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Bible Commentaries

Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

- Tobit

by George Leo Haydock



This Book takes its name from the holy man Tobias, whose wonderful virtues are herein recorded. It contains most excellent documents of great piety, extraordinary patience, and of perfect resignation to the will of God. His humble prayer was heard, and the angel Raphael was sent to relieve him: he is thankful, and praises the Lord, calling on the children of Israel to do the same. Having lived to the age of one hundred and two years, he exhorts his son and grandsons to piety, foretells the destruction of Ninive, and the rebuilding of Jerusalem: he dies happily. (Challoner) --- The Jews themselves have a great regard for the book of Tobias; (Grotius; Sixtus Senens. viii.) which Origen (ad Afric.) says they "read in Hebrew," meaning probably the Chaldee, (Calmet) out of which language St. Jerome translated it, preferring to displease the Pharisaical Jews, rather than not to satisfy the desires of the holy bishops Chromatius and Heliodorus. (Ep. t. iii.) (Worthington) --- The Greek version seems to have been taken from another copy, or it has been executed with greater liberty by the Hellenist Jews, between the times of the Septuagint and of Theodotion. (Calmet) --- Huet and Prideaux esteem it more original; and Houbigant has translated it in his Bible, as the Council of Trent only spoke of the Latin editions then extant; and St. Jerome followed in his version the Hebrew one of a Jew, as he did not understand the Chaldee. (Haydock) --- The Syriac and the modern Hebrew edition of Fagius, agree mostly with the Greek, as that of Munster and another Hebrew copy of Huet, and the Arabic version, both unpublished, are more conformable to the Vulgate. The most ancient Latin version used before St. Jerome, was taken from the Greek; and the Fathers who lived in those ages, speak of it when they call the book of Tobias canonical. St. Augustine leaves it, however, to adopt St. Jerome's version, in his Mirrour. The copies of all these versions vary greatly, (Calmet) though the substance of the history is still the same; and in all we discover the virtues of a good parent, of a dutiful son, and virtuous husband, beautifully described. (Haydock) --- "The servant of God, holy Tobias, is given to us after the law for an example, that we might know how to practise what we read; and that if temptations assail us, we may not depart from the fear of God, nor expect help from any other." (St. Augustine, q. 119. ex utroque Test.) --- The four first chapters exhibit the holy life of old Tobias, and the eight following, the journey and affairs of his son, directed by Raphael. In the two last chapters they praise God, and the elder Tobias foretells the better state of the commonwealth. (Worthington) --- It is probable that both left records, from which this work has been compiled, with a few additional observations. It was written during (Calmet) or after the captivity of Babylon. (Estius) --- The Jews had then little communication with each other, in different kingdoms. Tobias was not allowed to go into Media, under Sennacherib; and it is probable that the captives at Babylon would be under similar restrictions; so that we do not need to wonder that they were unacquainted with this history of a private family, the records of which seem to have been kept at Ecbatana. The original Chaldee is entirely lost, so that it is impossible to ascertain whether the Greek or the Vulgate be more conformable to it. The chronology of the latter seems however more accurate, as the elder Tobias foretold the destruction of Ninive, twenty-three years before the event, which his son just beheld verified, dying in the 18th year of king Josias. The accounts which appear to sectaries to be fabulous, may easily be explained. (Houbigant) --- Josephus and Philo omit this history. (Calmet)