The story of Tobit is found in what is called the Apocrypha, that is, a collection of books written very much in the manner of the Bible, and formerly bound in Bibles between the Old and the New Testament.

The story goes that when Enemessar, King of Assyria, conquered the people of Israel, he led away many of them captive into Assyria, among them the family of Tobit, his wife Anna, and their son Tobias. They settled in Nineveh, and Tobit, being an honest man, was made purveyor to the king. That is, it was his business to provide food for the king's household.

In this office he was able to lay up a good deal of money, which he placed for safe keeping in the hands of Gabael, an Israelite who lived at Rages in Media. Tobit was a generous man, and he did many kind deeds for his less fortunate fellow exiles; he delighted in feeding the hungry and clothing the naked.

When Sennacherib was king of Assyria, many Jews were slain and left lying in the street, and Tobit, finding their neglected bodies, buried them secretly. One night, after some such deed of mercy, a sad affliction befell him. White films came over his eyes, causing total blindness. In his distress he prayed that he might die, and began to make preparations for death. He called his son Tobias to him and gave him much good advice as to his manner of life, and then desired him to go to Rages to obtain the money left there with Gabael. But Tobias must first seek a guide for the journey. "Therefore," says the story, "when he went to seek a man, he found Raphael that was an angel. But he knew not; and he said unto him, 'Canst thou go with me to Rages? and knowest thou those places well?' To whom the angel said, 'I will go with thee, and I know the way well: for I have lodged with our brother Gabael,'" The angel gave himself the name Azarias. "So they went forth both, and the young man's dog with them."

"As they went on their journey, they came in the evening to the river Tigris, and they lodged there. And when the young man went down to wash himself, a fish leaped out of the river, and would have devoured him. Then the angel said unto him, 'Take the fish,' And the young man laid hold of the fish, and drew it to land. To whom the angel said, 'Open the fish and take the gall, and put it up safely.' So the young man did as the angel commanded him, and when they had roasted the fish, they did eat it: then they both went on their way, till they drew near to Ecbatane. Then the young man said to the angel, 'Brother Azarias, to what use is the gall of the fish?' And he said unto him, 'It is good to anoint a man that hath whiteness in his eyes, and he shall be healed.'"

The Louvre, Paris

After this curious incident there were no further adventures till they came to Ecbatane. Here they lodged with Raguel, a kinsman of Tobit, and when Tobias saw Sara, the daughter, he loved her and determined to make her his wife. He therefore tarried fourteen days at Ecbatane, sending Azarias on to Rages for the money. This delay lengthened the time allotted for the journey, but at last the company drew near to Nineveh,—Azarias or Raphael, and Tobias, with the bride, the treasure, and the precious fishgall. Raphael then gave Tobias directions to use the gall for his father's eyes. Their arrival was the cause of great excitement. "Anna ran forth, and fell upon the neck of her son. Tobit also went forth toward the door, and stumbled: but his son ran unto him, and took hold of his father: and he strake of the gall on his father's eyes, saying, 'Be of good hope, my father.' And when his eyes began to smart, he rubbed them; and the whiteness pilled away from the corners of his eyes: and when he saw his son, he fell upon his neck."

Now Tobit and Tobias were full of gratitude to Azarias for all that he had done for them, and, consulting together as to how they could reward him, decided to give him half the treasure. So the old man called the angel, and said, "Take half of all that ye have brought, and go away in safety." Then Raphael took them both apart, and said unto them, "Bless God, praise him, and magnify him, and praise him for the things which he hath done unto you in the sight of all that live."

With this solemn introduction the angel goes on to tell Tobit that he had been with him when he had buried his dead countrymen, and that his good deeds were not hid from him, and that his prayers were remembered. He concludes by showing who he really is.

"I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One."

"Then they were both troubled, and fell upon their faces: for they feared God. But he said unto them, 'Fear not, for it shall go well with you; praise God therefore. For not of any favor of mine, but by the will of our God I came; wherefore praise him for ever. All these days I did appear unto you; but I did neither eat nor drink, but ye did see a vision. Now therefore give God thanks: for I go up to him that sent me.'" "And when they arose, they saw him no more."

The picture shows us the moment when the angel suddenly rises from the midst of the little company and strikes out on his flight through the air like a strong swimmer. Tobit and Tobias fall on their knees without, while Anna and the bride Sara stand in the open door with the frightened little dog cowering beside them. The older people are overcome with wonder and awe, but Tobias and Sara, more bold, follow the radiant vision with rapturous gaze.