The Rechabites were mentioned in the book of Jeremiah chapter 35. The prophet’s experience with them took place in an earlier period of his ministry. This was shortly before the Babylonians came against Jerusalem. The founder of this family was Jonadab, or Jehonadab (Jeremiah 35: 6). This godly man lived in the days of Jehu, king of Samaria (841–814 B.C.), about 240 years earlier. It is clear that his effect was so significant that Jehu was glad to have him by his side. And Jonadab was pleased to be with Jehu because of his “zeal for the Lord” (2 Kings 10:15, 16). Jonadab commanded his followers to have a strict way of life.
Jeremiah using the Rechabites’ example as a witness against the inhabitants of Judah
To give an illustration of faithfulness, Jeremiah took the whole house of the Rechabites and brought them into the house of the LORD and set before them bowls full of wine, and cups. And he said to them, “Drink wine” (Jeremiah 35: 3-5).
But they answered, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, you nor your sons, forever. You shall not build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard, nor have any of these; but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land where you are sojourners.’ Thus we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, nor to build ourselves houses to dwell in; nor do we have vineyard, field, or seed. But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us” (Jeremiah 35:6-10).
Throughout life, the Rechabites were like the Nazirites (Numbers 6:2–5) who didn’t drink wine. And they lived away from cities and abstained from having property.
And the Rechabites added, “But it came to pass, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, ‘Come, let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans and for fear of the army of the Syrians.’ So we dwell at Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 35:11). Apologetically, the Rechabites clarified that they were forced to come momentarily to the city of Jerusalem with the other country dwellers of Judah, because of the Babylonian invasion (Jeremiah 4:6; 8:14; 2 Kings 24:1, 2).
The Lord commends the Rechabites
Then came the word of the LORD to Jeremiah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Go and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, “Will you not receive instruction to obey My words?” says the LORD. “The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; for to this day they drink none, and obey their father’s commandment. But although I have spoken to you, rising early and speaking, you did not obey Me” (Jeremiah 35:12-14).
The Lord praised the faithfulness of the Rechabites which was shown in holding to a human law. And Jeremiah said to them, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts and done according to all that he commanded you, therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever” (v. 18,19)
Rebuke to Judah
In outstanding contrast to the Rechabites, who had continued devotedly for centuries in obeying the command of their father, “the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” though claiming to be the children of God, stubbornly refused “to hearken” to divine counsel (Jeremiah 7:13).
Therefore, the Lord pronounced His judgment upon them saying, “Therefore thus says the LORD God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the doom that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken to them but they have not heard, and I have called to them but they have not answered” (Jeremiah 35:17).
In His service,