The Book of Tobit: A Genetic Comedy

“Beware of all whoredom, my son, and chiefly take a wife of the seed of thy fathers, and take not a strange woman to wife…remember, my son, that our fathers from the beginning, even that they all married wives of their own kindred”—The Book of Tobit

While researching demons, I stumbled across the Book of Tobit, one of the most unintentionally hilarious pieces of writing I’ve seen in a long time. For those of you not familiar with it, it’s one of the original books of the Bible but was removed from the Protestant Bible along with six other books by Martin Luther, who seemed to think that they were superfluous. I don’t know about the other ones, but I can’t blame him for getting rid of Tobit. If something in my religion’s holy book made me laugh out loud, I’d get rid of it too. (Actually, lots of things in my religion’s holy book make me laugh out loud [Hail Eris!], but Marty wasn’t exactly notorious for his wacky sense of humor.) Tobit and the other books are still in the Catholic Bible, but having been raised Methodist I had never heard of it before.* I apologize for my ignorance, but not for making fun of it. It’s just too funny. Besides, I’ve never written an exegesis before, and I like the sound of it: exegesis. Makes me sound smart…until you actually read it.

Tobit was a good and pious Israelite. He was married to Anna, who was related to him, although their exact relation to one another is undisclosed. Anyway, Tobit lived during the time when theTobit buries the dead Jews were ruled by the Assyrians, who Tobit got on the bad side of because he had a nasty habit of burying any dead bodies he happened to find. Evidently, the Assyrians liked having a lot of dead bodies lying around because it’s so sanitary and they smell nice too, not to mention all of the buzzards and other adorable scavengers that they attract. So Tobit had to go hide out until Sarchedonus became king and Tobit’s nephew Achiacharus became some kind of big shot in the Assyrian government. Tobit was then able to return to Anna and his son Tobias, two of the only people living at the time whose names are actually recognized by spell check.

Then the Assyrians killed another guy and Tobit buried him too while his neighbors made fun of him for having not learned his lesson the first time. Then he went home and slept in his courtyard because he was “polluted” and showers and Handi-Wipes had not yet been invented, although I could be wrong since Handi-Wipes are also not recognized by spell check.

Now, before he buried the guy, Tobit brought him into his house to wait for the sun to go down for unspecified reasons. So it’s okay to bring a dead guy into your house, but if you bury him then you’re unclean and have to sleep outside? Maybe it’s a Hebrew thing.

So while Tobit slept in the courtyard, some sparrows crapped in his eyes and blinded him (“a whiteness came in mine eyes,” which I’m guessing is a pretty accurate description of some birds taking a dump in your peepers). So his wife had to take “women’s work” (sexist pig) to support the family and her boss gave her some money and a kid.

Tobit blinded
I can’t believe someone actually painted this. Click to see it enlarged.

I originally thought that this meant that the boss had knocked her up, but it turns out that he just gave her a baby goat. Considering how those things eat, I’m not sure that’s any better. Anyway, Tobit and Anna got into a big fight because he thought that she stole the goat and Anna told him off good. (A woman won an argument with her husband? Go figure!) Tobit took this really hard and prayed for God to kill him, as married men often do.

Meanwhile, in the nearby city of Ecbatana, a girl named Sara was having problems of her own. She had been married seven times, but each time the demon Asmodeus had killed the groom on their wedding night before any of them had gotten the chance to give her a proper jostling. Because of this, Sara’s maids accused her of killing her husbands and advised her to kill herself, so apparently good help has always been hard to find. Sara thought about hanging herself, but decided that this would be a rotten thing to do to her father. Instead, she also prayed for God to kill her, because I guess that’s somehow better.

A few personal observations: I’ve never had a maid, but if I did and she recommended that I commit suicide, I think I’d be looking to replace her. Good luck getting a reference for your next gig, ladies. “She did a bang-up job on the privy, but she also told my daughter to kill herself, so it’s a bit of a wash.” More importantly, her seven previous husbands died on their wedding night? Okay, one is just bad luck. Even two might just be a coincidence. But by the third time, don’t you now have a moral obligation to warn these guys? By the time husband number four bit the big one, I think she could legally be considered an accomplice.

Anyway, two loyal followers praying for Him to kill them definitely got The Big Guy’s attention, so He sent the Archangel Raphael, no less, down to cure Tobit’s blindness and arrange for Tobias to marry Sara and keep Asmodeus from killing him afterward.

Coincidentally, Tobit suddenly remembered that he had some money stashed away in Ecbatana. Since he was pretty sure that he’d be dead soon and he wanted his family to be taken care of, he sent Tobias off to get it, but first he gave him some fatherly advice. He told Tobias all about what he needed to do in order to be a good person, including how he needed to make sure that he married a girl from his own family. He also insisted that Tobias find a trustworthy companion to accompany him to Ecbatana, so Tobias went out to find one and immediately ran into Raphael, who lied about his identity and pretended to be a member of their tribe. (Angels lie about who they are? Keep that in mind indefinitely. It may come up again later on.)

Raphael and Tobias
Aren’t the wings a bit of a giveaway?

At the end of their first day’s travel, Tobias went down to the river to wash up and a fish tried to eat his foot, but Tobias caught it instead, possibly making him the inadvertent inventor of noodling. Raphael told Tobias to cut out and save the heart, gall and liver of the fish because they could be used to drive away demons and cure blindness. (What a lucky break! What a load of carp!) Then, just to teach that fish a lesson, they ate the rest of him for dinner. Considering that this fish was big enough to swallow a man’s foot, I’m guessing that they were pretty full afterward.

As they were walking along the next day, Raphael told Tobias about Sara and how he should marry her. It turned out that Tobias had heard of Sara and her seven dead husbands. He suspected that a demon was in love with her and had killed them all and said that he didn’t want to be dead guy number eight. Raphael reminded him that they had the handy, demon-banishing fish guts and told him to burn the heart and liver in their bedroom the night of their wedding and the demon would flee and never come back. He failed to mention that this might also have the same effect on the bride, but I digress. He also reminded Tobias of his father’s advice to marry a relative and informed him that Sara was his second cousin, so he had first dibs on her. Her father would, therefore, be unable to refuse to hand her over. Hearing all of this, Tobias got all hot and bothered and decided that he did want to get him some of Sara – murderous demons be damned.

Seriously? He was entitled to marry her because they were related, not in spite of the fact? Well that explains a lot about the origins of religion. I didn’t know that part of the Bible took place in Kentucky. I guess it was lucky for Sara that Tobias didn’t have any sisters or he probably would’ve been spoken for already. Maybe all seven of Sara’s dead husbands were also cousins, in which case maybe Asmodeus is the Demon Prince of Preventing Genetic Atrocities. So the guy who was already the product of a marriage between family members is going to marry his second cousin? Their mutant kids never had a prayer. I think Fred Phelps may have been a direct descendant.

Incidentally, burning fish guts seems to be the universally agreed upon way to deal with Asmodeus, just in case you ever run into him, since he also told Solomon in The Testament of Solomon that burning fish guts makes him flee. Solomon then proceeded to tie him up and burn some fish guts right over his head just to show him who’s boss. On the surface, this sounds like some kind of magical operation. Then again, I think that burning fish guts would probably get rid of just about anyone. In fact, I’m not sure who burning fish guts wouldn’t get rid of. Try it the next time you have a houseguest who won’t leave and let me know how it works out.

So when they got to Ecbatana, they found Sara’s house and told her family all of this (except Tobias and Sara's wedding nightthe part about the fish guts) and her father drew up a wedding contract, which seems to have made them married (how romantic). After dinner, they went to Sara’s bedroom and Tobias burned the fish guts, which caused Asmodeus to run away to Egypt. Raphael then followed him there and bound him, whatever that means, which begs the question: Why didn’t he just do that in the first place so Tobias didn’t have to stink up the bedroom on his wedding night?

Meanwhile, Sara’s father sneaked out to dig a grave for Tobias so that they could bury him first thing in the morning so that no one would know that his daughter had killed another one. When they found out Tobias was still alive the next day, he had his servants hurry out and fill in the grave because it would have been pretty awkward if Tobias had happened to see it. How they planned to explain the big, filled-in hole in the backyard that wasn’t there the day before isn’t mentioned.

Finally, the writer of Tobit, who was apparently being paid by the word, went on to write several more pages about Tobias returning home with Sara and curing his father’s blindness by rubbing the fish gall on them and a bunch of other stuff that basically said that they lived happily ever after, despite the continuing lack of Handi-Wipes.

The End

Not bad for a first exegesis if I do say so myself. Maybe next I’ll do one of the Gospels. That should get the death threats pouring in.


*I’ve only twice attended Catholic services, and the first time I committed the cardinal sin of taking Holy Communion without being a confirmed Catholic. Of course, my Catholic friend that I was there with didn’t bother to tell me this until afterward when it was too late, so thanks a lot for standing idly by and silently watching as I unknowingly condemned my immortal soul to Hell, Jamie.

and all the devils are here






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