1) When they entered Ecbatana, Tobiah said, “Brother
Azariah, bring me straight to the house of our kinsman Raguel.” So he did, and
they came to the house of Raguel, whom they found seated by his courtyard gate.
They greeted him first, and he answered, “Many greetings to you, brothers!
Welcome! You have come in peace! Now enter in peace!” And he brought them into
his house. 2) He said to his
wife Edna, “How this young man resembles Tobit, the son of my uncle!” 3) So Edna asked them, saying, “Where are
you from, brothers?” They answered, “We are descendants of Naphtali, now
captives in Nineveh.” 4)
She said to them, “Do you know our kinsman Tobit?”
They answered her, “Indeed, we do know him!” She asked, “Is he well?” 5) They answered, “Yes, he is alive and
well.” Then Tobiah said, “He is my father!” 6)
Raguel jumped up, kissed him, and broke into tears.
cannot underestimate the importance of family in Jewish culture and
tradition. In researching their concept
of the afterlife, I found that Paradise is often defined as spending eternity
with one’s ancestors, a privilege denied to the wicked as punishment, whether through
extinction (burned up by one’s sins) through incarnations apart (or failure to
reincarnate) or through eternal separation.
They might disagree on the post-death details, but most agreed on the
reunion vs. separation idea of reward and punishment. Hence, when Jesus tells the story of Lazarus
and the Rich Man, the dead Rich Man, in the flames of his sins, sees Lazarus
across an uncrossable gulf in the Bosom of Abraham.
Christians lost this emphasis, because the earliest
Christians, whether of Jewish or Pagan descent, all broke with their ancestors
in order to convert. They could not be
sure of sharing the same Paradise, and later became convinced that they
didn’t. Gradually some of this sense of
afterlife reunion came back, as Christianity became generational, but never
with the same emphasis as the primary joy of Heaven or the chief grief of
The point is, the earliest converts had to steel
themselves to, in effect, face a kind of Hell for love of Jesus. How much nobler than the often selfish
motivation we hear all too often today, of “faith” founded on the fear of Hell
or greed for Heaven!
7) Then, finding words, he said, “A blessing upon you, son! You
are the son of a good and noble father. What a terrible misfortune that a man
so righteous and charitable has been afflicted with blindness!” He embraced his
kinsman Tobiah and continued to weep. 8) His wife Edna also wept for Tobit;
and their daughter Sarah also began to weep.
writer includes this scene to emphasize that we do not know what blessings
might await us in the future. All we can
clearly see is today, and today’s misfortunes seem intractable. I take heart in knowing that, just as the
future might contain all manner of worrisome possibilities, it also might
contain hidden joys.
A side-remark on Edna and Sarah. In societies contemporary to Tobit such as
the Greeks and Persians, women would not be so casually present at the arrival
of a male guest, but would have quickly retired to a separate room. Mentioning their tears, and hence their
presence, reminds the Jews in exile to not lose the custom of including women
as partners in the family.
9) Afterward, Raguel slaughtered a ram from the flock and
gave them a warm reception. When they had washed, bathed, and reclined to eat
and drink, Tobiah said to Raphael, “Brother Azariah, ask Raguel to give me my
10) Raguel overheard the words; so he said to the young
man: “Eat and drink and be merry tonight, for no man has a greater right to
marry my daughter Sarah than you, brother. Besides, not even I have the right
to give her to anyone but you, because you are my closest relative. However,
son, I must frankly tell you the truth. 11) I
have given her in marriage to seven husbands who were kinsmen of ours, and all
died on the very night they approached her. But now, son, eat and drink. The
Lord will look after you both.”
Tobiah answered, “I will neither eat nor drink
anything here until you settle what concerns me.”
Raguel said to him: “I will do it. She is yours as
decreed by the Book of Moses. It has been decided in heaven that she be given
to you! Take your kinswoman; from now on you are her brother, and she is your
sister. She is given to
you today and here ever after. May the Lord of heaven prosper you both tonight,
son, and grant you mercy and peace.”
There’s something a bit menacing about Tobiah saying, “I will neither
eat nor drink anything here...” because in the Middle East those could be
fighting words. By ancient laws of
hospitality, you cannot raise a hand against someone if you have eaten and
drunk in their house. Doubtless, though,
he means nothing quite so aggressive—more of a banter, “If you want my
friendship, you will do this.”
Again, “Brother” and “Sister” are not meant
incestuously, but rather these words seal the bonds of two who will grow
together by equating them with the bonds of those who have already grown
together. These words also compare
marriage to an intimate yet sexless relationship in order to underline to
Impetuous Youth that marriage concerns more than just permission to have sex. Anyway, Archaeologists found similar wording
in Egypt, only saying “husband” and “wife”.
12) Then Raguel called his daughter Sarah,
and she came to him. He took her by the hand and gave her to Tobiah with these
words: “Take her according to the law. According to the decree written in the
Book of Moses I give her to be your wife. Take her and bring her safely to your
father. And may the God of heaven grant both of you a safe journey in peace! 13) He then
called her mother and told her to bring writing materials. He wrote out a copy
of a marriage contract stating that he gave Sarah to Tobiah as his wife as
decreed by the law of Moses. Her mother brought the material, and he drew up
the contract, to which he affixed his seal.
COMMENTARY: I notice the pains to include Edna in the
process. Why even mention her carrying
the writing materials? And since Raguel
was a wealthy banker, why not simply send a servant to fetch whatever he
wanted? I’d speculate that by bringing
these materials Edna signals her consent as well. If she had objected to the match, perhaps she
could have refused to bring anything for the contract. And then they would have to have a heart-to-heart
conversation to settle this one way or another.
14) Afterward they began to eat and drink. 15) Later Raguel called his wife Edna and
said, “My sister, prepare the other bedroom and bring Sarah there.” 16) She went, made the bed in the room, as
he had told her, and brought Sarah there. After she had cried over her, she
wiped away her tears and said, 17)
“Take courage, my daughter! May the Lord of heaven
grant you joy in place of your grief! Courage, my daughter!” Then she left.
COMMENTARY: Sarah’s going to another city, on a journey
so dubious that Tobiah’s mother almost forbade him to go out of fear for his
life, willingly giving up a chance to climb out of poverty. After this Sarah won’t have a chance to just
casually drop by Ninevah now and then.
And only royalty had a reliable post.
Edna probably will never see or hear from her daughter again. She might not even know if Sarah made it to
her new home alive.