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Book of Tobit

Book of Tobit
by Timothy Kenney, PhD

Tobit, or Tobias, is a book in the Old Testament Apocrypha, written (c.200-170 BC) in Hebrew or Aramaic. The book relates how Tobit, a devout Jew in exile in Assyria, and his son Tobias, were rewarded for their piety and good deeds. Tobit buried the bodies of executed Jews in Nineveh. Despite this and other good works, he was blinded. As he prayed for God to end his life, Sarah, a widow whose seven husbands have each been killed by the demon Asmodeus on their wedding night, also entreats God to end her misery.

In answer to these prayers, God sends the angel Raphael to Earth to help them. Tobias marries Sarah and, with Raphael's help, overcomes the demon and restores his father's sight.

The story naturally divides itself into two parts:

  1. The Fidelity of Tobias the Elder and of Sara to the Lord - Tobit 1-3
  2. The Fidelity of the Lord through the Angel Raphael - Tobit 4-14

A detailed outline of the Book of Tobit follows.

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I. The Fidelity of Tobias the Elder and of Sara to the Lord - Tobit 1-3.

The fidelity of Tobias (1:1-3:6) shown by his acts of mercy to fellow captives (1:11-17) and especially to the dead (1:18-25), acts that resulted in his blindness (2:1-18), the taunts of his wife (2:19-23), and the recourse of Tobias to God in prayer (3:1-6).

The fidelity of Sara, daughter of Raguel and Edna (3:7-23). The very day that Tobias in Ninive was taunted by his wife and turned to God, Sara in Ecbatana was taunted by her maid as the murderess of seven husbands (3:7-10), and turned to God in prayer (3:11-23). The prayers of both were heard (3:24-25).

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II. The Fidelity of the Lord through the Angel Raphael - Tobit 4-14.

Raphael cares for the young Tobias on his journey to Gabael in Rages of Media to obtain the ten talents of silver left in bond by his father (4:1-9:12). The young man set out, after long instruction by his father (4:1-23); Raphael joins him as guide (5:1-28); Tobias while bathing in the Tigris is attacked by a large fish, catches it, and, at the advice of Raphael, keeps its heart, liver, and gall (6:1-22); they pass through Ecbatana, stop at Raguel's; Tobias asks Sara for wife and receives her (7:1-20); by continence and exorcism and the odor of the burning liver of the fish and the aid of Raphael, he conquers the devil who had slain the seven previous husbands of Sara (8:1-24); Raphael gets the money of Gabael in Rages, and brings him to Ecbatana to the marriage celebration of young Tobias (9:1-23). Raphael cures the blindness of the elder Tobias, on the return of his son, and manifests the truth that he is an angel (10:2-12:31). Conclusion: the hymn of thanksgiving of Tobias the elder, and the subsequent history of both father and son (13:1-14:7).

Our next biblical article takes us to the Book of Judith.

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