Tobit- Moral Living in an Immoral or Amoral Society

Chapter 1

v. 10-22

Tobit continues to describe his own piety. According to the author’s quotation, here, Tobit kept the Jewish dietary laws and even buried his countrymen who were slain under Sennacherib. Here, we must remind ourselves that Tobit’s character is doing something that is dishonoring to God and something that Jesus exposed as worthless religiosity in His sermon on the mount. Tobit is righteous in his own eyes.

We also remember that this story is not a historical account but, instead, historical fiction. This fact is exemplified by the length of Tobit’s life (at least 200 years), the date it was written and the reliance upon the early Greek Septuagint’s mistransliteration of Numbers 26:48, and its historical inaccuracies up to this point. These inaccuracies include a misalignment of the events surrounding Shalmaneser’s reign and the listing of Sennacherib as Shalmaneser’s son and successor. In the actual accounting of history, Salmaneser’s son and successor was Sargon II. Sennacherib was Sargon’s son and successor. So, Tobit disagrees with the record of history and with the narrative of 1 Kings. 1 Kings agrees with the historical record.

The author(s) of Tobit cares less about historical accuracy or matching the exact details in the Scriptures and more about elevating certain moral values- the moral values we understand the religious leaders in the First Century A.D. had. Tobit is one of those books that they probably had on their bookshelves. It would have influenced their own ethical system much like Locke’s and Jackson’s political philosophies influence the ethical system in America. While we cannot rely on Tobit to provide accurate historical information, we can see what was morally valued in the culture of 3rd Century B.C. through the 1st Century A.D. Thus, we learn something else about the book of Tobit. It was not meant to provide factual information but to illustrate moral living in the midst of an immoral society. Indeed, we should strive to live morally.  Since Tobit is not Scripture (it is too inaccurate and did not meet the standards for canonization), it cannot be the standard for moral living. Only God’s true, inspired word can be that for us. What we do glean from Tobit is the importance of living morally in a morally corrupt world. Of course, according to the Bible, moral living profits us little unless we are first saved by grace alone through faith alone.

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