Chapter Seven


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.


COMMENTARY:  One 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 Hell. 

         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.


COMMENTARY:  The 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 kinswoman Sarah.”

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.”


COMMENTARY:  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.

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