Chapter Ten


1) Meanwhile, day by day, Tobit was keeping track of the time Tobiah would need to go and to return. When the number of days was reached and his son did not appear, 2) he said, “Could it be that he has been detained there? Or perhaps Gabael has died, and there is no one to give him the money?” 3) And he began to grieve. 4) His wife Anna said, “My son has perished and is no longer among the living!” And she began to weep aloud and to wail over her son: 5) “Alas, child, light of my eyes, that I have let you make this journey!”


COMMENTARY:  We forget today what a scary world it was then, back when people had little or no means of communicating across long distances.  Especially considering dangers for men on foot that we don’t even have to consider anymore, such as lions and other wild animals now extinct from the region.  And, as we saw earlier, citizens of this empire could kill a Jew with impunity, for any reason or none.  Imagine it was your son, under those conditions, days late returning home.




6) But Tobit kept telling her: “Be still, do not worry, my sister; he is safe! Probably they have to take care of some unexpected business there. The man who is traveling with him is trustworthy and one of our kindred. So do not grieve over him, my sister. He will be here soon.”


COMMENTARY:  Why would taking the angel for a relative make a difference?  Because people in the ancient world believed that grave curses would fall upon those who slew their kin.  Greek influence, as mentioned, had considerable impact on the Jews of this time, and the Greeks told numerous dark stories of what happened to those who killed their relatives.  But if anything, the Jews took this even more seriously, for the Greeks, Persians, Egyptians and others understood when a king killed other claimants to the throne, but when King Jehoram of Judah did likewise to brothers of his own, the Book of Chronicles says that God afflicted him with years of agonizing bowel disease with a constant flux, until he “died in great pain”.  A believer would have to answer to God for any murder, of course, but murder within the family could get you in REAL trouble!



7) But she retorted, “You be still, and do not try to deceive me! My son has perished!” She would rush out and keep watch every day at the road her son had taken. She ate nothing. After the sun had set, she would go back home to wail and cry the whole night through, getting no sleep at all.

Now when the fourteen days of the wedding celebration, which Raguel had sworn to hold for his daughter, had come to an end, Tobiah went to him and said: “Send me off, now, since I know that my father and mother do not believe they will ever see me again. So I beg you, father, let me depart and go back to my own father. I have already told you how I left him.”


COMMENTARY:  Who hasn’t known a mother who would react like that?  Or perhaps been that mother?

But something more is going on here than human commentary.  Jewish scholars pay close attention when parts of a scripture land in the same verse that you’d think would go into separate paragraphs.  That says, “look for the hidden connection”.  Why do we go straight from Tobiah’s grieving mother to Tobiah in a single verse? 

In this case the connection lies between Tobiah and his mother.  Even in the midst of celebrating, across the miles, he senses her fear and grief.  Tobiah loves his mother so much that he knows exactly what she would feel under the circumstances.  The heart bridges people when no other means of communication exist.



8)  Raguel said to Tobiah: “Stay, son, stay with me. I am sending messengers to your father Tobit, and they will give him news of you.” 9)  But Tobiah insisted, “No, I beg you to send me back to my father.”


COMMENTARY:  Raguel doesn’t want the party to end!  Nor does he want to part with his daughter, perhaps forever.  But Tobiah knows that messengers will not make the journey as quickly as he would, because of that heart-connection with his parents’ suffering.



10) Raguel then promptly handed over to Tobiah his wife Sarah, together with half of all his property: male and female slaves, oxen and sheep, donkeys and camels, clothing, money, and household goods.


COMMENTARY:  And now I’m squirming.  Just how accurate a translation is “handed over”, as if Sarah were no more than a commodity?  And ouch, slaves!  But we have to remember that biblical slavery differed considerably from what we practiced in the USA in the darkness of our past.  Slaves had rights, the infringement of which would free them or bring them monetary recompense.  They also had a time limit on their slavery.  And enough people preferred it as a lifestyle choice that the Bible needed to include a procedure for slaves to declare that they did not want to go free at the end of their servitude—they would make a public declaration at the gates of their city where all important transactions took place, and then, just as publicly, get their ear pierced with a gold hoop so that everyone would recognize them as a voluntary slave.
        Putting that aside, while two camel-loads of gold brought great wealth by itself, Jews were originally primarily a herding people, and from that tradition owning livestock had far more status than we would think today.  So the writer goes into detail on different kinds of livestock, where he just generically says “clothing” and “household goods” for the rest.



 11)  He saw them safely off. Embracing Tobiah, he said to him: “Farewell, son. Have a safe journey. May the Lord of heaven grant prosperity to you and to your wife Sarah. And may I see children of yours before I die!”


COMMENTARY:  Grandchildren would especially mean a lot to a man who believed that his line would die out because a demon wouldn’t let his only child marry.



 12)  Then he said to his daughter Sarah, “My daughter, honor your father-in-law and your mother-in-law, because from now on they are as much your parents as the ones who brought you into the world. Go in peace, daughter; let me hear a good report about you as long as I live.” Finally he said good-bye to them and let them go.  Edna also said to Tobiah: “My child and beloved kinsman, may the Lord bring you back safely, and may I live long enough to see children of you and of my daughter Sarah before I die. Before the Lord, I entrust my daughter to your care. Never cause her grief all the days of your life. Go in peace, son. From now on I am your mother, and Sarah is your sister. Together may we all prosper throughout the days of our lives.” She kissed them both and saw them safely off.


COMMENTARY:  Since this book exists to school uprooted Jews on the culture, we have here instruction on family ties and obligations.  I see significance in Edna admonishing her new son-in-law to never cause her daughter grief.  In surrounding cultures a man had the legal right to kill his wife if he so desired.  So part of the lesson here is “We don’t do things that way.”



13) Tobiah left Raguel, full of happiness and joy, and he blessed the Lord of heaven and earth, the King of all, for making his journey so successful. Finally he blessed Raguel and his wife Edna, and added, “I have been commanded by the Lord to honor you all the days of your life!”


COMMENTARY:  The ten commandments instruct that one must honor one’s father and mother all the days of their lives.  This clarifies that this commandment applies to in-laws as well.

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