Chapter Five


Then Tobiah replied to his father Tobit: “Everything that you have commanded me, father, I shall do. 2) But how will I be able to get that money from him, since he does not know me, and I do not know him? What sign can I give him so that he will recognize and trust me, and give me the money? I do not even know the roads to Media, in order to go there.”

COMMENTARY:  Apparently, with the change of regime, the roads are now open again.  No doubt Tobit had planned to fetch his money after spending some time reconnecting with his family, when he went blind and it spoiled his plans.  So why didn’t he send his son before this?  The same reason he saw the gift of a kid-goat as a reproach: pride.  He couldn’t bring himself to ask for help, he who had give so much help to others.

         But now that he had prayed for death, he had nothing left to lose.  Dying to himself freed Tobit, and probably had everything to do with why God would allow such a good man to go blind—it’s not always about punishment and reward; sometimes it’s about taking us to a higher level than we could have gotten to in comfort.  And it often seems the case that when we desire death what we really need is for some PART of us to die, so that the rest of who we are may live.



3) Tobit answered his son Tobiah: “He gave me his bond, and I gave him mine; I divided his into two parts, and each of us took one part; I put one part with the money. It is twenty years since I deposited that money! So, son, find yourself a trustworthy person who will make the journey with you, and we will give him wages when you return; but bring back that money from Gabael while I am still alive.”


COMMENTARY:  The “bond”, or cheirographon, was a document divided in two, with one party keeping each piece.  So one could complete a transaction on behalf of another by producing his half of the bond and matching it to the other.  If one were to steal such a bond, nobody could tell who had the other half or what it was for, except the two people involved, who would only tell their own agents, so the system worked.


4) Tobiah went out to look for someone who would travel with him to Media, someone who knew the way. He went out and found the angel Raphael standing before him (though he did not know* that this was an angel of God). 5) Tobiah said to him, “Where do you come from, young man?” He replied, “I am an Israelite, one of your kindred. I have come here to work.”


COMMENTARY: it okay for an angel to lie, if he is undercover?  Or is this similar to those moments in the Illiad where various people giving Odysseus good advice were described as various Greek deities in disguise?  It is possible that the ancient world saw people inspired to do or say wise or good things, and suddenly popping into your life to do that, as being one with deities or (among Jews) angels.  And whose to say that people don’t act, sometimes, as a receptacle for angelic intervention?  I don’t know the answers here, I’m just speculating, and welcome other speculation or counter-proposals.



 Tobiah said to him, “Do you know the way to Media?” 6)“Yes,” he replied, “I have been there many times. I know the place well and am acquainted with all the routes. I have often traveled to Media; I used to stay with our kinsman Gabael, who lives at Rages in Media. It is a good two days’ journey from Ecbatana to Rages, for Rages is situated in the mountains, but Ecbatana is in the middle of the plain.”


COMMENTARY:  How convenient that the mysterious stranger not only knows the way to the country, but used to stay in the very city desired, with the exact same person as has the other half of the bond!  But when you get angels involved, synchronicities happen—of course. 

         For the record, Alexander the Great took eleven days in a forced march from Ecbatana to Rages.



7) Tobiah said to him, “Wait for me, young man, till I go in and tell my father; for I need you to make the journey with me. I will pay you your wages.” 8) He replied, “Very well, I will wait; but do not be long.”


COMMENTARY:  It’s not good to keep an angel waiting, or to delay following through on an opportunity.



9) Tobiah went in and informed his father Tobit: “I have found someone of our own Israelite kindred who will go with me!” Tobit said, “Call the man in, so that I may find out from what family and tribe he comes, and whether he is trustworthy enough to travel with you, son.”


COMMENTARY:  Finding out a genealogy doesn’t sound like much of a test today, but in those days even the biggest cities were quite small by modern standards.  If you disgraced your family, word would get out, and your own family would punish you.  If you pretended to be related to somebody you weren’t, it would catch up to you.  And with poor infrastructure, going somewhere else was not nearly as much of an option as it is today, so you’d best keep the trust of your neighbors.  The great distance between Ecbatana and Rages was only about 180 miles—today you could drive that far in a few hours.  (This also explains why coming across someone well-traveled meant a great deal.  But of course his whole family wouldn’t likely wander as much, so they would morally anchor him.)



10) Tobiah went out to summon him, saying, “Young man, my father is calling for you.” When Raphael entered the house, Tobit greeted him first. He replied, “Joyful greetings to you!” Tobit answered, “What joy is left for me? Here I am, a blind man who cannot see the light of heaven, but must remain in darkness, like the dead who no longer see the light! Though alive, I am among the dead. I can hear people’s voices, but I do not see them.” The young man said, “Take courage! God’s healing is near; so take courage!” Tobit then said: “My son Tobiah wants to go to Media. Can you go with him to show him the way? I will pay you your wages, brother.” He answered: “Yes, I will go with him, and I know all the routes. I have often traveled to Media and crossed all its plains so I know well the mountains and all its roads.” 11)Tobit asked him, “Brother, tell me, please, from what family and tribe are you?” 12)He replied, “Why? What need do you have for a tribe? Aren’t you looking for a hired man?” Tobit replied, “I only want to know, brother, whose son you truly are and what your name is.”

13) He answered, “I am Azariah, son of the great Hananiah, one of your own kindred.” 14) Tobit exclaimed: “Welcome! God save you, brother! Do not be provoked with me, brother, for wanting to learn the truth about your family. It turns out that you are a kinsman, from a noble and good line! I knew Hananiah and Nathan, the two sons of the great Shemeliah. They used to go to Jerusalem with me, where we would worship together. They were not led astray; your kindred are good people. You are certainly of good lineage. So welcome!”


COMMENTARY:  Quoting from the United Conference of Catholic Bishops website: “ Azariah, “Yhwh has helped”; Hananiah, “Yhwh has shown mercy”; Nathan is a shortened form of Nathaniah, “Yhwh has given”; Shemeliah may be a Greek corruption of the Hebrew name, Shemaiah, “Yhwh has heard.” “



15) Then he added: “For each day I will give you a drachma as wages,* as well as expenses for you and for my son. So go with my son, and 16) I will even add a bonus to your wages!” The young man replied: “I will go with him. Do not fear. In good health we will leave you, and in good health we will return to you, for the way is safe.” 17) Tobit said, “Blessing be upon you, brother.” Then he called his son and said to him: “Son, prepare whatever you need for the journey, and set out with your kinsman. May God in heaven protect you on the way and bring you back to me safe and sound; may his angel accompany you for your safety, son.” Tobiah left to set out on his journey, and he kissed his father and mother. Tobit said to him, “Have a safe journey.”


COMMENTARY:  Okay, he’s launched.  Nothing much to say about that, except ROAD TRIP!



18) But his mother began to weep and she said to Tobit: “Why have you sent my child away? Is he not the staff of our hands, as he goes in and out before us? 19)Do not heap money upon money! Rather relinquish it in exchange for our child! 20)What the Lord has given us to live on is certainly enough for us.”


COMMENTARY:  She lost her husband for quite a long time; she’s not going to take any risk to her son lightly.  She’s not being hysterical, in a time when people could murder Jews with impunity and leave their bodies openly in the street.  In any case, she’s got her priorities—family comes before money.



21)Tobit reassured her: “Do not worry! Our son will leave in good health and come back to us in good health. Your own eyes will see the day when he returns to you safe and sound. So, do not worry; do not fear for them, my sister.* 22)For a good angel will go with him, his journey will be successful, and he will return in good health.” 1)Then she stopped weeping.


COMMENTARY:  He had no idea how right he was.  (Oh, and “Sister” was an endearment, and does not imply incest, even though it sounds really weird to us.  Except in Genesis, when Abraham calls Sarah his sister, he means it—that was before the invention of the incest taboo.  After the Egyptian experience, where palace slaves could get an up close and personal view of the royal family degenerating, it made sense to develop the taboo.  You know how the statues of pharaohs always show them, when standing, with a staff in hand?  Turns out they needed it.  In addition to many other genetic disorders that turned up on a modern examination of lots and lots of mummies, members of the Egyptian dynasties could barely walk.  Carrying royals about in fancy palanquins or poling them on luxury barges might have looked regal, but that was making a virtue of necessity.)

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