Home » Apocrypha Stuff » Tobit’s Motto: Tobit 1.3

Tobit’s Motto: Tobit 1.3

Often characters in our literature have some fun motto with which they stand by.  For example within the realm of comic books, we have Spider-Man’s “With great power comes great responsibility,” or Superman’s famous motto of “For Truth, Justice, and the American Way.”  And in essence when we open up the book of Tobit, we find Tobit’s motto within the very first set of verses.  That of “Truth, Righteousness and Works of Mercy.”

In Tobit 1.3 we read “I, Tobit, have walked all the days of my life on the paths of truth and righteousness.  I have preformed many charitable works for my kinsmen and my people who have been deported with me to Ninevah, in Assyria.” (NAB).

Nowell sees in this verse the three qualities that are the “key” aspects of Tobit, that of “truth and righteousness… works of mercy” (or charitable works as the NAB puts it), moreover these same qualities are also seen in that of Yahweh[1][2].  These three qualities not only reveal his life at the present, but also unto his death (14.9)[3].

These qualities of Tobit can be readily seen via verse six, where he readily follows that of the “deuternomic principals” against that of his fellow kinsmen (cf. Deut. 12.1-28)[4].  This is seen by while his fellow kinsmen have departed from Yahweh, Tobit in his righteousness goes even to Jerusalem as prescribed by the law[5].  And in a very true way, as Tobit demonstrates these qualities he shows forth the sort of emulating figure which Israel herself should be demonstrating[6].  Especially since in the within the fourth verse Tobit places these qualities against the backdrop of Israel’s deportation.  And in that sense he has just highlighted Israel’s problem namely as Sloyan puts it “schism and idolatry[7].”

Tobit thus from the outset of the story stands apart from his fellow kinsmen even in his exiled home.  For while they had abandoned Yahweh and the rules which he had set up, Tobit upholds them, even at great expense.  As seen in the latter portions of the book.  Even after losing his home, Tobit remains firm to Yahweh and firm to his motto.   Moreover within the wisdom teaching that he gives his son, these three qualities fill his words concerning how one ought to live his life wisely.

– Le Belle Inconnu


[1] Irene Nowell, “Tobit,” in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, ed. Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy (Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 1990), 569.

[2] For Tobit cf. 2.14;7.7;9.6;14.2; for God cf. 3.2,5;13.6

[3] Carey A. Moore, The Anchor Bible Tobit: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, vol. 40a, ed. William Foxwell Albright, and David Noel Freedman (New York: Doubleday, 1996), 106.

[4] Irene Nowell, 569.

[5] Bruce M. Metzger, An Introduction to the Apocrypha (New York: Oxford University Press, 1957), 32.

[6] John Craghan, Old Testament Message: Esther, Judith, Tobit, Jonah, Ruth, vol.16, ed. Carroll Stuhlmueller, and Martin McNamara (Wilmington: Michael Glaizer, 1982), 130.

[7] Gerard S. Sloyan, Old Testament Reading Guide: Ruth and Tobit, vol. 26, ed. William G. Heidt, Kathryn Sullivan, Carroll Suhlmueller, and Barnabas M. Ahern (Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 1968), 26.

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