Story of Ahikar, Tobit and Daniel

Image result for tobit and sennacherib


Book of Job probably dependent upon Tobit


Part Three:

Story of Ahikar would not have pre-dated Tobit



 Damien F. Mackey


“… acute criticisms of Meissner … Lidzbarski … Dillon … and Harris … have proved the tale [of Ahikar] to be older than the book of Tobit, and have demonstrated that the latter is dependent upon it”.

 George A. Barton




Due to its inherent gross inaccuracy, the conventional system of chronology invariably leads its advocates towards topsy-turvy conclusions about who influenced whom.

In this series I have concluded differently about, for instance, the Book of Job, considered by some to be “the oldest book in the Bible”, if not in the whole world – my conclusion being that, not only is Job by no means the oldest book, but the Book of Tobit that Job is thought to have influenced was probably, instead, an influence for the Book of Job:


Book of Job probably dependent upon Tobit

Book of Job probably dependent upon Tobit. Part Two: Job not ‘oldest book of the Bible’


Now if the celebrated sage of the neo-Assyrian kings, Ahikar, was in fact Tobit’s nephew, as according to Tobit 1:22, then his uncle must have, of necessity, pre-dated Ahikar. That biological necessity would make it most unlikely that any history of Ahikar would, in turn, pre-date (and influence) the Book of Tobit.

Even less likely would so fanciful a tale as the Story of Ahikar, with its ‘castles in the air’ type concepts, have been the influencing factor for the Book of Tobit.

Yet the conventional commentators inevitably find a way to ‘make’ this happen.

And so George A. Barton, back in 1900, proposed the unlikely argument for the Story of Ahikar to have influenced Tobit, and also the Book of Daniel (which is at least more chronologically reasonable):




Within the last few years a story long known in the Arabian Thousand and One Nights has turned out to be of unexpected interest to the biblical student. In 1880 Georg Hoffmann pointed out the identity of Achiacharus of Tobit I:21 sqq.; 11:18, and 14:10, with a legendary sage, Aiar, who figured in a romance extant in certain Syriac MSS. as a vizier of Sennacherib.

Since that time, through the labors of Jagić, Donybeare, Salhani, Mrs. Lewis, and J. Rendel Harris, versions of the tale as preserved in Slavonic, Armenian, Arabic, and Syriac have been placed within our reach, while the acute criticisms of Meissner,2 Lidzbarski,3 Dillon,4 and Harris5 have proved the tale to be older than the book of Tobit, and have demonstrated that the latter is dependent upon it. It is to Dillon and Harris that we are especially indebted for this demonstration. To the latter we are also indebted for having, with the aid of the other editors mentioned above, placed within our reach, in his volume on Aiar, the various versions of the story. The same scholar has also pointed out that if the book is older than Tobit it is also older than Daniel, and has collected, as noted below, a number of expressions common to the two works.

The substance of the tale is as follows:

Aiar, a vizier of Sennacherib, was possessed of wealth, wisdom, popularity, and power, but had no son. After vainly praying for one he was directed to adopt his nephew Nadan and to find in him the fulfilment of his prayers. This he did rearing the child tenderly and instructing him in wisdom, the precepts of which are recounted to us at length. Nadan proved to be wilful and ungrateful. At length, when Aiar contemplated supplanting him by his younger brother, he forged treasonable letters in Aiar’s handwriting, pretended to the king that he found them, and procured Aiar’s condemnation to death. On a previous occasion Aiar had saved from the wrath of Sennacherib the very person who was now directed to cut off his head. An appeal to this man’s gratitude persuaded him to slay a slave in Aiar stead, while the latter was incarcerated in a dungeon under his own house, where he was tormented by the audible evidences of abuse of his property, his slaves, and his wife in which Nadan indulged.

Meantime the king of Egypt, hearing of Aiar’s death, sent to Sennacherib a series of absurd and impossible demands, such as eastern story-tellers attribute to powerful sovereigns, accompanied by veiled threats of detriment to Assyria in case his demands were not fulfilled. No one was able to tell Sennacherib what to do, and in his extremity the king was glad to reward Aiar’s executioner for not putting him to death. Aiar was then brought forth from his dungeon, with “the color of his face changed, his hair matted like a wild beast, and his nails like the claws of an eagle.” When he had recuperated Aiar went to Egypt, by his wisdom successfully met or baffled the king of Egypt in his demands, and thus delivered Assyria. When he returned to Assyria with enhanced reputation, Nadan was delivered to him for punishment; he flogged him, imprisoned him in the very dungeon where Aiar had himself been entombed, gave him some more instruction, and when the final punishment was ready for him Nadan swelled up and burst asunder, thus taking himself out of the way.

The story has been distorted in one way or another in each of the versions of it, so that a comparison of them all is necessary in order to bind together its different strands again. The publication of the different versions side by side in a convenient volume by Dr. Harris happily makes this possible. If now the story is older than Tobit (a point demonstrated by Dillon and Harris), it is also older than Daniel, and the inquiry as to whether the latter book may not be in some respects dependent upon Aiar becomes a legitimate one. ….


This ridiculous – though highly entertaining – account of the truly historical sage, Ahikar, is just a garbled and fanciful version of the life of that great man, with some distorted (“The story has been distorted”, see above) items from Daniel and Nebuchednezzar thrown in for good measure.


For a proper account of the life and changes of fortune of Ahikar, see e.g. my article:


“Nadin” (Nadab) of Tobit is the “Holofernes” of Judith

It is astounding – but also monotonously predictable – that commentators can delude themselves into thinking that a fairy tale such as the Story of Ahikar could have influenced a biblical book, Tobit, or Daniel, grounded in a real historical era.