Tobit 2: The Hard Times of a Pious Man...or, when bad turns to worse
In chapter 2, we continue to hear of Tobit's pursuit of righteousness. If you have any doubts that he is a classic "good guy," then voice them now (or along with Anna, Tobit's wife, at the end of this chapter!). Tobit's being a good man is now being put to the test, not only by the temporal powers that be, but also by the experience of happenstance.
In this case, his efforts to do the right thing by his neighbor and fellow Israelite in exile wind up, eventually, with his becoming blind. He is prepared to mark the feast of Pentecost in the wake of the household's observance of Passover when he hears from his son that one of their countrymen has been beaten, killed and left in the market place as a sign to others of the power-that-be's control over the exiled of Israel.
He rushes out in the wake of receiving this news from his son Tobias, buries the neighbor in such a way as to put the account of assistance offered in Jesus's parable of the Good Samaritan to shame. He lays the dead man out with dignity in his own home and under cover of darkness buries him. This proves his righteousness, but it also reminds all around him of the fact that this is the very reason he fell out with Esarhaddon's predecessor and lost his position in the court.
With the news that his secret act is not so secret, he resolves to sleep out in his courtyard, just in case someone comes for him in the night. That way, he can preserve his family from suffering as a result of his choices...and perhaps get a head start on anyone seeking to arrest him.
And thus his real misfortune beings: sparrows roosting on the wall leave their droppings beneath them, where Tobit is sleeping. Some of those droppings fall into his eyes, and white films develop (cataracts). He is blinded. Moreover, all the doctors he visits wind up making the films more opaque.
He is ruined, and useless. He can't work or provide for his family. He has to rely on his kinsman Ahikar for support. His wife has to work in order to add to their support.
His anxiety over this state of affairs, and his (now seemingly excessive) need for piety in life even causes him to attack his wife when she brings home a goat, a gift from her employers. He just can't believe she didn't steal it...and demands past reasoning that she return it. This earns the probity of his wife....a parallel with the moment when Job's wife urges him in his misery to just curse God and die.
All of this is to set the stage for what is to follow:
- Tobit is a GOOD man
- Tobit's suffering in the face of choosing the righteous act is NOT just, or right
- Tobit doesn't understand, and neither do we, that his current, pathetic state is NOT what one should expect when one strives to do the right thing
- All that confusion and loss is only leading to more grief....and......
- WHERE IS GOD IN ALL OF THIS!?!
Stay tuned....we are about to find out.....but first, things will go from bad to worse. Oh, yes....from bad to worse!