The superscription establishes Tobit's location and genealogy.
Tobiel, “God is my good”; the names of his family members have the suffix el, meaning “God.” Genealogy becomes increasingly important in Second Temple Judaism (Jdt 8; Mt 1; Lk 3
Shalmaneser, 2 Kings 15.29
states that Tiglath‐pileser III exiled the Naphtalites to Assyria; in 722 BCE, Sargon of Assyria, Shalmaneser's brother, conquered Samaria, Israel's capital, and resettled substantial portions of the population (2 Kings 17.1–6
). Kedesh, in northern Galilee, defeated by Joshua (Josh 12.22; 19.37
), was the home of Deborah's general Barak (Judg 4.6
) and the site of a Maccabean victory (1 Macc 11.63,73
). Asher may be a Greek spelling of Hazor, ca. 10 km (6 mi) south‐southeast of Kedesh.
Tobit consistently emphasizes his own righteousness despite Israel's apostasy.
Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.
Tobit's lifespan, ranging from before 928 to after 722 BCE, indicates the tale's fictional nature (the book of Judith similarly displays chronological fiction). Naphtali was one of the ten northern tribes that rebelled against the Davidic house in 928 (1 Kings 12.19–20
); Tobit nevertheless consistently expresses concern for Jerusalem, the capital of the southern kingdom.
1 Kings 12.28–29
; Dan is not far northeast of Kedesh (
Participation in the pilgrimage festivals (Deut 12.11
) of Booths (Sukkot), Passover (Pesach), and Weeks (Shavuot/Pentecost) entailed the giving of first fruits (Deut 26.1–11
), firstlings (Ex 13.12
), tithes of the cattle (Lev 27.32
), first shearings of the sheep (Deut 18.4
For tithing of produce, see Lev 27.30; Deut 14.22–29
Deborah indicates women's roles in religious education; the name may have some connection to Kedesh and Naphtali (Judg 4–5; Tob 1.2n.
Endogamy, i.e., marriage within the kinship group, is a major theme (
3.17; 4.12–13; 6.11–12; 7.10–11; Gen 11.29; 24.3–4; 27.46–28.2; Deut 7.3–4; Ezra 9–10; Neh 10.28–30
; but contrast the marriages of Ruth and Esther); intermarriage became a particularly acute issue in the Diaspora.
The setting and Tobit's initial political success resemble that of Dan 1–6
. Like Daniel and his companions (Dan 1.8–20
), Esther (Add Esth 14.17
), and Judith (Jdt 12.1–3
), Tobit follows Jewish dietary laws (Lev 11
Tobit regards his stewardship as a reward for righteousness; later events temporarily question such justice.
Media (northern Iran) is east of Assyria; on Israelites exiled there, see 2 Kings 17.6
. Ten talents is approximately 350 kg (750 lb).
His son Shennacherib: Sargon II, not Shalmaneser, was Sennacherib's father (see 1.2n., 18–20n.
). Similar historical inaccuracies mark the opening of the book of Judith.
Tobit continues his earlier charitable works (
). Burying corpses is his principal sign of righteousness (
1.18–20; 2.3–8; 4.3–4; 6.15; 14.10–13; Deut 28.26; 1 Kings 14.11; 21.24; Jer 7.33; Ezek 29.5
); their unburied presence indicates Assyria's brutality. Appropriately, among Christians in the Middle Ages Tobit was hailed
as the patron saint of gravediggers.
Sennacherib succeeded his father Sargon II in 705 BCE. Fleeing … in those days of judgment, a reference to the defeat of Sennacherib by divine intervention; see 2 Kings 19.35–36
Like Sophocles's Antigone, Tobit is threatened with death for burying the executed.
As in Daniel (Dan 3, 6
), Tobit is victimized for practicing Jewish piety.
see 2 Kings 19.37.
Esar‐haddon reigned 681–669 BCE.
Ahikar is a well‐known figure in Semitic stories; his relationship to Tobit, noted only in this book, enhances Tobit's status. Ahikar's
own story is summarized in
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