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ANF05. Fathers of the Third Century: Hippolytus, Cyprian, Caius, Novatian, Appendix
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VI.

On Susannah.13461346    This apocryphal story of Susannah is found in the Greek texts of the LXX. and Theodotion, in the old Latin and Vulgate, and in the Syriac and Arabic versions. But there is no evidence that it ever formed part of the Hebrew, or of the original Syriac text. It is generally placed at the beginning of the book, as in the Greek mss. and the old Latin, but is also sometimes set at the end, as in the Vulgate, ed. Compl.

What is narrated here, happened at a later time, although it is placed before the first book (at the beginning of the book). For it was a custom with the writers to narrate many things in an inverted order in their writings. For we find also in the prophets some visions recorded among the first and fulfilled among the last; and again, on the other hand, some recorded among the last and fulfilled first. And this was done by the disposition of the Spirit, that the devil might not understand the things spoken in parables by the prophets, and might not a second time lay his snares and ruin man.

Ver. 1. “Called Joacim.” This Joacim, being a stranger in Babylon, obtains Susannah in marriage. And she was the daughter of Chelcias the priest,13471347    2 Kings xxii. 8. who found the book of the law in the house of the Lord, when Josiah the king commanded him to purify the holy of holies. His brother was Jeremiah the prophet, who was carried, with the remnant that was left after the deportation of the people to Babylon, into Egypt, and dwelt in Taphnæ;13481348    Jer. xliii. 8. and, while prophesying there, he was stoned to death by the people.

“A very fair woman, and one that feared the Lord,” etc. For by the fruit produced, the tree also is easily known. For men who are pious and zealous for the law, bring into the world children worthy of God; such as he was who became a prophet and witness of Christ, and she who was found chaste and faithful in Babylon, whose honour and chastity were the occasion of the manifestation of the blessed Daniel as a prophet.

4. “Now Joacim was a great rich man,” etc. We must therefore seek the explanation of this. For how could those who were captives, and had been made subject to the Babylonians, meet together in the same place, as if they were their own masters? In this matter, therefore, we should observe that Nebuchadnezzar, after their deportation, treated them kindly, and permitted them to meet together, and do all things according to the law.

7. “And at noon Susannah went into (her husband’s garden).” Susannah prefigured the Church; and Joacim, her husband, Christ; and the garden, the calling of the saints, who are planted like fruitful trees in the Church. And Babylon is the world; and the two elders are set forth as a figure of the two peoples that plot against the Church—the one, namely, of the circumcision, and the other of the Gentiles. For the words, “were appointed rulers of the people and judges,” (mean) that in this world they exercise authority and rule, judging the righteous unrighteously.

8. “And the two elders saw her.”  These things the rulers of the Jews wish now to expunge from the book, and assert that these things did not happen in Babylon, because they are ashamed of what was done then by the elders.

9. “And they perverted their own mind.” For how, indeed, can those who have been the enemies and corruptors of the Church judge righteously, or look up to heaven with pure heart, when they have become the slaves of the prince of this world?

10. “And they were both wounded with her (love).” This word is to be taken in truth; for always the two peoples, being wounded (instigated) by Satan working in them, strive to raise persecutions and afflictions against the Church, and seek how they may corrupt her, though they do not agree with each other.

12. “And they watched diligently.” And this, too, is to be noted. For up to the present time both the Gentiles and the Jews of the circumcision watch and busy themselves with the dealings of the Church, desiring to suborn false witnesses against us, as the apostle says:  “And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus.”13491349    Gal. ii. 4.

It is a kind of sin to be anxious to give the mind to women.

14. “And when they were gone out, they parted the one from the other.” As to their parting the one from the other at the hour of dinner (luncheon), this signifies that in the matter of earthly meats the Jews and the Gentiles are not at one; but in their views, and in all worldly matters, they are of one mind, and can meet each other.

14. “And asking one another, they acknowledged their lust.” Thus, in revealing themselves to each other, they foreshadow the time when they shall be proved by their thoughts, and shall have to give account to God for all the sin which they have done, as Solomon says: “And scrutiny shall destroy the ungodly.”13501350    Prov. i. 32; in our version given as, “The prosperity of fools shall destroy them.” For these are convicted by the scrutiny.

15. “As they watched a fit time.” What fit time but that of the passover, at which the laver is prepared in the garden for those who burn, and Susannah washes herself, and is presented as a pure bride to God?

“With two maids only.” For when the Church desires to take the laver according to use, she must of necessity have two handmaids to accompany her. For it is by faith on Christ and love to God that the Church confesses and receives the laver.

18. “And she said to her maids, Bring me oil.” For faith and love prepare oil and unguents to those who are washed. But what were these unguents, but the commandments of the holy Word? And what was the oil, but the power of the Holy Spirit, with which believers are anointed as with ointment after the laver of washing? All these things were figuratively represented in the blessed Susannah, for our sakes, that we who now believe on God might not regard the things that are done now in the Church as strange, but believe them all to have been set forth in figure by the patriarchs of old, as the apostle also says:  “Now these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they were written for our instruction, on whom the ends of the world are come.”13511351    1 Cor. x. 11.

18. “And they went out at privy doors;” showing thus by anticipation, that he who desires to partake of the water in the garden must renounce the broad gate, and enter by the strait and narrow.13521352    Matt. vii. 13, 14.

“And they saw not the elders.” For as of old the devil was concealed in the serpent in the garden, so now too, concealed in the elders, he fired them with his own lust, that he might again a second time corrupt Eve.

20. “Behold, the garden doors are shut.” O wicked rulers, and filled with the workings of the devil, did Moses deliver these things to you? And while ye read the law yourselves, do ye teach others thus? Thou that sayest, “Thou shalt not kill,” dost thou kill? Thou that sayest, “Thou shalt not covet,” dost thou desire to corrupt the wife of thy neighbour?

“And we are in love with thee.” Why, ye lawless, do ye strive to gain over a chaste and guileless soul by deceitful words, in order to satisfy your own lust?

21. “If thou wilt not, we will bear witness against thee.” This wicked audacity with which you begin, comes of the deceitfulness that lurks in you from the beginning. And there was in reality a young man with her, that one13531353    That is, Daniel, present in the spirit of prophecy.—Combef. of yours; one from heaven, not to have intercourse with her, but to bear witness to her truth.

22. “And Susannah sighed.” The blessed Susannah, then, when she heard these words, was troubled in her heart, and set a watch upon her mouth, not wishing to be defiled by the wicked elders. Now it is in our power also to apprehend the real meaning of all that befell Susannah. For you may find this also fulfilled in the present condition of the Church. For when the two peoples conspire to destroy any of the saints, they watch for a fit time, and enter the house of God while all there are praying and praising God, and seize some of them, and carry them off, and keep hold of them, saying, Come, consent with us, and worship our Gods; and if not, we will bear witness against you. And when they refuse, they drag them before the court and accuse them of acting contrary to the decrees of Cæsar, and condemn them to death.

“I am straitened on every side.”  Behold the words of a chaste woman, and one dear to God: “I am straitened on every side.” For the Church is afflicted and straitened, not only by the Jews, but also by the Gentiles, and by those who are called Christians, but are not such in reality. For they, observing her chaste and happy life, strive to ruin her.

“For if I do this thing, it is death to me.” For to be disobedient to God, and obedient to men, works eternal death and punishment.

“And if I do it not, I cannot escape your hands.” And this indeed is said with truth. For they who are brought into judgment for the sake of God’s name, if they do what is commanded them by men, die to God, and shall live in the world. But if they refuse to do what is commanded them by men, they escape not the hands of their judges, but are condemned by them.

23. “It is better for me not to do it.” For it is better to die by the hand of wicked men and live with God, than, by consenting to them, to be delivered from them and fall into the hands of God.

24. “And Susannah cried with a loud voice.” And to whom did Susannah cry but to God? as Isaiah says: “Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer thee; whilst thou art yet speaking, He shall say, Lo, here I am.”13541354    Isa. lviii. 9.

“And the two elders cried out against her.” For the wicked never cease to cry out against us, and to say: Away with such from off the earth, for it is not fit that they should live. In an evangelical sense, Susannah despised them who kill the body, in order that she might save her soul from death. Now sin is the death of the soul, and especially (the sin of) adultery. For when the soul that is united with Christ forsakes its faith, it is given over to perpetual death, viz., eternal punishment. And in confirmation of this, in the case of the transgression and violation of marriage unions in the flesh, the law has decreed the penalty of death.

25. “Then ran the one and opened the gates;” pointing to the broad and spacious way on which they who follow such persons perish.

31. “Now Susannah was a very delicate woman.” Not that she had meretricious adornments about her person, as Jezebel had, or eyes painted with divers colours; but that she had the adornment of faith, and chastity, and sanctity.

34. “And laid their hands upon her head;” that at least by touching her they might satisfy their lust.

35. “And she was weeping.” For by her tears she attracted the (regard of) the Word from heaven, who was with tears to raise the dead Lazarus.

41. “Then the assembly believed them.” It becomes us, then, to be stedfast in every duty, and to give no heed to lies, and to yield no obsequious obedience to the persons of rulers, knowing that we have to give account to God; but if we follow the truth, and aim at the exact rule of faith, we shall be well-pleasing to God.

44. “And the Lord heard her voice.” For those who call upon Him from a pure heart, God heareth. But from those who (call upon Him) in deceit and hypocrisy, God turneth away His face.

52. “O thou that art waxen old in wickedness.” Now, since at the outset, in the introduction, we explained that the two elders are to be taken as a type of the two peoples, that of the circumcision and that of the Gentiles, which are always enemies of the Church; let us mark the words of Daniel, and learn that the Scripture deals falsely with us in nothing. For, addressing the first elder, he censures him as one instructed in the law; while he addresses the other as a Gentile, calling him “the seed of Chanaan,” although he was then among the circumcision.

55. “For even now the angel of God.” He shows also, that when Susannah prayed to God, and was heard, the angel was sent then to help her, just as was the case in the instance of Tobias13551355    Tobit iii. 17. and Sara. For when they prayed, the supplication of both of them was heard in the same day and the same hour, and the angel Raphael was sent to heal them both.

61. “And they arose against the two elders;” that the saying might be fulfilled, “Whoso diggeth a pit for his neighbour, shall fall therein.”13561356    Prov. xxvi. 27.

To all these things, therefore, we ought to give heed, beloved, fearing lest any one be overtaken in any transgression, and risk the loss of his soul, knowing as we do that God is the Judge of all; and the Word13571357    Cotelerius reads ὅλος instead of ὁ λόγος, and so = and He is Himself the whole or universal eye. Himself is the Eye which nothing that is done in the world escapes. Therefore, always watchful in heart and pure in life, let us imitate Susannah.


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