This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account.
Lenten practice, day #14.
Reference: Tobit 14:1-15.
I love the title of this chapter. Technically the epilogue, it’s titled “Parting Advice” in my translation. That’s cool because almost the entire thing is Tobit giving a final exhortation to Tobiah and his seven (!) sons, but it extra cool because it’s the last chapter of the book, so it’s parting advice not only for the ancient characters, but for modern-day readers as well!
First of all, these ages they provide us with are incredible. There are several schools of thought regarding numerical facts in the Bible, and when it comes down to it I’m really open to both of them (I will admit I generally lean towards the second, though). The literalist school of thought says that Tobit really did die when he was literally 112 years old. I’m cool with that, because I have no doubt in my mind that if God wanted to make a point about virtue by giving Tobit an abnormally long lifespan regardless of the conditions in his environment, he could do that.
The other school of thought is more scholarly, and points out that exaggeration of ages was a way that ancient Hebrews emphasized someone’s virtue. By saying someone lived to be 97 years old, they’re saying that person was pretty cool—cooler than the average Joe. By granting someone over 100 years, they’re really making a statement about that person’s virtue—they’re really, REALLY cool in God’s eyes. (Good job, Tobit!) When someone is granted some multiple hundred hears (take Noah, who comes in at a whopping 950 years old), well, you get the idea. (Noah repopulated the planet. That’s exhausting. At least 500 years off the bat.) It’s kinda like Hogwarts’ point system except it’s each man for himself instead of houses working as teams.
Regardless, it’s a pretty cool testimony to the riches built up for a man like Tobit, who bore ridicule for his actions for many, many years. If we can take the ages at face value at all, it says he went blind at 62 –that’s a lot of years of virtuous living, especially when one is in exile.
To explain something I wrote earlier, I’m really excited about Tobiah’s seven sons. Sure, by today’s standards that’s a big family, but that’s not the big deal to me. The number seven is, biblically speaking, symbolic of perfection. Maybe they did actually have seven sons, but regardless, the point that the author is trying to make is that (if you haven’t already figured it out by now) Tobiah’s union with Sarah really was a divinely-willed union! How amazing—to know that the person you’re married to was set aside just for you before the world existed, and you were set aside for him! AHHHH its so great! These feelings of joy that we receive when we ponder these Sciptures are God gently reminding us of what we are made for. Tobiah and Sarah’s union was meant to bring them closer to one another and through one another, closer to God. Marriage ALWAYS points us towards God. If it’s not helping you get to heaven, it’s not really helping you. How amazing for those whose vocations are to be wed to God or the Church immediately, with no help of other human marriage in between! Ahh, I can’t handle it. God’s plans are just too good.
I don’t have a lot to say about the rest of the chapter except that I find Tobit’s trust in the prophets to be inspiring. Holy Spirit, instill in me that sort of faith!!
I know this wasn’ t much tonight. If I come up with more, I’ll go back, edit this post, and add it. Your thoughts?