Exploring Tobit (Ch.4)

Chapter 4:3- 4

And when he had called him (Tobias), he said, My son, when I am dead, bury me; and despise not thy mother, but honour her all the days of thy life, and do that which shall please her, and grieve her not.  Remember, my son, that she saw many dangers for thee, when thou wast in her womb: and when she is dead, bury her by me in one grave.

Having realized he needs to give his final will and testimony because he believes God is going to grant him death (I haven’t read the rest of the book, so we’ll see…), Tobit gives Anna her due recognition.  Provided that Tobias would do as Tobit said, he would be honoring both his mother and father by fulfilling Tobit’s wishes. 

Chapter 4:5-11

My son, be mindful of the Lord our God all thy days, and let not thy will be set to sin, or to transgress his commandments: do uprightly all thy life long, and follow not the ways of unrighteousness.  For if thou deal truly, thy doings shall prosperously succeed to thee, and to all them that live justly.  Give alms of thy substance; and when thou givest alms, let not thine eye be envious, neither turn thy face from any poor, and the face of God shall not be turned away from thee.  If thou hast abundance give alms accordingly: if thou have but a little, be not afraid to give according to that little:  For thou layest up a good treasure for thyself against the day of necessity.  Because that alms do deliver from death, and suffereth not to come into darkness.  For alms is a good gift unto all that give it in the sight of the most High.

This reminds me of the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Tobit doesn’t just acknowledge his fellow kinsmen here, but says “any poor”.  It’s also a recall to God telling Israel to treat their neighbors with kindness because Israel too was once in a foreign land.

Chapter 4:12

Beware of all whoredom, my son, and chiefly take a wife of the seed of thy fathers, and take not a strange woman to wife, which is not of thy father’s tribe: for we are the children of the prophets, Noe, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: remember, my son, that our fathers from the beginning, even that they all married wives of their own kindred, and were blessed in their children, and their seed shall inherit the land.

Hey! Perfect timing!  I recently saw someone ask “Where in the Bible does it say you can’t marry someone outside your race?”  For the record, it doesn’t.  But I can see someone taking this verse to mean exactly that.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob didn’t take wives outside their kindred because they’re father’s couldn’t trust anyone else and told them to find a wife amongst their kindred.  It’s completely understandable though, they knew that they could get a wife that would be faithful to God if they went to their own kindred.  And the proof is that God warned Solomon not to take wives from the locals because they would turn his heart to other gods.  In a time of captivity, Tobit’s words weren’t about racism, they were about preserving his son’s heart to God.  And we can see that being the case in the next verse-

Chapter 4:13

Now therefore, my son, love thy brethren, and despise not in thy heart thy brethren, the sons and daughters of thy people, in not taking a wife of them: for in pride is destruction and much trouble, and in lewdness is decay and great want: for lewdness is the mother of famine. 

Basically “I’m asking you to do what I believe is right for you, if others can keep their faith and have a wife outside of their kindred it’s not your place to judge them”.  This remark probably comes from a contemplation of Mose’s wife whom God reprimanded Aaron and Miriam for chastising Moses because he had a wife that wasn’t Hebrew.

Chapter 4:14-18

Let not the wages of any man, which hath wrought for thee, tarry with thee, but give him it out of hand: for if thou serve God, he will also repay thee: be circumspect my son, in all things thou doest, and be wise in all thy conversation. Do that to no man which thou hatest: drink not wine to make thee drunken: neither let drunkenness go with thee in thy journey.

Give of thy bread to the hungry, and of thy garments to them that are naked; and according to thine abundance give alms: and let not thine eye be envious, when thou givest alms. Pour out thy bread on the burial of the just, but give nothing to the wicked.  Ask counsel of all that are wise, and despise not any counsel that is profitable.

“Pour out thy bread on the burial….” (some versions include “or wine”) This verse is a curious thing.  In my head, the first picture I had was of the Egyptian and Greek traditions which buried dead with things to take to the next life.  But upon further investigation it looks more like a funeral feast that we can see hinted at in Jeremiah 16:6
“Neither shall men tear themselves for them in mourning, to comfort that them for the dead; neither shall men give them the cup of consolation to drink for their father or their mother.”

From the Jeremiah account, it doesn’t seem like God is particularly against the tradition of a Funeral Feast, but He does seem to say it’s a privilege. And this isn’t the only time we see this echoed, Ezekiel prophesies the same thing (Ezekiel 24:15-27).

If we look at this verse from the prospective that it’s about a funeral feast, then what we can understand of this is that Tobit is telling Tobias not to celebrate nor mourn the wicked and feels a bit reminiscent of God’s words to Laban as he approached Jacob to find his household scrolls/gods in Genesis 31:24-
“And God came to Laban the Syrian in a dream by night, and said unto him, Take heed that thou speak not to Jacob either good or bad.”

Chapter 4:19-21

Bless the Lord thy God alway, and desire of him that thy ways may be directed, and that all thy paths and counsels may prosper: for every nation hath not counsel; but the Lord himself giveth all good things, and he humbleth whom he will, as he will; now therefore, my son, remember my commandments, neither let them be put out of thy mind.

 And now I signify this to they that I committed ten talents to Gabael the son of Gabrias at Rages in Media.  And fear not, my son, that we are made poor: for thou hast much wealth, if thou fear God, and depart from all sin, and do that which is pleasing in his sight.

Contemplation: While I was in Iraq, I often contemplated the idea of what I or my friends could leave behind to our families.  At the time, I didn’t have a child, nor was I married.  I knew I would leave that particular tour fine (I was what you might call a “FOBBIT”, I never left the wire), but future tours (which I never saw) were on my mind.  When I got back to the states, I actually had found a neat book fashioned after those children’s books that have recorded noises.  Each button corresponded to a page, and you could record a short message to go with it.  Where a letter is beautiful in it’s delivery- the voice is something far more precious in communication.  And video even more powerful.  Today, we can chose to record our voices, a video or write our thoughts for those that we leave behind.  So for today’s contemplation take a page from Tobit and consider what kind of advice you would give to a person you wanted to entrust your legacy to.

If you’re up for it, feel free to share some of your wisdom in the comments below.

(side note, the image is actually from Jacob blessing Isaac; couldn’t really find anything depicting this chapter)

Published by alethealeland

Author of "A Wicked & Adulterous Generation"

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