Faithfulness of the powerless: addition to Daniel (@Seeking1st)

Albrecht_altdorfer,_susanna_al_bagno_04

 

Who is this woman preparing for a bath in the garden? It is Susanna.

I love this detail from a painting in the Alte Pinotech in Munich. The painting is by Albrecht Altdorfer (1480 – 1538).  Susanna looks so relaxed, unsuspecting of her dreadful ordeal to come after her maids leave her to fetch oil and soap. That’s when the lecherous elders, who were secretly spying on her, will grab their chance. In spite of  fearful threats Susanna is about to show as much heroism as that shown by Daniel in the Bible.  Her story is part of an addition to Daniel (Daniel 13), usually left out of Protestant Bibles, but her story is an inspiration to courage and faith, especially for those who have no power. And Daniel himself plays a secondary but significant part in Susanna’s story.

Daniel’s story in the Book of Daniel (1 – 12) is one of courage and faithfulness to God.

As a child I learnt how God saved Daniel and his companions from the fiery furnace and Daniel from the lion’s den. The chorus, ‘Dare to be a Daniel’ is one I was taught and sang as a little girl. No-one then told me the story of Susanna. Oh how I wish they had!  Susanna was as heroic as Daniel, trusted in God as much as Daniel did, refused evil and triumphed over adversity in the face of what seemed inevitable death – just like Daniel.

 ‘Dare to be Susanna,

dare to stand alone!

Dare to have a purpose firm!

Dare to make it known.’

As a female child I could have sung that with enthusiasm, especially once I was old enough to understand the desperate plight Susannah faced.

Susanna’s story is well worth reading as an inspiring example

  • of loyalty
  • of a woman who in the face of threats valued faithfulness to God more than her own life
  • of a woman who found her voice in crying out to God for help in an extreme situation
  • of the vindication of someone with no power who had been falsely accused
  • as an example of God’s power to save

So what was Susanna’s story?

You really need to read it for yourself to get the full flavour, but here’s a summary: 2 lecherous male elders demanded that the beautiful Susanna (a married woman) sleep with them. They threatened to accuse her of sexual promiscuity with a young man should she refuse. She refused. The elders carried out their threat. As a woman Susanna had no right to speak in her own defence. It was their word against hers and she was not allowed to speak. The assembled court accepted the powerful elders’ false accusation. Not even her husband or father spoke up for her. Susanna was condemned to death. All she could do was to cry out to God:

 “Eternal God, you know what is hidden and are aware of all things before they come to be:

you know that they have testified falsely against me.

Here I am about to die, though I have done none of the things for which these men have condemned me.”

God heard Susannah’s prayer and used a young man called Daniel to ensure that the matter was returned to court, justice done and Susanna’s innocence vindicated.

You can find Susannah’s story in the Book of Daniel chapter 13.

Protestant Bibles only have 12 chapters in the Book of Daniel. Catholic and Orthodox versions include Susannah’s story, which is part of the Biblical Apocypha. Anglicans include Susannah’s story among a list of other books that “the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine…” (See Article 6 of 39 Articles) Do read Susannah’s story in Daniel 13 – it is an exciting one. You can read Daniel 13 online here. It has inspired musicians, artists and writers. How will it inspire you?

Unlike Daniel, Susannah had no power or influence in a patriarchal society.

She had no voice. Her eventual vindication and escape from a death sentence happened because one person believed her, spoke for her and convinced others of the justice of her cause. And that is how God saved her. There are still so many people today without power or voice. They need others to hear their story and speak for them. How might we do that through social media?

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons 

 

About Nancy Wallace

Blogs as Seeker (http://nancysblog-seeker.blogspot.co.uk/). Tweets on Twitter as @Seeking1st. Church of England minister and grandmother, struggling to learn to pray, paint and play.