06 April 2014

Susanna: The Fire

Additions to Daniel / Daniel 13

Was it I who set fire
to the lust in your soul?
Is it the way I look,
the way I dress,
the way I undressed
that day in the park,
right before your eyes?
Was it I who made you
cast your eyes on me,
because I am a woman,
set to bewitch
poor innocent things
like you?

Who set the fire
and tended the glow?
Did not you fan the flames
every day, coming here,
obsession growing
as you looked upon me?

You fought with yourselves -
but was that enough?
Was it I who made you lose
to yourselves?
Is it the way I look,
the way I dress,
the way I undressed
before your eyes
that should not have seen?

Who set the fire
and who tended the glow?
Who threw down their weapons
and gave up the fight?
Who hungered for a sight
not meant for their eyes,
turning blind
to what's wrong and right?

Overpowering desire,
obsession and lust -
the way I undressed,
that day in the park,
where you should not have been.
Who took you there
but your own pairs of feet?
Who fanned the flames
until they consumed
all sense,
all truth,
all fear of God?

So easy
to place the blame
on woman - on me.
So easy
to accuse me
of what you would have done.
So easily they believe
all that you say -
while I can't speak a word.

I will go to my death,
knowing it is not death.
I will carry this shame,
knowing it is not mine
but yours
and it will be revealed
when God puts all to right.
Though I must suffer
injustice, shame and death,
blame for a crime I did not do,
I'd rather suffer
than give in to you -

for I fan no flames
and set no fire;
my only desire
is to be true
to my husband,
to myself,
and to God.
No matter my plight,
I'll do what is right -
I'll quench your fire
with God's pure light.


[4./6. April 2014]

I find this story is very much about lust, temptation, and giving in to temptation. What I really like about it is that it throws out all the lame excuses some men make that "it's the woman's fault" if they can't hold themselves back. So many people think the Bible paints women as seductresses or saints - here, it clearly criticises attempts by men to put the blame for temptation on women. The elders who were lusting after Susanna were actively fanning the flame of their temptation. When you read the story, look at what they did: they actively turned away from Heaven and righteous judgement (v.9), they actively watched her (v.12 - different from v.8 when they only saw her, which is more passive), they actively watched out for an "opportune day" to catch her (v.15). Temptation is not the same as sin - but it can turn into sin if we don't watch out, and if we allow it to take hold of us the way it took hold of the elders. "Just one look..." can turn into more. And blaming the woman (or whatever's tempting you) for your lack of control is not the way to go. It happens way too often. Sure, some women can try to dress a bit less scantily. But men should learn to control themselves too. Don't distract from the main problem!!

The elders falsely accused Susanna of committing adultery (in a scene reminiscent of Joseph and Potiphar's wife) - actually, they tried to make a deal with Susanna: sleep with them and all would be okay, refuse and they'd accuse her - which would mean a sure death sentence. What would you do in such a situation?? Susanna chose what was right, even though it meant certain death. In the end, her prayers were answered and she was saved. Unlike the elders, she did not give in. She did not even give in to save her own life.

- Don't shift the blame on others when you are tempted. Instead, make sure you don't give in to the temptation. Shifting the blame just makes you blind to what's going wrong inside your own heart.

- Stick to what is right - no matter how hard. "I am hemmed in on every side. For if I do this thing, it is death for me; and if I do not, I shall not escape your hands. I choose not to do it and to fall into your hands, rather than to sin in the sight of the Lord." (v.22-23)

And before anyone protestant (note: I'm protestant) makes a fuss: yes, her story is from the apocrypha, i.e. additional texts to the Old Testament that the Reformers decided not to include (main reason: they were written in Greek, not in Hebrew, likely written later). Martin Luther said they were good to read nonetheless, though, so while reading Daniel I took a look at the added bits and THIS story is VERY GOOD so go read it if you haven't yet!
By the way: the early Christian Bible was the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint, which included apocrypha like Susanna's story. It became so much the "Christian Bible" that Greek-speaking Jews abandoned it and had other translations made. So don't make the mistake some protestants do and use the fact that catholic Bibles include the apocrypha as an argument against catholicism.

[Picture by Etienne Dinet]

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