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A Practical Commentary On Holy Scripture by Frederick Justus Knecht D.D.

[Tob. 4–9]

TOBIAS, seeing himself surrounded by so many miseries, thought he could not live much longer. He, therefore, called his son and said: “My son, when God shall take my soul, thou shalt bury my body; and thou shalt honour thy mother all the days of her life; for thou must be mindful what and how great perils she has suffered for thee. And when she also shall have ended the time of her life, bury her by me.

“And all the days of thy life have God in thy mind, and take heed thou never consent to sin, nor transgress the commandments of the Lord our God. Give alms out of thy substance, and turn not thy face away from any poor person. If thou hast much, give abundantly; if thou hast little, take care even so to bestow willingly a little. For alms deliver from sin and death, and will not suffer the soul to go into darkness. Take heed to keep thyself, my son, from all fornication.

“Never suffer pride to reign in thy mind, nor in thy word, for from it all perdition took its beginning. If any man has done work for thee, pay him his hire. See thou never do to another what thou wouldst hate to have done to thee by another. Bless God at all times, and desire of him to direct thy ways and that all thy counsels may abide in Him. Fear not, my son, we lead indeed a poor life; but we shall have many good things (grace and consolations on earth and eternal glory in heaven), if we fear God and depart from all sin, and do that which is good.”

Then the son answered, saying: “I will do all these things, father, which thou hast commanded me.”

Tobias, having thus advised his son, sent him to Rages, a distant city, to collect a debt of long standing. And the young Tobias, not knowing the road, went out to seek a guide who would show him the way.

He had not gone far when he met a beautiful young man, standing ready girt as for a journey. It was the Archangel Raphael. Tobias did not know who the young man was, but he addressed him, saying: “Good young man, knowest thou the way that leadeth to the country of the Medes?” The Angel answered: “I know it.” Then the young Tobias introduced him to his father, who asked him: “Canst thou conduct my son to Gabelus, at Rages?”

The young man replied: “I will conduct him thither, and bring him back to thee.” Then Tobias blessed the two young men, praying: “May you have a good journey; may God be with you on your way, and may His Angel accompany you.” Then they both set out on their journey, and the dog followed them. But his mother wept and said to her husband: “Thou hast taken the staff of our old age, and hast sent him away.”

On the evening of the first day the travellers reached the banks of the river Tigris. Tobias, heated and warm, sat down on the bank and put his feet into the water. Suddenly an enormous fish came up to devour him. Tobias cried out to the Angel: “Sir, he cometh upon me!” The Angel, seeing his terror, exclaimed: “Take him by the gill and draw him to thee.” He did so, and when the fish lay panting before his feet, the Angel said: “Take out his heart, his gall and his liver, for these are useful medicines.” Then, making a fire, Tobias broiled some of the fish, which furnished a repast; then he salted a portion of what remained, to serve as provision for the journey.

When they came to a certain city, Tobias said to his guide: “Where wilt thou that we lodge?” The Angel answered: “There is here a man named Raguel, a kinsman of thy tribe, who has a daughter named Sara: and thou must take her to wife.” Tobias replied: “I hear that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died, and a devil killed each of them on the night of his wedding.”

Tobias said this, because he was the only son of his aged parents, and if such a misfortune should befall him, it would bring down their old age with sorrow to the grave. The Angel answered that the devil had such power over those who in their marriage banish God from their heart, and think only of gratifying their passions. “But thou”, he continued, “when thou shalt take her, give thyself for three days to nothing else but prayers with her; then the devil shall be driven away, and you shall obtain a blessing.”

Having entered into the house of Raguel, Tobias made himself known, and was warmly received by Raguel, as the son of an old friend and of a most worthy man. At the same time Anna, the wife of Raguel, and Sara, his daughter, wept for joy. They then prepared a repast for the travellers, and Raguel prayed them to sit down to eat. Tobias told him that he would neither eat nor drink till he promised to give him Sara, his daughter, in marriage.

Raguel seemed to hesitate, but the Angel told him not to be afraid to give his daughter to the young man, for that he feared the Lord. Then Raguel consented, and taking his daughter’s right hand, placed it in that of Tobias, saying: “The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob be with you: may He join you together, and fulfil His blessing in you.”

Then they sat down to eat. And Tobias and Sara spent three days in prayer, after which the devil had no power to harm them. Then, at the request of Tobias, the Angel took the note of hand, went to the country of the Medes, collected the money from Gabelus, and returned with Gabelus to be present at the wedding.

Gabelus came with great joy, and when he saw the young husband he wept and embraced him, saying: “The God of Israel bless thee, because thou art the son of a very good and just man, who feareth God, and doeth alms-deeds. And may a blessing come upon thy wife.”

The elder Tobias is the model of a good father. By word and example he brought up his son from his earliest youth in the fear of God. When the time came that he expected to die, he forcibly reiterated the, most important points of his teaching, and his exhortations must have made all the greater impression on the son, because the father preached nothing that he had not himself constantly practised. Tobias cared for the salvation of his son’s soul more than anything, and therefore he admonished him above all things to avoid sin and especially to cultivate the virtues of filial piety, the fear of God, justice, brotherly love, gentleness and a great confidence in God.

The younger Tobias is the model of a good son. He listened eagerly to his father’s beautiful exhortations, and made this promise: “I will do all these things, father, which thou hast commanded me.” He kept this promise most faithfully, as you will see by what follows. If a child does not receive his parents’ advice willingly, he sins against that obedience which he owes them.

The connexion between the First and Fourth Commandment. Tobias’ exhortation shows us how very important the observance of the Fourth Commandment is for children. Does it not strike you as strange that his first exhortation should be: “Honour thy mother &c.” and that he should only say afterwards: “Have God in thy mind &c.?” There is a reason for this, because reverence for parents is, so to speak, at the root of religion and of the fear of God. He who does not love and honour his parents, who are his visible benefactors, will not love and honour God, who is his invisible Father and Benefactor. The son who does not observe the Fourth Commandment is ungrateful and irreligious.

Defrauding of wages. Among his other exhortations Tobias said to his son: “If any man has done work for thee, pay him his hire.” This is a duty of justice. He who does not give his promised wages to the labourer, that lives by the work of his hands, commits one of the four sins which cry to heaven for vengeance.

Death is the separation of soul and body. Tobias said to his son: “When God shall take my soul, thou shalt bury my body.” By death the soul is parted from the body, and God calls it before Him to be judged. The body, meanwhile, returns to the earth, until God shall raise it up at the last day, and re-unite it for ever to the soul.

The enemies of our souls are all those things which lead to mortal sin. They who commit grievous sins are enemies not only of God and their neighbour, but also of their own soul; because they rob it of God’s grace, and plunge it into everlasting ruin.

The married state. We learn some good lessons from this history of Tobias. The Angel advised him to enter into the married state. Therefore that state is good and pleasing to God, and persons who intend to marry should not do so without consulting God by earnest prayer. We also learn that some marriages are bad and full of danger, like those of Sara with her previous seven husbands, who had no religion and no fear of God and no pure motives in their action. It is therefore necessary to prepare oneself by prayer and to purify one’s intention by the highest motives, both before and at the beginning of that holy and difficult state. These lessons have double force in the New Testament, where marriage has been raised by our Lord to the dignity of a Sacrament.

APPLICATION. Lay to heart the exhortations of old Tobias, just as if your own father had spoken them to you on his death-bed. Ask yourself every day whether you have acted up to his teaching.

Have you always gladly followed the advice of your father and mother? Are your parents obliged to find fault with you very often? Have you ever grieved or angered them? You cannot be a child of God if you do not honour and obey your parents. Whenever they bid you do anything, say to yourself, in the words of the young Tobias: “I will do all these things, father (or mother), which thou hast commanded me.”








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