Once more we jump chapters and now we find Tobias and Raphael (Azarias) returning from Ecbatana to the house of Tobit where the mother has been waiting anxiously for the return of her son. We missed the wedding feast (8:19-21), the recovery of the money (which was the purpose of Tobias’ journey, 9:1-6), the anxiety of Sarah (10:1-7a), Tobias finally prevailing on Raguel to let him go back home with his new bride (10:7b-14), and Raphael and Tobias hurrying home and leaving behind Sarah (11:1-4).
If you read these passages, you’d find that everywhere Tobias goes the people who meet him bless God. That is true with Raguel; that is also true with Gabael, the relative who gives him the money. And now, upon his return, he makes his mother and father rejoice. This is precisely what we find in Jewish wisdom literature, about how the wise son causes his father and mother to be proud and happy. And we know that it is precisely this that is underlined in the commandment to honor one’s father and mother. Below are some wisdom sayings about how the wise son is a boon to his parents.
- Proverbs 10:1 A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish son is a sorrow to his mother.
- Proverbs 15:20 A wise son makes a glad father, but a foolish man despises his mother.
- Proverbs 23:25 Let your father and mother be glad; let her who bore you rejoice.
- Sirach 3:4 And he that honors his mother is as one that lays up treasure.
- Sirach 3:6 He that honors his father shall have a long life; and he that is obedient to the Lord shall be a comfort to his mother.
- Sirach 3:8 Honor your father and mother both in word and deed, that a blessing may come upon you from them.
Tobias does more than this when he brings healing to his father. We’ve seen how Raphael instructed Tobias about the internal organs that they took out of a fish. Unknowingly, Tobias has been obeying an angel of God throughout his journey, with regards to the internal organs of the fish, the side journey to Ecbatana to Raguel’s house, and now with the application of the medicine for his father’s eyes. The “berakah” that Tobit utters after regaining his sight is interesting because he praises not only God but also his holy angels, not knowing that one of these was standing before him. When the family thus rejoicing go out in public to meet Sarah, even the people of Nineveh are affected by their joy. And so this homecoming which first brings gladness to two old people now affect the Jewish citizens of the city. We have here an example of how the blessings given to a family also becomes a cause of rejoicing for others. Thus, the wise son is a benefit also to one’s people.
A note about the dog. If you would notice, there are two mentions of the dog at the beginning and the end of the story of Tobiah’s journey, in 5,16 and 11,4. There was a time when discussions about how a scriptural text is inspired can become quite funny when a query about the theological function of this particular dog is raised. The fact is it has no theological function. The only thing the mention of the dog does is to mark the beginning and the end of the journey of Tobiah. Apart from that, it can serve as a way of keeping the attention of the listeners to the story, especially when children are involved. It is obvious that the story teller is in an ambience where dogs were treated as pets. And any discussion about the inspired text being dictated by God can become problematic when Tobiah’s dog is brought to one’s attention.
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