were come to Joakim her husband, the two elders also came full of wicked device against Susanna, to put her to death.
29And they said before the people: Send to Susanna daughter of Helcias the wife of Joakim. And presently they sent.
30And she came with her parents, and children, and all her kindred.
31Now Susanna was exceeding delicate, and beautiful to behold.
32But those wicked men commanded that her face should be uncovered, (for she was covered,) that so at least they might be satisfied with her beauty.
33Therefore her friends and all her acquaintance wept.
34But the two elders rising up in the midst of the people, laid their hands upon her head.
35And she weeping looked up to heaven, for her heart had confidence in the Lord.
36And the elders said: 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.
37Then a young man that was there hid came to her, and lay with her.
38But we that were in a corner of the orchard, seeing this wickedness, ran up to them, and we saw them lie together.
39And him indeed we could not take, because he was stronger than us, and opening the doors be leaped out:
40But having taken this woman, we asked who the young man was, but she would not tell us: of this thing we are witnesses.
41The multitude believed them as being the elders and the judges of the people, and they condemned her to death.
42Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said: O eternal God, who knowest hidden things, who knowest all things before they come to pass,
43Thou 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.
44And the Lord heard her voice.
45And when she was led to be put to death, the Lord raised up the holy spirit of a young boy, whose name was Daniel.
46And he cried out with a loud voice I am clear from the blood of this woman.
47Then all the people turning themselves towards him, said: What meaneth this word that thou hast spoken?
48But he standing in the midst of them, said: Are ye so foolish, ye children of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the truth, you have condemned a daughter of Israel?
49Return to judgment, for they have borne false witness against her.
50So all the people turned again in haste, and the old men said to him: Come, and sit thou down among us, and shew it as: seeing God hath given thee the honour of old age.
51And Daniel said to the people: Separate these two far from one another, and I will examine them.
52So when they were put asunder one from the other, he called one of them, and said to him: O thou that art grown old in evil days, now are thy sins come out, which thou hast committed before:
53In judging unjust judgments, oppressing the innocent, and letting the guilty to go free, whereas the Lord saith: I The innocent and the just thou shalt not kill.
54Now then, if thou sawest her, tell me under what tree thou sawest them conversing together. He said: Under a mastic tree.
55And Daniel said: Well hast thou lied against thy own head: for behold the angel of God having received the sentence of him, shall cut thee in two.
56And having put him aside, he commanded that the other should come, and he said to him: O thou seed of Chanaan, and not of Juda, beauty hath deceived thee, and lust hath perverted thy heart:
57Thus did you do to the daughters of Israel, and they for fear conversed with you: but a daughter of Juda would not abide your wickedness.
58Now therefore tell me, under what tree didst thou take them conversing together., And he answered: Under a holm tree.
59And Daniel said to him: Well hast thou also lied against thy own head: for the angel of the Lord waiteth with a sword to cut thee in two, and to destroy you.
60With that all the assembly cried out with a loud voice, and they blessed God, who saveth them that trust in him.
61And they rose up against the two elders, (for Daniel had convicted them of false witness by their own mouth,) and they did to them as they had maliciously dealt against their neighbour,
62To fulfil the law of Moses: and they put them to death, and innocent blood was saved in that day.
63But Helcias and his wife praised God, for their daughter Susanna, with Joakim her husband, and all her kindred, because there was no dishonesty found in her.
64And Daniel became great in the sight of the people from that day, and thenceforward.
65And king Astyages was gathered to his fathers, and Cyrus the Persian received his kingdom.
Divine Providence (Dick and Pulsford) n. 10
10. V. THE GOOD OF LOVE IS NOT GOOD EXCEPT SO FAR AS IT IS UNITED TO THE TRUTH OF WISDOM; AND THE TRUTH OF WISDOM IS NOT TRUTH EXCEPT SO FAR AS IT IS UNITED TO THE GOOD OF LOVE. Good and truth derive this from their origin. Good has its origin in the Lord, and likewise truth; for the Lord is God itself and Truth itself and these two in Him are one. For this reason good in the angels of heaven and in men on earth is good in itself only so far as it has been united to truth; and truth is truth in itself only so far as it has been united to good. It is well known that every good and every truth is from the Lord. Hence, as good makes one with truth and truth with good, it follows that for good to be good in itself and for truth to be truth in itself, they must make one in the recipient; that is, in an angel of heaven and a man on earth.
I first heard the story of Susanna and the Elders when in I was in a training program from the Faith-Trust Institute. In most Protestant Bibles, the book of Daniel has only 12 chapters, so the story of Susanna is not included.
In seminary, I was surprised to learn how often women who were victims of domestic violence were not supported by their churches.
Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune, founder of the FaithTrust Institute says:
Christianity was misused for centuries to somehow justify the abuse of wives and children by husbands and fathers. This assertion is easily documented. But does it tell the whole story? No.
Christianity can serve as a valuable resource in a variety of ways to those suffering domestic violence.
It is easy to justify or refrain from challenging the abuse of women and children through the misuse or misinterpretation of texts and doctrines. But if the agenda is to provide safety for women and children, and to hold an abuser accountable, this also is accomplished easily through the use of texts and doctrines. ...
One important function the church can serve is to tell the truth about women's experiences of abuse, to give a voice where there has been silence. ...
Think about the biblical passages that Phyllis Trible calls the "texts of terror" (the rape of Dinah or of Tamar, the rape and murder of the concubine in Judges 19, etc.). When preachers mention these, it can be seen—though the stories are vivid and painful—that our ancestors in the faith not only knew the experiences so many have today but also spoke about them in the context of faith.
Stories like Susanna's can remind us that violence towards women in their homes and families has taken place for centuries. Truth can be a powerful weapon for ending the violence. In this story, Susanna tells the truth of her story, even knowing that she might be killed for it. When Daniel, a young man, asks for an investigation of truth, he is able to show the Truth that Susanna spoke.
Telling our stories is a powerful way to help truth prevail.
THE STORY IN ART:
Susanna' story has been depicted in paintings throughout history. The video below tells Susanna's story through paintings:
THE STORY IN MUSIC:
If you woud like to experience the story musically, you might enjoy Handel's Overture to his Oratoria la Susanna.
Susanna's story demonstrates the power of truth in the telling of our stories. To Swedenborg, Truth was part of the Divine. He wrote often about the essential role that Good and Truth play in our spiritual lives. In Divine Providence #8 , he writes:
Now I need to say something more specific about the unity or union that is called that the marriage of goodness and truth.
This marriage is in the Lord himself ...It is from the Lord ... they both emanante from the Lord as the sun -- "
and in 318:5b
Once we have justified what is false, we cannot see what is true; but once we have justified what is true, we can see what is false. Everything false is in the darkness and everything true is in the light.
Susanna had been give two options by evil men: either she could consent to have sexual relations with them [which would result in her being condemned to death by her husband], or they would accuse of her of having an affair [which would result in her being condemned to death by her husband.] But Susanna saw a third option: standing tall in the presence of the Truth. Sadly, she was not believed. However, a brave young man chose to stand up with her and demand the truth:
Are ye so foolish, ye children of Israel, that without examination or knowledge of the truth, you have condemned a daughter of Israel?
They realized that, of course, they wanted the truth. When Daniel led them into an investigation, the truth was revealed.
It is not easy to tell the truth, especially when you are in a powerless position. It is risky to stand up for the truth with a powerless person. But we are reminded by this story that God lives in the Truth, and when we invite Truth into our lives, we are also ivniting the Light of the Divine.
How Can I Keep from Singing
Extinguish the candle
And close the Bible.