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There are several ironies in the bible and the book of Tobit is one of the books that is

full of ironies. However, in this write-up, the aim is to find out the role of the dog that appeared
all of a sudden in Tobit 6:2 when Tobias embarked on his journey and its appearance at the
return of Tobias in Tobit 11:4.
Historically, animals including dogs, are seen as objects of exploitation similarly in the
Torah. There are several instances that the dog is seen as negative. In the book of Exodus, dogs
were seen in a negative sense — “You are to be men consecrated to me. You must not eat the
flesh of an animal that has been savaged by wild beasts; you must throw it to the dogs” (Ex
According to the Greek version of the Apocrypha, when Tobias was on his journey to
Rages, the “young man’s dog” went with him. However, we must remember that the dog was
not regarded among Eastern people with feelings of affection. Consequently, it was highly
improbable that Tobias was actually accompanied by a dog. For example, in the Hebrew and
Chaldee versions of the text, the dog’s incidents had been omitted entirely. Therefore,
according to Professor Nöldeke’s1 opinion, Tobias was directed by Raphael to extract the heart
of the fish that he caught, as well as the gall. It was the heart (‫)ﬣﬥﬤ‬, and not a dog (‫ )ﬤﬥﬤ‬that
the young man took with him. Thus, according to Professor Nöldeke: "it is a misreading, in
other words, copyist careless mistakes.”2
The literary position and possible use of the dog in Tobit 6:2 and 11:4 obviously puts it
initially as just being there—present to the travelers, Raphael and Tobias, either a pet dog or a
tamed neighborhood dog. But as it is written, the dog accompanies and there is no trace of it
as being wild or stray in nature, not even as a threatening presence; it does not neglect the
presence of the two characters, nor is it frightful of them. This is possibly rooted as something
outside the culture of Israel. This point is confirmed by manuscripts in Greek from the
Alexandrian Tradition of the book of Tobit. They point out that, the presence of the dog in the
said verses narrates the practice of domestication3 of dogs as an accepted cultural element,
possibly integrative for the catch-audience of the Greek variant of Tobit. Biblical scholars
present their different points of serious study on the presence of the dog at the beginning of the
journey of Tobias and Raphael and again appears in another journey. It can be observed from
the text that the dog is accompanying the two in their journey more than that the dog is the
companion on the journey.4
Prior to the journey, Tobit in his farewell speech to his son Tobias blessed him and told
not to worry because the angel of the Lord will go with him, “his journey will be successful
and he will be back safe and sound” (Tob 5:21). On the other hand, in Tobit 6:2, it is seen that
the dog accompanied Tobias on his journey and in fact in 11:4, the dog would also come back
with him. Consequently, from this positive view from the Greek tradition, the dog in the story
could be seen as playing the security role. The dog’s role is protecting Tobias while on this
journey to a land he did not know. The dog would also have a full experience like Tobias as
they both returned home safely. In fact, the dog would also share the joyful experience of his
master, Tobias, as the dog would run before the travelers and the entire household of Tobit
fawning and wagging its tail. “This shows that when God saves or liberates us, not just human
beings are rejoicing but all creatures of God are also at peace.”5 Although, the readers are also
very much aware that the book of Tobit was full of ironies. As such, the role of the dog might
as well be known to the actors but not known to the readers in this case.
However, from the above analysis, based on the Greek tradition of the book of Tobit, it
is more probable to say that the role of the dog in the story was to accompany Tobias on his
journey. As a conclusion, the dog was a companion and protector of Tobias.
Theodor Nöldeke was a German orientalist and scholar. His research interests ranged over Old
Testament studies, Semitic languages, and Arabic, Persian and Syriac literature.

I. A. The Jewish Quarterly Review: Tobit’s Dog, University of Pennsylvania Press, Accessed March
25, 2019, Available at http://www.jstor.org.
John Craghan, C.SS.R., Esther, Judith, Tobit, Jonah, Ruth. (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier,
Inc., 1982), 143.
Michele Stopera Freyhauf, “Who Let The Dogs Out?: An examination of outside cultural influences in
the Book of Tobit,” Conversations with the Biblical world: proceedings of the Eastern Great Lakes Biblical
Society and the Midwest Region Society of Biblical Literature., 35. pp. 53-77, accessed March 27, 2019, http://
Esther, Judith, Tobit, Jonah, Ruth. (Wilmington, Delaware: Michael Glazier, Inc., 1982), 145. In the
Vulgate Jerome enhances this dimension of joy by noting that the dog (Tobit 11:4) ran before the travelers fawning
and wagging its tail.