Thank you – 17

February 25, 2015

Thank you – 17

 

I just finished blogging the biblical book Tobit. Every time I finish a book of the Bible, I send a thank you blog. I usually post five blogs a day covering about a chapter of one of the biblical books. So far I have posted 2,190 blogs about the individual paragraphs of the first five books of the Torah, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, as well as Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel, 1 Kings and 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles, as well as Ezra and Nehemiah, and now Tobit. This makes the first 17 books of the Bible that are now complete with a commentary for each paragraph. It has taken me a little over a year and a half to get this done.

 

Over 200 people have emailed me that they are following this project in some form or another. I do not think that I know any of you personally. 78 people get an email subscription every day. About 20-40 people look at this site every day, but it has reached as high as 363 people on January 19, 2015. Last month, January, 2015, 1,200 people visited this site. This month so far, 1,081 people have visited this site.  There have been over 4,943 hits on this blog since its inception. I just want to thank all of you.

 

I realized that 154 of you have left comments, but I have not responded to them. There have been over 5,763 spam comments. Some of you might want to moderate my comments, which is fine with me. For the next two weeks, I will not be posting any blogs because I will be traveling in England and Ireland, visiting my cousins. I will pick up again, when I have access to a computer in mid-March. If you want to contact me directly, my email is efinne1540@gmail.com.

 

Since my last think you note a few weeks ago, the following people have sent me emails about this blog site. Thank you very much. Here is a list.

 

K. L. Register

Island Traveler
Catmodelclub
Mymidwestmusing
Rookienotes
Steven Farquharson
Kelzbelzphotography
Jun E Caniel
Ramona Crisstea
Bilwright
Hello, Scarlett Blog

 

Peace – love – joy

Gene Finnegan

My Understanding of Tobit

Is this Book of Tobit a canonical or non-canonical text? It certainly is an interesting and exotic story. It is often referred to as deutero-canonical or apocryphal book which means that it was not included in the Jewish canonical Tanakh.  Although not part of the English King James Protestant canon, it was part of the Greek Jewish Bible, the Septuagint, and the Jerome Latin Vulgate. Thus it remains in this place in the Roman Catholic Bible, like here in the Jerusalem Bible. In the New Oxford Bible, it is the first apocryphal book. As I am following the structure of the Jerusalem Bible, I have included it here.

Tobit is like a historical romance of a Diaspora Jew, much like the Book of Ruth. Tobit himself is a little like Job, as he does good things, but is not rewarded for it. Tobit is entertaining with a combination of the story about burying dead people and the folklore tale about a monster demon in the bridal chamber. However, this inspirational story does have a strong moral and biblical base with its insistence on the value of the prophets and the Law of Moses. Tobit was trying to be an observant Jew. This was the story of a few common people who are not heroes.

The story in the Book of Tobit is set in the 8th century BCE. Traditionally it was thought to have been written at that time, based on the first person usage of “I”. However, a number of historical errors rule out contemporaneous authorship. There is no scholarly consensus on the place of composition. Almost every region of the ancient world seems to be a candidate. It could have been in Assyria and Persia because of the Persian demons. There are also arguments in favor of a Palestinian or Egyptian composition. The date of this work is anywhere from the third to first century BCE, with the best guess between 225-175 BCE, based on some findings at Qumran. The original language of the composition isn’t clear. The book was possibly originally written in one of the forms of the common Aramaic language since Jerome described his version for the Vulgate as being made from an Aramaic text. Fragmentary texts in both Aramaic and Hebrew were found at Qumran, but the text here is a Greek text.

This book is also closely related to Jewish wisdom literature. It emphasizes the strong role of good angels, particularly Raphael, and evil spirits, especially Asmodeus. This book’s praise for the purity of marriage has led to it being often read during weddings rituals. Tobit has a strong emphasis on intercessory prayers, the intervention and protection of angels, almsgiving, fasting, filial piety, and reverence for the dead.

Tobit is the story of an Israelite man from the Naphtali tribe, living in Nineveh, after his deportation from the northern tribes of Israel to Assyria in 721 BCE under Sargon II. The first two and a half chapters are written in the first person singular as he recounts his activities. Tobit was raised by his paternal grandmother Deborah as he remained loyal to the worship of Yahweh at the Temple in Jerusalem. Unlike many of his neighbors in Naphtali, who joined in the cult of the golden calf at Dan in northern Israel, he was righteous and worshiped in Jerusalem.

Tobit would not eat the Gentile food while in exile, even though other exiles did. He did many acts of charity in Nineveh. He was particularly noted for his diligence in attempting to provide proper burials for the fallen Israelites who had been killed by King Sennacherib of Assyria.  Finally, the Assyrian king seized all his property and exiled him from Nineveh. After King Sennacherib’s death, he was allowed to return to Nineveh.

Tobit then buried a man who had been murdered on the street. People mocked him for doing what he had been sent into exile for doing. That night, he slept in the open area around the wall. There he was blinded by swallow bird droppings that fell in his eyes. His blindness put a strain on his marriage as he and his wife argued over whether a goat was a gift or stolen. Ultimately, he prayed for death.

Meanwhile, in the faraway capital of Media, Ecbatana, a young woman named Sarah also in despair, prayed for her death. She had lost seven husbands to the Persian demon of lust, Asmodeus. This demon killed every man that Sarah married on their wedding night before the marriage could be consummated. Somehow the angel Raphael heard both of these prayers. He then will disguise himself as a human called Azariah and help both Tobit and Sarah.

The main narrative after this is dedicated to Tobit’s son, Tobias. Tobit prepared himself for death. He gave a series of admonitions to his son, about being a righteous person through almsgiving and not marrying with strangers. He warned his son against pride, idleness, injustice, and drunkenness. He should seek charity and good advice from men and God.

Then Tobit explained about some money in Media that he had left with a man named Gabael in Ragas, Media. Tobias, his son, was confused about why he was being sent to collect this money. Tobit wanted his son to find a good companion to lead him there and back. Tobias went to find someone. Then the angel Raphael represented himself as Tobit’s kinsman Azariah. He offered to aid and protect Tobias on his journey. After a meeting with Tobit, he agreed to hire Azariah or Raphael. Tobit gave them a blessing with a sad farewell.

Under the guidance of the angel Raphael, Tobias made the journey to Media, accompanied by his dog. The first night, while washing his feet in the Tigris River, Tobias was attacked by a fish that tried to swallow his foot. The angel Raphael told Tobias to capture the fish. Then he told him to remove the heart, liver and gall bladder in order to make medicine. Tobias was again reluctant. Raphael told him he had a plan for him.

Upon arriving in Media, Raphael told Tobias about the beautiful Sarah who was having trouble keeping a husband. Tobias had the right to marry her because he was her cousin and closest relative, which is reminiscent of Ruth.  They then arrived at the house of Raguel, the father of Sarah. After some discussion between Raphael, Tobias, and Raguel, Raguel agreed to let Tobias marry his daughter. They signed a marriage contract between the father of Sarah and Tobias, not the bride and groom. As Edna the mother of the bride prepared the bridal chamber she comforted her daughter. Meanwhile Raphael instructed Tobias to burn the fish’s liver and heart in order to drive away the demon that had attacked the seven other grooms of Sarah on their wedding nights. Tobias then put the fumes of the burning fish organs in the bridal chamber. This smell drove the demon away to Egypt where the angel Raphael followed him and bound him up. Then Sarah and Tobias prayed on their wedding night.

Meanwhile, Sarah’s father had been digging a grave to secretly bury Tobias, who he assumed would be dead like the seven other previous husbands of Sarah. Surprised to find his son-in-law alive and well, he ordered a double-length wedding feast. Then he had the grave secretly filled. Since he could not leave because of the feast, Tobias sent Raphael to recover his father’s money from Gabael. All went well there, but Tobit and Anna were worried about their son. Tobias wanted to go back home to his father Tobit. Finally after the blessing of Raguel and Edna, Tobias and Sarah return to Nineveh.

Tobias’ mother Anna was very happy to see her son alive, since she thought that he had died. There, the angel Raphael told Tobias to use the fish’s gall bladder to cure his father’s blindness. Then Tobit praised God for the healing of his eyes. Tobias then told his father the whole story of his successful journey. Finally Tobit met and blessed his daughter-in-law.

Tobias and Tobit discussed how much they should pay Raphael. Then Raphael revealed his true identity. He returned to heaven after a prayer about the importance of almsgiving. Tobit and Tobias were afraid when they found out that Raphael was an angel of God.

Tobit sang a hymn or canticle of praise, for all the Israelite exiles. He prayed about the importance of Jerusalem and how it would be the light of the world. He hoped that all would return there.

Tobit told his son to leave Nineveh and go to Ecbatana after the death of him and his wife. God was going to destroy Nineveh because of its evil ways. The prophet Naham had predicted its demise. After the prayer, Tobit died at an advanced age. When Tobias buried his father and mother, he returned to Ecbatana with his seven children, where he took care of and buried the parents of Sarah, his wife. He lived long enough to see King Cyrus invade Nineveh and take over as ruler. The Persians had defeated the Assyrians and Babylonians. So the tale of Tobit, his son Tobias, his wife Sarah and their families ended happily with a long life for both Tobit and Tobias.

 

 

 

Tobias in Ecbatana (Tob 14:12-14:15)

“When Tobias’ mother Anna died, he buried her beside his father. Then he and his wife and their children returned to Media. He settled in Ecbatana with Raguel his father-in-law. He treated his parents-in-law with great respect in their old age. He buried them in Ecbatana of Media with honor and magnificent funerals. He inherited both the property of Raguel and that of his father Tobit. He died highly respected at the age of one hundred seventeen years. Before he died, he heard of the destruction of Nineveh. He saw its prisoners being led into Media, those whom King Cyrus of Media had taken captive. Tobias praised God for all he had done to the people of Nineveh and Assyria. Before he died, he rejoiced over Nineveh. He blessed the Lord God forever and ever. Amen.”

After the death and burial of his mother Anna, Tobias with his wife and children returned to Ecbatana to be with the parents of his wife Sarah. He treated his elderly in-laws well, and buried them correctly. He then inherited both the estates of his father Tobit and his father-in-law Raguel. It made sense to return to Ecbatana, so that his wife could be with her elderly parents. Before Tobias died, King Cyrus took over Nineveh and Assyria. In fact, Tobias praised God for the Persians and King Cyrus. There definitely was a strong tendency to favor the Persians over the Assyrians and Babylonians. He died blessing God forever, so that it was fitting to end with an Amen.

Tobit wants Tobias to leave Nineveh (Tob 14:8-14:11)

“Now, my children,

I command you.

Serve God faithfully!

Do what is pleasing in his sight!

Your children are also commanded to do what is right.

Give alms!

Be mindful of God!

Bless his name at all times!

Love God with all sincerity and with all their strength!

So now, my son, leave Nineveh!  

Do not remain here!

On whatever day you bury your mother beside me,

Do not stay overnight within the confines of the city.

I see that there is much wickedness within it.

The people are without shame.

See, my son, what Nadab did to Ahikar who had reared him.

Was he not, while still alive, brought down into the earth?

God repaid him to his face for this shameful treatment.

Ahikar came out into the light,

But Nadab went into the eternal darkness,

Because he tried to kill Ahikar.

Because he gave alms,

Ahikar escaped the fatal trap that Nadab had set for him.

Nadab fell into it himself.

He was destroyed.

Now, my children see what almsgiving accomplishes.

You can see what injustice does.

It brings death!

But now my breath fails me.

Then they laid him on his bed and he died.

He received an honorable funeral.”

The final words of Tobit to his son Tobias were about obeying God and his commandments. He wanted Tobias and his sons to serve God faithfully, to do what God wants. They were to bless his name with sincerity and strength. Due to the bad situation in Nineveh, he wanted them to leave there as soon as they buried his wife, Anna, Tobias’ mother. In fact, he told them not to stay overnight in Nineveh after the burial. He cited as an example his nephew Ahikar, who was a government official. His nephew Nadab tried to kill him, but instead fell into the trap and killed himself. This was an example of the children of Nineveh who were behaving badly. Once again, on his deathbed, Tobit praised the value of almsgiving, citing that as why Ahikar was saved.

Tobit predicts the rebuilding of Jerusalem (Tob 14:5-14:7)

“But God will again have mercy on the Israelites.

He will bring them back into their land.

They will rebuild the temple of God,

Although it will not be like the first one

Until the times of the fulfillment shall come.

After this, they will return from their exile.

They will rebuild Jerusalem in splendor.

They will rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem,

Just as the prophets of Israel have said concerning it.

Then the nations of the whole world will all be converted

They will worship God in truth.

They will all abandon their idols,

The idols that deceitfully have led them into their error.

In righteousness,

They will praise the eternal God.

All the Israelites who are saved in those days

All who are truly mindful of God will be gathered together.

They will go to Jerusalem.

They will live safely forever in the land of Abraham,

As it will be given over to them.

Those who sincerely love God will rejoice.

However, those who commit sin and injustice,

They will vanish from the earth.”

God will have mercy on the Israelites. He will bring them back to their land. They will rebuild the Temple, but not as nice as the first Temple, just as the prophets have predicted. The Israelites will return from their captivity and rebuild a splendid Jerusalem. All the nations of the world will convert to the true God. They will abandon their idols and praise the eternal God. All the Israelites will gather in Jerusalem, where they will live safely in the land of Abraham. However, sinners and unjust people will vanish from the earth.

The value of the prophets (Tob 14:3-14:4)

When he was about to die, he called his son Tobias and the seven sons of Tobias. He gave them his command.

‘My son, take your children and hurry off to Media.

I believe the word of God that Nahum spoke about Nineveh.

All these things will take place and overtake Assyria and Nineveh.

Everything that was spoken by the prophets of Israel,

Whom God sent,

Will occur.

None of their words will fail.

All will come true at their appointed times.

It will be safer in Media than in Assyria and Babylon.

I know and believe that whatever God has said

Will be fulfilled

And will come true.

Not a single word of the prophecies will fail.

All our kindred,

Inhabitants of the land of Israel,

Will be scattered.

They will be taken as captives from the good land.

The whole land of Israel,

Even Samaria and Jerusalem,

Will be desolate.

The temple of God in it will be burned to the ground.

It will be desolate for a while.’”

As Tobit was about to die, he called his son Tobias and his 7 grandchildren. See the number 7 again. He told them to go to Media because there was going to be trouble in Nineveh. Tobit believed in all prophets and how valuable their prophecies were. He was a strong believer in the prophets proclaiming the word of God. He even said that not a single word of the prophecies would fail. Nahum was considered a minor prophet of the 7th century that he would have known. Nahum saw the destruction of Jerusalem by the Assyrians, but he predicted the downfall of Nineveh, which of course led to the ascent of the Persians. Tobit here also predicted the ruin of both the north and south in Israel, including Jerusalem and also the Temple itself. There would be desolation.


The death of Tobit (Tob 14:1-14:2)

“Tobit died in peace when he was one hundred twelve years old. He was buried with great honor in Nineveh. He was sixty-two years old when he lost his eyesight. After regaining it, he lived in prosperity. He gave alms. He continued to bless God. He acknowledged God’s majesty.”

Tobit died peacefully at the age of 112 in Nineveh, where he was buried. He never returned to Jerusalem or Naphtali. He was 62 when he became blind, so being blind a few years before his recovery he lived 50 more years after that event.   Once again he was prosperous in Nineveh, as he continued to give to the poor. He continued his last years blessing God and praising his great majesty. He seemed like a very nice guy.