Tobit- The Beginning of Archangels

Tobit 3:16-17

“At that very moment,” at the conclusion of Sarah’s prayer and presumably also at the conclusion of Tobit’s prayer, both prayers were heard in the glorious presence of God. The picture this elicits is that both prayers are being spoken simultaneously and closing at the same time.

In verse 8, God was not seen as providential. The fault of suffering was attributed to a demon by name. Here in verse 17, miraculous work is not done directly by God but by an angel of heaven under God’s command, Raphael. Raphael is the one who removes the white films from Tobit’s eyes. Raphael is the one who sets Sarah free from the wicked demon and gives Sarah to Tobit’s son in marriage because Tobit’s son, Tobias, was entitled to have her before all others who had desired to marry her.

There is an allusion, here, to Deuteronomy 25:5-10, in which the responsibilities of a husband’s relatives if the husband dies are prescribed. So, this entitlement did not indicate ownership, but responsibility a certain man had under the Law to take care of a widow in his family.

What strikes me, here, is that the activities of God are, once again, attributed to a lesser being than God. Throughout the Old and New Testaments, God is clearly identified as the only one who sustains and heals His people. Nowhere is it described that any type of angel heals on His behalf. There is another diminishing, here, of God’s sovereignty not only in His providential work but also in His miraculous work. The author(s) of Tobit did not think highly of God, as we have seen previously. The Apocrypha disagrees with the Biblical text.

References to archangels, like Raphael, are original to the writings of the Apocrypha. This is an interesting note. Never before the writings of the Apocrypha were Archangels mentioned or described as carrying out the miraculous work of God. This is either progressive revelation or an idea that has been developed by people and imported into theological thought, which people have become adept at doing. The only angels mentioned by name are Gabriel and Michael in the book of Daniel and Michael is described as a protector of Israel- not as doing the specific work that God has reserved for Himself. Gabriel and Michael are also the only angels mentioned by name in the New Testament. Jude borrows from the Apocrypha’s language when he describes Michael as an archangel (Jude 9). So, the influence of the Apocrypha in the lives of the New Testament writers is unmistakable. Once again, we see evidence that books like this would have been available to them and the language present in these works was utilized in the culture of the time. 

Raphael, here, is not classified as an archangel. The name, Raphael, means “God has healed.” It is possible, in this purposefully fictional story, that Raphael was meant to be a literary image or an allegorical character within the story. It could be that Raphael is not meant to be read as a literal angel or as a separation of the work of God from God. In this case, people have evolved the allegorical character, Raphael, to the place of literal existence even as an archangel and have extrapolated doctrine based on this angel’s literal existence and role as an archangel of God. This doctrine is based primarily on fiction and on works that disagree with Biblical content. When we consider polytheistic worldviews, this is precisely how different groups began the digression from monotheism (worship of a single creator-God) to polytheism (the worship of multiple gods with different influences over the creation). Many churches, Protestant and Roman, have started down this road again- praying to saints and angels rather than to God almighty. How many things will we presume to have taken God’s place?

The storyteller(s) continues to tell these two concurrent parts of the story, “At the same time…” Tobit returns from the courtyard and Sarah comes down from the upper room.

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