Tobit returns to Nineveh (Tob 2:1-2:8)

“Then during the reign of King Esarhaddon I returned home. My wife Anna and my son Tobias were restored to me. At our festival of Pentecost, which is the sacred festival of the weeks, a good dinner was prepared for me. I reclined to eat. When the table was set for me and an abundance of food placed before me, I said to my son Tobias.

‘Go, my child!

Bring whatever poor person you may find of our people,

Among the exiles in Nineveh,

Who is wholeheartedly mindful of God.

He shall eat together with me.

I will wait for you until you come back.’

When he returned, he said. ‘Father!’ I replied. ‘Here I am, my child.’ Then he went on to say.

‘Look, father!

One of our people has been murdered

He has been thrown into the market place.

Now he lies there strangled.’

Then I sprang up. I left the dinner before ever tasting it. I removed the body from the square. I laid it in one of the rooms until sunset when I might bury it. When I returned, I washed myself and ate my food in sorrow. Then I remembered the prophecy of Amos, how he said against Bethel.

‘Your festivals shall be turned into mourning.

All your songs into lamentation.’

I wept. When the sun had set, I went and dug a grave. I buried him. My neighbors laughed at me. They said.

‘Is he still not afraid?

He has already been hunted down

To be put to death for doing this.

Yet here he is again burying the dead!’”

Tobit had been on the run. With the coming of King Esarhaddon (681-669 BCE) he returned home to Nineveh to be with his wife and son. They celebrated the festival of weeks, 50 days after Passover. Tobit asked his son to invite one of the Israelite exiles to come to eat with them since they had so much food. However, his son Tobias reported back that one of their kinsmen Israelite had been killed. His strangled body was lying in the town square. Tobit immediately got up and removed the body from the square into a room nearby. He then ate his meal, but he remembered the prophecy of Amos about festivals turned into mourning. The citation is from the Book of Amos, chapter 8, who lived around 750 BCE, so that Tobit might have known him. After eating and weeping, Tobit went out, dug a grave, and buried the body. Meanwhile his neighbors were laughing at him for doing the same thing that he hunted own for, burying the dead.

The death of King Sennacherib (Tob 1:21-1:22)

“But not forty days passed before two of King Sennacherib’s sons killed him. They fled to the mountains of Ararat. Then his son King Esarhaddon reigned in his place. He appointed Ahikar, the son of my brother Hanael, over all the accounts of his kingdom. He had authority over the entire administration. Ahikar interceded for me. Then I returned to Nineveh. Now Ahikar was chief cupbearer, the keeper of the signet. He was in charge of the administration of the accounts under King Sennacherib of Assyria. King Esarhaddon reappointed him. He was my nephew and so a close relative.”

Now we have the revolt of the sons of King Sennacherib as was mentioned in 2 Kings, chapter 19. We have a new player Ahikar, or as he is sometimes called Achiacharus. He is the nephew of Tobit, the son of Tobit’s brother Hanael, who was not mentioned until here. Somehow Ahikar was in charge of the accounts for the deceased King Sennacherib of Assyria. It is not clear how he got that job. With the new King Esarhaddon (681-669 BCE), after the revolution, he was put in charge of the entire administration in Assyria. Now this important nephew pleaded with the king to help Tobit.