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Literature / Book of Tobit

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One of the apocryphal books that is not included in the Jewish and Protestant canons of the Old Testament, though it does appear in the Greek Septuagint. In the story, a man named Tobit who lives in Nineveh loses his eyesight and has to rely upon his wife's job to make ends meet. Meanwhile, a young woman named Sarah is losing husbands to a demon named Asmodeus and fears the bad reputation she's getting because of it. Both Tobit's prayer and Sarah's are answered by God, who sends an angel to help Tobit's son Tobias to deliver a bag of money that's been held in security in another town back home. The angel also helps Tobias conquer the demon that's been causing Sarah trouble.

Structure of the book:

  • Description of Tobit (Tobit 1:1-15)
  • Burying the dead (Tobit 1:16-2:10)
  • Tobit's plight (Tobit 2:11-3:6)
  • Sarah's plight and the divine decree (Tobit 3:7-17)
  • Tobit tells Tobias about the money (Tobit chapter 4)
  • Azariah travels with Tobias to Media (Tobit 5:1-6:1)
  • Journey to Ecbatana (Tobit 6:2-18)
  • The wedding of Tobias and Sarah (Tobit chapter 7)
  • Deliverance from the demon (Tobit chapter 8)
  • Tobias sends Azariah to collect Tobit's money (Tobit chapter 9)
  • Tobias and Sarah leave Media for Nineveh (Tobit chapter 10)
  • The healing (Tobit chapter 11)
  • The angel reveals his identity (Tobit chapter 12)
  • Tobit's thanksgiving hymn (Tobit chapter 13)
  • Tobit's final instructions and death (Tobit 14:1-11)
  • Anna's and Tobias' deaths (Tobit 14:12-15)

This book provides examples of:

  • Angel Unaware: The Archangel Raphael doesn't reveal his identity to Tobit and his family until near the end of the story.
  • Artistic License Ė History: Tobit 1:15 states that Sennacherib was Shalmaneser's son, whereas he was actually the son of Sargon II.
  • Artistic License Ė Religion: While basic Scripture canon states that the use of magic is evil, this book seems to encourage what appears to be the use of magic, with the burning of fish guts being what drives a powerful demon away. This, along with the teaching that almsgiving can save a soul from death, becomes a point of contention between the Catholics and the Protestants as far as this book's inclusion or exclusion in Scripture canon.
  • Asmodeus: Makes his premiere here, being a demon that continually harasses and curses Sarah and Tobias before the Archangel Raphael intervenes.
  • Black Widow: The reputation Sarah has been getting from her husbands dying on her during their wedding week.
  • Call-Back: To Amos 8:10, after Tobit had buried somebody who died on the feast of Pentecost, when he recalled the prophecy: "I will turn your celebrations into times of mourning and your singing into weeping."
  • Canine Companion: Tobit's dog accompanies him on his journey.
  • Cartwright Curse: Sarah, whose husbands have been killed off by the demon Asmodeus.
  • Despair Speech: Tobit's and Sarah's prayers to God are basically this.
  • Doomed Hometown: Nineveh at the end of the story, as Tobit warns his son and his son's family to leave before its destruction.
  • Excrement Statement: Tobit gets blinded by bird poop that fell into his eyes.
  • Final Speech: Tobit gives a final speech to his son Tobias regarding the coming destruction of Nineveh as prophesied by Nahum before his death in Chapter 14.
  • Find the Cure!: Tobias goes to find the cure for his father's blindness with the help of his secret angel guardian.
  • God Is Good: Itís what the name Tobias means.
  • Hufflepuff House: Tobit and Tobias are of the tribe of Naphtali, one of the northern tribes that is otherwise just a name on a page. Were this a protocanonical book, Tobit and his son would be the only Naphtalites mentioned by name in the entire Bible, but it is not.
  • Kissing Cousins: Tobias and Sarah are actually related by being in the same family line.
  • The Matchmaker: The Archangel Raphael plays this role in the story, hooking up Tobit's son Tobias with Sarah while defeating the demon that has been plaguing her.
  • Mistaken for Thief: In Chapter 2, Anna's employers pay her for her work by giving her a young goat for a meal. When she brings it home, Tobit (because he was blind) assumes that she must have stolen it and tells her to bring it back even after she says that it was given to her as a gift. Anna doesn't take this accusation from her husband very well.
  • Money Is Not Power: Despite basic Scripture canon stating this to the effect that it cannot save a soul from death, this book contradicts this by saying that almsgiving can save a soul from death, which is why it is used as part of the Catholic canon of Scripture.
  • No Good Deed Goes Unpunished: Anna slams her husband, pointing out how his almsgiving and burying the dead according the custom only gave him prison-time, the scorn of the authorities and neighbors, and blindness.
  • Spell My Name With An S: This is a deuterocanonical book, so it isnít in the Masoretic Text and the West knew of it exclusively through translation. So for most of history the father and son were called Tobias the Elder and Younger. Only in modern translations are they distinguished as Tobit and Tobiah.
  • Stink Bomb: The burning of the fish guts in Sarah's room becomes this for the demon Asmodeus. He flees to Egypt, where he is bound by the Archangel Raphael.
  • Temporary Blindness: Tobit suffers blindness from bird poop in his eyes until his son Tobias brings him the cure in the latter half of the story.
  • Textile Work Is Feminine: Tobit's wife Anna worked for hire by weaving cloth.