WHO WERE THE “RECHABITES?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
These mysterious characters appear a solitary time in Scripture—Jeremiah chapter 35. In short, the Rechabites were nomadic Gentiles living in Jerusalem several centuries before Christ. The LORD God directed the Prophet Jeremiah to use them to teach his Jewish brethren a critical spiritual lesson. We can learn from this as well.
We open with two simple verses:
“And when he was departed thence, he lighted on Jehonadab the son of Rechab coming to meet him: and he saluted him, and said to him, Is thine heart right, as my heart is with thy heart? And Jehonadab answered, It is. If it be, give me thine hand. And he gave him his hand; and he took him up to him into the chariot” (2 Kings 10:15).
“And Jehu went, and Jehonadab the son of Rechab, into the house of Baal, and said unto the worshippers of Baal, Search, and look that there be here with you none of the servants of the LORD, but the worshippers of Baal only” (2 Kings 10:23).
One Bible dictionary says: “…It was from this Rechab that the tribe of the Rechabites derived their name. In 1 Chron. 2:55 the house of Rechab is identified with a section of the Kenites, a Midianitish tribe who came into Canaan with the Israelites, and retained their nomadic habits. The real founder of the tribe was Jehonadab. He and his people had all along been worshippers of Jehovah, circumcised, though not looked upon as belonging to Israel, and probably therefore not considering themselves bound by the Mosaic law and ritual. The worship of Baal was offensive to them.”
We can now move to reading Jeremiah chapter 35, where the Rechabites appear:
“ The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,  Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the LORD, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.  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;  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, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door:  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.
“ 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 for ever:  Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.  Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;  Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed:  But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.  But it came to pass, when Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, 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: so we dwell at Jerusalem.
“ Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,  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 to hearken to my words? saith the LORD.  The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, that he commanded his sons not to drink wine, are performed; for unto this day they drink none, but obey their father’s commandment: notwithstanding I have spoken unto you, rising early and speaking; but ye hearkened not unto me.  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, 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.  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:  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.
“ 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:  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 for ever.”
Returning to the aforementioned Bible dictionary: “Jehonadab inaugurated a reformation and compelled a more rigid adherence than ever to the old Arab life. They were neither to drink wine, nor build houses, nor plant nor have any vineyard. All their days they were to dwell in tents. Jer. 35:6,7. This was to be the condition of their retaining a distinct tribal existence. For two centuries and a half they adhered faithfully to this rule. The invasion of Judah by Nebuchadnezzar, in B.C. 607, drove the Rechabites from the tents to Jerusalem, where they stood proof against temptation, and were specially blessed. Jer. 35:2-19.”
The LORD God instructed Jeremiah to take the Rechabites into the Temple complex in Jerusalem and offer them wine to drink (verses 2,5). These men replied, “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 for ever… Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;…” (verses 6,8). JEHOVAH God then instructed Jeremiah to go to the men of Judah and tell them about his exchange with the Rechabites. Whereas the Rechabites followed their father’s commandments, the men of Judah did not obey their Heavenly Father’s commandments. This is a stunning rebuke! (Judah’s rebellion will lead to their removal from the Promised Land in just a few years, the 70-year Babylonian Captivity.)
Never should we look down upon the men of Judah for their deliberate sinfulness and hypocrisy. Millions upon millions of Christians today use their lips to claim to “love the Lord” but then deny Him with their worldly mindset and lifestyle. Just as Israel failed to listen to Moses, God’s spokesman to them, so we as the professing Church have ignored the Apostle Paul, God’s spokesman to us. To the extent the Rechabites hearkened unto their father Jonadab, to the degree the Jews should have listened to God’s Word through Moses, so we should obey by faith God’s grace principles laid out in Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon!
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