JEREMIAH CHAPTER 35.
The Example of the Rechabites.
THE FACT. — V. 1. The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim, the son of Josiah, king of Judah, about in the summer of the year 606 B. C., saying, v. 2. Go unto the house of the Rechabites, a family descending from the tribe of the Kenites, with some prominent members, 2 Kings 10, 15. 23, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, the small cells built on the outside of the walls, used chiefly for storage purposes, 1 Kings 6, 5, and give them wine to drink, offering them this intoxicant to put them to a test. Rechab, the father of Jonadab and the ancestor of the tribe, had given his children the command to abstain from wine in order to keep them in the simplicity of their forefathers and to protect them from moral decay. V. 3. Then I took Jaazaniah, the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, all the members of the family that could be found, v. 4. and I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, that is, a prophet who occupied this cell, which was by the chamber of the princes, where the rulers of the people assembled at that time for the sessions of the great council, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah, the son of Shallum, probably the same man that occupied the position of second priest in the nation, cp. chap. 29, 25 and 21, 1, the keeper of the door, the chief officer of the Temple-guard or of that section which was entrusted with watching the Temple-gates; v. 5. and I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine. This invitation was included in the plan of the Lord, for their passing the test successfully was to be made the theme of a discourse to the people. V. 6. But they said, We will drink no wine; for Jonadab, the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye nor your sons, forever, not merely a wise temperance, but a total abstinence being required of them; v. 7. neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any, in following any agricultural or horticultural pursuit, on account of which they might become settled in any one place; but all your days ye shall dwell in tents, leading a more or less nomadic life, like their forefathers before them, that ye, in obedience to their ancestor's command, may live many days in the land where ye be strangers; for, although living in the midst of Israel and Judah and having accepted the true God, the Rechabites maintained their own nationality. V. 8. Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he hath charged us, thereby setting a splendid example of obedience, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters, v. 9. nor to build houses for us to dwell in; neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed; v. 10. but we have dwelt in tents and have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab, our father, commanded us. V. 11. But it came to pass, when Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, came up into the land, his invading army threatening the ancient dwelling-places of the Kenites first, that we said, Come and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and for fear of the army of the Syrians, for marauding bands of Syrian tribes took every opportunity to plunder exposed parts of Palestine, 2 Kings 24, 2. So we dwell at Jerusalem, making use of the city as a temporary refuge, until they might return to their home-land. The Rechabites thus offered a fine example of willing obedience to the command of their tribal head.
THE APPLICATION. — V. 12. Then came the word of the Lord unto Jeremiah, saying, v. 13. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction by which they might be trained properly, to hearken to My words? saith the Lord. V. 14. The words of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine are performed, the commands of a mere man having so much weight; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father's commandment, in unwavering faithfulness and obedience; notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking, but ye hearkened not unto Me. The Rechabites had received only one ordinance, and they had clung to its observance for almost three hundred years, although it was transmitted by oral tradition from father to son only; but the Lord's people took no interest in His admonitions, although they were repeated continually. V. 15. I have sent also unto you all My servants, the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return ye now every man from his evil way and amend your doings and go not after other gods to serve them, a warning which we find time and again, and ye shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers; but ye have not inclined your ear nor hearkened unto Me. He had commanded nothing unreasonable, but simply to serve Him, and he had attached to His command a most gracious promise, but all in vain. V. 16. Because the sons of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, have performed the commandment of their father which he commanded them, but this people hath not hearkened unto Me, v. 17. therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring upon Judah and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken unto them, but they have not heard, and I have called unto them, but they have not answered. The connection of thought is this: Just as faithfulness in keeping a father's commands has a promise of blessings, so, and much more so, disobedience to the Lord's commands will, on the other hand, bring a most severe punishment. The emphasis of the passage lies in the contrast. V. 18. And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Because ye have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab, your father, and kept all his precepts and done according unto all that he hath commanded you, their obedience being brought out very strongly by the synonymous expressions, v. 19. therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before Me forever, that is, the family of the Rechabites would not die out, and it would continue in the worship of Jehovah without interruption. According to the accounts of trustworthy travelers, the descendants of Rechab are still living in the desert of Yemen, near Senaar, on the border of Mesopotamia and Arabia. Thus the Lord rewards the careful observance of the Fourth Commandment by blessings continuing through many generations.