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Tobit: Chapter 1

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1 THIS is the story of Tobit son of Tobiel, son of Hananiel, son of Aduel, son of Gabael, son of Raphael, son of Raguel, of the family of Asiel, of the tribe of Naphtali. 2In the time of King Shalmaneser a 1:2 Shalmaneser: Gk Enemessaros. of Assyria he was taken captive from Thisbe which is south of Kedesh-naphtali in Upper Galilee above Hazor, beyond the road to the west, north of Peor.

3I, TOBIT, have made truth and righteousness my lifelong guide. I did many acts of charity to my kinsmen, those of my nation who had gone with me into captivity at Nineveh in Assyria. 4While I was quite young in my own country, Israel, the whole tribe of Naphtali my ancestor broke away from the dynasty of David and from Jerusalem, the city chosen out of all the tribes of Israel as the one place of sacrifice; it was there that God's dwelling-place, the temple, had been consecrated, built to last for all generations. 5My kinsmen, the whole house of my ancestor Naphtali, sacrificed on the mountains of Galilee to the image of a bull-calf which King Jeroboam of Israel had set up in Dan.

6At the festivals I, and I alone, made the frequent journey to Jerusalem prescribed as an eternal commandment for all Israel. I would hurry off to Jerusalem with the first-fruits of crops and herds, the tithes of the cattle, and the first shearings of the sheep; these I gave to the priests of Aaron's line for the altar, 7while the tithe of wine, grain, olive oil, pomegranates, and other fruits I gave to the Levites ministering at Jerusalem. The second tithe for the six years I turned into money and brought it year by year to Jerusalem for distribution 8among the orphans and widows and among the converts who had attached themselves to Israel. Every third year when I brought it and gave it to them, we held a feast in accordance with the command prescribed in the law of Moses and the instructions enjoined by Deborah the mother of Hananiel our grandfather; for on the death of my father I had been left an orphan.

9When I grew up, I took a wife from our kindred and had by her a son whom I called Tobias. 10After the deportation to Assyria in which I was taken captive and came to Nineveh, everyone of my family and nation ate gentile food; 11but I myself scrupulously avoided doing so. 12And since I was whole-heartedly mindful of my God, 13the Most High endowed me with a presence which won me the favour of Shalmaneser, and I became his buyer of supplies. 14During his lifetime I used to travel to Media and buy for him there, and I deposited bags of money to the value of ten talents of silver with my kinsman Gabael son of Gabri in Media. 15When Shalmaneser died and was succeeded by his son Sennacherib, the roads to Media passed out of Assyrian control and I could no longer make the journey.

16In the days of Shalmaneser, I had done many acts of charity to my fellow-countrymen: I would share my food with the hungry 17and provide clothing for those who had none, and if I saw the dead body of anyone of my people thrown outside the wall of Nineveh, I gave it burial.

18I buried all those who fell victim to Sennacherib after his headlong retreat from Judaea, when the King of heaven brought judgement on him for his blasphemies. In his rage Sennacherib killed many of the Israelites, but I stole their bodies away and buried them, and when search was made for them by Sennacherib they were not to be found. 19One of the Ninevites disclosed to the king that it was I who had been giving burial to his victims and that I had gone into hiding. When I learnt that the king knew about me and was seeking my life, I was alarmed and made my escape. 20All that I possessed was seized and confiscated for the royal treasury; I was left with nothing but Anna my wife and my son Tobias.

21However, less than forty days afterwards the king was murdered by two of his sons, and when they sought refuge in the mountains of Ararat, his son Esarhaddon succeeded to the throne. He appointed Ahikar, my brother Anael's son, to oversee all the revenues of his kingdom, with control of the entire administration. 22Then Ahikar interceded on my behalf and I came back to Nineveh; he had been chief cupbearer, keeper of the signet, comptroller, and treasurer when Sennacherib was king of Assyria, and Esarhaddon confirmed him in office. Ahikar was a relative of mine; he was my nephew.

Notes:

a 1:2 Shalmaneser: Gk Enemessaros.

Text Commentary view alone

1.1–3.17 : Tobit's tale of his misfortunes.

His zealous efforts to live the Law earn him the persecution of the pagans and the jeers of the other Jews.

1.1–2 : Introduction.

1 :

Tobit: perhaps an abbreviated form of the Heb. Tobiah (Gk. Tobias, v. 9 ), meaning “the LORD is good.”

2 :

The tribe of Naphtali was deported to Assyria, not by Shalmaneser but by his predecessor, Tiglath-pileser III (745–727 B.C.E.); see 2 Kgs. 15.29 . Thisbe is located west-southwest of Lake Huleh in northern Palestine.

1.3–22 : Tobit's virtuous life in exile.

3 :

Nineveh: capital of Assyria.

4 :

The secession of the northern tribes from the dynasty of David (1 Kgs. ch. 12 ) took place about 922 B.C.E., 150 years before Tobit was born.

5 :

Mountains … bull-calf: see 1 Kgs. 12.28–31 .

6–8 :

Firstfruits … tithes: an idealized picture of Jewish piety; see Num. 18.12–13; Deut. 18.3–4 .

10 :

Gentile food: forbidden by the Law as unclean; see Deut. 14.3–21 .

13 :

Shalmaneser V: the successor of Tiglath-pileser III in 727 B.C.E.

14 :

Ten talents of silver: 3000 shekels of silver.

15 :

Shalmaneser V was followed by Sargon II (722–705 B.C.E.) and then only by Sennacherib (705–681 B.C.E.). Such historical inaccuracies suggest that the author intends, not history, but a story illustrative of Wisdom.

17 :

A dead body left unburied was considered a curse, a punishment for an evil life, that somehow affected the peace of the deceased. See 2 Kgs. 9.10; Jer. 8.2; Ecclus. 44.14 .

18 :

God brought judgement on Sennacherib at the siege of Jerusalem. See 2 Kgs. 19.35–36; Isa. 37.36–37 .

21 :

Two of his sons: see 2 Kgs. 19.37 . Ahikar, the hero of a popular ancient legend, was depicted as a wise and wealthy chancellor under several Assyrian kings. In the story he is said to have raised and educated a nephew, Nadab, who betrayed him. Eventually he was vindicated and the nephew was punished. Perhaps the author brings Ahikar into the story of Tobit because they were both tested by misfortune and finally restored to a happy state. See also 2.10; 11.18 ; and 14.10 , where their tribulations are further recorded.

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