The Book of Tobit is a book of scripture that is part of the Catholic and Orthodox biblical canons. It was recognized as canonical by the Council of Hippo (in 393), the Councils of Carthage of 397 and 417, and the Council of Florence (in 1442), and confirmed in the Counter-Reformation by the Council of Trent (1546). Many Anglicans, Lutherans, and Methodists have it in their canon of scripture.
This book tells the story of Tobit, a righteous Israelite of the tribe of Naphtali, living in Nineveh after Sargon II had deported the northern tribes of Israel to Assyria in 721 B.C. In the two Greek versions, the first two and a half chapters are written in the first person; in the Vulgate version, they are written in the third person. Tobit, raised by his paternal grandmother, Deborah, remains loyal to the worship of God at the temple in Jerusalem, refusing the cult of the golden calves that Jeroboam, king of the northern kingdom of Israel, set up at Dan. He is particularly noted for his diligence in attempting to provide proper burials for fallen Israelites whom Sargon's successor, Sennacherib, has slain. For this behavior the king seizes his property and exiles him. After Sennacherib's death, Tobit is allowed to return to Nineveh, where he buries a man who has been murdered on the street. That night, he sleeps in the open and is blinded by bird droppings which fall into his eyes. His blindness subsequently leads him to falsely accuse his wife, Anna, of stealing a baby goat she had received as partial payment for work she had done. This strains his marriage and, ultimately, he prays for death.
Meanwhile, in faraway Media, a young woman named Sarah has prayed for death in despair. The demon of lust, Asmodeus ("the worst of demons"), abducts and kills every man Sarah marries on their wedding night before the marriage can be consummated. God sends the angel Raphael, disguised as a human, to heal Tobit and free Sarah from the demon.
The main narrative is dedicated to Tobit's son, Tobiah or Tobiyah, who is sent by his father to collect money that the elder has deposited in distant Media. Raphael presents himself as Tobit's kinsman, Azariah, and offers to aid and protect Tobias. Under Raphael's guidance, Tobias journeys to Media with his dog.
Along the way, while washing his feet in the river Tigris, a fish tries to swallow his foot. By the angel's order, he captures it and removes its heart, liver and gall bladder.
Upon arriving in Media, Raphael tells Tobias of the beautiful Sarah, whom Tobias has the right to marry because he is her cousin and closest relative. The angel instructs the young man to burn the fish's liver and heart to drive away the demon when he attacks on the wedding night. The two marry, and the fumes of the burning organs drive the demon to Upper Egypt, where Raphael follows and binds him. Sarah's father had been digging a grave to secretly bury Tobias under the assumption that he would be killed. Surprised to find his son-in-law alive and well, he orders a double-length wedding feast and has the grave secretly filled. Since the feast prevents him from leaving, Tobias sends Raphael to recover his father's money.
After the feast, Tobias and Sarah return to Nineveh. There, Raphael tells the youth to use the fish's gall to cure his father's blindness. Raphael then reveals his identity and returns to heaven, and Tobit sings a hymn of praise.
Tobit tells his son to leave Nineveh before God destroys it according to prophecy (compare the Book of Nahum). After the prayer, Tobit dies at an advanced age. After burying his father and mother, Tobias returns to Media with his family.