Welcome to the "Summer Read Along Bible Study" for the Book of Tobit. We will be exploring this text from the Apocrypha over the next couple of weeks. All you need is your Bible, if it has a Apocrypha. If not, then you can find the Book of Tobit in the Oremus Bible Browser, online. This book is an enjoyable adventure story, using this genre as an entree into the question of "Theodicy." Read along as we take this story on, chapter by chapter. It has so much to enjoy: a hero (and heroine), a companionable Archangel, "buried" treasure, demons, faithful parents cared for by a loving son, magical happenings and as always....true love!
Chapter ONE: In which we meet our hero....sort of......
The story begins with a people in exile. The tribe to which Tobit claims membership, that of Naphtali, is part of the Jewish Diaspora. When the Assyrians invaded Israel, they transported the tribes they found there, distributing them throughout the empire. In their place, they installed other peoples. Those people would eventually be known as "Samaritans." Dwelling where Israel once did, they took up the style of worship that those transported tribes left behind. Tobit himself notes that his kinsfolk, and the other tribes defeated by the Assyrian hosts, were far from pious. Ascribing their defeat to that apostasy, he also indicates that while some easily fell away from a faithful piety, he maintained his own.
This is integral to the story. Tobit is a righteous man. He keeps the law of God, even in a foreign land. In a context wherein most of his kinsfolk and fellow Israelites accept assimilation, he remains steadfast to his convenantal relationship with God. That fidelity is affirmed, in a most exemplary way. He marries within his culture. He says his prayers and keeps up faithful worship. He keeps the dietary laws when most give them up. He takes care of his fellow Israelites, even to the extent of burying the dead who were thrown outside the city walls as a sign of their condemnation by the king's will. His personal fortunes and position in the court of the king is jeopardized by that resolve....but he keeps the faith!
Remember that: Tobit is a GOOD MAN. He is also now falling on tough times, having been reduced in his circumstances due to his falling out with the king in the face of having DONE THE RIGHT THING!