The Apocrypha, Lesson 10: Tobit, Pt. 3

We finished with Tobias sending Azariah (the angel Raphael) to retrieve the 30 years’ worth of wages.  After the 14-day wedding celebration, Tobias and Azariah plan to head home.  We now get a snapshot of what is taking place Tobit and Anna.

 

Tobias and Azariah Return Home

10:1 Meanwhile, day by day, Tobit kept counting how many days Tobias would need to travel and return.  The days passed, and his son did not appear. 2 He said, “Could it be he is detained or, perhaps, Gabael died, and no one gave him the money?”  3 So he began to worry.  4 His wife Anna said, “My child has perished and is no longer among the living.”  And she began to weep and mourn for her son, saying, 5 “What misery is mine, my child, the light of my eyes, because I let you make the journey.”

  • What is the difference taking place between Tobit and Tobias?

 

  • What is the irony of Anna calling Tobias the light of her eyes?

 

7b Now when the 14 days of the wedding celebration ended … 10 Raguel promptly gave Tobias his wife Sarah, as well as half of all his property: male and female slaves, oxen and sheep, donkeys and camels, clothing, money, and household goods.

  • Contrast the traveling party to Raguel’s house versus the return party.

 

11 Then Raguel saw them safely off.  He embraced Tobias and said, “Farewell, my child; have a safe journey.  The Lord of heaven prosper you and your wife Sarah, and may I see children of yours before I die.”  12 Then he kissed his daughter Sarah and said to her, “My daughter, honor your father-in-law and your mother-in-law, since from now on they are as much your parents as those who gave you birth.  Go in peace, daughter, and may I hear a good report about you as long as I live.”

  • Whom does Tobias credit for his success?

 

13 Tobias parted from Raguel with happiness and joy, praising the Lord of heaven and earth, King over all, because he had made his journey a success.  Finally, he blessed Raguel and his wife Edna, and said, “I have been commanded by the Lord to honor you all the days of my life.”

11:1 When they approached … 2 Raphael said, “You know how we left your father.  3 Let’s run ahead of your wife and get the house ready while the rest are coming.”  4 So they both went on together, and Raphael said, “Get the gallbladder ready.”  The dog came with them, still following behind.

  • What is Azariah / Raphael going on ahead to do?

 

  • What does he tell Tobias about the gall bladder? What are the implications?

 

“The dog”: The dog accompanied Tobias and Azariah earlier in chapter 6:2.  This is a distinctive feature in the story for, in ancient Near-Eastern cultures, dogs were not-so-much pets but considered more like scavengers.  For example, the Canaanite woman who came to Jesus for Him to heal her daughter revealed this worldview.  “Yes, Lord,” she said, “yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table” (Matthew 15:27).  Note the crumbs fall, and are not being fed by the master’s hand.

The Codex Sinaiticus is the earliest complete copy of the New Testament in existence, but also contains about half of the Old Testament, including the Apocrypha.  It mentions the dog in Tobit 6:2 as “the Lord.”  Here, the dog appears again in the story, heralding the return of the travelers.  A couple of verses later in Tobit 11:6 in the Peshitta, an ancient Syriac version of the Bible, tells of Anna seeing the dog coming.  Jerome’s Vulgate in 11:9 reads, “Then the dog that was with them on the road ran ahead and came as a herald, as they took delight in the charms of its tail.”

If the dog is meant to represent “the Lord,” we are to take in the truth that God works through “masks.” These are ways He comes to us to help, instead of His holy presence bringing us death because of our sin.  The story is priming us to expect God working through what we consider to be weak and humble, which Tobit will point us to a bit later in the story.

 

Sight is Restored

7 Before Tobias reached his father, Raphael said to him, “I know that his eyes will be opened.  8 Smear the gall of the fish on his eyes….”  10b So, Tobias went up to Tobit, 11 with the gall of the fish in his hand, and holding him firmly, he blew into his eyes, saying, “Take courage, father.”  Then he applied the medicine to his eyes, 12 and it made them sting.  13 Next, with both his hands he peeled off the white films from the corners of his eyes.  Then Tobit saw his son and threw his arms around him, 14 and he wept and said to him, “I see you, my son, the light of my eyes!”

  • Earlier, how did Anna use the term “the light of my eyes”?

 

  • What does the story reveal about what God will eventually do with our sorrows?

 

14b Then Tobit said,

“Blessed be God, and blessed be his great name, and blessed be all his holy angels.  May his holy name be blessed throughout all the ages.  15 Though he afflicted me, he has had mercy on me.  Now I see my son Tobias!”

 

  • Does Tobit yet know Azariah is the Angel Raphael?

 

In thanks, Tobit and Tobias want to give Azariah half of what they own.  Azariah / Raphael responds:

12:7 It is good to … acknowledge and reveal the works of God, and with fitting honor to acknowledge him.  Do good and evil will not overtake you.  8 Prayer with fasting is good but better than both is almsgiving with righteousness.  A little with righteousness is better than wealth with wrongdoing.  It is better to give alms than to lay up gold.

  • When Raphael contrasts prayer and fasting against almsgiving, is he saying to do one but not the other?

 

  • If not, what is he doing?

 

11 “I will now declare the whole truth to you and will conceal nothing from you….  15 I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ready and enter before the glory of the Lord.”

 

Excursus: 1 Enoch and the Seven Archangels

1 Enoch 20:2-8 lists the seven archangels: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel.  Revelation 8:2 reads, “Then I saw the seven angels who stand in the presence of God…”  So, Revelation affirms seven archangels.

Though not Scripture, 1 Enoch was considered assumed religious knowledge in Jesus’ day.  For example, when Jesus referred to Himself as the “Son of Man” (78 times!) he referred to more than Daniel 7:13: “With the clouds of heaven came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.”  What “Some of Man” entailed came mostly from 1 Enoch.

I asked the one–from among the angels–who was going with me, and who had revealed to me all the secrets regarding the One who was born of human beings, “who is this, and from where is he who is going as the prototype of the Before-Time?”  And he answered me and said to me, “This is the Son of Man, to whom belongs righteousness, and with whom righteousness dwells.  And he will open all the hidden storerooms; for the Lord of the Spirits has chosen him, and he is destined to be victorious before the Lord of the Spirits in eternal uprightness. [1 Enoch 46:1-2]

At that hour, that Son of Man was given a name … He is the light of the Gentiles, and he will become the hope of those who are sick in their hearts.  All those who dwell on the earth will fall down and worship before him; they will glorify, bless, and sing the name of the Lord of the Spirits.  For this purpose, he became the Chosen One …. [1 Enoch 48:2-5]

Though 1 Enoch is not Scripture, Jesus, Revelation 8:2, 1 Peter 3:18-20 (“the spirits in prison” are not human souls at all, but fallen angels), 2 Peter 2:4 (“the angels”), and Jude 14-15 all expect us to know 1 Enoch to understand the points they make.

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16 The two of them were shaken; they fell face down, for they were afraid.  17 But he said to them, “Do not be afraid; peace be with you.  Bless God forevermore….  22 They kept blessing God and singing his praises, and they acknowledged God for these marvelous deeds of his when an angel of God appeared to them.

Tobit then responds in prayer, which is chapter 13.  Here is an excerpt of his prayer:

13:10 Acknowledge the Lord, for he is good, and bless the King of the ages, so that his tent may be rebuilt in you in joy.  May he cheer all those of you who are captives and love all those of you who are distressed, to all generations forever.  11 A bright light will shine to all the ends of the earth; many nations will come to you from far away, the inhabitants of the remotest parts of the earth to your holy name, bearing gifts in their hands for the King of heaven.

“acknowledge”: Greek, exolomegeo.  This is “homolegeo” with the prefix “ex.”  Homolegeo is to say the same word as exists somewhere else, which is to confess.  The “ex” make what is said more outwardly focused or louder.  Still, this is not a self-generated word but the mouth repeating what it receives from elsewhere.

For example, to the Christians in Rome, Paul wrote: “If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).  The confessing with the mouth is repeating what already exists somewhere else, in this case, in the heart.  The verse isn’t listing two separate events but one event, joined by the “and” (Greek, kai).

Here, Tobit reveals the “acknowledging of the Lord” can only exist because “the Lord” gives us what we acknowledge or confess.

  • Beyond confessing God and His goodness, what does Tobit reveal is to come?

 

  • “Light” and blindness are interwoven in the story. In the craft of storytelling, Tobit’s blindness and sight become vehicles to foretell what event?

 

Tobit points forward to the future God will bring into being.  The author holds out hope for the conversion of the nations to faith in the One God: A bright light will shine forth into the farthest corners of the earth.  Many nations will come to God from afar, and inhabitants from all the ends of the earth will come to His holy name.

 

The Death of Tobit

14:1 So ended Tobit’s words of praise.  2 Tobit died in peace when he was 112 years old …

The book closes with Tobit’s testament, a deathbed speech in which he instructs Tobias to take his family and leave Nineveh before its inevitable destruction and predicts the glorious restoration of Jerusalem and conversion of the nations.

3 When he was about to die, he called his son Tobias and the seven sons of Tobias: 4b “Indeed, everything that was spoken by the prophets of Israel, whom God sent, will occur.  None of all their words will fail, but all will come true at their appointed times.”

  • What does Tobit believe about the certainty of what God revealed to His people?

 

  • What does this mean for us about the truths God promises to His faithful?

 

6 “Then the nations in the whole world will all be converted and worship God in truth.  They will all abandon their idols, which deceitfully have led them into their error; 7 and in righteousness, they will praise the eternal God.”

  • What is Tobit pointing forward to here?

 

“Those who sincerely love God will rejoice, but those who commit sin and injustice will vanish from all the earth….  11 So now, my children, see what almsgiving accomplishes, and what injustice does—it brings death!  But now my breath fails me.”

  • Who can “sincerely love God”? What does this presuppose?

 

  • How is godly “almsgiving” a response?

 

  • Why does “injustice bring death”?

 

The Christology of Tobit

A righteous man, Tobit, labors to help the poor and needy in his everyday life.  One day, He leaves his meal uneaten, to go and bury a dead man, left unburied for the animals to eat.  A few days later, he begins to lose his eyesight.  Now old and blind, he wants to find a faithful wife for his son before he dies.

Dispatched by God, an archangel appears, posing as a distant relative named Azariah.  Yes, he will take Tobias to seek a wife.  A harrowing scenario develops, for the woman he takes him to is a widow, with seven previous husbands!  Why so many?  On the wedding night of each marriage, a malevolent demon came to kill the groom, leaving the bride, despondent and forlorn.

No one will marry her now, and the reason why is plain to all.  Now enters Tobias, emboldened by a newfound courage.  With a stout heart and resolute mind, he announces he will wed this kinswoman of his, fulfilling his family obligation.  The demon arrives on schedule soon after the ceremony, but Tobias forces him to flee and takes her back home.

Later, the angel surprises everyone, revealing he is Raphael, one of God’s mighty archangels.  So, the story finishes with a happy ending.  Still, how does this work of storytelling art connect to our eternal restoration and redemption?

A loving Father sends His only Son to rescue a helpless Bride.  For she is held captive by an evil spirit, who fills her life with hopelessness and death.  This Son defeats the demonic spirit, saves His Bride, and brings her back to live with Him in His Father’s House.

This is a story of the Incarnation—a foretelling of Christ.  Though religious fiction, Tobit is still an unabashed foreshadowing of the promised Messiah.  Sent by the Father, Jesus rescues us from the devil and take us with Him into the House of His Heavenly Father.

What a parable-like prophecy!  Such beauty to unveil itself in this story!

 

Tobit as a Lesson on Christian Living

The Book of Tobit challenges us to examine our views and use of our money and our other resources.  “Almsgiving delivers from death,” not because “works save” but because they are a genuine expression of the trust one has in God.

Are you laying up treasure here while refusing to store up your “treasure in heaven,” as Jesus put it?  “Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and decay destroy, and thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor decay destroys, nor thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19-20).

Those who “invest” themselves in doing what pleases God with their resources have greater confidence that God will also “invest” in them when their time of need comes.  The Apostle of “free grace,” Paul, testifies that God does care about us “investing” ourselves in doing what is right.

God will repay each one according to his works: eternal life to those who strive for glory, honor, and immortality by persistence in doing good; but wrath and anger to the self-seeking, those who reject the truth while obeying unrighteousness. [Romans 2:6-8]

The life we lead in itself does not earn us salvation.  Neither is it true, however, that what we do as Christians doesn’t matter.  Good works are necessary, but good works are not necessary for salvation.

  • Romans 5:2: We have gained access through [Jesus] by faith into this grace in which we stand.
  • Romans 11:20: They [the Jews, who rejected Jesus as the Messiah] were broken off [from God] because of their unbelief, but you stand by faith.
  • Colossians 1:22: Christ has reconciled you by His physical body through His death to present you holy, without blemish, and blameless before [God the Father].
  • 1 Peter 1:5: You are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.10, Meaning of Dikiaoo

It’s both faith and works, with each in the proper place.

“We know that a person is not justified [declared and thus, made righteous, dikiaoo] by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ” (Galatians 2:16).

“A person is justified [shows himself to be righteous, dikiaoo] by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:24).

 

Link to the next Lesson in this series.

 

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