Jeremiah 35:19
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 for ever.
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(19) Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.—Taking the words in their simplest literal sense, they find a fulfilment in the strange unlooked-for way in which the name and customs of the Rechabites have cropped up from time to time. The Jewish historian Hegesippus (see Euseb. Hist. Eccl. ii. 23), in his account of the martyrdom of James the Just, names the sons of the Rechabites as looking on in reverential sympathy with one whose life, like their own, carried the Nazarite type to its highest perfection. In the account which Diodorus Siculns (xix. 94) gives of the Nabathæans as neither sowing seed, nor planting fruit-trees, nor building houses, and enforcing this rule of life under pain of death, we can scarcely fail to recognise the Rechabite type. Benjamin of Tudela, in the twelfth century, reports that he found 100,000 Jews who were named Rechabites, and who lived after their fashion near El Jubar, and that they were governed by a prince of the house of David. More recent travellers, Dr. Wolff (Journal, 1829, ii. 334; 1839, p. 389) and Signor Pierotti (Transactions of British Association, 1862), report that they have met tribes near Mecca, on the Dead Sea, or in Yemen and Senaar, who observed the rule of Jonadab, claimed to be his descendants, referred to Jeremiah 35:19 as fulfilled in them, and led the life of devout Jews. It is probable, however, that in these later instances we may trace the effect of the Wahabee ascetic movement among the Mahomedan Arabs, identifying its rule with the old practice of the son of Rechab (Burckhardt: Bedouins and Wahabys, p. 283).

The words “stand before” have, however, in Hebrew a distinct secondary meaning. It was a definitely liturgical expression for the ministrations of the Levites who were chosen to “stand before” the Lord (Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:5; Deuteronomy 18:7), and a like meaning is prominent in Jeremiah 7:10; Jeremiah 15:19; Genesis 18:22; Judges 20:28; Psalm 134:1. The Targum of this passage, indeed, actually gives “ministering before me” as its paraphrase. The natural inference would be that the Rechabites were by these words admitted, in virtue of their Nazarite character, to serve as Levites in the Temple—to be, in fact, a higher class of Nethinim (see Notes on 1Chronicles 9:2; Ezra 2:43)—and this view is confirmed (1) by the fact that the LXX. ascribes Psalms 71 to “the sons of Jonadab, the first that were led captive;(2) that a son of Rechab is associated in Nehemiah 3:14 with priests and Levites and nobles in repairing the walls of Jerusalem; (3) in 1Chronicles 2:55 the Rechabites have become scribes, and in the Vulgate (evidence of a Jewish tradition as to the meaning of the words), the proper names of the English version, “Tirathites, Shimeathites, and Sucathites,” which add nothing to our knowledge, are represented by “canentes et resonantes et in tabernaculis commorantes” (“singing, and playing instruments, and dwelling in tents”), which unite the functions of Levites with the mode of life of the Rechabites. So Hegesippus (as above) speaks of priests who were of the sons of Rechab in the Apostolic age.

35:12-19 The trial of the Rechabites' constancy was for a sign; it made the disobedience of the Jews to God the more marked. The Rechabites were obedient to one who was but a man like themselves, and Jonadab never did for his seed what God has done for his people. Mercy is promised to the Rechabites. We are not told respecting the performance of this promise; but doubtless it was performed, and travellers say the Rechabites may be found a separate people to this day. Let us follow the counsels of our pious forefathers, and we shall find good in so doing.Travelers bear witness to the existence of a large tribe who represent themselves as the descendants of the Rechabites. The prediction was also literally fulfilled in the Rechabites being in some way incorporated into the tribe of Levi, whose office especially it was to "stand before" Yahweh Deuteronomy 10:8. 19. not want a man to stand before me—There shall always be left representatives of the clan to worship Me (Jer 15:1, 19); or, "before Me" means simple existence, for all things in existence are in God's sight (Ps 89:36). The Rechabites returned from the captivity. Wolff found traces of them in Arabia. For ever here signifies the ever of the Jewish state or church; whether the promise relates to the abiding of Jonadab’s family, when many families of the Jews were quite rooted out, cut off, and extinct, or to some special favour that God would show them, or to some place of office they should have in or about the temple, (as some judge, because, 1 Chronicles 2:55, it appears they were scribes,) is uncertain. But it is a question of more moment, How God promiseth a reward to these sons’ of Jonadab for obeying the command of their father, and whether they had sinned if they had not obeyed this command of Jonadab; which brings in another question, Whether parents have a power to oblige their children in matters which God hath left at liberty. To which I answer,

1. God might reward these Rechabites for their reverence and obedience to Jonadab their father, though these were not strictly, by the Divine law, obliged thus far to have obeyed him; as he rewarded David for his thoughts in his heart to build him a house, though it was not God’s will that he should do it; so as God’s promise of the reward doth not prove their obedience in this particular to have been their duty. Admit that it remained still a matter of liberty, yet the general honour and reverence they testified might be rewarded by God.

2. Unquestionably parents have not a power to determine children in all things as to which God hath left them a liberty, for then they have a power to make their children slaves, and to take away all their natural liberty. To marry or not, and to this or that person, is matter of liberty. Parents cannot in this case determine their children; Bethuel, Genesis 24:58, asketh Rebekah if she would go with Abraham’s servant before he would send her.

3. In matters of civil concernment they have a far greater power than in matters of religion. All souls are God’s, and conscience can be under no other dominion than that of God.

4. In civil things parents have a great power, during the nonage of children, and after also in matters which concern their parents’ good, as to command them to assist them, to help to supply their necessities, &c.

5. Parents being set over children, and instead of God to them, as it is their duty to advise their children to the best of their ability for their good; so it is the duty of children to receive their advice, and not to depart from it, unless they see circumstances so mistaken by parents, or so altered by the providence of God, as they may reasonably judge their parents, had these known or foreseen it, would not have so advised. But that parents have an absolute power to determine children in all things as to which God hath not forbidden them, and that children by the law of God are obliged to an obedience to all such commands, however they may see their parents mistaken, or God by his providence may have altered circumstances, I see no reason to conclude. Jonadab had prudently advised his sons as before mentioned; they were things they might do, and which by experience they found not hurtful to them, but of great profit and advantage, and that with reference to all the ends of man’s life: herein they yield obedience, and pay a reverence to their parent; this pleaseth God, he promiseth to reward them with the continuance of their family, according to what he had said, Exodus 20:12, in the fifth commandment, which the apostle calleth the first commandment with promise.

Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,.... Who has enjoined children obedience to their parents, and has promised to reward it, and does:

Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever; which may be understood of a long time, of ages to come; or as long as the people of the Jews were a people, or the world should stand, the posterity of this man should continue: or, "a man shall not be cut off from Jonadab &c." (h); his offspring shall never fail. It is certain that some of this family returned from the captivity, 1 Chronicles 2:55; and, according to Scaliger (i), the Hasidaeans sprung from them. And, if any credit could be given to Benjamin Tudelensis, there were Rechabites in the twelfth century, since the times of Christ; for he tells (k) us, that in his travels he found a place where Jews dwelt, who were called Rechabites. The phrase, "to stand before me", is by the Targum paraphrased,

"ministering before me;''

serving and worshipping God, for they were religious people; that is, in their own families, carrying on religious worship among themselves, and not in the temple, where they had no office, and did no service; though some think they had, because called scribes, 1 Chronicles 2:55. Kimchi says that some of their Rabbins asserted that the daughters of these people married priests, and so some of their children's children offered sacrifice on the altar. And if what Eusebius reports from Hegesippus is true, there were priests of this family after the times of Christ; for he says (l), that when the Jews were stoning James the just, a priest of the sons of Rechab cried out, saying, stop, what are ye doing? but these testimonies are not to be depended on; however, we may be sure of this, that the promise of God shall not fail, but be certainly accomplished. Very appropriate are the words of the learned Alting (m) upon this subject:

"not only the Lord promises length of life to the obedient, which proselytes, equally with Israelites, have the promise of; but, particularly, that the posterity of Jonadab should not perish, should have a place in the church of God, and an admission to the gracious enjoyment of God; not as priests and Levites, but as other Israelites and strangers, Isaiah 56:4; so that the posterity of Jonadab must still continue, and hope of restoration of them with the Israelites remains; as in Jeremiah 31:36; but in the same way and manner; so that being equally sharers in exile, they are to be restored after a long interruption. Indeed, the family is not at this day known; but from the ignorance of men, to the denial of a thing, there is no available argument. Families cannot be confounded, since they descend by the fathers; mothers do not belong to them; and as is the father as to tribe, so also is the son and grandson, and so on. A genealogical series may perish from the knowledge of men, but not from the nature of things, and the knowledge of God. Though the seeds of wheat, barley, and other things, may be mixed together, that men cannot distinguish them, yet their distinction does not perish; and God not only knows it, but also discovers it, when he makes every seed to rise in its own body, 1 Corinthians 15:37; so must we judge concerning families.''

Perhaps, since these Rechabites were proselytes, and not Israelites, the conversion of the Gentiles may be respected; who are priests in a spiritual sense, and minister before the Lord, offering up, through Christ, the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise; and such a generation to serve the Lord will never be wanting.

(h) "non exidetur vir Jonadabo", Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schmidt, &c. (i) Elench. Trihaeres. c. 24, (k) Itinerarium, p. 82. (l) Eccles. Hist. l. 2. c. 23. (m) Apud Witsii Exercitat. 9. de Rechabitis in Miscell. Sacr. tom. 2. p. 235, 236.

Therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall {m} not lack a man to stand before me for ever.

(m) His posterity will continue and be in my favour for ever.

19. to stand before me] It is by no means necessary to understand the expression here as implying priestly functions (cp. Jeremiah 15:19), although the hint that the Rechabites were employed in some capacity in connexion with the Temple is supported by (i) the LXX heading of Psalms 71; (ii) the account of the martyrdom of James the Just (Eusebius, Eccles. Hist. II. 23) where “priests of the sons of Rechab” are spoken of. Benjamin of Tudela, a Jewish traveller of the 12th century, mentions a body of Jews who were called Rechabites, and whose customs corresponded with those detailed in Jeremiah. Dr Wolff (Journal, 1829) describes a body of Rechabites near Mecca who claimed to be sons of Jonadab. But it is by no means clear that the title in these three cases meant anything more than a certain amount of asceticism.

Jeremiah 35:19The declaration concerning the Rechabites is introduced by the formula, "And to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said;" thereby, too, it is shown that the statement does not form an integral portion of the preceding address, but was uttered by Jeremiah perhaps at the close of his transactions with them (Jeremiah 35:11). But it is not given till now, in order to signify to the people of Judah that even fidelity to paternal commands has its own rewards, to make the threat uttered against Judah all the more impressive. On the promise Jeremiah 35:19, cf. Jeremiah 33:18. Since עמד denotes the standing of a servant before his master, and in Jeremiah 7:10 is used of the appearance of the people before the Lord in the temple, עמד לפני seems here also to express not merely the permanence of the family, but in addition, their continuance in the service of the Lord, without, of course, involving sacerdotal service; cf. on the other hand, Jeremiah 33:18, where this service is more exactly described. The acknowledgment of the Lord on the part of the Rechabites is a necessary result of their connection with Israel.

(Note: According to the account of the Jewish missionary Wolff, there are still some Rechabites in Asia, in Mesopotamia and Yemen, who affirm that they are descended from Hobab the brother-in-law [A.V. "father-in-law;" but see Smith's Bible Dictionary, vol. i. Hobab] of Moses. Wolff points out that part of the desert of Yemen near Senaa as the special locality where these Rechabites live. Cf. Dr. Joseph Wolff, ein Wanderleben, von Dr. Sengelmann, Hamburg 1863, S. 65 u 196.)

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