To introduce the students to the second canonical book (Apocrypha)
To learn the story of Tobit
To learn that the solutions to our problems always come from God.
“Let us pray today, tomorrow and after tomorrow for in these three days we unite with God” (Tobit 8:14)
The canonical books
Interpretation of the book of Tobit, (Al Baramus Monastery)
There are 9 books in the Bible recognized by our orthodox church but are not included in the popular protestant Bibles, which are widely available. These books are included in the Bibles printed by our church or the Catholic Church. These books are:
Tobit (14 Chapters)
Judith (16 Chapters)
The remainder of Esther (Chapters 10-16)
The wisdom of Solomon (19 Chapters)
Joshua the Son of Sirach(51 Chapters)
The prophecy of Baruch (6 chapters)
The remainder of the book of Daniel (chapters 13 and 14)
The first Maccabaeus (Chapters)
The second Maccabaeus (15 Chapters)
This lesson will focus on the book and story of Tobit. The name “Tobit” means God is kind. The book of Tobit is placed after the book of Nehemiah in the Orthodox Bible.
The events of this book fall in an environment that is similar to a great extent to what happened to our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The events happened between two Jews families; the first was Tobit’s family living in Nineveh, and the second was a family living in Iraq (or Iran now).
The book was written in the 7th century B.C. Scholars have different opinions about who wrote it, whether Tobit the dad or the son, but Tobias the son occupies the major part in the book’s events.
The name “Tobias” is a Hebrew name meaning the good or the kind, from the tribe of Tobias. The father was a righteous man who lived during the exile of Babylon, and he stood fast to loving the poor and having compassionate towards them.
He got married to a girl from his tribe; her name was Hannah. They lived in Nineveh. God granted them their only son Tobias, and they raised him in the fear of God and with good virtues.
One day the father felt asleep in the back yard of his country house on a hot day with his face uncovered. It happened that a bird passed over his head, rested on the wall over him and let its droppings over his eye, leaving him blind. He visited many physicians for a cure; they made him use many anointments, but unfortunately none of them helped. He became so sad and disappointed, especially when he found himself needing help in all his life’s activities because he couldn’t see.
He started to raise many prayers to God to heal him, thinking that God gave him this temptation as a punishment for something he did wrong. A spiritual man turns to God in times of troubles or temptation.
One day he remembered that he left a certain amount of money with one of his relatives, and he thought of sending his son to get this money back. They were in need of this money, especially after his wife started working as a house cleaner for other people. So he called his son and talked to him about this issue and advised him to find a companion on this trip to go and retrieve this money, sharing part of it as almsgiving. He told him, “Son, I feel like I will die soon, and my advice for you is to get married to a lady from your tribe to receive the blessings. And may God multiply your sons like your forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.”
He agreed to what his father asked him to do, and he went out to find someone that knows the way to this man’s house in order to get the money back. He met a man out there, and after a long conversation asking who he was and where he was from, he learned that he was one of the Israelites, the people of God, and that he knew the way to the city he was heading to. He felt happy and comfortable to meet him, and he asked him to come with him because he needed to introduce him to his dad, so he can feel comfort too.
When they both returned back to the dad, they greeted him and he greeted them back. The man asked the dad if he was well, and he replied negatively because he had lost his vision. So the man smiled at him and told him that he’d be healed soon.
They both said goodbye to the mom and dad and went on their way to the city. After a while, they felt hungry and went fishing. A big cod came out of the water. The man told Tobias, “We can eat from its meat during the journey, but you have to save its heart, liver and gallbladder; keep them aside because they can cure.” He obeyed without understanding or arguing.
Later on he asked about what was in them, so he told him that the smoke that comes out of the heart burning under fire can cast away any devil spirit, while the gallbladder can heal a blind person if it is wiped over the eyes. This brought great hope in Tobias’ spirit, thinking that he can help his dad with that.
When nighttime came, they found themselves tired, so the man asked Tobias if they could spend the night at a nearby house where Tobias’ relatives lived.
They spent the night at the house, and the man told Tobias that he is going to ask the father of the house to give him Sarah his daughter as a wife for Tobias. The father told them about her past history and how she’d been married seven times and in every time, after the wedding ceremony is over, her groom dies because of the devil. So Tobias was scared when he heard that because he was the only son of his parents, and they need him, especially after the dad became sick. The man however told him not to be afraid, to raise a prayer to God that He may have mercy on both of them, and to burn the Cod’s liver and heart over a censor. A very bad smell will come out of the smoke and this will cast away the devil that’s been killing the groom every time.
After they got married, her dad was scared that Tobias might die like the other men, so he sent his servants to prepare a grave in case this happens. But Tobias did as the man commanded him, and all the family rejoiced that he didn’t die; they extended the wedding celebration for seven more days. After the ceremony, Tobias completed his journey and got the money back for his dad. He then asked his father in law if he could release them to go back to his parents and tell them about his marriage; he agreed and sent them back with much money and gold.
His mom was waiting for him so eagerly. When she saw him from afar, she ran to meet him, hugged him and wept; the dad followed her with the help of one of his servants. Tobias introduced his wife to them, and they all rejoiced when they heard the news.
He took the fish’s gallbladder and squeezed it over his dad’s eye; God returned to him his vision once again and this doubled the family’s happiness.
Then finally, the man revealed himself to the family as Archangel Raphael. God had sent him to help them. They were all amazed with wonder and thanked God for His care.
Tobias took care of his parents until they passed away, and he buried them. He asked his wife if they could go back to take care of her parents as well; they did so until her parents also died and were buried.