This post is part of a reflective Lenten series, originally published as Facebook posts on my personal account
Lenten practice, day #5.
Reference: Tobit 5:1-22, 6:1 (basically, the way the early translators divided the book into chapters and verses, they cut it in some odd places. The last sentence of the last paragraph of Chapter 5 actually belongs to Chapter 6, but only makes sense in Chapter 5. Just go with it.)
Oh boy, is there a lot in today’s reading. I can’t go into all of it, but MAN is it good.
In this chapter, Tobit’s family meets the angel Raphael for the first time. They have NO IDEA he’s an angel when they recruit him to travel with Tobiah to get the money from their cousin Gabael in Media. (It’s exciting already!!)
Tobiah agrees to stick to the morals outlined by his dad in chapter 4, but then points out that it’s dangerous to travel alone. Tobit sends his son out to find a trustworthy kinsman to travel with, and lo and behold, the first person he runs into is disguised Raphael.
Here’s where some REALLY interesting theological issues come up: Raphael tells both Tobit and Tobiah that he is Azariah, one of their kinsmen.
Can angels lie? I understand that deception is pretty inherent in the use of disguises, but it’s deception nonetheless. I suppose since clearly Raphael DOES lie that they can. A better question is can angels sin? Does his lie this particular situation “count” as sinning? After all, it would seem that God commanded it, directly or indirectly. The disguise is for the ultimate healing of Tobit and Sarah, sure, but it’s still a lie. Perhaps here it is important to remember Jesus’ words when his disciples picked grain to avoid starving on the Sabbath: “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (Matt 12:8). In other words, God is not allowing the letter of the law to override the spirit of the law? Thoughts on this?
I have to laugh, reading the interactions between Raphael, Tobit, and Tobiah. I imagine it was something like those reality TV shows where they intentionally set up a prank on someone and they have actors improvising while being fed instructions though a little bug in their ear. Raphael supplying the family with EXACTLY the right thing they need to hear in that moment.
There are a lot of other fascinating things jam-packed into this chapter, but I’ll conclude with some of the most wonderful foreshadowing we see, plus a little bit of Theology of the Body:
As Tobit sends Tobiah off with his newfound companion, he makes some comments which are FAR more accurate than he is aware: “My son,” Tobit tells Tobiah, “may God in heaven protect you on the way and bring you back to me safe and sound; and may his angel accompany you for safety, my son.”
And again, when Anna begins to weep over the thought of her only son taking a dangerous journey for the sake of a bit of money, Tobit comforts her: “Do not worry about them, my love. For a good angel with go with them, his journey will be successful, and he will return unharmed.”
The word that is translated into English as “my love” literally means “sister” in Hebrew. At the time, it was used as a term of endearment specifically for one’s wife. It was ENGRAINED INTO THEIR CULTURE back then to treat their wives with the utmost respect and protection–as their own flesh and blood, as their sister. It’s not a mistake, or incest, or a mere figure of speech that he says “sister.” This particular form of the word is used for one’s WIFE. A term of endearment and a strong reminder of her inherent value and worth.
Thoughts? Especially about Theology of the Body and the issue of “lying” angels?