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The Revelations of Raphael

Submitted by on Saturday, 6 June 2009No Comment


Finally, at the end of the story, the revelation. As Tobit tells his son to pay his travel guide, Raphael himself comes up to tell them who he is. He has heard how Tobit blesses God and the angels, and now gives him the privilege of knowing who he has been dealing with. The reason Raphael gives is the statement he makes in 12:7, “A king’s secret is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be declared and made known” (cf. 12:11) In this contrasting parallel, the emphasis is on the second part. The declaration of God’s works is the purpose of the life of Israel. It is worth noting that 12:7 and 12:11 frame some wisdom sayings that sum up some of the marks of Jewish piety that one finds in Tobit.

Honor and proclaim God’s deeds,
and do not be slack in praising him. (6b)

A king’s secret it is prudent to keep,
but the works of God are to be declared and made known.
Praise them with due honor. (7a)

Do good, and evil will not find its way to you. (7b)

Prayer and fasting are good,
but better than either is almsgiving accompanied by righteousness. (8a)

A little with righteousness is better than abundance with wickedness. (8b)

It is better to give alms than to store up gold;
for almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. (8c-9a)

Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life;
but those habitually guilty of sin are their own worst enemies. (9b)1

Verses 6b and 7a refer back to the times when God is praised by the characters of the story, especially by those who are afflicted, Tobit and Sarah. Verses 8a, 8c-9a and 9b recall Tobit at the beginnning of the story and his desire to invite less fortunate Jews to his table. Verses 7b and 8b recall the “goodness” of Tobit and Tobiah whose names both come from the Aramaic root word “tob” which means “good”.

Raphael in his turn now declares the goodness of God’s works by revealing who he is and what he has been doing:

  • He was the one who brought the prayers of Tobit and Sarah to God’s presence
  • and it was he who was keeping a record of the kindness that Tobit showed when he was burying the dead
  • he was the one who put Tobit and Sarah to the test2
  • “Rapha-el” means “God heals” and so, he also reveals another aspect of his mission that of the healing of Tobit and Sarah.

Raphael describes himself as one of the seven angels who serve before the Glory of Lord (12:15). Catholic liturgy celebrates the three archangels Raphael, Gabriel and Michael. In Bavaria, there is a Catholic church dedicated to the seven archangels, the other four angels being Uriel, Jehudiel, Shealtiel and Barachiel. Each of these seven angels are patrons of one sacrament (read about this here.)

At the end of the day’s liturgical selection, we see Raphael bidding Tobit and the others good-bye as he ascends. He tells Tobit to write all that has been done for him, thereby justifying the existence of the book. But the story does not end here. After this, there is still one chapter of Tobit’s berakah (Tobit 13) and an Epilogue (Tobit 14), but these I will leave to the reader of this blog to peruse at his own leisure.

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  1. One would do well to memorize these proverbs. []
  2. This is a biblical theme: God is all-powerful and therefore to the mind of the biblical writer, even the evil in this world is attributed to Him who tests the hearts of men. Here, the subtle distinctions that one finds in subsequent Christian reflection on the problem of evil cannot be seen yet. Unlike in Job where it is Satan who puts to the test, here, it is Raphael []

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