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Monday, November 28, 2005

The Book of Tobit

Yesterday I read the Book of Tobit in the New American Catholic Bible, the Bible they gave to me at my Rite of Welcome a week ago. The Book of Tobit is not found in Protestant Bibles. The reason the Catholic and Protestant Bibles differ is because Protestants got their Bible from the Hebrew Bible and the Catholics from the Greek Bible. Whatever. Anyways, I decided to read this Book to see if it had anything to offer me that the other Books did not. Here is what I discovered:

The Book of Tobit combines specifically Jewish piety and morality with oriental folklore in a fascinating story that has enjoyed wide popularity in both Jewish and Christian circles. The Book of Tobit contains numerous maxims, plus contemporary spiritual themes: fidelity to the law, the intercessory function of angels, piety towards parents, the purity of marriage, reverence for the dead, and the value of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting.

The inspired author of the book used the literary form of religious novel (as in Jonah and in Judith-another book not found in Protestant Bibles) for the purpose of instruction and edification. The book was probably written early in the second century B.C.; it is not known where.

Tobit was a devout and wealthy Israelite living among the captives in Ninevah. He suffers severe reverses and is finally blinded. Sarah was a young woman who had been married seven times, all seven husbands died on the wedding night before they could consumate the marriage vows. She cried and prayed for God to end her suffering just as Tobit prayed and begged the Lord to let him die because of his misfortunes. Tobit then thought of the money he had saved and hidden with someone and sent his son, Tobiah, to claim it so he would have all of his inheritance when he died. Tobiah did not know the roads well so he hired a man who did to travel with him. The man told him of Sarah, saying that he, Tobiah, was her closest relative and had the right to marry her first before anyone else. Tobiah was scared because he knew of what had happened to her former husbands. The man reassured him and told him to take the gall, liver, and heart from this fish. The liver and heart were to drive the demon Asmodeus from Sarah's bridal chamber and the gall was to cure his father's eyes.

Finally, the man who traveled with Tobiah reveals his identity to Tobiah and Tobit. He reveals his identity as Raphael, an angel from heaven. Raphael then returns to his throne. Tobit then sings a beautiful hymn of praise. Before dying, Tobit tells his son to leave Nineveh because God will destroy that wicked city. After he buries his mother and father, Tobiah takes his wife and family and leaves for Media. Afterwards, Tobiah learns that the destruction of Nineveh has taken place.

It is a very captivating story and this is but a summary of it. It really teaches humilty and faith and prayer and piety. Here are some of the quotes that inspired me as I read it. I wrote these down in my journal I am keeping:

Part of Tobit's Prayer for Death
"So now, deal with me as you please, and command my life breath to be taken from me, that I may go from the face of this earth into dust. It is better for me to die than to live, because I have heard insulting calumnies, and I am overwhelmed with grief. Lord, command me to be delivered from such anguish, let me go to the everlasting abode; Lord, refuse me not. For it is better to die than to endure so much misery in life, and to hear these insults!" -Tobit 3:6 (and yes, this was only one verse)

A quote from Tobit to his son, Tobiah, before his journey
"For if you are steadfast in your service, your good works will bring success, not only to you, but also to all those who live uprightly." -Tobit 4:6

Tobiah and Sarah's Prayer on their Wedding Night
"Blessed are you, O God of our fathers; praised be your name forever and ever. Let the heavens and all your creation praise you forever. You made Adam and you gave him his wife Eve to be his help and support; and from these two the human race descended. You said, 'It is not good for the man to be alone; let us make him a partner like himself.' Now, Lord, you know that I take this wife of mine not because of lust, but for a noble purpose. Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age." -Tobit 8:5-7

A quote from the angel Raphael
"A king's secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be declared and made known. Praise them with due honor. Do good, and evil will not find its way to you."
-Tobit 12:7

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