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?”