Damien F. Mackey
Commentators have picked up some striking likenesses between the story of Susanna
(in the Book of Daniel) and the drama surrounding Queen Esther.
G.J. Steyn, for instance, has discovered some “striking similarities” between, not only Susanna and Esther – of relevance to this present series – but also including the Jewish heroine, Judith. Here I take just two short portions from Steyn’s most insightful article (pp. 167-168) http://www.repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/8985/Steyn_Beautiful(2008).pdf?sequ
“BEAUTIFUL BUT TOUGH”.
A COMPARISON OF LXX ESTHER, JUDITH AND SUSANNA”
FEARLESS IN THE FACE OF DEATH
- Esther requests that her people fast and pray three days and nights for her and then she will approach the king without being summoned by him – which is against the royal custom. If she then dies, she dies (4:16). Esther then uses her mightiest weapon, her beauty, as an instrument to save her people.
- Judith took a similar decision as Esther by going voluntarily into the presence of the very man who seeks to destroy her people. She went forth, out of the city gates and down the mountain (10:9-10). Her beauty gave her entry past the soldiers (10:14, 19, 23), right into the tent of Holofernes, the chief captain of the Assyrian army (10:17, 20-21). She stays three days in the camp (12:7) and beheaded Holofernes the fourth night, passing again by the Assyrian soldiers.
- Susanna knows very well that whatever her decision would be, she is destined to die (Sus 1:22). She “sighed” (… Sus 1:22) and “cried with a loud voice” (… Sus 1:24). She chose to turn down the advances of the two elders rather “than to sin in the sight of the Lord” (… Sus 1:23).
TRUST IN GOD AND PRAYER
Esther approached God in her moments of fear and anxiety and expressed her trust in God. This becomes clear from the contents of her prayer in LXX Addition C (14:1-19): “… she prayed to the Lord God of Israel, and said: O my Lord, you alone are our King. Help me in desolation – not having a helper, but you. For my danger is in my hand (… 14:3-4); “You are righteous, O Lord!” (… 14:7); “O King of the gods and of all powers” (… 14:12).
Judith confesses her trust in the Lord when she spoke to the elders of the city … (Jud 8:20). Her trust in God surfaces again in her prayer … (Jud 9:7-8).
Susanna too, approached God in her moment of fear on her way to be executed. She prays to the “everlasting God” (… Sus 1:42) who knows all secrets and who knows the false witness that was borne against her (Sus 1:42-43).