Delicious Prose: Reading the Tale of Tobit with Food and Drink

A Commentary


In Delicious Prose: Reading the Tale of Tobit with Food and Drink, Naomi S.S. Jacobs explores how the numerous references to food, drink, and their consumption within The Book of Tobit help tell its story, promote righteous deeds and encourage resistance against a hostile dominant culture. Jacobs’ commentary includes up-to-date analyses of issues of translation, text-criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism, and issues of class and gender. Jacobs situates Tobit within a wide range of ancient writings sacred to Jews and Christians as well as writings and customs from the Ancient Near East, Ugarit, Greece, Rome, including a treasure trove of information about ancient foodways and medicine.
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Biographical Note

Naomi S.S. Jacobs Ph.D (2007), Durham University, has written extensively on Tobit, including for The Jewish Annotated Apocrypha (Oxford, 2018), “Scribal Innovation in the Book of Tobit: A Long Overdue Discussion” and “What About the Dog?: Tobit’s Mysterious Canine Revisited.”

Table of contents

Abbreviations and Sigla
Background Issues for This Study
 1 Storyline and Major Themes of Tobit
 2 The Texts of Tobit
 3 Possible Sources Utilised by the Book of Tobit
 4 Questions of Redaction
 5 Date and Provenance
 6 Class, Gender and Wealth
 7 Tobit, Hybridity and Resistance
 8 How This Commentary is Organized

1 Walking in the Ways of Righteousness: Food and Eating in Tobit’s Testimonial (Tob. 1)
 1 Tithes and First Fruits (1:6–8)
 2 Gentile Food (1:10–11)
 3 Food to the Hungry (1:17)
 4 Conclusion

2 ‘The Table Was Set Before Me’: Tobit’s Shavuot Meal, Its Aftermath and the Parallel Woes of Sarah (Tob. 2–3)
 1 The Shavuot Meal (2:1–7)
 2 Blinding by Bird Droppings (2:9–10)
 3 Ahiqar’s Help (2:10)
 4 Hannah’s Help and the Goat (2:11–14)
 5 No Food in 3:1–17
 6 Conclusion

3 ‘Live Uprightly All the Days of Your Life’: Food and Drink in Tobit’s Testament and the Preparations for Tobiah’s Journey (Tob. 4–5)
 1 Overall Issues Important for Exegesis of Chapter 4
 2 Hunger (or Famine) as Punishment (4:13)
 3 Binge Drinking and Drunkenness (4:15)
 4 Food to the Hungry (4:16)
 5 Consumable Substance(s) on the Graves of the Righteous (4:17)
 6 Preparations for the Journey (5:17)
 7 Conclusion

4 ‘Leaping Up from the Water, a Great Fish’: An Eat-or-Be Eaten Struggle and the Acquisition of Medicinal Fish Organs (Tob. 6 and Its Echoes in 8 and 11)
 1 Tobit and the Hungry Fish (6:2–6)
 2 Medicinal Organs (6, 8, 11)
 3 Harvest (6:5–6)
 4 Heart and Liver (6:7–8, 17–18; 8:2–4)
 5 Gall (6:9; 11:4–8, 11–14)
 6 Conclusion

5 ‘I Will neither Eat nor Drink Here until You Resolve the Things Concerning Me’: Food and Wedding Celebrations (Tob. 7–9 and Elsewhere)
 1 A Proposed Wedding Celebration (6:13)
 2 Wedding-Linked Meals in Ecbatana (7:9–14; 8:1, 8:19–20; 9:16)
 3 The ‘Welcoming Meal’ (7:9–14; 8:1)
 4 The Wedding Celebration in Ecbatana (8:19–20; 9:6)
 5 The Length of the Fourteen-Day Wedding Celebration
 6 Raphael, Gabael and Tobiah at the Wedding Celebration (9:6)
 7 The Wedding Celebration at Nineveh (11:19 (Not S); 12:1)
 8 A Second Reference to the Wedding Celebration (12:1)
 9 Conclusion

6 ‘And Observe [Me] That I Did Not Eat Anything But [That] a Vision Was Beheld by You’: Tobiah’s Return to Nineveh, Raphael’s Revelation, and the Story’s Closure (Tob. 10–14)
 1 Fasting
 2 Consumption as Metaphor (12:9)
 3 Praise for Delayed Eating (12:13)
 4 Angelic Abstinence 12:19
 5 Almost No Food in Chapters 13 and 14
 6 Conclusion

 1 Relevance of Study for Ongoing Debates about Tobit
 2 Conclusion
 3 Epilogue
General Index
 Index of Modern Authors
 Index of Ancient Writings
 Index of Important Hebrew, Aramaic/Syriac, Greek, and Latin Term and Phrases


This volume will interest those intrigued by Tobit, Early Judaism, food and drink in biblical narrative, textual criticism, source criticism, redaction criticism, gender studies, and ancient foodways and medicine.