Definitions

Tobit

Tobit

[toh-bit]
Tobit [Gr. from Heb. Tobijah="God is my good"], book of the Old Testament Apocrypha, not included in the Hebrew Bible. It is the account of Tobit, a devout Jew in exile, and of his son Tobias. Despite his many good works, Tobit is mysteriously blinded and despairingly begs God to take his life. At the same time in Ecbatana one Sarah, who is afflicted by a demon (Asmodeus="destroyer") that has killed her seven husbands on their wedding night, also asks God for death. God hears both prayers and sends the archangel Raphael to help. Sent by his father on business to a distant city, the young Tobias and his dog are guided by Raphael (in the form of a young man) to the house of Sarah. There Tobias marries Sarah and, following Raphael's instructions, exorcises the demon. They return to his home, where Tobias cures his father's blindness. The book ends with Tobit's prophecy of the restoration of Jerusalem and the return of the exiles. The story inculcates ideals of benevolence, marriage, and prayer, with assurances that God is a God of mercy toward the long-suffering righteous and punishes the wicked. The ancient texts are of great diversity; hence, the various English versions materially differ in detail. Fragments of the book in Aramaic and Hebrew have been found at Qumran. The work was probably composed c.175 B.C. The young Tobias and his dog with the angel have been a favorite subject of Christian iconography.

For bibliography, see Apocrypha.

Main character in the Bible's apocryphal book of Tobit. Tobit, a pious Jew living in exile in Nineveh, gives alms and buries the dead in accordance with Hebrew law but is struck blind in spite of his good works. Sarah, daughter of a close relative, has had seven husbands, each of whom was killed by a demon on their wedding night. The two pray for deliverance, and the angel Raphael intercedes for them. Tobit regains his sight, and Sarah marries Tobit's son Tobias. The book is an effort to reconcile the evil in the world with God's justice. Seealso Apocrypha.

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