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.
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!
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
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.
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!”
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.