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The Oxford Bible Commentary Line-by-line commentary for the New Revised Standard Version Bible.

Subject-Matter and Literary Genre.

1.

The book is named after its principal character, Tobit, a model of Jewish piety. He was a law-abiding Israelite, who had been captured and deported with his wife Hannah and his son Tobias from the northern kingdom of Israel to Nineveh. There he suffered in various ways and was finally blinded. Praying to die, but recalling in his old age that he had deposited a considerable sum of money in far-off Rages in Media, he decided to send Tobias to get the money. At the same time at Ecbatana in Media, a young relative, Sarah, was also praying to die, because she suffered from the vituperation of maidservants, since all seven men to whom she had been given in marriage were slain by an evil demon Asmodeus, as they sought to approach her. In answer to the prayers of the two of them, Tobit and Sarah, God sent the angel Raphael to Nineveh. Raphael accompanied Tobias on his journey to Media to get his father's money. En route, when Tobias bathed in the Tigris, a large fish tried to swallow his foot. Raphael told Tobias to catch the fish and extract its gall, heart, and liver for use as medicine. At Ecbatana in Media Tobias married his kinswoman Sarah and used the fish's heart and liver to smoke the demon away on his wedding night. Tobias then sent Raphael on to Rages to fetch the money. When Raphael returned, Tobias took the money and Sarah his wife and came back to Nineveh, to his father's house, where he used the fish's gall as a medicament to remove white films from Tobit's eyes. Then, when Tobit and Tobias wanted to pay Raphael for his aid, the angel revealed who he was and disappeared, having instructed Tobit to offer thanks to God. Tobit composed a hymn of praise, instructed Tobias to leave the wicked city of Nineveh, once his mother had died, and then passed away. After Tobias buried his mother beside his father, he departed with Sarah for Media, where he continued to dwell with his parents-in-law. There he learned of the destruction of Nineveh.

2.

Though some modern scholars (Miller 1940 ) have argued for a historical kernel in the story, most commentators regard the Book of Tobit as a Semitic novel composed for an edifying and didactic religious purpose. Its fictional character is seen in various historical and geographical improbabilities (see comments on 1:2, 4, 15, 21; 6:2; 9:2; 11:1; 14:15 ) and in its use of folkloric motifs (‘The Grateful Dead’ and ‘The Monster in the Bridal Chamber’).

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