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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Blessed are you who fear the LORD, who walk in his ways!

Tobit, Chapter 4, Verse 8
Give in proportion to what you own. If you have great wealth, give alms out of your abundance; if you have but little, do not be afraid to give alms even of that little.

Tobit here is instructing his son Tobiah in the three virtues characteristic in his own life: Truth (fidelity), righteousness, and almsgiving. The instruction to almsgiving is the most lengthy. Tobit tells his son to care for his burial just as his father has cared for the burial of others. He instructs Tobiah to pay servants wages immediately to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked and to give alms in proportion to what he has. Almsgiving will be for him a protection from death and will be a worthy offering, a worthy worship to God.[1]

  1. Later on he washed, but he still decided to spend the night in the courtyard.  Even though he had no problems polluting himself by having contact with a corpse, he was considerate of others and maintained his distance until the time of purification was over.
  2. That night, swallow droppings fell into his eyes and a white film formed, impairing his vision.
  3. The more he sought medical help, the worse his eyesight was until one day he was totally blind.
  4. The irony is sharp.  His misfortune occurred on Pentecost because he wanted to share his provisions with the homeless, to dutifully bury a Jewish body, and to keep the law regarding purification.  Those “good works” led to blindness.  Yet, there is no evidence that he railed against God or even lamented this misfortune.
  5. For the first two years of Tobit’s blindness, Ahiquar supported him, but then he was transferred to Elymais, which scholars think was located south of Media.
  6. This transfer meant that Ahiquar’s financial support ended, and life became very difficult for Tobit and his family.
  7. Since Tobit was completely blind, his wife went out to do “women’s work.”  This is not specified, but most think she would have been working in someone’s household.
  8. Surely this was a blow to Tobit’s image and esteem.  After all, this was the person who had a big position in the king’s court.  Now he was disabled and unemployed.
  9. One day in addition to paying her for her services, Hannah’s employers gave her a goat to take home.  It might have been for an upcoming feast day, which would suggest that she was working for a Jewish family.
  10. When the goat started to bleat, Tobit assumed she had stolen it and accused her of doing so.  It highlights his inability to see; he didn’t know it was there until it started making noise.  Scholars don’t know why he did this.  Nothing in Hannah’s character suggested she’d be the person to steal something.  So maybe this was yet another affront to his ego and lashing out was his poor way of handling things.  It shows how tense things had become and the stress they were under.
  11. Hannah yelled back saying, “And look what your good deeds have gotten us!”
  12. There was little that Tobit could say to that.  He prayed deeply, asking for forgiveness for himself as well as the nation. Then he asked God to take his life in order to end his suffering.
  13. On the very same day in Ecbatana, another righteous person was praying – Sarah.
  14. The distance between Nineveh and Ecbatana was about 185 miles.
  15. Sarah’s name means “Mistress.”
  16. At that moment, one of her servant girls was insulting her because she had been given in marriage to seven men, but each night the demon, Asmodeus, killed them off before the marriage could be consummated. 
  17. If it’s a Hebrew word, Asmodeus means something like “Destroyer.”  He was known as the demon of lust.  The idea was that he loved Sarah and would not allow any other man to be with her.
  18. The servant didn’t know about the demon, so she assumed that Sarah was doing the killing. 
  19. Sarah thought about hanging herself, but she was an only child and couldn’t imagine bringing such shame to her parents.
  20. So she also prayed that God would take her life and put her out of her misery.
  21. At this point, these two incidents seem totally separate, though both people are of the tribe of Naphtali.  Later, readers will find out that they are close kinsmen.
  22. Nonetheless, both of their prayers were heard in the glorious presence of God.
  23. God decided to send the angel, Raphael, to heal them both.
  24. Raphael, the angel’s name, means “God has healed.”
  25. God’s plan was to give Sarah in marriage to Tobias and to heal Tobit’s blindness.
  26. This information is given to readers but not to any of the characters in the story.
  27. As Tobit prepared to die, he remembered the money he had given his cousins in Media for safekeeping.
  28. He called Tobias and started by counseling him on the major issues of life.
  29. First, he was to provide a proper burial for Tobit, and then he needed to take care of his mother.  He was also to follow in Tobit’s footsteps, always doing good and being true to the Lord. 
  30. There is some irony here because of the fact that Tobit’s life had not been blessed despite all of his good works. This comes at a time in Jewish history when they believed good works would be rewarded with great blessings.  Tobit’s life had not turned out that way.  Still, he expected integrity and faithfulness from Tobias, which indicates that Tobit was a very righteous man.
  31. Only after he had counseled him in all these aspects did Tobit mention the ten talents awaiting him in Media.
  32. His final counsel was: “You have great wealth if you fear God, flee from all sin, and do what is good in the sight of the Lord your God.”  Obviously, Tobit believed that God really was going to end his life.
Daily Devotions/Prayers

·         Drops of Christ’s Blood

[1]The Collegeville Bible Commentary, 1986.

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