Exploring Tobit (Ch.1-3)

Good Morning!  My commentary on Tobit is going to be a bit different from how I did the commentary on a copyrighted book.  This time, I’m just going to let you read the book as I go along, and you can see my thoughts.  But I’m not going to quote it all, or we’ll be here all day.  So to recap up to this point, Tobit is telling us about his life up to this point.  He secretly would bury the dead from which king Sennacherib had killed and just left out in the open, and when he was discovered he ran away.  Later when Sennacherib is replaced by his son via a coup, Tobit, his wife Anna and their son Tobias are able to return to the city.  After he buries another person, and is discovered he runs away afraid and goes blind because sparrow dung got into his eyes.  His wife Anna ends up taking on the role of providing for the family and receives an extra gift for her time- a small goat.  Tobit is furious because he thinks she’s stolen the goat, and she tells him off.  And that’s where we are in the story. 

Name: Tobit

Religious History: While his tribe was sacrificing to Baal, he was trying to do what was right and made an effort to visit Jerusalem during festivals- per his mother’s insistence.

Family: Mother Debora, orphaned by father, and tribe Nephthali

Setting: Nineveh, under Assyrian Rule

See, 2 chapters verses a paragraph and short bio!  Let’s pick up at Chapter 3 where the story starts to take off.  I think I’ll divide this up, and have some sort of contemplative exercise attached.  When I get to the end, I’ll include my final thoughts though.  We’ll see how I personally feel about this book being considered scripture.

Chapter 3:1-6

Then I being grieved did weep, and in my sorrow prayed, saying, O Lord, thou art just, and all thy works and all thy ways are mercy and truth, and thou judgest truly and justly for ever. Remember me, and look on me, punish me not for my sins and ignorances, and the sins of my fathers, who have sinned before thee: For they obeyed not thy commandments: wherefore thou hast delivered us for a spoil, and unto captivity, and unto death, and for a proverb of reproach to all the nations among whom we are dispersed.

And now thy judgments are many and true: deal with me according to my sins and my fathers’: because we have not kept thy commandments, neither have walked in truth before thee.  Now therefore deal with me as seemeth best unto thee, and command my spirit to be taken from me, that I may be dissolved, and become earth: for it is profitable for me to die rather than to live, because I have heard false reproaches, and have much sorrow: command therefore that I may now be delivered out of this distress, and go into the everlasting place: turn not thy face away from me.

So I’m going to level with you: I don’t like Blind Tobit.  Because he reminds me of myself in many ways (not that I ever asked God to take away my life from me).  I hate feeling defeated, but man isn’t this something many of us have felt?  There is something to be taken from this prayer other than his defeat though- he recognizes that the captivity he is in is because of his fathers, but more than that he’s saying that he believes he hasn’t learned from his ancestors and thus committed many of the same sins.  Since I skipped the first two chapters, you missed that he was eating bread of the Gentiles after he was taken away from his home and into Nineveh.  So as he’s speaking this prayer, he’s probably got all sorts of things on his mind from how he just got done treating his wife, to the fact that he’s been told he’s not suppose to be eating with the Gentiles.  And with the blindness?  That’s got to be a sign, right?

Chapter 3:7-10

It came to pass the same day, that in Ecbatane a city of Media Sara the daughter of Raguel was also reproached by her father’s maids;  Because that she had been married to seven husbands, whom Asmodeus the evil spirit had killed, before they had lain with her. Dost thou not know, said they, that thou hast strangled thine husbands? thou hast had already seven husbands, neither wast thou named after any of them.  Wherefore dost thou beat us for them? if they be dead, go thy ways after them, let us never see of thee either son or daughter.  When she heard these things, she was very sorrowful, so that she thought to have strangled herself; and she said, I am the only daughter of my father, and if I do this, it shall be a reproach unto him, and I shall bring his old age with sorrow unto the grave.

Asmodeus is considered a prince of demons in some Judeo-Islamic traditions.  The theory is that Asmodeus is actually a deva named Æshma from the Zoroasterian tradition dating back to somewhere between 1500-1200 BC.  The first time we see mention of Asmodeus in Judeo history, however, is in Tobit.  Later, a couple centuries after Christ, Ashmedai (his Hebrew name) is connected with King Solomon in the Babylonian Talmud.  So it’s here in Tobit, that we can see a real manifestation of what the demonic are capable of. 

Which is important to note, because I’ve heard people say “Yeah, but a Demon cannot kill”-not that I need Tobit to prove my point on this one, Job’s story proves demons can kill too.  Much like the very real demonstration Christ give us with the Legion of Demons being cast into the swine, Tobit’s story carries with it the reality that the demonic are real.

Chapter 3:11- 15

Then she prayed toward the window, and said, Blessed art thou, O Lord my God, and thine holy and glorious name is blessed and honourable for ever: let all thy works praise thee for ever.  And now, O Lord, I set I mine eyes and my face toward thee,  And say, Take me out of the earth, that I may hear no more the reproach.  Thou knowest, Lord, that I am pure from all sin with man,  And that I never polluted my name, nor the name of my father, in the land of my captivity: I am the only daughter of my father, neither hath he any child to be his heir, neither any near kinsman, nor any son of his alive, to whom I may keep myself for a wife: my seven husbands are already dead; and why should I live? but if it please not thee that I should die, command some regard to be had of me, and pity taken of me, that I hear no more reproach.

Sara’s grief is understandable.  Something that I find commendable between the two prayers presented here is a “God I leave the decision to you”.  Sara’s prayer, however, is less about personal pity though- she’s seeking to also honor her father through it all.  Notice how she puts some focus on the thought that her father only has her, and therefore it is only through her that their family might be redeemed?

Chapter 3:16-17

So the prayers of them both were heard before the majesty of the great God.  And Raphael was sent to heal them both, that is, to scale away the whiteness of Tobit’s eyes, and to give Sara the daughter of Raguel for a wife to Tobias the son of Tobit; and to bind Asmodeus the evil spirit; because she belonged to Tobias by right of inheritance. The selfsame time came Tobit home, and entered into his house, and Sara the daughter of Raguel came down from her upper chamber.

This story, at first, seemed like it was a first-hand account of what happened in Tobit’s life…but it went from first person, to third person within the same chapter.  If I was an editor, I’d probably take this book back to the author and tell him to pick a point of view and stick with it!  So far, it looks like this is going to be a love story though, should be interesting.

But I digress, God dispatches his angel (a named Angel) to help both of them.  It’s something to note that we don’t see named Angels (of God) until Daniel in the 600 BC timeframe, and those names are Gabriel and Michael.  So Raphael would be the third named Angel in Catholic canon.  It is only worth noting because there are those which would point out to you that an Angel will never reveal their name, out of respect for God that they may not become the object of worship.  While we should never worship an angel, it would be a flaw for us to write off someone’s experience solely based upon whether or not an angel’s name was revealed to a believer.  All elements of the encounter should be analyzed.  Now, I haven’t really dove into the truth of angel names, so take this with a grain of salt, but the lack of an “el” at the end of a name may be indication that the angelic figure isn’t actually from God.  But I’ll explore that topic at a later time.

What shall we choose for a topic of contemplation from this chapter? Since the main focus of this chapter seems to be on the prayers of these two people, I think that may be a good topic for each of us to contemplate: How do their prayers relate to you?  Can you see yourself at all in them?  If you’re up to it, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.  Sometimes it helps to know that we aren’t the only ones that have gone through a rough time, and I think that’s one of the most powerful messages in the Old Testament.

Published by alethealeland

Author of "A Wicked & Adulterous Generation"

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