Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. House. The law authorized such feasts, Deuteronomy xii. 12, and xiv. 28. Tobias complied with it, by inviting also the poor servants of God. Greek, “I lay down to eat.” This custom prevailed in the East. (Calmet)
Ver. 2. Tribe. Greek, “brethren indigent, and who remembers God.” (Haydock) — All had not given way to idolatry. (Worthington)
Ver. 3. Street. Asarhaddon did not protect the Israelites, which renders the elevation of Akikar to the highest dignities suspicious. (Calmet) — But the king and his minister might not be able to prevent all murders. (Haydock) — Fasting. The ancients seldom eat anything before noon. Greek, “Before I had tasted, I leaped up and took him to a house, till the sun should be set,” (Haydock) to prevent any danger from the Assyrians. (Menochius) — lf he did not employ another, he must have eaten alone, being rendered unclean. This seems to have been the case; and hence he did not enter his own house, but lay down by the wall. (Calmet) — Greek and Hebrew mention, that he washed himself before he eat. (Haydock)
Ver. 9. But. This version is not in Greek or Hebrew. (Calmet) — True zeal is not repressed by fear, as charity expels it, 1 John iv. (Worthington)
Ver. 10. Now. Greek, “And that very night I was.” — He came. Greek, “I lay myself down, being defiled, beside the wall of the court, and my face was uncovered.” (Haydock) — The touching the dead rendered a person unclean, Numbers xix. 11.
Ver. 11. Swallow’s. Greek denotes “sparrows,” or any other small birds: strouthia. (Serarius) — Eyes. Greek observes that they were “opened.” Hebrew, “by chance.” Yet “hares, and many men, sleep with their eyes open,” (Pliny [Natural History?] xi. 37.) as was here the case. (St. Athanasius, Synops.) — lf not, the dung might insinuate itself by rubbing. It is extremely caustic. (Vales. 42.; Aldrov.17.; &c.) — The blindness of Tobias was only a suspension of sight. (Calmet) — Blind. Greek, “white specks or skins came upon my eyes, and I went to the physicians, but they afforded me no relief. But Achiachar fed me (Haydock) till I (or he) went to Elymais;” Hebrew of Fagius, “into Germany.” (Calmet) — Almniim. (Haydock)
Ver. 12. Now. This is omitted in Greek and Hebrew as far as ver. 19. St. Ambrose says beautifully, that Tobias “was more grieved that he could yield no assistance to others, than for the loss of his sight.”
Ver. 15. Kings. So Job’s three friends are here called, because they were princes in their respective territories, (Challoner) like the petty kings of Palestine, in the days of Abraham and of Josue. They are styled kings in the Greek version of Job. (Calmet) — Relations, (parentes.) His father and mother were dead. (Worthington)
Ver. 18. Saints; Abraham, &c. Thus Mathathias encouraged his children; (1 Machabees ii. 50.) and no argument can be more forcible.
Dice puer virtutem ex me, verumque laborem
Sis memor, et te animo repetentem exempla tuorum
Et pater Æneas et avunculus excitet Hector. —–Virgil, Æneid xii.
— Life eternal. These grand truths were more developed, as the Messias was nearer at hand.
Ver. 19. Work. This was usually the employment of women. The great charities of Tobias, physicians, &c., had reduced him to poverty.
Ver. 20. Kid, which had not left off sucking. Greek adds, that this was given besides the usual wages. (Menochius)
Ver. 21. Theft. He was the master of the family, and knew that there was no money in the house, so that he was not guilty of rash judgment, (Menochius) though his wife might naturally be offended.
Ver. 22. At. Greek, “but she said: It was given to me in addition to my wages. Yet I did not give credit to her, and I ordered her to restore it to its owners; and I blushed for her. But she replied: Where are thy alms-deeds and thy just works? Behold, all things are known with thee. Then, through grief, I wept,” &c. (Haydock) — Hope in God, who nevertheless leaves us in distress. (Menochius) — She indirectly finds fault with Providence, which increases the grief of Tobias; or, at least, she insinuates that he must have been a hypocrite, as the friends of Job unjustly argued, from his being afflicted. (Haydock)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
Tobias leaveth his dinner to bury the dead: he loseth his sight by God’s permission, for manifestation of his patience.
1 But after this, when there was a festival of the Lord, and a good dinner was prepared in Tobias’s house,
2 He said to his son: Go, and bring some of our tribe, that fear God, to feast with us.
3 And when he had gone, returning, he told him, that one of the children of Israel lay slain in the street. And he forthwith leaped up from his place at the table, and left his dinner, and came fasting to the body:
4 And taking it up, carried it privately to his house, that after the sun was down, he might bury him cautiously.
5 And when he had hid the body, he ate bread with mourning and fear,
6 Remembering the word which the Lord spoke by *Amos, the prophet: Your festival days shall be turned into lamentation and mourning.
7 So when the sun was down, he went and buried him.
8 Now all his neighbours blamed him, saying: Once already commandment was given for thee to be slain because of this matter, and thou didst scarce escape the sentence of death, and dost thou again bury the dead?
9 *But Tobias fearing God more than the king, carried off the bodies of them that were slain, and hid them in his house, and at midnight buried them.
10 Now it happened one day, that being wearied with burying, he came to his house, and cast himself down by the wall, and slept.
11 And as he was sleeping, hot dung, out of a swallow’s nest, fell upon his eyes, and he was made blind.*
12 Now this trial the Lord, therefore, permitted to happen to him, that an example might be given to posterity of his patience, as also of holy Job.
13 For, whereas, he had always feared God from his infancy, and kept his commandments; he repined not against God, because the evil of blindness had befallen him,
14 But continued immoveable in the fear of God, giving thanks to God all the days of his life.
15 For as the kings insulted over holy Job, so his relations and kinsmen mocked at his life, saying:
16 Where is thy hope, for which thou gavest alms, and buriedst the dead?
17 But Tobias rebuked them, saying: Speak not so:
18 For we are the children of saints, and look for that life which God will give to those that never change their faith from him.
19 Now Anna, his wife, went daily to weaving work, and she brought home what she could get for their living by the labour of her hands.
20 Whereby it came to pass, that she received a young kid, and brought it home:
21 And when her husband heard it bleating, he said: *Take heed, lest perhaps it be stolen, restore ye it to its owners; for it is not lawful for us either to eat or to touch any thing that cometh by theft.
22 *At these words, his wife being angry, answered: It is evident thy hope is come to nothing, and thy alms now appear.
23 And with these, and other such like words, she upbraided him.
6: Amos viii. 10.; 1 Machabees i. 41.
9: Tobias i. 21.
11: Year of the World 3295.
21: Deuteronomy xxii. 1.
22: Job xxii. 9.