The Roman Catholic Bible editions usually include seven other books that are from the Septuagint, but not in the Hebrew Bible. On the other hand, many of the English Protestant Bibles, particularly the King James Bible used only the Hebrew texts. These later Greek works became known as deuterocanonical or apocryphal works of the Bible. These post-exilic books tell the stories of various Israelite figures. These seven extra books have the story of Tobit, the story of Judith, as well as the stories of 1 Maccabees and 2 Maccabees. However, they also include writings the Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus or Sirach, and Baruch.
Mourning for the dead (Sir 38:16-38:17)
Let your tears fall
For the dead!
As one in great pain,
Begin the lament!
Lay out the body
With due ceremony.
Do not neglect the burial.
Let your weeping be bitter!
Let your wailing be fervent!
Make your mourning
Worthy of the departed.
Do this for one day,
Be comforted for your grief.”
Sirach points out the importance of the correct ceremonial actions for the dead, like many of the ancient Middle Eastern societies. You should not be ashamed to cry for the dead, because you are in great pain. You should lay out the body according to the proper rituals. Make sure to bury the dead, a common topic in the biblical writings, especially Tobit. You can have bitter wailing and crying that is worthy of the departed person. Do this for a day or two to avoid criticism. There is no need for a long mourning period. However, in chapter 22, he said that there should be a 7 day mourning period for the dead. You should be comforted in your mourning for the dead.
The thanksgiving canticle of Judith (Jdt 15:14-16:4)
“Judith began this thanksgiving before all Israel. All the people loudly sang this song of praise. Judith said.
‘Begin a song to my God with tambourines!
Sing to my Lord with cymbals!
Raise to him a new psalm!
Call upon his name!
The Lord is a God who crushes wars.
He sets up his camp among his people.
He delivered me form the hands of my pursuers.
The Assyrian came down from the mountains of the north.
He came with myriads of his warriors.
Their numbers blocked up the Wadis.
Their cavalry covered the hills.
He boasted that he would burn up my territory.
He would kill my young men with the sword.
He would dash my infants to the ground.
He would seize my children as booty.
He would take my virgins as spoil.’”
This appears to be a canticle of Judith. In a sense, it is like the summary canticle in Tobit, chapter 13. Yet all the people seem to sing this song. This beautiful hymn harkens back to Exodus, chapter 15, where there is a victory chant of Moses after they got out of Egypt. This also seems like the short victory chant of Miriam, the sister of Moses. This song is to be sung with tambourines and cymbals. Once again, there is a correlation to the psalms also. You are to exalt the Lord because he crushes or decides wars. God delivered Judith from the hands of her enemies. The mighty Assyrian strong northern warrior blocked the brooks, the valleys, and the mountains. They were going to burn our territory, kill our young men and infants, and seize our children and virgins. The enemy is always portrayed in the worst light.
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.
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,
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.
Jerusalem shall be the light to the world (Tob 13:11-13:13)
“A bright light will shine to all the ends of the earth.
Many nations will come to you from far away.
The inhabitants of the remotest parts of the earth,
They will come to your holy name.
They will bear gifts in their hands.
For the King of heaven.
Generation after generation will give joyful praise in you.
The name of the chosen city will endure forever.
Cursed are all who speak a harsh word against you.
Cursed are all who conquer you.
Curses are all who pull down your walls.
Cursed are all who overthrow your towers.
Cursed are all who set your homes on fire.
Blessed forever will be all who revere you.
Rejoice over the children of the righteous.
The righteous will be gathered together.
The righteous will praise the Lord of the ages.”
Jerusalem will be the light of the world. Every nation will come to Jerusalem. The people from the most remote part of the earth will come to Jerusalem. They will bring gifts to the king of heaven. For generations, people will give praise to this chosen city. However, people will be cursed who speak against Jerusalem. Anyone who tries to conquer it or pull down its walls will be cursed. People will be cursed who try to set fire to Jerusalem or overthrow its towers. The righteous people, on the other hand, will gather together in Jerusalem to praise the Lord of all ages.
Raphael reveals that he is an angel (Tob 12:11-12:15)
“I will now declare the whole truth to you. I will conceal nothing from you. Already I have declared to you when I said.
‘It is good to conceal the secret of a king,
But to reveal with due honor the works of God.’
So now, when you and your daughter-in-law Sarah prayed,
It was I who brought and read the record of your prayer
Before the glory of the Lord.
Likewise, whenever you would bury the dead,
I was present with you.
That time when you did not hesitate to get up
And leave your dinner to go and bury the dead,
I was sent to test you.
At the same time,
God sent me to heal you and Sarah your daughter-in-law.
I am Raphael,
One of the seven angels who stand ready
And enter before the glory of the Lord.’”
Raphael said that he would reveal the whole truth and conceal nothing. He had hinted at that when he said that it was good to conceal the secrets of the king. He told Tobit and Tobias that when Tobit and Sarah had prayed in despair, he was the one who recorded this and brought it to the Lord. He was present when Tobit buried the dead. He was sent to test him. God sent him to heal both Tobit and Sarah. Then he revealed that he is the angel Raphael. However, he is not just any angel, but one of the 7 who stand before the glory of the Lord. Literally, his name means, “God heals,” so that this was a perfect project for him. The naming of angels did not take place until after the Persian captivity, in the Second Temple time, so there is a Persian influence here. Sometimes, he is referred to as an archangel, because of his place among the top 7 angels. Perhaps he might have a place among the guardian angels as he protected Tobias here.
The importance of almsgiving (Tob 12:8-12:10)
“Prayer with fasting is good.
Better than both is almsgiving with righteousness.
A little with righteousness is better
Than wealth with wrongdoing.
It is better to give alms
Than to lay up gold.
Almsgiving saves from death.
Almsgiving purges away every sin.
Those who give alms will enjoy a full life.
Those who commit sin
Those who do wrong
Are their own worst enemies.”
Raphael’s prayer continues by insisting on the importance of almsgiving. Raphael says that almsgiving is better than prayer and fasting. Being poor and righteous is better than having wealth doing wrong. It is better to give than to lay away gold. Almsgiving will save you from death and purge away every sin. If you give gifts, you will enjoy a full life. Here then is the final admonition like the wisdom literature. Those who commit sin and do wrong are their own worst enemies. In other words, sin and wrong doing will come back at you.
The prayer of Raphael (Tob 12:6-12:7)
“Then Raphael called the two of them privately. He said to them.
Give thanks to him!
Acknowledge him in the presence of all the living
For what he has done for you.
Sing praise to his name!
With fitting honor,
Declare to all the people
The deeds of God.
Do not be slow to acknowledge him.
It is good to conceal the secret of a king,
But to acknowledge the works of God
But to reveal the works of God.
Evil will not overtake you.’”
Raphael revealed his prayer to Tobit and Tobias. Bless and give thanks to God. Acknowledge his presence in all living things. Bless God for all that he has done for you. Sing praises to his name. Declare to all the people his great deeds. Do not be slow to acknowledge God and his works in your life. Do good so that evil will not overtake you. Here it is not the God of Israel or what he has done to his people. Here God works in their private lives. We have to proclaim the good news in our lives that God has provided for us.
How much should they give Raphael? (Tob 12:1-12:5)
“When the wedding celebration was ended, Tobit called his son Tobias.
See to the paying the wages of the man who went with you.
Give him a bonus as well!’
‘Father, how much shall I pay him?
It would do no harm to give him half of the possession
That I brought back with me.
He has led me back to you safely.
He cured my wife.
He brought the money back with me.
He also healed you.
How much extra shall I give him as a bonus?’
To receive half of all that he brought back.’
So Tobias called him.
‘Take for your wages half of all that you two brought back.
After the big celebration, Tobit called his son aside and asked him if he had paid the man who went with him. They both agreed that he should be paid a bonus. However, Tobias wanted to know how much he should pay him. He wanted to give him half of all the possessions he had brought back with him. After all, he had done a lot. Besides bringing him back safely, he also cured his wife, and his father, as well as got the money from Rages. Then Tobit agreed to give him half of what had come back to the house. Tobit called Raphael and told him to take half the possessions. Then he simply said “farewell.”