11I am Tobit and this is the story of my life. My father was Tobiel, my grandfather was Ananiel, and my great-grandfather was Aduel. Aduel's father was Gabael; his grandfather was Raphael; and his great-grandfather was Raguel, who belonged to the clan of Asiel, a part of the tribe of Naphtali. 2
During the time that Shalmaneser was emperor of Assyria, I was taken captive in my home town of Thisbe, located in northern Galilee, south of Kadesh in Naphtali, north-west of Hazor, and north of Phogor.
3All my life I have been honest and have tried to do what was right. I have often given money to help needy relatives and fellow-Jews who were deported with me to Nineveh, the capital of Assyria.
4When I was young, I lived in northern Israel. All the tribes in Israel were supposed to offer sacrifices in Jerusalem. It was the one city that God had chosen from among all the Israelite cities as the place where his Temple was to be built for his holy and eternal home. But my entire tribe of Naphtali rejected the city of Jerusalem and the kings descended from David. 5
Like everyone else in this tribe, my own family used to go to the city of Dan in the mountains of northern Galilee to offer sacrifices to the gold bull-calf which King Jeroboam of Israel had set up there.
I was the only one in my family who regularly went to Jerusalem to celebrate the religious festivals, as the Law of Moses commands everyone to do. I would hurry off to Jerusalem with the first part of my harvest, the firstborn of my animals, a tenth of my cattle, and the freshly clipped wool from my sheep. Then I would stand before the altar in the Temple, and give these offerings to the priests, the descendants of Aaron. 7I would give a tenth of my grain, wine, olive-oil, pomegranates, figs and other fruits to the Levites who served God in Jerusalem. Every year, except the seventh year when the land was at rest,1.7 the land was at rest: See Lev 25.1–7. I would sell a second tenth of my possessions and spend the money in Jerusalem on the festival meal.
8But every third year, I would give a third tithe1.8 a third tithe; some manuscripts have the money. to widows and orphans and to foreigners living among my people, and we would eat the festival meal together. I did this in keeping with the Law of Moses, which Deborah, the mother of my grandfather Ananiel, had taught me to obey. (I had been left an orphan when my father died.)
9When I grew up, I married Anna, a member of my own tribe. We had a son and named him Tobias. 10Later, I was taken captive and deported to Assyria, and that is how I came to live in Nineveh.
While we lived in Nineveh, all my relatives and fellow-Jews used to eat the same kind of food as the other people who lived there, 11but I refused to do so. 12Since I took seriously the commands of the Most High God, 13he made Emperor Shalmaneser respect me, and I was placed in charge of purchasing all the emperor's supplies.
14Before the emperor died, I made regular visits to the land of Media to buy things for him there. Once, when I was in the city of Rages in Media, I left some bags of money there with Gabael, Gabrias' brother, and asked him to keep them for me. There were more than 300 kilogrammes of silver coins in those bags. 15When Shalmaneser died, his son Sennacherib succeeded him as emperor. It soon became so dangerous to travel on the roads in Media that I could no longer go there.
16While Shalmaneser was still emperor, I took good care of my fellow-Jews whenever they were in need. 17
If they were hungry, I shared my food with them; if they needed clothes, I gave them some of my own. Whenever I saw that the dead body of one of my people had been thrown outside the city wall, I gave it a decent burial.
18One day Sennacherib cursed God, the King of Heaven; God punished him, and Sennacherib had to retreat from Judah. On his way back to Media he was so furious that he killed many Israelites. But I secretly removed the bodies and buried them; and when Sennacherib later searched for the bodies, he could not find them.
19Then someone from Nineveh told the emperor that I was the one who had been burying his victims. As soon as I realized that the emperor knew all about me and that my life was in danger, I became frightened. So I ran away and hid. 20Everything I owned was seized and put in the royal treasury. My wife Anna and my son Tobias were all I had left.
21About six weeks later, two of Sennacherib's sons assassinated him and then escaped to the mountains of Ararat. Another son, Esarhaddon, became emperor and put Ahikar, my brother Anael's son, in charge of all the financial affairs of the empire. 22This was actually the second time Ahikar was appointed to this position, for when Sennacherib was emperor of Assyria, Ahikar had been wine steward, treasurer, and accountant, and had been in charge of the official seal. Since Ahikar was my nephew, he put in a good word for me with the emperor, and I was allowed to return to Nineveh.
When I returned home I was reunited with my wife Anna and my son Tobias. At the Harvest Festival, which is also called the Festival of Weeks, I sat down to a delicious meal. 2When I saw how much food there was on the table, I said to Tobias, “My son, go out and find some fellow-Jew who is living in poverty here in exile, someone who takes God's commands seriously. Bring him back with you, so that he can share this festival meal with us. I won't start eating until you come back.”
3So Tobias went out to look for such a person. But he quickly returned, shouting, “Father! Father!”
“Yes, what is it?” I asked.
“One of our people has just been murdered! Someone strangled him and threw his body into the market-place.”
4I jumped up and left the table without even touching my food. I removed the body from the street and carried it to a little shed, where I left it until sunset, when I could bury it. 5
Then I returned home and washed, so as to purify myself. In deep sorrow I ate my dinner. 6
I was reminded of what the prophet Amos had said to the people of Bethel:
“Your festivals will be turned into funerals,
and your glad songs will become cries of grief.”I began to weep.
7After sunset I went out, dug a grave, and buried the man. 8My neighbours thought I was mad. “Haven't you learnt anything?” they asked. “You have already been in danger once for burying the dead, and you would have been killed if you had not run away. But here you are doing the same thing all over again.”
9That night I washed, so as to purify myself, and went out into my courtyard to sleep by the wall. It was a hot night, and I did not pull the cover up over my head. 10Sparrows were on the wall right above me, but I did not know it. Their warm droppings fell into my eyes, causing a white film to form on them. I went to one doctor after another, but the more they treated me with their medicines, the worse my eyes became, until finally I was completely blind.
For four years I could see nothing. My relatives were deeply concerned about my condition, and Ahikar supported me for two years before he went to the land of Elam.
11After Ahikar left, my wife Anna had to go to work, so she took up weaving, like many other women. 12The people she worked for would pay her when she delivered the cloth. One spring day, she cut a finished piece of cloth from the loom and took it to the people who had ordered it. They paid her the full price and also gave her a goat.
13When Anna came home with the goat, it began to bleat. I called out, “Where did that goat come from? You stole it, didn't you? Take it straight back to its owners. It's not right to eat stolen food!”
14“No!” she replied. “It was given to me as a gift in addition to what I got for the cloth.” But I didn't believe her, and I blushed for shame for what she had done. I ordered her to return the goat to its owners, but she had the last word. “Now I see what you are really like!” she shouted. “Where is all that concern of yours for others? What about all those good deeds you used to do?”