January 25, 2008

From the Editor Emeritus / John F. Fink

Biblical women: The story of Sarah and Tobiah

John F. Fink(Twenty-fourth in a series of columns)

Sarah had been married seven times, but each time, on her wedding night, the demon Asmodeus had killed her husbands.

Now she was to be married again, this time to Tobiah, who had just arrived with a man named Azariah, and had claimed her for his wife because he was her nearest relative.

The love story of Tobiah and Sarah in the Book of Tobit is a religious novel set during the time after the fall of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to Assyria.

Tobiah has traveled from Ninevah, in modern Iraq, to Media, in modern Iran, to get some money that his father, Tobit, had left with a man named Gabael.

Azariah, Tobiah’s companion, is really the archangel Raphael, sent by God in answer to prayers said at the same time by Tobit and Sarah. Both had prayed for death.

In Sarah’s case, it was after a maid had accused Sarah of strangling her husbands. In great distress, she went to her room intending to hang herself. But realizing the pain this would cause her father, Raguel, she begged God to let her die.

As Tobiah and Raphael traveled to Media and neared Ecbatana, Raphael told Tobiah that they would stay with Raguel that night. He also told him about Sarah, Raguel and his wife, Edna’s only child, and Tobiah’s closest relative. Raguel would know that, according to the Book of Moses, Tobiah had the right to marry his daughter.

They arrived at Raguel and Edna’s home, introduced themselves and were welcomed joyfully.

During dinner, Tobiah told Raphael to ask Raguel to let him marry Sarah. Raguel answered that Tobiah had the right to her, but he should understand that she had been wed seven times and her husbands never survived their wedding night.

Tobiah said that he still wanted to marry her so Raguel called Sarah and gave her to Tobiah. Edna brought a scroll and the men drew up a wedding contract.

That night, Sarah awaited her new husband in the bedroom.

When Tobiah arrived, he brought with him the liver and heart from a fish he had caught during his journey. He placed them on burning embers and the horrible odor repelled the demon Asmodeus, who had been awaiting Tobiah. The demon fled to the desert of Egypt. Raphael pursued him, bound him hand and foot, and then returned.

Before going to bed, Tobiah and Sarah prayed together, calling for God’s mercy on them and asking him to allow them to live together to a happy old age.

Raguel, expecting the worst, had his servants dig a grave for Tobiah. Then he sent a servant in to see how the couple was. The servant reported that they were sleeping peacefully. Raguel had the servants fill in the grave.

Tobiah and Sarah returned to Ninevah and lived happily ever after. They had seven sons. After the deaths of Tobit and his wife, Anna, they returned to Ecbatana and were living there when they learned about the destruction of Ninevah. †

Local site Links: