How Does Archangel Raphael Heal People in the Bible's Book of Tobit?

Tobias with the Archangel Raphael, 1865-1866. Artist: Gustave Doré
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Archangel Raphael (also known as Saint Raphael) visits people to deliver both physical and spiritual healing in a famous story described in the Book of Tobit (considered part of the Bible by Catholic and Orthodox Christians).

In the story, a faithful man named Tobit sends his son Tobias to go to a foreign country to retrieve some money from a family member. Tobias hires a guide to show him the way there and doesn't realize that the guide he has hired is actually archangel Raphael in disguise. Along the way, Raphael cures Tobit of blindness and drives away a demon named Azazel who had been tormenting Sarah, the woman whom Tobias was going to marry.

Expressing Thanks for a Job Well Done

The Book of Tobit describes how Raphael directs Tobias to use an ointment made from a fish to heal his father Tobit's blindness and how Raphael guides Tobias to scare away the demon that had been tormenting Sarah. By chapter 12, Tobias still thinks that the wise and mysterious stranger accompanying him on his journey is a man. But when Tobias and Tobit try to express their gratitude by paying the companion, they discover that he is actually an archangel -- Raphael -- who wants them to direct their thanks to God:

"When the wedding feast was over, Tobit called his son Tobias and said, 'My son, you ought to think about paying the amount due to your fellow traveler; give him more than the figure agreed on.'

'Father,' he replied, 'how much am I to give him for his help? Even if I give him half the goods he brought back with me, I shall not be the loser. He has brought me back safe and sound, he has cured my wife, he has brought the money back too, and now he has cured you as well. How much am I to give him for all this?'

Tobit said, 'He has richly earned half what he brought back'." (Tobit 12:1-14).

In her book The Healing Miracles of Archangel Raphael, Doreen Virtue notes that the valuable help that Raphael gives Tobias when they're traveling together inspired people to name Raphael a patron saint of travelers: "Tobias gains wisdom, valuable experiences, and a bride along the way, thanks to Raphael. Ever since he accompanied Tobias on his journey, archangel Raphael has been a patron saint of travelers."

The story continues in Tobit 12:5-6: "So Tobias called his companion and said, 'Take half of what you brought back, in payment for all you have done, and go in peace.'

Then Raphael took them both aside and said, 'Bless God, utter his praise before all the living for the favor he has shown you. Bless and extol his name. Proclaim before all people the deeds of God as they deserve, and never tire of giving him thanks."

In her book Angelic Healing: Working with Your Angels to Heal Your Life, Eileen Elias Freeman writes that it's important to notice that "Raphael declines any thanks or reward" and instead directs the men toward praising God for their blessings. Freeman continues: "This is clearly the most central things we learn about Raphael, and, by analogy, about all the servants of God -- that they come to us by the will of God and not by their own decisions. They expect the respect that such a messenger deserves, but they will take no special thanks or glory for themselves; they refer it all back to God, who sent them. It is something to remember when we try to make the healing partnership we have with our guardian angel a two-way street. It is not. Without God to give depth and breadth to the relationship, it is flat and lifeless."

Revealing His True Identity

The story continues in Tobit 12:7-15, where Raphael finally reveals his identity to Tobit and Tobias. Raphael says: "It is right to keep the secret of a king, yet right to reveal and publish the works of God as they deserve. Do what is good, and no evil can befall you. Prayer with fasting and alms with uprightness are better than riches with iniquity. Better to practice giving to the poor than to hoard up gold. Giving to the poor saves from death and purges every kind of sin. Those who give to people in need have their fill of days; those who commit sin and do evil bring harm on themselves. I am going to tell you the whole truth, hiding nothing from you. I have already told you that it is right to keep the secret of a king, yet right too to reveal in a worthy way the words of God. So you must know that when you and Sarah were at prayer, it was I who offered your supplications before the glory of the Lord and who read them; so too when you were burying the dead."

"When you did not hesitate to get up and leave the table to go and bury a dead man, I was sent to test your faith, and at the same time, God sent me to heal you and your daughter-in-law, Sarah. I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand ever ready to enter the presence of the glory of the Lord.'

Praising God

Then, in chapter 12, verses 16 to 21, the Book of Tobit describes how Tobit and Tobias reacted to what Raphael had just told them: "They were both overwhelmed with awe; they fell on their faces in terror."

But the angel said, 'Do not be afraid; peace be with you. Bless God forever. As far as I was concerned, when I was with you, my presence was not by any decision of mine, but by the will of God; he is the one whom you must bless as long as you live, he the one that you must praise. You thought you saw me eating, but that was appearance and no more. Now bless the Lord on earth and give thanks to God. I am about to return to him who sent me from above. Write down all that has happened.' And he rose in the air.

When they stood up again, he was no longer visible. They praised God with hymns; they thanked him for having performed such wonders; had not an angel of God appeared to them?"

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Hopler, Whitney. "How Does Archangel Raphael Heal People in the Bible's Book of Tobit?" Learn Religions, Oct. 7, 2021, Hopler, Whitney. (2021, October 7). How Does Archangel Raphael Heal People in the Bible's Book of Tobit? Retrieved from Hopler, Whitney. "How Does Archangel Raphael Heal People in the Bible's Book of Tobit?" Learn Religions. (accessed March 27, 2023).