The Apocrypha, Lesson 9: Tobit, Pt. 2

Tobias and Sarah are MarriedLast week, we learned of Tobit, who became blind from bird droppings.  After remembering he had saved about 30 years’ worth of wages, he sends his son, Tobias, to retrieve his wealth.  So Tobias readies himself for the journey.


The Introduction to Some New Characters

Today, some new characters will come our way.

Gabael: means “raised up by God” or “mighty of God.”  He is holding Tobit’s money in safekeeping in Medea and is related to Tobit.

Azariah: The stranger who will accompany Tobias to retrieve the money.  Azariah means, “the Lord helps.”

Raphael: The angel’s name, Rapael, which means “God heals.”  The tradition within the Church mentions four archangels.  Michael appears to Daniel (Daniel 10:13-21, 12: 1), who battled Satan (Jude 9, Revelation 12: 7).  Gabriel appears to Daniel (Daniel 8: 16; 9: 21), Zechariah (Luke 1:19), and the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:26).  Raphael appears only here in the Book of Tobit.  Uriel is the other.

Edna: means “pleasure” “rejuvenation” or “delight.”  She is the wife of Raguel, who is a relative of Tobias.


They Meet Azariah, the Angel Raphael

5:1 Then Tobias answered his father Tobit, “I will do everything that you have commanded me, father; 2 but how can I obtain the money from him, since he does not know me and I do not know him?…”  3 Then Tobit answered his son Tobias, “He gave me his bond and I gave him my bond. I divided his in two; we each took one part, and I put one with the money….  So now, my son, find yourself a trustworthy man to go with you, and we will pay him wages until you return. But get back the money from Gabael.”

“bond”: Greek, cheirographon.  A handwritten document, often composed in duplicate.  One party would tear the paper in two to obligate repayment.  The tear and handwritten nature of the document help prevent forgery and manipulations.

4 So Tobias went out to look for a man to go with him to Media, someone who was acquainted with the way. He went out and found the angel Raphael standing in front of him, but he did not perceive that he was an angel of God.

Here the irony begins.  The human characters do not realize Azariah is Raphael, an angel.

5b Tobias said to [Raphael], “Do you know the way to go to Media?”  6 “Yes,” he replied, “I have been there many times … It is a journey of two days from Ecbatana to Rages; for it lies in a mountainous area, while Ecbatana is in the middle of the plain.”

Here, we have another deliberate discrepancy, alerting us Tobit is religious fiction.  The journey to Ecbatana does not take two days (unless the angel transports Tobias).  The distance is 180 miles and took Alexander the Great’s army 11 days of forced march to make the distance.  Also, geographically, the starting point of their journey is higher in the mountains than where they are going in Media.  Not so in the story— their destination “lies in a mountainous area, while Ecbatana is in the middle of the plain.”  The more mountainous journey becomes a metaphor for the hardship they may face.

9 So Tobias went in to tell his father Tobit and said to him, “I have just found a man who is one of our own Israelite kindred!” He replied, “Call the man in, my son, so that I may learn about his family and to what tribe he belongs, and whether he is trustworthy enough to go with you.”

10b So he went in to him, and Tobit greeted him first. He replied, “Joyous greetings to you!” But Tobit retorted, “What joy is left for me anymore? I am a man without eyesight; I cannot see the light of heaven, but I lie in darkness like the dead who no longer see the light. Although still alive, I am among the dead. I hear people but I cannot see them.” But the young man said, “Take courage; the time is near for God to heal you; take courage.”

  • If we link the meaning of Raphael’s name with his words, what we are expected to realize what will happen to Tobit, which he does not know?


17b Then Tobit called his son and said to him, “My child, prepare provisions for the trip and head off with your brother.  May God who is in heaven protect you on your way and restore you safely to me. May his angel travel with you and protect you, my child.”

  • What is the irony in Tobit’s words?


He went to begin his journey, and he kissed his father and mother.  Tobit said to him, “Travel safely!”

18 His mother began to weep and said to Tobit, “Why have you sent my child away?  Isn’t he the staff on which we lean as he comes and goes in our presence?  19 Don’t make money more important than it is; instead, let it be ransom for our child’s sake.  20 It’s enough for us to live as the Lord has provided.”

“ransom”: Greek, peripsema, may mean “ransom” but also “garbage” or “leftover dregs.”  So, the idea Anna is conveying is to let the money be—it’s trash compared to the safety of her son’s life.


The Journey 

Tobias and Azariah travel and set up camp by the Tigris River on the first evening.  The Tigris is not on the way from Rages to Ectabana, but that matters not.  Will the trip and its challenges, metaphorically denoted by its elevated climb, prove to be true? 

6:3 Then [Tobias] went down to wash his feet in the Tigris river.  Suddenly a large fish leaped up from the water and tried to swallow the young man’s foot, and he cried out.  4 But the angel said to the young man, “Catch hold of the fish and hang on to it!”  So the young man grasped the fish and drew it up on the land.  5 Then the angel said to him, “Cut open the fish and take out its gall, heart, and liver.  Keep them with you, but throw away the intestines. For its gall, heart, and liver are useful as medicine.”

6b The two continued on their way together until they were near Media….  7b “Brother Azariah, what medicinal value is there in the fish’s heart and liver, and in the gall?”  8 He replied, “As for the fish’s heart and liver, you must burn them to make a smoke in the presence of a man or woman afflicted by a demon or evil spirit, and every affliction will flee away and never remain with that person any longer.  9 And as for the gall, anoint a person’s eyes where white films have appeared on them; blow upon them, upon the white films, and the eyes will be healed.”

  • So, what are we now led to expect in the storyline?


Raphael suggests they spend the night with Raguel, the father of Sarah.  He reminds Tobias he is the closest surviving male relative of Sarah, he has “a hereditary claim on her” to take her as his wife.

  • What does this reveal to Tobias about the status of Sarah? (see Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and Numbers 36:6-9).


  • What would a Jewish man be obligated to do?


14 Tobias said to Raphael, “Brother Azariah, I have heard that she already has been married to seven husbands and that they died in the bridal chamber….  I have heard people saying that it was a demon that killed them….  15b Since I am the only son my father has, I am afraid that I may die and bring my father’s and mother’s life down to their grave, grieving for me—and they have no other son to bury them.”

  • What causes Tobias to hesitate on the obligations he has as a Jewish man?


16 But Raphael said to him, “Do you not remember your father’s orders when he commanded you to take a wife from your father’s house? …  17 When you enter the bridal chamber, take some of the fish’s liver and heart, and put them on the embers of the incense.  An odor will be given off; 18 the demon will smell it and flee, and will never be seen near her anymore.


Lutheran Tie-In:

If the afflicted himself with his depravity has been the cause of this great affliction… then the pastor, always from God’s Word, should hold before him how gravely he has sinned against his Lord and God, show him what power Satan has over those who despise God (Job 1:8, Tobit 6:17, Ephesians 2:2) … The pastor shall also continually admonish him to acknowledge his sin, for which he is so harshly afflicted, and in God’s stead finally offer him God’s grace and salvation if from his heart he rejects his evil ways, denies Satan all his service, and resists him …  The pastor forgives him in God’s mercy … that he will be delivered from this snare of the devil, so that after this he may honor and praise God always and eternally.  [Church Ritual of Denmark and Norway, Article III, “On the possessed and those plagued by the Devil of his evil instruments in some other way,” 1761]

  • To what rite did Lutheran Church direct one troubled by the devil?


18b Now when you are about to go to bed with her, both of you must first stand up and pray, imploring the Lord of heaven that mercy and safety may be granted to you.  Do not be afraid, for she was set apart for you before the world was made.  You will save her, and she will go with you….”

18c When Tobias heard the words of Raphael and learned that she was his kinswoman, related through his father’s lineage, he loved her very much, and his heart was drawn to her.

They both arrive at the house of Raguel.  Raguel slaughter a ram to celebrate but Tobias will not eat until he has accomplished the mission revealed to him by Raphael.  At the house they all meet, with Raguel’s wife, Edna soon questioning Tobias.

4 She said to them, “Do you know our kinsman Tobit?”  And they replied, “Yes, we know him.”  Then she asked them, “Is he in good health?”  5 They replied, “He is alive and in good health.”  And Tobias added, “He is my father!”  6 At that Raguel jumped up and kissed him and wept.

“health”: Greek, hugiano, being healthy or that which gives health and life.  Here, the original text is coming through (remember the original was first written in Aramaic or Hebrew).  The Greek, hugiano almost always translates from the Hebrew, shalom (peace).  Though Tobit is blind (not healthy in the Greek meaning, he is at peace with God according to the Hebrew and Aramaic thought).

The Septuagint uses hugiano 48 times, about 2/3 of which are in Tobit!  The hearer would catch this and think, “Ah, Tobit is priming me to realize that wellness and completeness are expected in this story.”

9b Tobias said to Raphael, “Brother Azariah, ask Raguel to give me my kinswoman Sarah.” 10 But Raguel overheard it and said to the lad, “Eat and drink, and be merry tonight.  For no one except you, brother, has the right to marry my daughter Sarah….  She is given to you in accordance with the decree in the book of Moses, and it has been decreed from 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 from today and forever.  May the Lord of heaven, my child, guide and prosper you both this night and grant you mercy and peace.”

8:2 Then Tobias remembered the words of Raphael, and he took the fish’s liver and heart out of the bag where he had them and put them on the embers of the incense.  3 The odor of the fish so repelled the demon that he fled to the remotest parts of Egypt.  But Raphael followed him, and at once bound him there, hand and foot.

Then they prayed together:

5b “Blessed are you, O God of our father, and blessed is your name in all generations forever.  Let the heavens and the whole creation bless you forever.  6 You made Adam, and for him you made his wife Eve as a helper and support.  From the two of them the human race has sprung.  You said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; let us make a helper for him like himself.’  7 I now am taking this kinswoman of mine, not because of lust, but with sincerity.  Grant that she and I may find mercy and that we may grow old together.”

  • How does the prayer move in its focus?


9b But Raguel arose and called his servants to him, and they went and dug a grave, 10 for he said, “It is possible that he will die and we will become an object of ridicule and derision.”

  • What does Raguel think will still be the case?


11 When they had finished digging the grave, Raguel went into his house and called his wife, 12 saying, “Send one of the maids and have her go in to see if he is alive. But if he is dead, let us bury him without anyone knowing it.”  13 So they sent the maid, lit a lamp, and opened the door; and she went in and found them sound asleep together.  14 Then the maid came out and informed them that he was alive and that nothing was wrong.  15 So they blessed the God of heaven, and Raguel said,

“Blessed are you, O God, with every pure blessing; let all your chosen ones bless you.  Let them bless you forever.  16 Blessed are you because you have made me glad.  It has not turned out as I expected, but you have dealt with us according to your great mercy.  17 Blessed are you because you had compassion on two only children.  Be merciful to them, O Master, and keep them safe; bring their lives to fulfillment in happiness and mercy.”


New-Testament Tie-In: Not as I expected, but according to God’s great mercy

Jesus teaches us to pray and even gives us the words to say.  ““When you pray, say…” (Luke 11:2).  In the petition “Thy will be done.” Jesus is not restricting us in the boldness of our prayers.  No, for He understands well our will is fraught with sin.  “Thy will be done” means to pray in Jesus’ name, which means praying because of who Jesus is and what He does, including His role as our intercessor to God the Father (Romans 8:34, 1 Timothy 2:5).  Praying in Jesus’ name is the same as praying for God’s will to be done, for He and the Father are one (John 10:30).

In Tobit 4:18, we get a glimpse as to why praying for God’s desire to carried out.  Often, what we don’t understand what we want apart from our sinful flesh driving the agenda.  The divine will, under which we place our petitions, is beyond our ways.  “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord” (Isaiah 55:8).

So, Tobit illustrates this grand truth—”we do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:28).  Though the Apostle’s words are right, the deficiencies of our prayers do not restrict God.  Raguel speaks for us all when he says, “It did not turn out to me as I expected” (Tobit 8:16).  “Thy will be done” is not a limiting of our prayers but our idolatry, recognizing our Father does know best!


20 Then he called for Tobias and swore on oath to him in these words: “You shall not leave here for 14 days, but shall stay here eating and drinking with me; and you shall cheer up my daughter, who has been depressed.

  • The typical wedding feast lasted up to seven days. What does Raguel’s response reveal?


The Recovery of the Money

With Tobias to remain for 14 days to celebrate (to leave early would be rude and dishonor Raguel), he tells Azariah what to do.

9:1 Then Tobias called Raphael and said to him, 2 “Brother Azariah, take four servants and two camels with you and travel to Rages.  Go to the home of Gabael, give him the bond, get the money, and then bring him with you to the wedding celebration.  3 For Raguel has sworn that I should not leave; 4 but my father is counting the days, and if I delay long he will be greatly distressed.”

  • What does Tobias tell Azariah to do and why?


  • What is different between the size of the traveling parties to and from Tobit’s house? What does this mean?


5b So Gabael got up and counted out to him the money bags, with their seals intact; then they loaded them on the camels.


Link to the next Lesson in this series.