Tobias vi.

Notes & Commentary:

Ver. 1. Dog. Greek and Hebrew specify this circumstance, (chap. v. 22.) but not here. Those who attack the authority of this book, infer that such a trifle would not be noticed by the Holy Spirit, chap. xi. 9. Yet Homer mentions the fawning of the dog upon Ulysses, after he had been 20 years from home; and the gravest historians record instances of the fidelity of dogs. (Calmet) — Night, or stage, mansione, (Haydock) at a caravansera, or house where travellers might stop all night, and sometimes, though seldom, might be supplied with necessaries. Herodotus (v. 52.) mentions several in the kingdom of Persia. (Calmet)

Ver. 2. Feet. Greek, “to bathe.” — Fish. The learned are of opinion that this was the fish which Pliny calls callyonymus, ([Natural History?] l. xxii. ch. 7.) the gall of which is of sovereign virtue to remove white specks that grow over the eyes. (Challoner) — Other fishes have the like virtue; and as the aforesaid has no scales, and is not above a foot long, it could not be lawfully eaten by the Israelites, nor could it suffice for ten days’ provision, ver. 6. (Leviticus xi. 10.) Others, therefore, prefer (Calmet) the sea-calf, (Brado) the hippopotamus, (Grotius) the crocodile, (Denis the Carthusian) whale, (Theophylactus) sturgeon, or silurus. (Bochart, Anim. iv. 15.) — But there are great difficulties with respect to all these; and Fran. George adopts the sentiment of the Rabbins in favour of the pike, which seems the least objectionable, as it has scales, gills, and cannot live long out of water, ver. 4. It grows to a great size in the Tigris, and its gall is good for the eyes. (Calmet)

Ver. 3. And. This verse is not in Greek. Tobias and the fish were both in the water. (Calmet)

Ver. 4. Take him. “It,” would be as proper. — Gill. Greek, “Seize the fish, and the boy got the better of the fish, and threw it upon the land.” (Haydock) — Hebrew also omits the gill and the panting, (Calmet) circumstances which would invalidate the opinions of many respecting the nature of this fish, v. ii.[ver. 2.?] (Haydock)

Ver. 5. For thee. Greek, “carefully.” (Haydock) — The rest is omitted also in the Hebrew of Fagius. (Calmet)

Ver. 6. Flesh. St. Paul uses the like expression, (1 Corinthians xv.) as well as Pliny, [Natural History?] ix. 15. (Worthington) — Took. Greek and Fagius, (Calmet) “eat, and both went on till they came near to Ecbatana.” (Haydock) — From Ninive to Rages would be 10 or 12 days’ journey. (Calmet)

Ver. 7. Tell. Greek, “What is the heart, the liver, and the gall of the fish for?” (Haydock)

Ver. 8. Its heart, &c. The liver, (ver. 19.) God was pleased to give to these things a virtue against those proud spirits, to make them, who affected to be like the Most High, subject to such mean corporeal creatures, as instruments of his power. (Challoner) — God sometimes makes use of things as remedies which have, naturally, a different effect; as when Christ put clay on the eyes of the blind man, John ix. The things which the angel ordered were salutary, by God’s appointment. (Worthington) — They could not act directly upon a spirit: but they might upon the person troubled by one, as Saul was relieved by music. (Calmet, Diss.) — The smoke was a sign of the devil’s expulsion, and of the efficacy of prayer; or rather, God subjected the proud spirits to such weak elements. (Serarius, q. 3.) (Menochius) — Greek, “and he said to him, respecting the heart and liver, if any demon or wicked spirit be troublesome, make these smoke before a man or a woman, and the person shall be troubled no longer.

Ver. 9. Gall. This is generally allowed by physicians to be most excellent, particularly that of the callyonymus, and of the hyena, (Vales, Phil. 42.; Galen 10.; Menochius) and silurus, &c., so that one objection of the adversaries of this book falls to the ground. (Houbigant)

Ver. 10. And. Greek, “But as they approached to Rages, the angel said to the young man: Brother, to-day we shall lodge with Raguel, and he is thy relation, and he has an only daughter, by name Sara: I will propose that she may be given to thee for a wife, because the inheritance belongs to thee, and thou art the only one of her kindred. The girl is beautiful and prudent. Now, therefore, give ear to me, and I will speak to her father, and when we return from Rages, we will celebrate the nuptials. For I know Raguel, that he will not give her to another man, comformably to the law of Moses, or he will incur death; because thou art entitled to the inheritance before any other. Then,” &c., ver. 14. (Haydock) — The law regulated the marriages of heiresses, (Numbers xxxvi. 6.) though not under pain of death. (Calmet)

Ver. 14. Died. Greek, “were destroyed in the nuptial chamber, (numphe). And as I am my father’s only son, I fear lest, approaching to her, I should die like the former; because a demon is in love with her, which hurts no one but such as approach to her. Now, therefore, I fear lest I should die, and bring down the life of my father and mother upon me to their grave.” (Haydock) — If this text may be styled Scripture, it only records the opinion of Toby[Tobias]. (Calmet) or what he had “heard.” (Haydock) — Many grave authors have been of the same persuasion that devils could be enamoured with mortal beauties: (Calmet) talesque asseverant ut hoc negare impudentiæ esse videatur. (St. Augustine, de C.[City of God?] xv. 23; Delrio, Magic. 2.) — But this opinion is now almost entirely abandoned. Many who have testified such things, may have experienced only some diabolical illusions. The devil could not love the beauty, nor the virtue of Sara. But he was permitted by God to exercise his malice against those who would have gratified their impure desires. (Calmet) — We may perhaps decide too peremptorily on the nature of devils, with which we are little acquainted. As they are susceptible of pride, anger, &c., why may they not also give way to some subtle kind of mental impurity? (Houbigant)

Ver. 15. To hell. That is, to the place where the souls were kept below, before the coming of Christ; (Challoner) as the just had not yet access to heaven. See Genesis xxxvii. (Worthington) Greek adds, “and they have no other son to bury them.”

Ver. 16. Raphael. Greek, “said to him: Dost thou not remember that thy father ordered thee to take a wife of thy kindered? Now then hearken to me, brother; for she shall be thy wife. Mind not the devil. For this night she shall be given in marriage to thee; and if thou enter the nuptial chamber, thou shalt take the ashes of incense, and shalt place thereon some of the heart and liver,” &c., ver. 19. (Haydock)

Ver. 17. Mule, which are very libidinous, Psalm xiii. — Power. Yet he is not always permitted to kill them, as God often allows them time for repentance, or suffers them to draw down heavier judgments. (Menochius) — “The devils can do no more than God secretly permits;” (St. Augustine, de C.[City of God?] ii. 23.) and “God justly suffers the wicked to fall victims to their iniquitous appetites.” (St. Gregory, mor. ii.)

Ver. 18. Days. No morality could be more pure. The Christian Church has given similar counsels, in the Capitulars of France, and of Erard, archbishop of Tours, and in many rituals published in the 16th century. The council of Trent only advises people to approach to the sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharist, three days at least before marriage. The Greeks, in their third council of Carthage, (canon 13) order the first night to be spent in continence.

Ver. 19. Lay. Greek adds, “some of the heart….and make it smoke, and the devil shall smell, and flee away, and shall not return for ever.” (Haydock) — This is contrary to reason, say our adversaries. But though devils be incorporeal, may they not be affected by certain bodies, as our souls are when our limbs are hurt? The angel chose this sort of usual exorcism, that those who were present might be convinced of the devil’s departure. As the devils abuse the works of the creation, it was convenient that they should be punished by them; as they submit to magical operations, they must feel the power of such exorcisms (Houbigant) as are authorized by God and his Church. (Haydock)

Ver. 20. Society (copulatione.) He then obtained this blessing, though he knew not his wife till the fourth night. (Worthington) — His marriage resembled that of the patriarchs. (Calmet) — Greek, “But when thou shalt go to her, arise both, and cry to the merciful God, and he will save and have pity on you. Fear not, for she was prepared for thee from eternity; and thou shalt save her, and she shall go with thee; and I flatter myself that thou shalt have children of her. And as soon as Tobias heard this, he loved her, and his soul was much attached to her: and they arrived at Ecbatana.” (Haydock) — Some may wonder that Tobias did not ask for the consent of his parents. But the angel reminded him of his father’s injunctions, (Calmet) and spoke in such a manner, that he was convinced his counsel was from God. (Haydock)

Bible Text & Cross-references:

By the angel’s advice, young Tobias taketh hold on a fish that assaulteth him. Reserveth the heart, the gall, and the liver, for medicines. They lodge at the house of Raguel, whose daughter, Sara, Tobias is to marry; she had before been married to seven husbands, who were all slain by a devil.

1 And *Tobias went forward, and the dog followed him, and he lodged the first night by the river of Tigris.

2 And he went out to wash his feet, and behold a monstrous fish came up to devour him.

3 And Tobias being afraid of him, cried out with a loud voice, saying: Sir, he cometh upon me.

4 And the angel said to him: Take him by the gill, and draw him to thee. And when he had done so, he drew him out upon the land, and he began to pant before his feet.

5 Then the angel said to him: Take out the entrails of this fish, and lay up his heart, and his gall, and his liver, for thee: for these are necessary for useful medicines.

6 And when he had done so, he roasted the flesh thereof, and they took it with them in the way: the rest they salted, as much as might serve them, till they came to Rages, the city of the Medes.

7 Then Tobias asked the angel, and said to him: I beseech thee, brother Azarias, tell me what remedies are these things good for, which thou hast bid me keep of the fish?

8 And the angel, answering, said to him: If thou put a little piece of its heart upon coals, the smoke thereof driveth away all kind of devils, either from man or from woman, so that they come no more to them.

9 And the gall is good for anointing the eyes, in which there is a white speck, and they shall be cured.

10 And Tobias said to him: Where wilt thou that we lodge?

11 And the angel answering, said: Here is one whose name is Raguel, a near kinsman of thy tribe, and he hath a daughter named Sara, but he hath no son nor any other daughter beside her.

12 *All his substance is due to thee, and thou must take her to wife.

13 Ask her, therefore, of her father, and he will give her thee to wife.

14 Then Tobias answered, and said: I hear that she hath been given to seven husbands, and they all died: moreover, I have heard, that a devil killed them.

15 Now I am afraid, lest the same thing should happen to me also: and whereas I am the only child of my parents, I should bring down their old age with sorrow to hell.

16 Then the angel, Raphael, said to him: Hear me, and I will shew thee who they are, over whom the devil can prevail.

17 For they who in such manner receive matrimony, as to shut out God from themselves, and from their mind, and to give themselves to their lust, as the horse and mule, which have not understanding, over them the devil hath power.

18 But thou, when thou shalt take her, go into the chamber, and for three days keep thyself continent from her, and give thyself to nothing else but to prayers with her.

19 And on that night lay the liver of the fish on the fire, and the devil shall be driven away.

20 But the second night thou shalt be admitted into the society of the holy patriarchs.

21 And the third night thou shalt obtain a blessing, that sound children may be born of you.

22 And when the third night is past, thou shalt take the virgin, with the fear of the Lord, moved rather for love of children than for lust, that in the seed of Abraham thou mayst obtain a blessing in children.



1: Year of the World 3299.

12: Numbers xxvii. 8. and xxxvi. 8.