In the character of Susanna we see unconquerable Purity in thought and deed; prayerful Trust in God under a false and cruel accusation, and, in the face of death, securing deliverance from an unexpected quarter (cf. v.60 with II. Cor. i.10). With v.55 Hippolytus compares Tob. iii.2 (Vulgate). The parallels drawn by St. Chrysostom and St. Augustine will be found under Early Christian Literature,' p.167. Susanna's trouble may be taken as a conspicuous illustration of Ps. xxxiv.19.
Susanna was conscientious as well as pure; would not lie, being tenderly nurtured morally as well as physically. She had the virtue of bodily cleanliness as well as social purity, and affords an early instance of the use of the prepared bath.
It is noticeable, too, that no unfavourable traits develop themselves on the re-establishment of her happiness and the condemnation of her slanderers; there is no excessive reaction to unbecoming laxity, no aschemon pragma.
In the character of the Elders we see judicial position and feigned piety used as a cloak for lust and slander; great hardness of heart in condemning Susanna to death, with the full knowledge that she was innocent; unblushing effrontery (v.50); sins of the tongue in lying and slandering.'
Hooker (Ecc. Pol. V.2) refers, according to the marginal note (though they are not named in the text), to these Elders as examples of |affected atheism,| |where the windows of the soul are of very set purpose closed|; |they turned away their mind and cast down their eyes, that they might not see heaven nor remember just judgments.| St. Hippolytus on v.61 quotes Prov. xxvi.27 very appositely. The fall of the Elders shews the need for our Lord's order in St. Matt. v.28, and the terrible results of acting otherwise.
The individual character of each Elder has a little light thrown upon it by the form of condemnation framed by Daniel. That of the first is chiefly based on his unjust judgment, that of the second on his lewd conduct, each judgment being varied in this way according to the form of his previous iniquities. The knowledge which Daniel possessed of these appropriately determined the cast of his sentence. That he had some acquaintance with their former habits is shewn by vv.52, 53, 56.
The change to the plural in v.57 is difficult to explain, and does not receive attention at the hands of the commentators; in fact Ball applies this verse, without mentioning the change of number, to the one Elder only. Although these godless judges failed in accomplishing their purpose, they were not on this account less scandalous betrayers of virtue.
In Susanna's Servants we see fidelity, sympathy, and no eagerness to believe an ill report. As regards Susanna, this fact speaks volumes for the excellence of her conduct.
In Daniel we see the courage and penetrating acumen which are so characteristic of his whole career, impressing all with whom he was brought into contact. He weighs a matter carefully before coming to a decision. By unmasking hypocrisy and securing justice he is delighted to set right a grievous wrong. He appears as the best judge (cf. the estimation shewn of the justice of God by Azarias, Song of the Three, 4-8). Daniel further exhibits a decision and an absence of self-distrust, in undertaking tasks of great risk, quite in accordance with his character as portrayed in the canonical book, and in Bel and the Dragon. In each case he is alert, acute, and fearless; his conduct in different circumstances is quite in keeping with itself. Using his talents thoroughly, he makes |full proof of his ministry.|
There is a strong resemblance in ideas, though not much in words, between Daniel's sentence in v.55 and St. Matt. xxiv.51. The judgment of Daniel in this case may be taken as a type of the Last Judgment, correcting the unjust judgments of this world.
A high value is set on Scripture, as v.53 shews, where it is quoted as an authoritative rule of conduct; v.5, too, if it is to be regarded as a reference to Jer. xxix.23, points to a similar high esteem for it as the word of the Lord. Susanna herself in v.22 evidently remembers David's words in II. Sam. xxiv.14, when he too had to make his choice between falling into the hand of the Lord or the hand of man, thus shewing her ready knowledge of the O. T.
Much admirable moral teaching therefore may be drawn from the characters of this little work of world-wide interest, teaching which is needed in all nations and in all periods.