Bible Study – August 18th

Like the sand in an hourglass, so are the days of our lives! Happy day!!

Greetings, all! I hope you are enjoying our exploration of the Apocrypha, through the Book of Tobit. Let’s pray, and then see what chapter 2 holds for us!

Direct us, Lord God, in all our doings with your most gracious favor, and extend to us your continual help that in all our works begun, continued, and ended in you, we may glorify your holy name, and finally, by your mercy, bring us to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Tobit+2&version=NRSV)

” target=”_blank” rel=”noreferrer noopener”>Tobit, Chapter 2

Tobit, allowed to come home through the negotiations of his nephew, now prepares to pick up his faithful life right where he left off. First up– a festival, Pentecost. Wait–this was written BEFORE Jesus was born, and Pentecost happened AFTER Jesus died, right? The reason all those people were in Jerusalem on the day when the Holy Spirit descended was because they were celebrating the Jewish festival of Pentecost–the day God sent another gift from above—the day that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the ‘contract” of relationship between God and God’s people. 

Tobit, in exile, cannot make the required journey to Jerusalem, so instead he makes his offering one of hospitality and sharing God’s gifts, so he sends his son out to find someone who has need. He not only expands the ways of honoring God and God’s gifts, he also sets a model of that before his son.

As he goes out to search, Tobias instead finds another dead Israelite, whose body has been left exposed in the marketplace, after execution. Tobit doesn’t have any second thoughts about how burying the dead caused him further exile in the midst of exile, and how he’d just got back—he immediately leaves his feast and tends to the body…but he does wait to bury it unti after sunset, so it won’t draw attention. 

There is a lot of back and forth between the body and the meal, with taunting from his neighbors (so much for avoiding attention!) and cleanliness/ purification issues woven through.

There were laws about contact with dead bodies, and rituals for purification–it seems Tobit was trying to honor these, even in exile, by washing and sleeping outside. 

So, how is Tobit rewarded for all this faithfulness, all these attempts in exile to do what God has asked of all his people, all this determination to risk everything for the sake of doing what is right, all this courage to endure mockery from his own and punishment from his oppressors? Blinded by bird poop. 

That is seriously unexpected, seriously awful, and seriously hilarious! I mean—Job had boils and all, but this?! Blinded by bird poop? That is some great story-telling, right there!

So, Tobit can no longer work, is no longer the primary earner in the home. His nephew Ahiqar shows up again, and subsidizes him for a couple of years, but leaves/moves/is reassigned. So the story turns to Tobit’s wife, Anna, and her work.

One commentary says, “Because of her family’s need, Anna becomes the Bible’s first working mother.” (We shouty women will let pass the notion that mothers don’t work—this is just work outside the home, for pay. Bet she still has plenty of work to do at home!)

It appears that Anna is good at her job—she not only gets her regular pay, but is also given a bonus, a young goat. 

The ensuing argument is…well, as I sit here and sigh, trying to find a word, too many words come to mind. DIsappointing. Frustrating. Predictable. Sad. 

Even, still, today, the dynamic between male and female, and the weighted traditions of who works, who makes more, who cooks, who does the laundry, who takes care of the kids…it goes on. In these quarantine days, when both mom and dad, both professionals,  work from home, studies have shown that the woman is still picking up the majority of home and child care. 

In any case, Tobit has been shown as a capable man, good at his job, faithful to his religious duties..and now, for four years, he’s been dependent on others. Yes, it is easy to understand his frustration. But to have it all finally surface in an argument that Anna couldn’t be that good at her work that she got a bonus, that the only way she could have possibly obtained a goat was to steal it…well, as arguments go, it is also no surprise that if he wouldn’t believe the truth, Anna was going to up the stakes, and hard…

…if blessing comes from doing good, then Mr. Perfect, Mr. Holier Than Thou—you have been cursed! What haven’t you told us? Why did God blind you? What did you do to deserve that?You accuse me? I accuse you!

Whew! Be careful when you argue, friends, because most of the time, the thing you are arguing about is not the true source of the argument. This argument is four years, at least, in the making. 

And so we are left with Anna’s angry words ringing in our ears. She issues a challenge that reverberates yet today—is the God formula really do good = blessings, do wrong = curse? It is certainly the foundation of the prosperity gospel—God WANTS to bless you, so how can you tap into that blessing stream? The, why do good things happen to bad people? Why do bad things happen to good people? 

How does Tobit answer Anna’s charge? We’ll see, next week, in chapter 3!

Blessings!

Pr Suellen


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