Tobit is one of ancient Israel’s holy books, full of romance, suffering, mystery, and rebellion all wrapped around passionate prayers and an archangel dispatched from the throne of God. Written in Aramaic but lost, Greek translations have been used for centuries. The 1950’s discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Qumran caves gave us the Tobit manuscript in Hebrew and Aramaic. You can read the book here.
My favorite part of this story is the adorable marital relationship of Tobit and Anna. Yes, Raphael the archangel is gorgeous and brilliant; Tobiah the son is noble and courageous; and Sarah the bride is heartbroken and pious.
But Tobit and Anna crack me up.
They get snippy with each other (2:11-14):
“It’s a stolen goat.”
“No it’s not.”
“Yes it is.”
“Now listen here, Mister Virtue. You’re charitable to everyone else but me? Your true character is showing.”
Then Tobit was grief-stricken and cried out in prayer (3:1-6),
You are righteous O Lord and all Your deeds are just; all Your ways are mercy and truth; You are the judge of the world. It is better for me to die than to endure so much misery in life and to hear these insults!
*Remember, he’d recently gone blind from bird droppings and bad medicine.
Tobit thinks he will soon die so he tells his son Tobiah to go on a journey to retrieve a money stash in another area. He also gives him instruction for life (chapter 4), including this loving bit about his wife (even though he’s probably still sore at her):
Honor your mother and do not abandon her as long as she lives. Do whatever pleases her and do not grieve her spirit in any way. Remember my son, that she went through many trials for your sake while you were in her womb. And when she dies, bury her in the same grave with me (4:3-4).
When Tobiah packs up and says goodbye, Anna begins to weep, then fusses at her husband again (5:18-20), even accusing him of being money-hungry. Tobit is more concerned with her motherly grief than wifely insults this time, and reassures her, calling her my love. She stops crying (5:21-22).
*It gets very exciting at this point, with fish guts, a murdering demon, dead bridegrooms, secretly dug graves, a beautiful girl, and wedding bed prayers. Tobiah finally begins his journey home with the money (and a wife!) but is weeks late. Meanwhile, Tobit and Anna anxiously await.
Tobit is worried but continues supporting his wife, “Do not worry my love, he will be here soon” (10:1-6). She’s snippy again, though (10:7a), “Stop it and do not lie to me!” watching the road every day. When she finally sees Tobiah approaching, she turns to her husband (see, she’s not that mad) and exclaims, “Tobit, your son is coming!” (11:6)
And everything ends just fine. They get to enjoy their grandchildren and are buried together just as he instructed.
Tobit and Anna are awesome. There were some sharp words, aggravations, pain, and misunderstandings; but there was more honor, encouragement, and love. What a good story. What a good example.
Tobit, “God is good” and Anna, “grace” ~ thank God your story is in the Bible.
(A companion to Thank God Judith is in the Bible.)