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The Exorcism of Sarah


“When they had finished eating and drinking they wanted to retire; so they took the young man and brought him into the bedroom. 2 Then Tobias remembered the words of Raphael, and he took the fish’s liver and heart out of the bag where he had them and put them on the embers of the incense. 3 The odor of the fish so repelled the demon that he fled to the remotest parts of Egypt. But Raphael followed him, and at once bound him there hand and foot.” – Tobit 8.1-3 NRSV

Reflecting upon this portion of Tobit, I’m pretty sure Tobiah had it easy.  His involvement with Sarah’s demons problems involves his hearing of a rumor.  “I have heard that she already has been married to seven husbands and that they died in the bridal chamber. On the night when they went in to her, they would die. I have heard people saying that it was a demon that killed them.” – Tobit 6.14b.  And he has a companion who knows how to get rid of demons as evidenced later in the chapter.  (Why Tobiah believes Raphael, furthermore why he believes Raphael when he says this demon-possessed-chick was meant for you before time is another question).  In any case Tobiah’s exorcism circumstances are easy, after dealing with the smell he gets to enjoy the pleasures of marriage.

Of course the Vulgate makes it a little harder for Tobiah since he has to wait and pray for three days for this exorcism to go through: “Then Tobias exhorted the virgin, and said to her: Sara, arise, and let us pray to God to day, and to morrow, and the next day: because for these three nights we are joined to God: and when the third night is over, we will be in our own wedlock.” – Tobit 8.4 Douay-Rheims.  But even then he just have to pray, smell not so nice stuff and he’s done with that Asmodeus guy.

You know though Sarah herself admittingly has it harder, Tobiah didn’t know any of the men that died because of the demon lusting after her, (since it’s just a heard).   But she has to deal with the loss of all those before her true love.  (Suppose when a couple is predetermined before the world, I would not want to be the one not meant to be in the relationship).  Sarah had to deal with this demon, and all the poor rumors surrounding her until Tobiah comes.  Ah once again the Damsel in Distress is saved by the hero.  (Well kind of Raphael does finish the job).  Sarah has it harder.  There is little wonder that she was tempted by the idea of suicide.  One has to question what their solution to the problem would have been?

Of course Sarah must have been prepared for the worst when Tobiah announced his intentions of marrying her.  Even worst would have been when he started to burn fish guts.  What a wonderful romantic gesture.  I can imagine Tobiah saying: “Hey Sarah, before we do this whole consummation let’ me spice up the mood with this “incense.””  Sarah not only had to deal with all those dead suitors, now she’s smelling fish guts, because all she get is this stranger, doing strange things.  Lucky her that Yahweh had preordained her marriage.

This leads to Raphael, who I’m proposing is the real Exorcist of the story.  Of course he has the luck of being an angel (Archangel to be precise) and so know he knows how to get rid of the demons.  He somehow does a good a job of convincing everyone what one is supposed to do in this sort of situation.  (Despite the fact that he never gives a good reason for why he would know this stuff, in Tobiah’s defense he is a young guy).

– Le Bel Inconnu


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