Thursday, June 25, 2015

A Summer Read Along: Tobit 5; An Archangel as Road Buddy

Raphael (as Azariah) is presented to Tobit
He went out and found the archangel Raphael standing in front of him; but did not perceive that he was an angel of God. Tobias said to him, "Where do you come from , young man?" "From your kindred, the Israelites," he replied, "and I have come here to work." Then Tobias said to him, "Do you know the way to go to Media?" "Yes," he replied, "I have been there many times....."

Truth, Truth and More Truth

Funny thing about God and coincidence, the former is the hand while the latter is the least that is how it seems to be working out for Tobias in this chapter. Tobit has commissioned him as emissary to his kinsman Gabel or Rages in Media, in order to reclaim the fortune left there under bond. This good fortune is, presumably to Tobit, the key to securing his "right to die in righteousness" That is, at least as he sees it. Tobias' charge is to travel (a risk) to a destination he does not know (more risky) in order to get money from people who don't know him (downright dangerous) and then survive the journey home carrying the wealth of 5 lifetimes' wages (improbable, if you think about it...perhaps impossible).

The solution, really their hope, is to find someone who knows the way and can journey alongside Tobias as a trusted companion to Media. He will need to be someone who is willing to undertake this adventure and to fulfill his role, faithful to the quest and to the honor required. An impossible bill to fill, as Tobias leaves his house with no clue how/who/where to find such a person.

And lo, there is Raphael standing right in front of him as he opens his door in order to embark on the impossible task of finding someone who will undertake with him this improbable pilgrimage. Raphael, who calls himself "Azariah" (God has helped), son of "Hannaniah" (God has had mercy) is not only a possible help-mate and retainer. He also claims kinship with Tobit, which for Tobit is the root of all trust. He is no stranger, and he is of the same nation and tribe. 

There is hope. 

The author has some fun with us, as there seems to be now what we call a "running gag" that Tobias needs an angel to go with him. Tobit himself confirms it, even as he extols Azariah as "man of good lineage, the archangel seeks to reassure him that God and good fortune will see Tobias through to the end of his quest. He departs in good health and will return in the same fashion. "Do not fear," the great refrain of most heavenly beings during epiphanies with human beings is repeated over and over again, variations on a theme making apparent to us that this is truly an angelic encounter, that God is present to this undertaking and that God's good agency will not be thwarted. Even at the end of the chapter, Tobit notes that an angel is bound to go with Tobias and protect him!

From here on out, it is all about the journey, save for one last salvo between Anna and Tobit as Tobias leaves home. Anna berates Tobit for sending their only son, and the light of her heart, away. Money won't make you happy, Tobit. Tobit assures her, and us, in his own, now recognizably obtuse way that the point of this journey is toward a healing of the family for the greater glory of God. His only problem is that he, literally, can't see what that healing and salvation will actually look like when it is made fully manifest later in the book.

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