Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Rape of Susanna

Where to find Susanna's Story

In the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Susanna's story is found in the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical books.  It is a stand alone story about a beautiful, pious, Jewish woman.  In the Catholic, The New American Bible: St. Joseph's Edition Susanna's story is chapter 13 of the book of Daniel.  In many Protestant Bibles, Susanna's story does not appear at all.

Susanna Tells Her Story

"I am completely trapped.  For if I do this, it will mean death for me; if I do not, I cannot escape your hands." Susanna says to the would be rapists, in Susanna 1:22     

They slunk into the garden while I was bathing.  How long had those voyeurs been hiding and watching me?  Where had they been hiding? How did they know I was alone?  How did they know I had sent my maids to get olive oil and ointment? 
They came rushing at me, "The garden doors are closed" they yelled.  "No one can see us.  You will have sex with us or we will testify against you. We will ruin you.  We will say we caught you having sex with a young man."  I was not going to give into those foul, old men so I cried out for help.   
They began shouting that they had found me with a man who was not my husband.  An accusation that was punishable by death. All my household came to see what the commotion was.  No one defended me.  The next day those odious, old men came to my home filled with their foul, wicked plan to have me put to death.  My husband, parents, children, relatives and servants were all there.  They all knew the kind of woman I am but still no one, not one defended me.  They listened to the lies.  The old frauds told how they were walking in the garden and saw me dismiss my maids.  They said a young man was hiding there and they saw us having sex.  Oh, they were eloquent in describing how they had tried to get the man, but he was to strong for them.  But they had captured me.  
When they pulled off my veil I knew it was just to get a better look at me.  They were going to have me killed but they couldn't hide their perversion from me or their desire to humiliate me.  
There was a man named Daniel in the group that was leading me to my execution. He told the group that he wanted no part in the shedding of my blood.  At that moment I was sure God had heard my prayers. He called them fools for not giving me a fair trial.  He demanded that we return to court.  He questioned my accusers separately and discovered their stories did not match.   
They were put to death for their false witness.  All my family rejoiced because I was innocent. But, if it hadn't been for Daniel they would have allowed me to be put to death without one word in my defense.  My relationship with them was irreparably damaged.

Observations on Susanna's Story

From the time I watched the movie Psycho, I knew to always lock the door and close the window when I took a bath or shower.  Bathing is a dangerous thing for women.  Then I watched The X Files and I learned that even if Scully locked her doors and windows when she took a bath, the alien was going to get her.  
Of course, Susanna is said to be a beautiful woman.  With the exception of Leah in Genesis, I can not think of a single woman in the Bible who is not describe as beautiful, if she is described at all.  Susanna is trapped.  If she gives into the elders and has sex with them she has committed adultery.  An act punishable by death.  If she does not have sex with them, they will accuse her of having sex with someone else.  An act punishable by death.  
Susanna courageously makes the choice to stay true to her convictions.  In a situation where she is not allowed a voice to defend herself she finds her voice to pray aloud to God, exclaiming her innocence. 
In the end, it is not Susanna who is proclaimed the s/hero of her own story.  Her fidelity to the law, her husband and her faith in God are not celebrated.  Rather it is the reputation of Daniel that is acclaimed.