December 09, 2002 Copyright © by United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
- 1 Thus under King Esarhaddon I returned to my home, and my wife Anna and my son Tobiah were restored to me. Then on our festival of Pentecost, the feast of Weeks, a fine dinner was prepared for me, and I reclined to eat.
- 2 The table was set for me, and when many different dishes were placed before me, I said to my son Tobiah: "My son, go out and try to find a poor man from among our kinsmen exiled here in Nineveh. If he is a sincere worshiper of God, bring him back with you, so that he can share this meal with me. Indeed, son, I shall wait for you to come back."
- Tobiah went out to look for some poor kinsman of ours. When he returned he exclaimed, "Father!" I said to him, "What is it, son?" He answered, "Father, one of our people has been murdered! His body lies in the market place where he was just strangled!"
- I sprang to my feet, leaving the dinner untouched; and I carried the dead man from the street and put him in one of the rooms, so that I might bury him after sunset.
- 3 Returning to my own quarters, I washed myself and ate my food in sorrow.
- I was reminded of the oracle pronounced by the prophet Amos against Bethel: "Your festivals shall be turned into mourning, And all your songs into lamentation."
- And I wept. Then at sunset I went out, dug a grave, and buried him.
- The neighbors mocked me, saying to one another: "Will this man never learn! Once before he was hunted down for execution because of this very thing; yet now that he has escaped, here he is again burying the dead!"
- That same night I bathed, and went to sleep next to the wall of my courtyard. Because of the heat I left my face uncovered.
- 4 I did not know there were birds perched on the wall above me, till their warm droppings settled in my eyes, causing cataracts. I went to see some doctors for a cure, but the more they anointed my eyes with various salves, the worse the cataracts became, until I could see no more. For four years I was deprived of eyesight, and all my kinsmen were grieved at my condition. Ahiqar, however, took care of me for two years, until he left for Elymais.
- At that time my wife Anna worked for hire at weaving cloth, the kind of work women do.
- 5 When she sent back the goods to their owners, they would pay her. Late in winter she finished the cloth and sent it back to the owners. They paid her the full salary, and also gave her a young goat for the table.
- On entering my house the goat began to bleat. I called to my wife and said: "Where did this goat come from? Perhaps it was stolen! Give it back to its owners; we have no right to eat stolen food!"
- 6 But she said to me, "It was given to me as a bonus over and above my wages." Yet I would not believe her, and told her to give it back to its owners. I became very angry with her over this. So she retorted: "Where are your charitable deeds now? Where are your virtuous acts? See! Your true character is finally showing itself!"
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1  The feast of Weeks: also called by its Greek name Pentecost, was celebrated fifty days after the Passover. Cf Lev 23:15-21; Deut 16:9-12.
2  Almsgiving and charity to the poor are important virtues taught by the book (4:7-11, 16, 17; 12:8, 9; 14:10, 11).
3  I washed myself: because of ritual defilement from touching a corpse (Numbers 19:11-13).
4  Cataracts: literally, "white scales, or films." Elymais: the Greek name of ancient Elam, a district northeast of the head of the Persian Gulf.
5  Late in winter: literally, "seventh of Dystros," the Macedonian month which corresponds to the Jewish month of Shebat (January-February). For the table: literally, "for the hearth"; the gift had probably been made in view of some springtime festival like the Jewish Purim.
6  Anna's sharp rebuke calls to mind the words of Job's wife (Job 2:9).
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