Exploring Tobit (Ch.12-14)

In Chapter 12, Tobit tries to honor his promise to Raphael, by giving him the money he was due, and then extra.  It is finally at this point that Raphael reveals who he is.  He starts out by telling them that they should praise God for everything, and it seems he also wants them to spread the word that God has done great things for them.  And he gives them additional advice on how to live righteously.  The advice picks up in verse 7-

Chapter 12:7-10

It is good to keep close the secret of a king, but it is honourable to reveal the works of God. Do that which is good, and no evil shall touch you.  Prayer is good with fasting and alms and righteousness. A little with righteousness is better than much with unrighteousness. It is better to give alms than to lay up gold:  For alms doth deliver from death, and shall purge away all sin. Those that exercise alms and righteousness shall be filled with life:  But they that sin are enemies to their own life.

Following this, Raphael reveals that he’s been following their story for a while, and was the one that brought up Tobit and Sara’s concerns to God.

Chapter 12:11-15

Surely I will keep close nothing from you. For I said, It was good to keep close the secret of a king, but that it was honourable to reveal the works of God.  Now therefore, when thou didst pray, and Sara thy daughter in law, I did bring the remembrance of your prayers before the Holy One: and when thou didst bury the dead, I was with thee likewise.  And when thou didst not delay to rise up, and leave thy dinner, to go and cover the dead, thy good deed was not hid from me: but I was with thee.  And now God hath sent me to heal thee and Sara thy daughter in law.  I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.

This is the first time we hear of Angels presenting prayers to God.  It’s also the first time that we see any form of prayer in heaven offered up for those on earth.  The second time is in Revelation 8:3-4

Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne.  And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints ascended before God from the Angel’s hand.

Depending upon which date you give Tobit (the 8th Century BCE, according to Catholic tradition; or 2nd -3rd Century BCE), this may be the earliest mention of Raphael at all.  If we put it into the earlier date, however, 1 Enoch is a strong contestant for the mention of Raphael first.  The most we have, is that based on the earlier date of Tobit, 1 Enoch is written around the same time.  In 1 Enoch, Raphael “is set over all the diseases and all the wounds of the children of men” (1 Enoch 40:9).  Although the only Archangel noted for offering prayers for men on earth is Gabriel, one might conclude from 1 Enoch 39:5 that all the Angels do this, and that would include Raphael.  But this doesn’t exactly confirm that Raphael is offering up the prayers of the saints.  The only possible confirmation that Raphael is one of the angels offering up the prayers of believers on earth is in Revelation, which doesn’t name the angel performing the rite.

Chapter 12:20-22

Now therefore give God thanks: for I go up to him that sent me; but write all things which are done in a book.  And when they arose, they saw him no more.  Then they confessed the great and wonderful works of God, and how the angel of the Lord had appeared unto them.

By no means am I at the scholarship level.  But if I were, based on the evidence I have in front of me, my hypothesis would be that 1 Enoch was written first, and Tobit was a fictional piece written with the knowledge of 1 Enoch in mind.  Part of my the hypothesis comes from this passage.  If the family was intended to write of this story in a book, then the book should date to the 8th Century when it was fresh.  The number of inaccuracies that scholars have found suggest that the book wasn’t written by an eyewitness even to the time it is said to have taken place.

For now, I’m going to skip Chapter 13, and post at the end for you to all contemplate on your own.  In Chapter 14, Tobit tells Tobias to leave Ninevah because he believes that God will destroy Ninevah.  This warning to Tobias follows after Jonah’s warning to Ninevah. 

Although we know that the people at Ninevah avoided destruction, I can’t help but think of an earlier verse in this book where Tobit tells Tobias not to pour bread over the graves of the unrighteous.  From the account in Chapter 14, we can see that Tobit very much understands and accepts the destruction which God sought to bring to Ninevah.  The book ends with a sense of Tobias and his family living happily ever after with his father-in-law Raguel.

Chapter 13 Tobit’s Prayer

Blessed be God that liveth for ever, and blessed be his kingdom.  For he doth scourge, and hath mercy: he leadeth down to hell, and bringeth up again: neither is there any that can avoid his hand.  Confess him before the Gentiles, ye children of Israel: for he hath scattered us among them. 4 There declare his greatness, and extol him before all the living: for he is our Lord, and he is the God our Father for ever.  And he will scourge us for our iniquities, and will have mercy again, and will gather us out of all nations, among whom he hath scattered us.

If ye turn to him with your whole heart, and with your whole mind, and deal uprightly before him, then will he turn unto you, and will not hide his face from you. Therefore see what he will do with you, and confess him with your whole mouth, and praise the Lord of might, and extol the everlasting King. In the land of my captivity do I praise him, and declare his might and majesty to a sinful nation. O ye sinners, turn and do justice before him: who can tell if he will accept you, and have mercy on you?

I will extol my God, and my soul shall praise the King of heaven, and shall rejoice in his greatness.  Let all men speak, and let all praise him for his righteousness.

O Jerusalem, the holy city, he will scourge thee for thy children’s works, and will have mercy again on the sons of the righteous.  Give praise to the Lord, for he is good: and praise the everlasting King, that his tabernacle may be builded in thee again with joy, and let him make joyful there in thee those that are captives, and love in thee for ever those that are miserable.

Many nations shall come from far to the name of the Lord God with gifts in their hands, even gifts to the King of heaven; all generations shall praise thee with great joy.  Cursed are all they which hate thee, and blessed shall all be which love thee for ever.  Rejoice and be glad for the children of the just: for they shall be gathered together, and shall bless the Lord of the just.  O blessed are they which love thee, for they shall rejoice in thy peace: blessed are they which have been sorrowful for all thy scourges; for they shall rejoice for thee, when they have seen all thy glory, and shall be glad for ever.

Let my soul bless God the great King.  For Jerusalem shall be built up with sapphires and emeralds, and precious stone: thy walls and towers and battlements with pure gold.  And the streets of Jerusalem shall be paved with beryl and carbuncle and stones of Ophir.  And all her streets shall say, Alleluia; and they shall praise him, saying, Blessed be God, which hath extolled it for ever.

Published by alethealeland

Author of "A Wicked & Adulterous Generation"

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