Observations on the Narrative and Formal Features of Tobit 4:3-19, 21

Prima facie, the compilation of instructions in Tobit 4 may seem disordered or unsystematic.27 Yet, like the Solomonic collections in Proverbs 10–29 that appear at first sight to have no rationale for the arrangement of the sayings, the collection of exhortations in chapter four of the Book of Tobit does display a semblance of coherence and it is governed by an internal logic. There is an underlying order that glues the sayings together. This section will analyze the formal and narrative featuresthat hint at the order and system of the collection of instructions in the said chapter.

Narratological Considerations

Narrative and Formal Features of Tobit
Book of Tobit

After a pointed quarrel with his wife Anna, which resulted in insulting the very foundations of his beliefs,28 Tobit becomes desperate. In extre-mis, he prays for God to deliver and grant him death, echoing the sen-timent of Sir 30:17 that death is preferable to a bitter life. Convinced that God has heard his prayer, and remembering the considerable sum of money on deposit with a cousin (a fact previously mentioned in Tob 1:14b but conveniently forgotten until now to allow Tobit’s wife to work), Tobit summons his son and gives him some sage advice the way David instructed Solomon before dying (cf. 1 Kgs 2:2-9). Tobit also acts like the father in the Book of Proverbs and thus receives a portrait of a sage.29 It is the existential situation of impending death that forms the background and impetus for the father’s admonitions.30

On the other hand, the departure of Tobias to get the money is as equally significant a narrative setting. With the use of the verb upodei,knumi 'to declare' in Tob 4:2 and 4:20, two references to Tobit's telling his son about the money intercalate the instructions. Conse-quently, the recovery of the money becomes a major motivation for the life-transforming but perilous journey of the young Tobias. This infor-mation about the money is linked to Tobit's prayer for death by the temporal reference evn th/| hme,ra| evkei,nh| ‘on that day’ in Tob 4:1, thereby forming a link between Tobit’s two relevant actions of remembering the money and praying for death, making them appear contempo-raneous.31

From a narrative point of view, the death of Tobit looms. To an ex-tent, it is beyond his control; its timing is uncertain but its inevitability is assured. The fear of impending death prompts Tobit to send his only son on a long and dangerous trip to recover the money, a crucial ar-rangement before Tobit’s time runs out. Both actions involve departure. The first action is a necessary narrative condition for the second. The second action, however, is more definite than the first. With the consequences of his possible death in mind, Tobit proffers specific and pragmatic instructions. With the journey of Tobias in view, he also gives a series of exhortations.32 Death and departure, two of

life’s paramount events, contextualize Tobit’s instructions.33 His direc-tions are proper to each circumstance. In this regard, the collection of instructions in Tobit 4 is a hybrid of testamentary34 and pedagogical exhortation, prescription and paraenesis. From a narrative perspective, the entire set of Tobit’s initial injunctions cannot be simply categorized under the single genre of a deathbed speech.35

Tob 4:3-4

As soon as the child lends him his ears, the first thing Tobit commands Tobias to do is to bury him properly since Tobit believes that his own death is imminent.36 Having been concerned with burial of the dead at the beginning of the story, it is not unexpected that Tobit should ask his son, in a manner that recalls Jacob’s final charge to his sons in Gen 49:29-32, to bury him where his ancestors are interred,37 and to give him and his wife proper burials after their deaths (cf. also 4 Macc 16:11). Foreseeing his passing after praying for it, he makes the necessary ar-rangements for his wife as well.

Imminent Death as Narrative Motive

Tobit gives Tobias two parallel admonitions regarding his mother [“honor her – do not abandon her”; “do what is pleasing to her – do not grieve her”] (cf. Tob 4:3-4). In a way, Tobit entrusts his wife to the care of his son, practically asking Tobias, the light of their eyes and the staff of their hands,38 to take care of his mother who, when widowed39 and old, will need his protection and patronage.40 Certainly this is in keep-ing with Tobit’s attitude since he himself has taken care of widows by giving a third tithe for their support (cf. Tob 1:8).

It is clear that these two exhortations of Tobit to his son in Tob 4:3-4 are specific to the narrative situation in which a father desires to take care of some important business before he departs from this world. His particular instructions are immediate to the circumstances of family life and love, speaking directly to the concerns and the context at hand, namely, his burial and the care of his wife after his death. These two instructions are immediately and clearly related to the impending death of Tobit.

These two injunctions are person and time-specific, i.e., they de-pend on the lifespan of Tobias’s parents. Once his parents are gone, the admonitions expire. Whereas the subsequent instructions are qualified by the phrase pa,saj ta.j hme,raj sou, the specific instruction regarding his filial duty to his mother is naturally limited to pa,saj ta.j hme,raj th/jzwh/j auvthj, ‘all the days of her life.’ This implies that Tobias is to enact the five verbs that Tobit employs in his admonition as long as his mother lives: to honor her, not to forsake her, to do what is pleasing to her, not to grieve her, and to remember her. Tobit’s command has a specific content or understanding: in Tobit’s absence, Tobias has to en-sure the provision of care for his mother in her old age.41 And when the time comes for the death of his parents, Tobias is to give them proper burial.42 Since the instructions are applicable only for a certain time, Rafael reprises neither of these instructions in Tob 12:6-10 but, logi-cally, Tobit as he lays dying, does refer to the duty of burial in his final instructions in Tob 14:10.

The Application of a Typical Sapiential Instruction

Although suited to this particular episode in the Tobit narrative, the admonition to honor one’s parents is nevertheless a common topos in wisdom literature. It is, of course, one of the Ten Commandments (cf. Exod 20:12; Deut 5:16; 27:16), which features prominently in the biblical sapiential corpus.43 The Book of Proverbs has a number of maxims on honoring father and mother (cf. Prov 19:26, 20:20; 23:22; 28:24, 30:17). After a series of sayings on fear of the Lord in the programmatic second chapter of Sirach, Ben Sira runs a string of sayings on filial duties towards parents in Sir 3:1-16, as if to indicate that the daily prac- tice of respect for parents concretely manifests fear of the Lord on the part of the disciples in search of wisdom.44 Tobit repeats the instruction on honoring a father and remembering a mother’s birth pangs in Sir 7:27-28, a piece of advice that echoes the reason for the counsel in Tob 4:4.

Respect for parents is also a prominent concern in sapiential texts of the ancient Near East. For instance, the Sumerian proverb collection The Instructions of Suruppak admonishes the son not to speak an arro-gant word to his mother, not to infringe on the rights of his parents and

to pay attention to the words of his father.45 In a Syriac version of the Story of Ahiqar, the son is ordered not to cause the curses of his parents to fall upon him.46 The demotic Instruction of Ankhsheshonqy, written as an instruction for his son by Ankhsheshonqy while in prison for secretly conniving against Pharaoh, contains a number of sayings re-garding the proper treatment of parents.47 The sixth chapter of the de-motic wisdom composition Instruction of Papyrus Insinger also deals with right behavior toward parents.48 The Egyptian sapiential Instruc-tion of Ani counsels the son to treat his mother well on account of the sacrifices she endured on his behalf, stating that “though thy filth was disgusting, her heart was not disgusted, saying: ‘What shall I do?’ … Do not give her cause to blame you, lest she raise her hands to God and he hears her cries.”49 The amplifying reason Tobit provides Tobias in his exhortation to treat his mother well in Tob 4:4 runs along the same lines.

In sapiential texts like 4Q416 2 iii 15-19 at Qumran, honor of par-ents is also greatly encouraged since it will lead to long life.50 Other Hellenistic Jewish writings equally commend filial duty to parents.51 Philo claims that impiety of act and word against parents deserves the penalty of death.52 For him, to dishonor parents is tantamount to disho-noring God, “for parents are the servants of God for the task of begetting children.”53 Josephus likewise enjoins upon his readers to honor their parents.54

These textual examples demonstrate that the author of Tobit ap-plied a common wisdom theme and instruction to a specific situation dictated by his narrative need. For Tobit, proper burial for parents and a son’s care for a widowed mother are concrete behaviors that show honor of parents. Consequently, honor of parents manifests the fear of the Lord (cf. Tob 4:21). Such familial concerns may also reflect, or be a window to, the social realities at the time of the book’s writing. Since these instructions in Tob 4:3-4 pertain and respond directly to the con-sequences of Tobit’s expected death, they perform a separate function from the rest of the instructions in Tobit 4.

Tob 4:5-19, 21

The subsequent instructions in Tob 4:5-19, 21 open with a sudden change in theme.55 They do not automatically flow from the immediate narrative context of imminent death. Indeed, Tobit could have easily given these instructions without death as a narrative motive. Like Ahiqar who prepares Nadab for the succession of office by wisdom instructions,56 Tobit prepares Tobias for his future journey by giving him the admonitions in Tob 4:5-19, 21. Here in Tob 4:5-19, 21, Tobit identifies and puts in flesh the training on righteousness he says he re-ceived from his grandmother Deborah (cf. Tob 1:8) and now hands the same to his son. In a way, Tobit ultimately prepares his son to succeed him as head of the household. Further, their formulation gives many of the exhortations a general character and applicability.

Education as a Narrative Motive

The temporal phrase pa,saj ta.j h`me,raj sou ‘all your days’ introduces the first instruction “remember the Lord and refuse to sin and transgress his commandments.” This time qualifier signals that this is not a rule of life to be enacted or fulfilled only once. Rather, the introductory phrase indicates that this is a universal principle for living that involves constant practice. It is a broad instruction to be heeded and embodied in certain actions and behavior over the course of a lifetime. Its practice is not specific to any context, nor does it depend on any condition ex-cept the life and days of Tobias whom Tobit, as father, is attempting to mold. Strictly speaking, the two admonitions in Tob 4:3-4 are Tobit’s last-minute commands to a son prompted by his situation, but the rest of the counsels can be considered Tobit’s way of teaching or educating his son on the paths that lead to a virtuous and successful life.57 In Tobit’s mind, these principles are the pearls of wisdom his son needs to treasure in order to find his bearing in the world and live his life in righteousness and truth. A lifetime of effort, not merely a certain period of it, has to ratify these sapiential exhortations. One can say that Tobit presents a program for life to Tobias as he ventures out of the homeland into the wide world.

While the first set of sayings is tied to the looming death of Tobit the father, the second set of instructions can easily be connected to the upcoming departure and long journey of Tobias the son. In the narra-tive world of Tobit, the voyage that follows Tobit’s admonitions takes on the significance of self-definition and development from adoles-cence into adulthood on the part of the young Tobias. Certainly, edu-cation by wisdom instructions is an essential preparation for entrance into the world of adults.58 With a character arc that spans eight chapters from Tobit 5–12, Tobias undergoes a rite of passage from a docile son into a responsible husband who returns to the homeland after his voyage to succeed his father in this veritable roman d’apprentisage.59 The quest of Tobias fits the pattern of legends: separation from the familiar into a region of supernatural wonder, initiation in which fabulous forces are encountered and victory is won, followed by a life-enhancing return, in which the hero has the power to bestow boons on his fellow human beings.60 Whereas the first group of Tobit’s instructions is a mat-ter of setting up pragmatic arrangements via the application of a com-mon sapiential theme, the latter series of sayings is more a matter of education and character construction.61

Proverbial Instruction as a Pedagogical Method

In the ancient world, the use of proverbs was a pedagogical means by which certain values were fostered and proper breeding was culti-vated.62 Copying out or reciting proverbs was a way of initiating the student into “the moral consensus of the community.”63 Like Ahiqar who teaches his nephew through proverbial instruction so that he can be wise and capable of succeeding him in court, Tobit employs the pro-verbial tradition as the medium of education for Tobias so that Tobias can assume the responsibilities of being a father of a family.

Tobit is of course teaching his son in the same way that his grand-mother Deborah taught him when he was orphaned (cf. Tob 1:8).64 Tobit thus transmits to his son Tobias his ‘philosophy of life’ forged from his own and his ancestors’ experiences.65 After all, the collection of sapiential sayings is predominantly a series of advice on how to com-port oneself and behave toward God and one’s neighbor, all essential aspects of adult life. In particular, Tobit’s charge to Tobias to develop the discipline of caring about other people and to sacrifice and engage in selfless service for them is an indispensable component of adult-hood. As material for instruction, the collection is intended to function as Tobias’s built-in compass in a disordered world of exilic living, a set of practical advice on how to navigate the highways and byways of life away from home. With money and instructions, Tobit is in effect leav-ing his son both a financial and a sapiential legacy. Truth and justice become Tobias’s inheritance.

Before his death, Tobit gathers Tobias and his grandchildren and addresses them in Tobit 14.66 One can imagine, however, that the au-thor, in a feat of narrative bravura, is also daring to address his au-dience. It is as if Tobit is looking over Tobias’s shoulders, and those of his grandchildren, and is addressing his readers with admonitions before going to his grave, desiring to hand on the wisdom of his expe-rience and the traditions of the past as a guide for pious living. Tobit wills his philosophy and program of life to future generations of read-ers who presumably will replicate and continue his own values,67 the observance of which leads to a happy outcome, as Tobit’s life shows.

Imperatives and Vetitives

One immediately notices that the sapiential instructions of Tobit are not indicative sayings or proverbial statements typical of older collections of materials such as those found in Proverbs 10–22, 25–29.68 An essential element of Tobit’s advice is the imperative. Except for the typical sapiential image ‘the way,’ the statements in Tobit 4 are generally devoid of powerful imagery or use of metaphoric language. Like most sentences in the instruction genre, Tobit’s counsels are direct and plain because their primary purpose is to avoid ambiguity and communicate with authority.69

Tobit’s instructions are hortatory, expressed as positive exhorta-tions and negative injunctions, admonitions and prohibitions. The prohibition typically utilizes the negative particle mh,, followed by an aorist subjunctive verb in the second person singular when it is directly addressed to Tobias except in three instances when it precedes an aorist jussive or an imperative third person as found in Tob 4:14a, “let not the pay be delayed,” 15b “let not evil accompany you,” and 16c “let not your eye be envious when giving.” Put differently, the vetitive ‘do not’ with a subsequent verb expresses such precepts. It is therefore a negated admonition, or a negative command.

An admonition balances the prohibition. This creates an antithetical sentence structure, or more accurately, a ‘positive-negative’ parallelism between two instructions.70 Since the admonitions are addressed to his son, they normally employ verbs in the present imperative active second person singular.71 Although they enjoy an authority of their own, these admonitions and prohibitions do not operate as apodictic laws or direct commandments do.72 Hence, the antithetical parallel be-tween the admonition and the prohibition is usually followed by an amplifying reason that persuades, motivates and justifies. The subordi-nate conjunction dio,ti meaning ‘because’ frequently introduces this motive clause.

To illustrate, Tob 4:8 exhorts Tobias to give alms in proportion to what he has. This is paralleled by a negative injunction “do not be afraid to give alms,” followed by two justifications, namely, “for you are storing up a good treasure for yourself against the day of necessity” and “because almsgiving saves you from death and keeps you from going into the darkness.” These instructions generally observe a tripar-tite pattern: they consist of an imperative and a vetitive which normally form a positive-negative parallelism, followed by motivating explana-tions.73

The binary statements expressed in terms of admonitions and pro-hibitions reflect the dichotomy often found in sapiential literature. This penchant for polarities articulated in the wisdom idiom of the two ways is a teaching device that aids in telling apart the paths of the fool and the wise, the wicked and the righteous. The antithetical statements inculcate the lesson that the wise will succeed but the foolish will pe-rish. The imagery of the two ways was common to both Jewish and early Christian instructions.74 It is employed in Proverbs (cf. Prov 9:1-18; 10:5, 20-32; 11:5-6; 12:2-7; 14:22), the Psalms (cf. Ps 1; 53:2-6; 92:6-16) and the Book of Sirach (cf. Sir 6:18-22; 20:1-20; 21:11-25) as well as in an-cient Egyptian didactic literature.75 Moses, speaking like a true sage, presents the law in Deuteronomy in the context of the two ways. As a guide for correct choice and decision, Moses tells the people that obedience to the law leads to life and prosperity while disobedience to death and adversity (cf. Deut 28:1-68; 30:15-16). It is also evident that the exhortations of Tobit utilize the language of the two ways: Tobit tells his son in Tob 4:5b, “do not walk in the ways of unrighteousness, for those who do what is true shall prosper.” This language of oppo-sites finds its syntactical expression in the imperatives and the veti-tives, the do’s and don’ts, of Tobit’s instructions.

There is, however, a set of instructions in Tobit 4 that do not follow this literary pattern, namely Tob 4:14b-18. Although these verses con-tinue to employ antithetical statements, Tob 4:14b-18 is nonetheless a group of concise admonitions and prohibitions without justificatory explanations.76 They are composed as a monostich or a single-line pre-cept which is said to be a characteristic of Hellenistic sayings.77 These pithy adages that include the ‘Silver Rule’ may have been part of pop-ular international proverbial wisdom. Accordingly, Tobit 4 can be cate-gorized under two general headings: those admonitions and prohibi-tions that include amplifying reasons (Tob 4:5-14a, 19) and those that omit them (Tob 4:14b-18).

Suggested Structure

If Tobit indeed possesses a discernible narrative design, then the ele-ments that constitute the story can be assumed as products of careful thought and selection. Furthermore, if the author of Tobit originally incorporated instructions from various sources into his narrative, then his choices of proverbial exhortations would not have been haphazard, without rhyme or reason. Rather, some sort of rational ordering would have dictated the author’s pick of what to include. The author would have arranged them in a way that coheres or makes sense. Moreover, the culture of ancient Near East considers good formulation and rea-sonable ordering of speech as expression of wisdom.78 If this is the case, then it is misleading to assert that the instructions are an unsystematic series of exhortations.79 Rather, there has to be an underlying order or a perceptible structure in the author’s list or compilation of the different instructions. Any explanation of the order of the exhortations and the admonitions obviously has to account for the presence of each state-ment.

In his monumental study of Tobit, Deselaers has identified a concentric structure in the instructions of Tobit 4 based on formal and thematic parallelisms among the exhortations. According to him, there are four parallelisms on the practice of righteousness, two parallelisms on the theme of endogamy, two parallelisms on the theme of love of neighbor, and four parallelisms on the theme of education. In order to have four parallelisms on the theme of righteousness, he groups vv. 9 and 11 together as the fourth instance. Also, the two parallelisms on endogamy and love of kinsmen are not limited to the instructions alone but extend to the justification of the instructions. Finally, Tob 4:16 con-stitutes two of the four parallelisms on the theme of education. The parallelisms create a chiasm. He gives the following schema:80


A: Opening 4:5a All your days, my child, remember the
Lord your God and do not wish to sin
or transgress his commandments.

4:5b    Perform righteousness all the days of
    your life and do not walk in the ways
    of wrongdoing.
4:7a    Give alms from your possessions and
    do not let your eye begrudge the gift   

B: Four Parallel when making it.
Instructions on the 4:8 If you have many possessions, give
Practice of
alms proportionately; if few, do not be
afraid to give alms according to the

    little you have.
4:9,11  A good treasure you will lay up for
    yourself on the day of necessity. An
    excellent offering before the Most High
    is almsgiving for all those who practice.
4:12a   Guard yourself, son, against every kind 

C: Two Parallel of porneia and take a wife from the seed
Instructions on the of your fathers
Theme of Do not marry a foreign woman who is
Endogamy not from the tribe of your fathers, for
we are sons of prophets.

4:13    Love your brothers and in your heart
    do not behave arrogantly toward your    

C’: Two Parallel brothers and the sons and daughters of
Instructions on your people by not taking for yourself a
Love of Neighbor wife from them.
For in arrogance there is destruction
and great disorder.

4:14b   Watch yourself, son, in everything that
    you do and be disciplined and   

B’: Four Parallel educated in all of your conduct.
4:16a From your bread, give some to the
Instructions on the
hungry and from your clothing, give
Theme of Educa-
some to the naked.
4:16b That which is surplus to you, give as

    alms and do not let your eye begrudge
    your giving of alms.    
4:19a   At all times, bless the Lord your God
    and from him, ask that your ways be

A’: Closing 4:19c And now my son, remember my com-
mandments and do not erase them
from your heart.

There are at least three reasons why the proposed chiastic structure is suspect.81 First, it has to be remembered that Deselaers has based this structure on GI. Generally speaking, GII via MS 319 agrees with GI. There are, however, certain formulations in GII that might change the nature of some of the parallelisms he has identified. For example, Tob 4:7a is parallel in GI but not in GII because the second line mh. fqonesa,tw sou o` ovfqalmoj. evn tw/| poiei/n se evlehmosu,nhn “do not let your eye be-grudge your giving of alms” is found only much later in Tob 4:16b in the GII recension. Likewise, the absence of the word avdelfo,j in Tob 4:13b in GII puts into doubt the strict parallelism between the two instructions on love of brother/neighbor. In fact, the parallelism is not quite clear unless one includes the amplifying reason for the injunction. The parallelisms found in the abridged GI may not necessarily apply to the collection as may have been originally preserved in GII.

Second, the chiastic pattern of the collection gives particular em-phasis to the theme of endogamy and love of neighbor, as both themes take center stage. As Deselaers admits, Tob 4:12a-13 forms the kernel of the instructions82. It is certainly true that the main plot of Tobit pivots on the wedding of Tobias and Sarah. However, endogamy is arguably not the central lesson of the narrative.83 It is simply one of the teachings in the book. In fact, one can even make a case that doing deeds of mercy and acts of righteousness is the encompassing focus of Tobit84 and endogamy is simply a concrete instance of righteousness. As Tobit catches his dying breath, he is still hammering home the redeeming value of such acts.

A final reason for the dissatisfaction with Deselaers’s chiastic struc-ture for Tobit 4 is the disregard for the integrity of the text. For in-stance, the instruction on moderate wine drinking in GI Tob 4:15b as well as the strange instruction “make an offering of bread and wine on the grave of the righteous” are not accounted for in this schema. The supposed parallelism also does not capture the instruction on the worker’s wages (cf. Tob 4:14a). In fairness, Deselaers has argued that the core story of the book of Tobit underwent three stages of literary development. But it is precisely for this reason that the problem arises – he can rearrange the text in order to come up with parallels or dismiss and exclude other statements that do not fit his universe of parallelism as redactional elements that disrupt the system and cohesion of the collection.85 If indeed there is some pattern to the collection of sayings in Tobit 4 as we have it, the integrity of the text has to be respected and taken into full account.

Engel has proposed a structure that uses GII and deals with the text as it is. Unlike Deselaers, Engel includes Tobit’s burial instructions as well as the exhortation to Tobias to honor his mother as part of his schema. He considers the entire section as Tobit’s testament, which functions as the opening bracket of the chiastic structure of the narra-tive with Tobit’s canticle of praise in Tob 13 as the enclosing bracket. Although Engel does not make a strict distinction between farewell discourse and sapiential exhortations, he nonetheless considers Tob 4:3-19, 21 a key text in the narrative. Thus, Engel proposes the fol-lowing structure:86


4:3-19 – The Testament and Instructions of Tobit to his son Tobias

4:3d-487 Instructions regarding Parents

4:5-6a *Instructions regarding God: to do righteousness and avoid unrighteousness

Observations on the Narrative and Formal Features of Tob 4:3-19, 21 71

4:6b-16 Mercy/Almsgiving/Love of Neighbor as Actualization of
Righteousness: 6b-11, 12-13, 14a, c, d, 15a, b, 16

4:17-18 Other Exhortations: to show solidarity with the bereaved and
to seek good counsel (which ultimately comes from God)

4:19 *Instructions regarding God: Praise the Lord, your God, at all

Tobit’s long speeches in Tobit 4 and 13 enclose the central section. The long wisdom lecture is in turn framed by references to the money entrusted to a cousin in Tob 4:1-2 and in Tob 4:20-21. The structure that Engel lays out for Tobit’s first lengthy address has the merit of de-lineating the theocentric aspect of the instructions, while the other-directed instructions of vv. 6b-16 take the central focus. An inclusio of exhortations regarding duty towards God delimits the collection. With the heavy concentration of instructions regarding almsgiving located in between, the righteous relationship with one’s neighbor is subsumed under one’s righteous relationship with God. In other words, the struc-ture immediately makes evident that proper relationship with God manifests itself in acts of compassion and righteousness toward one’s neighbors. The schema shows that the summa of the instructions lies in the performance of service to God and others.

It is clear that the pivot of the structure Engel has proposed re-volves around the notions of truth, almsgiving and righteousness – concepts that are first found in the introductory verses of the narrative (cf. Tob 1:3). In fact, the structure is chiefly thematic in that Tobit 4 is the development of these three principal notions, with the attitude of evlehmosu,nh as the exemplary and reliable way of righteousness. The structure shows that Tobit’s instructions are primarily the Verwirk-lichungen or the concrete realizations of righteousness.88

While this structure clearly demonstrates the themes or concerns that give some sort of coherence to the set of instructions, it does not really capture the specificity of the instructions and the logical flow of the enumeration. It does not show how or why these instructions are in fact the Verwirklichungen of righteousness. It does not point out which particular instructions are concrete and which are general. If there is some kind of logic or cohesion to the plethora of exhortations, the above schema does not exhibit it. Moreover, Tob 4:17-18 seems to be

out of place in this structure. The above ordering makes these couple of exhortations appear as if they were mere insertions that failed to take into account the counsels before and after them. If theme is determina-tive of the structure, these two instructions appear to be the odd-man out. In this structure, it is hard to make heads or tails of these two ex-hortations.

Some indicators do show that there is an über-instruction, the ground of all the exhortations, from which the rest of the instructions proceed. The exhortations flow from the general to the concrete. There are three general instructions and each general exhortation is realized by injunctions to specific behavior or attitude. To conclude his instruc-tions, Tobit reminds Tobias to remember and keep the commandments in his heart, to fear God, to avoid sin and to do what is good before God, thus echoing his universal principle at the end. In this regard, the following structure is proposed, with the justification for the structure given afterwards.


4:3-4 Specific instructions on proper burial and honor of mother


4:5a All your days, remember the Lord and be unwilling to sin
and transgress his commandments.

    General Instruction Proper I
    Practice Righteousness always!

4:5b-6 All your days, do righteousness and do not walk in the
paths of unrighteousness, because those who practice truth
will prosper in their works.

Concrete behavior that displays the practice of righteousness

4:7-11 Injunctions on almsgiving/works of compassion

4:12-14b Injunctions against porneia and on love and proper treatment of neighbor

General Instruction Proper II

Be disciplined in all your conduct!

4:14c-15 In all your deeds, control yourself, and in all your conduct, be disciplined, and what you hate, may you do not do to anyone, and let not evil accompany you on your way.

Observations on the Narrative and Formal Features of Tob 4:3-19, 21 73
Concrete behavior that exhibits discipline and control  

4:16 Injunctions on good behavior towards the needy

4:17-18 Injunction on keeping wise counsel

General Instruction Proper III

Bless the Lord at all times!

4:19a In every occasion, praise the Lord, your God.

Concrete behavior that shows praise of God

4:19b From the Lord, ask that your roads and paths be straight and your plans prosper.

4:19c [Seek the counsel of God] for every nation does not have good counsel, God will give good counsel to them. The Lord raises whom he wishes and humbles whom he wishes to the lower part of Hades.

Summing Up

4:19d, 21 Remember these commandments and do not let them be erased from your heart.

Fear not that we have become poor; good things will belong to you if you fear God, flee from all sin, and do that which is good before the Lord.

One notices immediately that the concluding parallel instruction in verse 19d refers not only to the preceding instructions but also to the so-called universal principle, thereby forming an inclusio. This inclusio, however, does not create a chiastic structure, but simply delimits the collection of ethical exhortations.89 For didactic purposes, Tobit alludes to his universal instruction as he concludes his series of admonitions and rounds it off with a wisdom call to fear God, a principle that is generally equivalent to the observance of God’s law including honor of parents, and the practice of justice and truth.90 Most importantly, there are three major realizations of the universal principle, which can be called General Teaching Proper. They speak of duty towards God, duty towards neighbor, and duty towards the self. Admittedly, phrasing it in this manner may make it appear that the duties are clearly demarcated from each other. This can be misleading since a deep religiosity pervades all the instructions as indicated by Tobit’s first ex-hortation to remember God. It has to be noted at the outset that underpinning Tobit’s exhortations is a profound religious devotion. In turn, this trifecta of general teachings finds concrete manifestations and specific expressions in the behaviors that Tobit admonishes his son to engage in. At the end of the chapter, Tobit concisely reiterates the foundation of his beliefs.

The Lex generalis

In his commentary on Proverbs, Leo G. Perdue observes that moral in-structions customarily follow a general literary pattern. The father-son address introduces the teaching proper, which is then followed by other admonitions that are oftentimes coupled with justifications or explanatory clauses that may express cause, consequence, condition, motive or purpose. The exhortations are concluded by a teaching that summarizes, or an inclusion that refers back to the initial admonition.91 One detects a similar literary structure in Tob 4:3-19, 21.

As noted above, Tobit the father continues to address his son after taking care of immediate business. In Tob 4:5a, the deeply pious Tobit predictably opens his sapiential instructions with a positive admonition pa,saj ta.j h`me,raj sou paidi,on tou/ kuri,ou mnhmo,neue “child, remember the Lord all your days.”92 This is paralleled by a negative precept in which Tobit urges his son to refuse to sin and break the Lord’s commandments. Central to Tobit 4, Tobit specifies what the verb ‘to remember’ exactly entails by enumerating very practical ad-monitions.93 The verb mimnh,skomai and its cognate mnhmoneu,ew translate the Hebrew rkz ‘to remember,’94 which is a verb that conveys a dis-tinctively Hebrew category95 and a word that is employed so heavily in Deuteronomy to the extent that a ‘theology of remembering’ can be drawn from the book.96

This is why Tobit’s admonition quickly calls to mind the deutero-nomic injunction not to forget the Lord by neglecting his precepts (Deut 4:9; 6:12; 8:11, 19). In fact, in addition to this opening instruction, the act of remembering is paired with the observance of God’s laws in other places in Tobit. In the first person narrative, Tobit claims that he refrained from eating the food of Gentiles while others were doing it because he remembered the Lord with all his heart (cf. Tob 1:12). He reminds Tobias to remember the example of his forefathers when it comes to marriage (cf. Tob 4:12b). In Tobit’s desperate prayer in Tob 3:3-4, he implores the Lord to remember him and not to punish him for his and his ancestors’ sins because he did not observe God’s com-mandments. Just as Tobit asks in prayer that God remember and look favorably upon him although he has failed to heed his laws, so now Tobit instructs his son to remember God and refuse the sin of violating God’s decrees. It seems that the narrator of Tobit has carefully read and learned the theological import of remembering from Deuteronomy.97 Remembering in Tobit is a consequential verb, a verb that demands doing more than the action it signifies.

With the proverbial phrase pa,saj ta.j h`me,raj sou introducing and qualifying this initial exhortation, the instruction of Tob 4:5a is given a wide-ranging character. As the very first precept, it functions as the central concern and focuses the succeeding instructions. Therefore this instruction can be viewed as a summary, the summit, even, of all the instructions that Tobit gives in his sapiential discourse. In light of this, remembrance of the Lord and observance of his commandments serves as the universal teaching, the general principle or rule of life, the fun-damental advice, the Grundlage of the entire set of instructions.98

The verb mnhmoneu,ew also figures prominently in Tobit’s farewell speech in Tobit 14. Tobit predicts in Tob 14:7 that all the sons of Israel, ‘who are saved in those days,’ and ‘who remember God faithfully,’ will be gathered and will come to Jerusalem.99 Later, when Tobit gives his final instructions, he gives his son and grandchildren a series of commands: to serve God faithfully, to do what is pleasing in his sight, to do what is right, and to give alms. This series of instructions culmi-nates in his command to keep God in mind and to bless God’s name at all times with sincerity and with all their might (cf. Tob 14:9). Defi-nitely, remembering or being mindful of God is a vital element in Tobit’s worldview.

In Tob 12:6-10, the exhortation to remember God is not as directly declared as in the other two pericopes. After calling Tobit and Tobias in private, the archangel Rafael commends them to bless God and to ac-knowledge before people of good will that which God has done for them. The verbs euvloge,w ‘to praise, extol, bless’ and evxomologe,w ‘to con-fess, acknowledge’ dominate the action of Rafael’s instructions, with the latter verb used four times in just two verses, Tob 12:6-7. This is further reinforced by two other verbs in the same verses, which have synonymous meanings, namely u`podei,knumi ‘to show, declare’ and avnakalu,ptw ‘to uncover, unveil.’ Thus, the first section of Rafael’s ad-monition concentrates on extolling God and acknowledging his works. Undoubtedly, the instruction to acknowledge God and his works al-lows an unambiguous association with the principal instruction to re-member God in Tob 4:5a. This act of remembering God is in fact con-cretized in writing a book (cf. Tob 12:20).

Biblically speaking, to acknowledge the past deeds and marvels of God is to keep God actively at the forefront of one’s memory; to re-member God’s saving deeds is equivalent to a call to praise (cf. 1 Chron 16:8-12; Ps 105:5). The remembrance of past events of God’s redeeming works in Israel’s history is not simply a mental recall or a means to re-live the past. Rather, memory provides the link to the past, and through remembrance, the present generation encounters the divine commandments as a saving event, which when obeyed, allows them to share in their ancestors’ experience of redemption. In the lament Psalms that speak of exile such as Psalm 42 and 137, the believer, with- out the traditional recourse to God, feels strongly his separation from God and encounters God through the means of memory. The act of re-membering becomes an act of grasping after the divine reality behind Israel’s salvation history, ultimately an act of prayer to God.100 With remembrance as a principal instruction, it seems that the exiled Tobit also relies upon the medium of memory to encounter God.

In Tobit’s perspective, remembrance is intimately connected with right action and proper conduct. For instance, when Tobit admonishes his son to honor his mother, he tells Tobias to remember the many things his mother has experienced on his behalf. When he directs his son to take a wife from his kinsmen, he reminds Tobias that his fore-fathers took one of their own for a wife. In Tob 6:16, Rafael pacifies the fear that could inhibit Tobias from acting properly towards Sarah by telling him to remember the words of his father about taking a wife from among his family. Hence, just as the occasion for the instruction is provoked by remembering the money in Rages, so Tobit’s exhortations themselves employ the act of remembering as motivation for proper action and behavior.

The collection of admonitions is based on the logic of remembering: Remember this, therefore do this, or, do not do that. Remembrance, which facilitates the encounter with God in the present, entails a certain course of action, for “the awareness of God’s presence forms the foun-dation for discerning and doing what is good.”101 In the act of remembering, that which is recalled becomes a current and persistent reality which in turn directs the will of the person accordingly.

From a Jewish frame of mind, thought and action are not separate events but form part of one totality. For instance, in Num 15:39, when an Israelite sees the tassels on his garments, he remembers that they are associated with God’s law. That which is remembered obliges him to act thus.102 No wonder Moses takes pains in Deuteronomy to remind the people not to forget the Lord God by neglecting his commandments and decrees (cf. Deut 8:11, 14, 18). From a biblical perspective, remembering determines the conduct of the person who remembers.103 To keep God constantly before one’s eyes determines one’s life, for it means seeking the divine presence vigorously in one’s life and doing faithfully what such a presence requires. Hence, forgetfulness of God leads to wickedness that deserves Sheol (cf. Ps 9:18).

Another aspect of biblical remembering pertains to “present reali-ties that have a formative character for existence.”104 Since remembering is both a memory and an event, thought and volition at the same time, it is usually ‘a dynamic phenomenon’ that transforms the situation of the believer.105 Not only is keeping God in mind primarily determinative of Tobias’s conduct, but it also forms and transforms his character and person. To observe the instruction to remember God will therefore redound to his overall growth and maturity as a pious person. In this regard, the deuteronomic idea of remembering the Lord is the über-instruction, the central and significant value from which the other sayings flow. Tob 4:7-19 expounds and develops the Lex generalis, that is, what it really means to remember the Lord and to follow the will of God through his commandments.106

Three major sapiential exhortations proceed from the universal instruction. The first is the exhortation to do righteous acts and not to tread the paths of unrighteousness in Tob 4:5b-6, the second is the instruction to control and discipline oneself in Tob 4:14c-15, and the third is the admonition to ask and bless the Lord in Tob 4:19a-c. A generalizing expression introduces or qualifies all these admonitions. In the case of the first, pa,saj ta.j h`me,raj th/j zwh/j sou ‘all your days’ is employed. The second is qualified by evn pa/si toi/j e;rgoij sou ‘in all your deeds’ and evn pa,sh| avnastrofh/| sou ‘in all your conduct.’ The final major admonition uses the phrase evn panti. kairw/| ‘in every occasion.’ These indicators mean that these instructions have an encompassing or general character, waiting to be specified. Not only do these ethical precepts leave enough room for concretization, they also require the practice of constancy.

Furthermore, these three cardinal instructions make use of the metaphor odo,j and the related verbal action of walking. The word odo,j translates the Hebrew word $rd which is a frequent and prominent sapiential image in the father’s instruction in Proverbs 1–9 (cf. Prov 1:15; 2:7-8, 13, 20; 3:6, 17; 4:11, 14, 18-19; 5:6; 6:23; 7:25; 8:20, 34).107 The Book of Proverbs in fact elaborates this foundational metaphor of ‘path’ to envisage ethical behavior (cf. Prov 16:25). Accordingly, Tob 4:5b warns Tobias not to tread the paths of unrighteousness. Tob 4:15 exhorts the son not to allow evil to accompany him on the way. Tob 4:19 tells the son to ask from the Lord that his roads be straight. Con-sidering that Tobias is about to go on his way to recover the money, it is to be expected that this metaphor will be referred to and exploited in the instructions, especially in its major exhortations. With the biblical use of ‘path’ as metaphor for commandments in mind (cf. Exod 18:20; Deut 8:6; Ps 1:1, 6; 27:11), Tobit offers his general precepts as prescribing paths to be followed through Tobias’s journey in life. Remembering the Lord and observing his commandments, as the psalmist says, is a surety for a straight path every step of the way (cf. Ps 119:128). In another place, he prays, “teach me Lord your way that I may walk in your truth” (Ps 86:11). Through these instructions, Tobit teaches his son how to walk in the ways of the Lord, the ways of truth and righteousness.

The first (Tob 4:4b-6) and last (Tob 4:19) major general exhortations employ the verb euvodo,w, literally ‘to lead along on a good path’ or ‘to guide well,’ and figuratively, ‘to prosper, succeed.’108 The second (Tob 4:14c-15) does not explicitly state but it does assume it. With the claim that those who walk in the paths of righteousness and practice truth will prosper when they ask God, as indicated in the instructions in Tob 4:5b-6 and 19, one can infer that those who are disciplined or instructed in the ways of the Lord and do not let evil accompany their ways will also experience the same guidance and reward of success from the Lord. The three instructions reaffirm the deuteronomic idea that good conduct which comes from remembering the Lord and his laws is rewarded with success and prosperity in life. Tobit supplies a deu-teronomic motive for the deuteronomic command to be mindful of God: those who remember God will reap the rewards of God’s remembrance. To use deuteronomic language, God will not hide his face away from Tobias if Tobias keeps God before his eyes. As a consequence, he will experience heavenly guidance and favors instead of troubles (cf. Deut 31:16-21).

It is not completely surprising to find three instances of the univer-sal principle. Three, a biblical number commonly associated with sa-cred matters, suggests the idea of completeness, with a beginning, middle and an end.109 In the narrative world of Tobit, the significance of the number three cannot be underestimated. There are three couples, namely Tobit and Anna, Raguel and Edna, Tobias and Sarah; three members of each family, father, mother, child; three sets of major in-structions, three tithes, three instances when Anna uses the phrase to . paidi,on mou ‘my child’ (Tob 5:18; 10:4, 7) to describe Tobias,110 three in-stances when Tobit employs the term of endearment avdelfh, ‘sister’ to refer to Anna (Tob 5:22; 10:6), and three references to the salvific value of evlehmosu,nh (cf. Tob 4:10; 12:9; 14:11). In the scheme of Tobit, the three general teachings proper invoke complete and wholehearted remem-brance of the Lord in a home away from home. These three exhorta-tions make for a pious man.

Practice Righteousness Always

The exhortation in Tob 4:5a provides the unifying principle for the individual instructions. This universal principle finds three realiza-tions. These, in turn, find further concrete instances in terms of specific advice as to what particular behavior, in Tobit’s view, corresponds to his general teachings. First, the parallel instruction “do righteousness all the days of your life and do not tread in the ways of unrighteous-ness” immediately follows the universal teaching. By virtue of their contiguity, one cannot but immediately perceive a connection between the two instructions. With the qualifying temporal phrase pa,saj ta.j h`me,raj th/j zwh/j sou and with the symmetrical arrangement of the say-ings, one discerns that the positive admonition “keep the Lord in mind” is equivalent to the instruction “do righteousness” while the

prohibition “refuse to sin and violate God’s commands” corresponds to the instruction “do not walk in the ways of unrighteousness.” This cor-respondence signifies that to remember God involves righteous or ethi-cal behavior on the part of Tobias.111 The practice of righteousness then is a form of remembering God while traversing the paths of unright-eousness presupposes transgression of God’s decrees, or as Tobit puts it, a form of sin.

The way of righteousness is, of course, the way of the Lord (cf. Gen 18:19); it is first a divine quality and second a divinely-ordered conduct for those in relationship with God (cf. Isa 26:9-10).112 Righteousness or dikaiosu,nh corresponds to the Hebrew hqdc which is first and foremost a relational concept. A person who is righteous fulfills the stipulations involved in belonging to a community. In other words, the fulfillment of the specific demands made upon a person who enjoys a relationship with a community constitutes righteousness.113 The demeanor and comportment proper to the order in all areas of life borne of this relationship is righteousness.114 These behaviors that comprise hqdc are demanded of the covenant partners. In short, righteousness is the basis of relationships.

God’s covenant and his torah express God’s saving actions. God’s salvific word and works are righteous because they fulfill the demands of the relationship between Him and his people (cf. Isa 45:19). His saving interventions produce well-being, for they are always directed to the wholeness of the community and the creation of an ideal righteous society. God gets involved on behalf of his people; his decisions and judgments liberate and restore the oppressed and the needy. God shows his own benevolent justice by giving human beings his law, and the analogous human righteousness consists in behaving and creating a lifestyle that accords with his precepts (cf. Prov 31:9; Isa 51:7),115 albeit never simply in a legalistic way. Righteousness goes beyond the bounds of the legal process, thoroughly embracing all areas of communal life in a way that a person’s words and deeds are fully directed to showing that one truly aspires to the lofty ideal of “loving your neighbor as yourself” (cf. Lev 19:18).

In light of God’s present actions and interventions, which are intended to right the wrong or to re-establish right order where injustice seems to prevail, righteousness implies the fulfillment of de-mands proper to keeping a just and well-ordered community. When the person imitates and mirrors divine action and fulfills the demands of such a relationship by fidelity to God’s law, a member of the covenant community is righteous. Such behavior consequently pre-serves the just order, upholds that which is morally right, and enhances the well-being of the community (cf. Isa 1:21-23). Anyone who desires to live as a member of the community has no other choice than to participate in making sure that a just or properly ordered community is created.116 Ultimately, the righteousness of a person does not consist in moral blamelessness but in the given capacity to do good, and in faith in God with whom a person has a relationship, a God in whom to hope, trust, and seek refuge. On the other hand, the evildoer is evil primarily because he/she destroys the community by failing to meet the demands of communal relationship or by a willful neglect of building a righteous community.117

Understandably, the Old Testament notion of righteousness is significant for Tobit. Tobit opens his narrative with the grand statement that he has walked the paths of righteousness all his days (Tob 1:3a). It is not only Tobit who describes himself as righteous but others who know him also recognize him as righteous (Tob 7:7; 9:6). Part of his righteousness is his imitation of the ways or the righteousness of God, who is naturally disposed to care and provide for the poor.118 Tobit actually specifies his so-called path of righteousness as performance of many charitable works for his poor kinsmen (cf. Tob 1:3b). Corre-spondingly, the ensuing instructions on almsgiving in Tob 4:7-11 specify and concretize the practice of active righteousness.119 In fact, hqdc is evlehmosu,nh or almsgiving or charity and material kindness to the downtrodden in Tobit.120 When Tobit exhorts Tobias to practice dikaiosu,nh all the days of his life, he reminds his son of the deuteronomic injunction not to harden his heart or close his hand to a person in need (cf. Deut 15:7). Hence, in the midst of exile, Tobit performs deeds of charity or evlehmosu,nh121 including feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and burying the dead (cf. Tob 1:17; 2:7).122 Tobit instructs his son to do the same for the good of the community as he exhorts him to offer evlehmosu,nh to the righteous of his people,123 echoing a similar sentiment in Sir 12:1-4. For Tobit, the performance of evlehmosu,nh is a practical expression and observance of God’s will (cf. Tob 14:7) and a concrete instance of hqdc (cf. Tob 14:11).124 Tobit may therefore be a further witness to a concretization of dikaiosu,nh or righteousness when he specifies it as evlehmosu,nh or almsgiving.

Further, to walk in righteousness means avoidance of pornei,a or unlawful sexual behaviors (cf. Tob 4:12-13) particularly identified as intermarriage or exogamous relations.125 Endogamy is the appropriate marital behavior that pleases God; it accords with God’s statutes and is thus a righteous practice. As a didactic technique of reminding his son, Tobit mentions the example of his ancestors, the righteous patriarchs, as worthy of emulation. Tobit’s instruction is his version of the longer and more literary instruction of the father against the strange woman in Prov 5:1-23; 6:20–7:27; 9:13-18 as well as in Prov 2:16-19, a warning against illicit sex, a typical wisdom topos.126 If Tobias obeys the rule on endogamy, defined as marriage within a defined group, he will display not arrogance but love of his kinsmen. If he disdains his kinsmen and marries from outside the family,127 his arrogance will result in disorder, loss, instability and poverty. Indeed, marriage within the family provides economic security because it prevents the inevitable hemor-rhage of property to foreign families. Moreover, Tobias will show his fidelity to God and avoid the possibility of apostasy, as some of his forefathers had done, if he marries a kinswoman.128 This faithful and righteous act of endogamous marriage leads to blessings of prosperity and security, as his marriage to Sarah shows in the end.

Finally, righteous behavior also entails paying the worker without delay, a sort of largesse on the part of the employer that is in keeping with Tobit’s idea of almsgiving, and a rule of conduct that is found in the Holiness Code in Lev 19:13. To pay wages on time is to do justice. In fact, to withhold a worker’s compensation can be a way of afflicting the poor (cf. Ps-Phoc 19). Immediate payment of a worker’s salary is not only a sign of generosity of spirit but also a concrete instance of love of neighbor.129 At any rate, the pursuit of endogamy and the emphases on generosity, kindness, mercy and compassion codified in almsgiving towards the righteous poor of the community imply that Tobit’s notion of righteousness embraces more than the observance of the law so as to include all deeds, virtues and actions that assure the preservation of corporate Israel.130 Righteous acts benefit the whole covenant community.

Be disciplined in all your conduct

The second major sapiential exhortation is in Tob 4:14c-15, where Tobit asks his son to exercise control in all his deeds and discipline in all his behavior. Tobit uses the word pepaideume,noj, which is a participle perfect passive nominative of the verb paideu,w ‘to instruct, train, educate.’ The precept can be literally understood as ‘be instructed, be educated.’ This Greek word indicates a civil or secular education which allows a young man to have a place in civil society131. For the Greeks, the purpose of paidei,a or ‘education’ is to transmit human culture and knowledge.132 That is why it is commonly said that Hellenistic civilization is a civilization of paidei,a.133 Can the instruction really mean that Tobit is urging Tobias to acquire an excellent Greek education?

At first sight, Tobit’s use of the expression pro,sece seautw/| in his advice may echo influences of Hellenistic ethics which, transferring to the self traditional notions of leadership and political control, conceived the consequence of internal rule of the self as “the foundation of supreme authority tout court.”134 In particular, the phrase may indicate Stoic influence, since the Stoics regarded self control and removal of fears and desires that have no rational foundation as the fundamental virtue, and virtue is the only matter of consequence in life for a follower of Stoicism.

Further investigation, however, reveals that the expression is as biblical as the phrases ‘apple of my eye’ (cf. Deut 32:10) and ‘nothing new under the sun’ (cf. Qoh 1:9). In the Pentateuch, the phrase pro,sece seautw/| actually appears in Gen 24:6, Exod 10:28, 23:21 and 34:12, translating the Hebrew expression $l rmVh, which is the niphal imperative masculine singular of rmV. The LXX Deuteronomy accounts for the greatest number of its use, with the exact same phrase appearing nine times (cf. Deut 4:9; 6:12; 8:11; 11:16; 12:13, 19, 30; 15:9; 24:8). There are also two other times when the imperative pro,sece stands alone – Deut 32:1 which translates the Hebrew verb !za ‘to listen’ in the hiphil imperative and Deut 12:23 which renders the Hebrew verb qzx ‘to be strong’ in the qal imperative. Generally speaking, the expression pro,sece seautw/| in the above instances translates the Hebrew verb rmX in the niphal imperative. It means ‘to watch,’ ‘to be on guard,’ ‘to take care,’ ‘to make sure,’ ‘to take to heart,’ even ‘to follow’ and ‘to observe.’ In Deuteronomy, this expression is almost always associated with keeping a particular precept or endorsing a desirable behavior. For example, Deut 6:12 and 8:11 both employ the expression in connection with the instruction not to forget the Lord.

In LXX Proverbs, the imperative pro,sece is used by itself four times, translating the Hebrew bvq in the hiphil imperative masculine singular.

It is the verb that the father uses to introduce his instructions, asking his son to pay attention to them (cf. Prov 4:20; 5:1; 7:24). The other instance of pro,sece in LXX Proverbs is in Prov 5:3, but here, the use is more of an addition for the sake of clarity and emphasis since the Greek verb does not translate or correspond to a Hebrew verb. In any case, the sense of pro,sece is ‘pay attention’ or ‘listen carefully.’

The Greek translation of Ben Sira employs the expression pro,sece seautw/| only once, in Sir 29:20, where Sirach tells his students to “help your neighbor according to your ability but be careful not to fall yourself.” In eight instances, the imperative pro,sece stands alone (cf. Sir 1:29; 6:13; 7:24; 11:33; 13:8; 13:13; 16:24; 28:26). In the Hebrew MsA135 of Sir 6:13; 13:8; 13:13, pro,sece is the translation for rmXh in the niphal imperative while in Sir 7:24, pro,sece translates rcn which is a synonymous term meaning ‘to watch, keep, guard’ and in Sir 11:33, the verb corresponds to the Hebrew rwg which can mean ‘beware’ or ‘be afraid of.’136 Other verbal forms of pro,secw are also found in Sir 4:15, 17:14, 18:27, 23:27, 28:16, 35:1 and 37:31. In MsA of Sir 4:15, pro,secw translates the Hebrew !za, following Deut 32:1. In MsB and D of Sir 37:31, pro,secw renders the Hebrew rmXh. In most cases in the Septuagint then, the Greek verb pro,secw translates the Hebrew verb rmXh but is also at times used to translate synonymous Hebrew terms that, in any case, generally include the following connotations: to pay attention, listen, make sure, be on guard, turn one’s mind to, apply or devote oneself to, give heed, watch. The term pro,secw is a verb that is normally used in order to encourage someone either to avoid or to adopt a particular counsel, behavior or disposition. Tobit tells Tobias to pay attention and be on guard in everything that he does. Tobit persuades Tobias to avoid pornei,a (cf. Tob 4:12) and to develop a disciplined life (cf. Tob 4:14). To listen,137 to pay attention, to watch, to heed and to keep on guard is, in the end, to be educated in order to be wise. In other words, pro,sece seautw/| is equivalent to i;sqi pepaideume,noj, forming a parallelism in Tobit’s instruction. It is assumed that the difficulty in knowing how to behave arises from a lack of education, or a lack of listening.

For the Jews, education has a more pragmatic and religious sense;138 its purpose is practical moral training instead of pure intellectual formation.139 Tobit’s exhortation i;sqi pepaideume,noj may in fact allude to the biblical injunction to buy or seek instruction (cf. Prov 23:23; Sir 4:11-19; 6:18-37), to accept it (cf. Prov 8:10; 19:20) and love it (cf. Prov 12:1). The Greek word paidei,a is rsWm in Hebrew, which comes from the verb rsy meaning to instruct, discipline, or chastise. At the basic level, the Hebrew notion of rsWm suggests the learning of lessons vital for success, or for how best to be alive.140

In the Jewish mind, God is of course the ultimate font of instruction, the Teacher from heaven who educates through his Torah (cf. Ps 94:12, Sir 12:23; 6:37). Discipline and its authority is thus grounded in God. Since God is the infallible Sage, the author of everything that is wise, the acquisition of wisdom and true knowledge begins with fear of the Lord,141 an attitude of trust and humility or a sense in which one recognizes the absolute lordship of God which thereby awakens the awareness that one is eventually at the mercy of God’s steadfast love and mercy. The recognition that God is the source of all wisdom brings an ethical element to all learning, for one who submits to the rigors of instruction receives training in wise conduct and in what is right, just and honest (cf. Prov 1:3). Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (cf. Prov 1:7; 9:10) that then translates into concrete actions – being wise is to act in a morally upright manner. Tobit’s last statement in the chapter (cf. Tob 4:21) in fact urges Tobias to fear the Lord and avoid all sin, thereby revealing the fundamental presupposition of his exhortations.

Discipline is the end result when one responds positively to instruction. In Proverbs, the ideal and purpose of training and instruction is to achieve a disciplined life. Such life knows what is wise and upholds what is righteous and true. Positive response to the demands of divine pedagogy eventually leads to satisfaction and success in life (cf. Prov 1:32; 3:1-2; 8:33-35, 9:11; Sir 4:18; 6:29-31). In contrast, failure to heed the divine instruction and correction leads to damnation and death (cf. Prov 9:18, Sir 4:19; Jer 2:30; 5:3; 7:28). In this regard, when the profoundly pious Tobit exhorts his son to be educated or disciplined, he implies that Tobias is to keep the precepts of the Lord in mind as guide in proper behavior and wise conduct. As Sir 21:11 states, “he who keeps the law controls his impulses; he who is perfect in fear of the Lord has wisdom.” A wise behavior, needless to say, is a righteous behavior. Piety and morality are fused, exemplified in the persona of the wise.

The paratactic style clearly connects the general instruction on educating the self with the so-called Silver Rule142 that immediately follows it. Their contiguity implies that a disciplined life keeps the principle of reciprocity as a general guide.143 This realization may have been fostered as a consequence of a good education.144 Self-control and discipline involve a certain element of rational calculation, and never a rushed or thoughtless action. The baser passions such as anger, lust, fear and envy do not govern the life of a person who has mastery over the self. Uncontrolled passions can only lead to ruin and destruction. In other words, possession of self-control means the astute awareness of the consequences of one’s behavior; prudent self-control is the foun-dation of wisdom. So Tobit advises his son: kai. o] misei/j mhqeni poih,sh|j “what you hate, may you do to no one” (cf. Tob 4:15). Certainly, Tobias is to hate, and avoid doing to others, that which is evil. In Tobit’s school of thought, a disciplined self knows that doing good will elicit good but doing evil will attract evil. A disciplined self knows what is just, and one who acts according to what is just, shall in turn enjoy righteous treatment hopefully from others and definitely from God.

Indeed, a certain element of ‘modest egoism’145 is implied in the rule. It is not entirely selfless. When one is just and kind to others, it is very likely that others, having been the beneficiaries of such an act, will reciprocate the kindness. In the long term, almsgiving, feeding the hungry or clothing the naked will come in as handy investments in the event that one finds oneself in a situation of hunger or nakedness. In a precarious existence such as exilic living, the best way to take care of the self is to take care of others. This virtuous act indeed benefits another person. Ultimately, however, the reciprocity will come from the Lord by way of divine reward, God’s very own evlehmosu,nh, for the Lord will remember these altruistic actions to the benefit of the person performing them. As Sir 12:2 confirms, “do good to the just man and reward will be yours, if not from him, from the Lord.”

Another concrete habit that Tobit exhorts his son to form as part of his education and discipline is to seek counsel from the wise. Pondering the words of the wise and seeking out intelligent company is of course a staple of wisdom counsels (cf. Prov 12:15; 13:10; 18:15; Sir 21:17; 4Q424146). Just before this advice, Tobit quotes a popular but strange proverb from Ahiqar about pouring ‘e;kceon’ bread and wine over the grave of the righteous instead of giving it to sinners (cf. Tob 4:17). The imagery of bread and the act of giving understandably group this proverb with the other instruction in this section which reads “from your bread, give to the poor, and from what you have in excess, give as alms” (cf. Tob 4:16). However, the connection between the two instructions does seem to end with the imagery.147 With the juxtaposition of the righteous and the sinners, the directive seems to urge avoidance of the company of sinners more than anything else. As such, this well-known proverb is more related to the subsequent instruction about seeking counsel from the wise. According to Jonas C. Greenfield, placing food at graves was a prevalent practice in the ancient world. The point of the proverb in Tobit is that even if the practice was not kosher, or did not enjoy complete approval among Jewish authorities, engaging in it was more preferable than breaking

bread with the wicked.148 It is ultimately an exhortation to keep the company of the wise and to avoid that of the fool. The fool is a biblical shorthand for the sinner or the wicked, who has refused to meditate on the precepts of the Lord and rejected the ways and discipline of wisdom (cf. Prov 2:10-15; 5:22-23; Ps 36:2-4). As Hosea puts it, the wise understand and the prudent know that the paths of the Lord are straight, “in them the just walk but sinners stumble in them” (cf. Hos 14:10). Tobit wholeheartedly embraces the view of Ben Sira, who exhorts his disciples to seek the company of the wise in this vivid pas-sage:

Frequent the company of the elders, whoever is wise, stay close to him
Be eager to hear every godly discourse; let no wise saying escape you
If you see a man of prudence, seek him out,

Let your feet wear away his doorstep (Sir 6:34-36).

Certainly, Tobit’s advice is in keeping with the general principle of reciprocity. If Tobias keeps the company of sages, wisdom will find him. On the contrary, if he keeps the company of fools, folly and wickedness will overtake him. Tobit seems to tell Tobias that his education consists in seeking the company of the wise who will instruct and give him useful advice in what is just and right (cf. Tob 4:18). If he does what the wise say and does righteous acts by way of charity towards the poor, then success instead of evil will accompany his way. Needless to say, the true sage gets his instruction from God and shows his wisdom by guarding the laws of the Lord in his heart day and night. To remember God assumes proper education in his ways.

Bless the Lord at all times

The last major sapiential instruction is an admonition to Tobias to pray and to praise God in a spirit of humility. Tobit uses euvloge,w to charge his son to bless, praise or to speak well of the Lord at all times.149 The command crops up frequently in the Book of Deuteronomy.150 The praise of God, which is an expression of the faith, hope and gratitude of a pious Israelite who knows that his existence depends on God, comes in the context of a prayer.151 Using the verb ai`te,w which is equivalent to the Hebrew lav meaning ‘to ask, request,’ Tobit commissions Tobias to ask the Lord. His request, addressed to God, has a clear end in view. With the use of the conjunction o[pwj which denotes a purpose, the goal of petitioning the Lord is so that his ways be straight and his plans suc-cessful; it is to ask the Lord that his ways be guided well. Searching and ‘seeking something’ forms part of the semantic range of asking and requesting.152 Consequently, Tobit seems to imply that straight paths and successful plans are to be sought and found only in the Lord. The request is, in the end, a desire to comprehend the will and the ways of God. It is to inquire into the counsel of God and the ways that ultimately make for genuine success. In the context of Tobit 4, the teachings of Tobit embody the counsel and express the will of God.

When one asks, as children do about the meaning of the laws and decrees that God has commanded in Deuteronomy (cf. Deut 6:20-21), one learns, gradually understands and accepts.153 Tobit recommends Tobias to acquire a similar disposition. Tobit follows this admonition with the reason that only God possesses good counsels. To stress the verity of such a statement, Tobit asserts that no other nations have good boulhn, or advice (cf. Tob 4:19),154 implying that their wisdom no matter how lofty or noble is ultimately untrustworthy. Affirming both the free and mysterious ways of God as well as his trust in God, Tobit then declares that God raises whom he wills and humbles to the lowest part of Hades whom he wishes.155 In effect, Tobit teaches Tobias to seek, understand, accept and rely only on the wisdom and counsel of the Lord even when it is mysterious, because only in God will he find straight paths and prosperous plans; only God can grant them. As Tobit claims, only the Lord himself gives all good things “auvto.j o` ku,rioj di,dwsin pa,nta ta. avgaqa.” (cf. Tob 4:19).

Tobit is thus urging Tobias to ask for and to seek wisdom from the Lord, as the young Solomon once prayed and asked wisdom of God (cf. 1 Kgs 3:5-14; Wis 9:4-6), for God’s wisdom makes paths straight and plans successful. It is God’s wisdom that guides well. Tobit is comparable to the father in Prov 3:6 who reminds his son, “in all your ways be mindful of God and he will make straight your paths.” In his exhortation to seek the counsel of God, Tobit is also warning his son against trusting in his own wisdom (cf. Prov 2:5-7) or sources of wisdom other than God. If Tobias’s ways are delightful to God, God will make his steps firm (cf. Ps 37:23).

The combination of praise of God and petition is a typical formula of the major prayers in the narrative.156 In Tobit’s case, praise before a petition for death; in Sarah’s case, praise before a petition for what is pleasing before God,157 and in Tobias’s case, praise before a petition for good counsel and wisdom. This means that Tobit’s final instruction is in the end an advocacy of prayer and doxology. Doxology, after all, is intimately connected to wisdom. According to Sir 15:10, “praise is offered by the wise man’s tongue, its rightful steward will proclaim it.” God grants the wise the capacity to praise, and hence the foolish cannot praise God for it has not been given them. Since this is Ben Sira’s con-cluding statement after his thoughts on wisdom, fear of the Lord and practice of the law, his description of the wise man through praise of God indicates that doxology characterizes the fullness or the perfection of wisdom.158 Wisdom and praise belong together in that praise of the Creator is the goal and task of the wise who has glimpsed the secrets of creation.159 Genuine wisdom finds its true counterpart in praise. In this particular instruction, Tobit shares Ben Sira’s view that a true wise man possesses a doxological attitude.

As Rafael departs, he imparts the admonition to praise God and declare his works in Tob 12:6-8, repeating the exhortation again and again in Tob 12:17-18, 20. Praise and declaration of God’s works, as Ps 6:6 and Ps 105:1-3 show, constitute remembrance of the Lord.160 In Tob 14:8-9, Tobit again instructs his son and grandchildren in his farewell discourse to bless the name of the Lord at all times. Prayer and praise of God at every occasion is the most active manner of remembering God, as the parallelism in Ps 6:6 also indicates. Unquestionably, Tobit’s and Sarah’s prayers, blessing and beseeching God, demonstrate their remembrance of the Lord in a moment of distress and despondency. With praise on their lips, they show that they are not only righteous but also wise, and that therefore, they are the ones who can stand before God and approach him. As the psalmist declares, God holds in high esteem and hears the prayer of the wise or the righteous (cf. Ps 34:18; 37:39-40).

With these considerations in mind, the Lex generalis of Tobit 4:3-19 is the remembrance of the Lord God.161 This is Tobit’s starting point for the construction of a personal ethics. The exhortations are therefore decidedly theocentric. Yet Tobit’s instructions never obfuscate the practical, personal and social dimensions of a life centered on God. This remembrance translates specifically into the putting-into-practice of righteousness and truth in terms of one’s relationship with others,162 control and discipline in behavior, and the praise of God in every occasion. Instructions on charity toward others and praise of God sandwich the instructions on education, implying that for a properly sapiential education to be effective, it needs those two elements for its wings.

The Leitwort in the Instructions

The constant refrain of Tobit’s instructions revolves around the verb poie,w ‘to do, make.’ It is a leitwort, a word or word-root that, occurring with significant frequency, and because of its verbal status, “refers immediately to meaning and thus to theme as well.”163 With fourteen instances in Tobit 4, five in Tob 12:6-10, and four in Tob 14:8-11, the prevalence of its use underscores the practicality and concreteness of the admonitions. In the main, the verb poie,w is followed by another crucial word, evlehmosu,nh or almsgiving. This highlights the distinctly social or communal facet of the instruction to remember the Lord. Moreover, biblical remembrance entails doing. The author of Tobit understands that remembering the Lord has a concrete dimension, directing his son and the reader to perform deeds of almsgiving, poiei/ evlehmosu,nhn.164 Righteousness is not simply an abstract concept; it has come to denote charity to the poor.

The verb is also associated with other positive words such as dikaiosu,nh, avlh,qeia, to. avresto,n and to. avgaqo,n specifying the object of the action ‘to do.’ Tobit’s instructions, along with Rafael’s, are admonitions to do that which is just, true, good and pleasing before God. As Tobit succinctly states in his final speech in Tob 14:8-9, “do what is pleasing before his sight.” However, he goes on to specify that which is pleasing – the doing of justice and the practice of almsgiving.

Tobit’s exhortations include references to three encompassing ideas and recurring themes which form part of the value-system of the narrative:165 dikaiosu,nh or righteousness, avlh,qeia or truth and evlehmosu,nh or almsgiving. They appear together in Tobit’s supplication to God in Tob 3:1, indicating that these are first and foremost attributes of God. It is by truth, righteousness and mercy that God deals with his creation. In addition to their occurrence in Tob 4:6-7, this threesome also appears in Tobit’s self-description in Tob 1:3, in his exhortation to sinners to come back to the Lord in his canticle of praise in Tob 13:6, and finally, in his farewell discourse to his grandchildren in Tob 14:9. As such, To-bit believes that human actions can appropriate God’s as an ideal. If the ways of God give life, then these are also the ways by which the members of the exiled community are to deal with one other for their lives to flourish. Correspondingly, the beneficiaries of these gifts are to respond in a similar manner, imitating and demonstrating the divine ways in human ways, particularly in their general conduct.166

As noted, these motifs send the reader back to the opening words of Tobit in Tob 1:3: evgw. Twbiq odoi/j avlhqei,aj evporeuo,mhn kai. evn dikaiosu,naij pa,saj ta.j hme,raj th/j zwh/j mou. With reference to the temporal phrase pa,saj ta.j h`me,raj th/j zwh/j mou, Tobit is asserting the principles that he himself has followed in the course of his life, one that is characterized by righteousness and truth. In Tob 4:6, poie,w is associated with avlh,qeia which in Hebrew is tma. In Ps 111:7; 119:142, 151, truth describes the laws or commands of God. Ps 119:160 later claims that the sum of God’s words is truth, as 2 Sam 7:28 also declares: “You are God and your words are truth.” The expressions ‘walk in your truth’ in Ps 25:5 and 26:3 and ‘teach me your paths’ in Ps 86:11 can be interpreted as following God’s commandments, which are to be identified as the words of truth that form part of the divine pedagogy. Ezek 18:9 refines this point. In this passage, God, after enumerating a series of laws to be observed, declares that the person, who walks in His precepts and observes His judgments to do the truth, will live. In later Judaism, especially in the Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs such as found in T. Gad 3.1-2 and T. Jos 11.1, the very Semitic expression ‘to do truth’ approaches the meaning of doing the law of God and his commandments.167

In fact, Tobit has instructed Tobias to avoid sexual immorality (cf. Tob 4:12) by marrying a kinswoman, which is understood in the narrative as a decree in the Book of Moses. Tobias’s prayer on his wedding night that he is taking his wife not out of lust but out of truth, “kai. nu/n ouvci. dia. pornei,an evgw. lamba,nw th.n avdelfh,n mou tau,thn avllV evpV avlhqei,aj,” confirms the reader’s understanding that the marriage has been made in accordance with the Mosaic decree as defined by Tobit. Tobias has done truth rather than succumb to pornei,a. In Tob 14:7, Tobit predicts that those who remember God in truth “mnhmoneu,ontej tou/ qeou/
evn avlhqei,a|,” or those who keep God in mind by keeping his commandments, will be gathered together.

Tobit reliably claims that he walks in the ways of truth because he has kept the Law of Moses; he is the quintessential Torah-observing Israelite. As Tobit further elaborates his understanding of what this sort of righteous living entails in his all-revealing confession in Tobit 1– 3, he enumerates acts of mercy and the observance of cultic laws168 as evidence of a life thus constituted. Interestingly, there is no specific reference to cultic or religious observance in the admonitions that Tobit urges his son to follow in Tobit 4.169 His swaggering self-portrait in the early chapters projects righteousness as something that equally includes the fulfillment of cultic responsibilities. And yet, the instruc-tions in chapter 4, though referring to ‘commandments,’ do seem to portray a different picture of righteousness, one that does not necessarily embrace a particular cultic color. Even almsgiving has become a dw/ron avgaqo,n in Tob 4:11, which in Leviticus (cf. Lev 1:2; 2:1) and Numbers (cf. Num 6:14; 7:12-13) refers to sacrifices and offerings to God in a cultic context. In its narrative milieu, almsgiving seems to substitute for tithing. Further, Tob 4:11 and 12:9 count almsgiving as a worthy sacrifice and a superior means of expiation for sins.170 Sir 35:1-2 also expresses the same sentiment that almsgiving is a fine offering of praise to God. Without a temple, and living far from Jerusalem, it is understandable that Tobit downplays, if not replaces, cultic practices with other ways to remember God. Therefore, practical considerations rather than strictly cultic observances provide the major contents of the instructions. By implication, ethical and practical conduct seems to define what constitutes the chief instruction ‘remember the Lord.’

The deuteronomic injunction not to forget the Lord by neglecting his decrees has been reinterpreted in Tobit’s instructions. Like Moses who urged the Israelites to remember God, Tobit reminds Tobias to remember the Lord. With his instructions, Tobit is comparable to a sage who is also an interpreter of the law. For Tobit, there are at least three things that comply with the admonition Moses gave the Israelites be-fore entering the land as it applies to their present situation: the prac-tice of charity towards the righteous poor, education in the ways of the Lord, and prayer and praise of God. Just as Moses presents in Deuteronomy a program for life as a prelude to the entrance to the promised land, so Tobit offers a program for life while outside the land as a prelude to the return to the homeland. Just as the imminence of Israel’s entrance into the promised land was predicated on the divinely sanctioned Mosaic pedagogy, so the nearness of the return to the homeland in Tobit’s case is premised on his divinely approved instruc-tions. In Tobit’s mind, the fulfillment of these relationship require-ments will ensure the return of the exiled to the homeland as well as to a life of security and prosperity as promised by God in the days of his wonders.

The Inclusio

The programmatic verb mnhmoneu,w ‘to remember, keep in mind, recall’ as well as the equally significant noun evntolh, ‘commandment’ used in the axiomatic instruction in Tob 4:5a are both employed in Tob 4:19c where Tobit tells his son to remember these commandments and not let them be erased from his heart. The presence of these words is a marker of inclusion. The expression formed from these two words, namely, “remember the commandments” frame the instructions of Tobit. With the expression kai. nu/n, the latter verse functions as the summarizing teaching that concludes the entire collection. Since the statement also looks back to the beginning171 with references to remembrance and the commandments, Tob 4:19c and Tob 4:5a form an inclusio to all of the individual exhortations. The objects of the verb mnhmoneu,w172 are indeed different, namely ‘the Lord’ in the first and ‘these commandments’ in the last. However, they are not in contradiction but are actually inter-changeable. Ultimately it is God who is the giver of the command-ments with Tobit acting as bearer and teacher of the law.173

The first instruction, “remember the Lord and refuse to sin and transgress his commands” in Tob 4:5a is parallel to the closing one, “remember these commandments and do not let them be erased from your heart” in Tob 4:19c.174 Both have a similar grammatical structure with an admonitory and prohibitory part. From a semantic point of view, the prohibitions in both exhortations are also alike. To eradicate, remove or wipe the commandments away is to show an absolute dis-regard for God who ultimately is responsible for writing them in the heart (cf. Jer 31:33-34). The last prohibition expands the sense of the first one, giving it a more comprehensive and emphatic import.175 The exhortation of Tobit is not only about refusing to violate the
commandments. More importantly, it is about not blotting God’s com-mands out or getting rid of them. It is imperative to keep and remem-ber them always.176 To use an Old Testament idiom, Tobias is to set these things upon his heart (cf. Prov 4:21), and to direct his whole self to them. From a lexical, grammatical and semantic level, there is equi-valence between the opening and closing exhortations.177 This paral-lelism helps create the inclusio, contributing to the unity of the various parts of the collection as well as providing an entry point into its mes-sage.178

With the inclusio in Tob 4:19c, the instructions in between are to be interpreted as counsels that, if observed, can lead to a way of life characterized by avlh,qeia, dikaiosu,nh, and evlehmosu,nh. It is this deuteronomic theme of remembering the Lord that allows the author to move from one instruction to another and catalog a seemingly random selection of sayings. With the other exhortations, the author defines the concrete range of what it means to remember the Lord while living outside the homeland. The instructions manifest and realize in a very practical way the remembrance of God and his precepts.

The phrase kai. nu/n appears again in Tob 4:20a, suggesting a shift in focus, introducing anew the matter about the money. Then, in the sub-sequent verse, Tobit concludes his entire speech to his son with an in-teresting association of the word fobe,w ‘to be afraid, fear’ with poverty and God, thus maintaining until the end the positive-negative paral-lelism. Tobit encourages Tobias to fear God but not to fear poverty, for many good things await those who fear God. He also exhorts his son to avoid all sin, and to do good deeds before God. The fear of God, which is the guiding principle of all of Tobit’s conduct (cf. Tob 1:12), is of course the basic attitude of the wise. The verse may indeed stir thoughts of consolation and encouragement,179 but in actual fact, Tobit repeats and declares in a very concise and conclusive fashion the core of his advice and the foundation of his beliefs.180 From a didactic point of view, it is a masterful pedagogical touch on the part of the author.

Tobit, like an effective teacher, repeats his main point to reinforce and end his paternal lecture.

Originally posted 2020-02-10 05:59:24.