Blindness by bird excrement, seven husbands murdered by a love-sick demon, a father with the corpses of his sons-in-law interred in the backyard, and a magical fish. These farcical elements make the book of Tobit a striking work of humorous fiction in a long Jewish tradition of storytelling. But it is more than just an entertaining read. We might well laugh, but we cannot laugh too hard, for we also sympathize with the characters’ sincere struggles to understand God’s plan for their lives. This commentary considers the book of Tobit through a specifically feminist lens, discoursing on topics fundamental to the human experience in the story, such as grief, death, family relationships, belonging to a minority community, disability issues, and contending with why bad things happen to good people.
Michele Murray is professor in the department of religion, society, and culture at Bishop’s University, in Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada, where she served as the dean of arts and science, and dean of arts, for a decade. She holds an MA in Second Temple period Jewish history from Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and a PhD in religion, specializing in Christian origins, from the University of Toronto. Her research areas include Jewish-Christian relations in the ancient world, and interaction among Eastern-Mediterranean religions in late antiquity; she is the author of Playing a Jewish Game: Gentile Christian Judaizing in the First and Second Centuries CE (Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2004), and several articles and book chapters.