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.
Verse 2. - The house of the Rechabites ("house" equivalent to "family"). From a notice in 1 Chronicles 2:55 it appears that the Rechabites were a subdivision of the Kenites, the nomad tribe so closely connected with the Israelites (Judges 1:16; Judges 4:18-22; comp. Numbers 10:29), especially with the tribe of Judah (1 Samuel 27:10; 1 Samuel 30:29). The names of Jonadab and of Jaazaniah and his progenitors (which include the sacred Name), together with the zeal of Jonadab for the worship of Jehovah (2 Kings 10:15, 23), seem to indicate that the religion of the Rechabites approximated closely to that of the Israelites. There seem, in fact, to have been two branches of the Kenites - one having Edomitish, the other Israelitish, affinities. Records of the former still exist in the Sinaitic inscriptions, and in the Arabian histories; indeed, there is still a tribe called Benu-l-Qain (often contracted into Belqein) in the Belqa (the ancient land of Ammon); and it would seem that there is an Arab tribe in Arabia Petraea, eastward of Kerak, which traces itself to Heber the Kenite. and goes by the name of Yehud Chebr, though it now denies any connection with Jews. There were also Jews of Khaibar, near Mecca, who played an important part in the early history of Islam (see further 'Zeitschr. der deutschen morgenland. Gesellschaft,' 8:706; 14:438; 28:568, 571). Into one of the chambers. There were many "chambers" of different sizes attached to the temple, and employed partly for stores, partly for councils and assemblies, partly for guard chambers, and other official purposes (comp. 1 Chronicles 28:12; Ezekiel 40:17). In Jeremiah 36:10 we even find a private person occupying one of the "chambers." That into which Jeremiah conducted the Rechabites was, no doubt, one of the largest size; it was appropriated to the use of a single priestly family - the "sons of Hanan" (ver. 4).
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:
Verse 4. - A man of God. The title, according to Hebrew usage, belongs to Hanan, not to his father, and means "prophet" (see e.g. 1 Kings 12:22); comp. Plumptre -
"There the chamber stands
Where Hanan's followers gather up the words
Their master speaks." The chamber of the princes; i.e. the room "where the princes," i.e. the most distinguished laymen, especially the "elders of the people," assembled before the temple services. Maaseiah the son of Shallum. Probably the father of Zephaniah, "the second [or, 'deputy'] priest" (Jeremiah 52:24), himself a functionary of high rank, as he is called a keeper of the door (or rather, threshold). There were three of these "keepers," corresponding to the number of the gates of the temple, and they ranked immediately after the high priest and his deputy (Jeremiah 52:24); comp." I had rather be a doorkeeper," etc., in one of the Korahite psalms (Psalm 84:10).
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.
Verse 5. - Pots full of wine; rather, bowls, large round vessels (crateres), out of which the drinking cups were filled.
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:
Verse 6. - Jonadab the son of Rechab our father. Jonadab (the contemporary of King Jehu) is here called the "father" of the Rechabites (comp. vers. 14, 16), in the same sense in which the disciples of the prophets are called the "sons of the prophets;" he was a teacher, if not (in some sense) a prophet. This illustrates the uncompromising zeal of Jonadab in 2 Kings 10:23; the religion of Baal was probably at the opposite pole in the matter of luxury to that of Jehovah as practised by Jonadab.
"Not for you the life
Of sloth and ease within the city's gates,
Where idol feasts are held, and incense smokes
To Baalim and Ashtaroth; where man
Loses his manhood, and the scoffers sit
Perverting judgment, selfish, soft, impure."
(Plumptre.) Ye shall drink no wine, etc. The Rechabites were, in fact, typical Arabs. The Wahhabee movement, in our own century, may be taken as partly parallel, though, of course, a settled life is not one of the abominations of the neo-orthodox Islam. A still more complete parallel is given by Diodorus Siculus (19:94), who states it to be the law of the Nabataeans, "neither to sow corn, nor to plant any fruit-bearing herb, nor to drink wine, nor to prepare houses," and gives as the motive of this the preservation of their independence.
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.
Verse 11. - And for fear of the army of the Syrians. We are expressly told in 2 Kings 24:2 that, after the rebellion of Jehoiakim, "bands of Syrians" made incursions into Judah.
Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying,
Verse 12. - Then came the word of the Lord, etc. The substance of the severe address which follows must have been delivered in one of the outer courts of the temple, when Jeremiah had left the Rechabites.
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:
Verse 16. - Because, etc. This rendering is against Hebrew usage, and any reader will see that the obedience of the Rechabites stands in no inner connection with the sentence pronounced upon Judah. Ver. 16 is rather an emphatic recapitulation of what has preceded. It runs literally, (I say) that the sons of Jonadab have performed, etc., but (that) this people hath not hearkened unto me; or, in more English phraseology, "Yea, the sons of Jonadab," etc.
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:
Verses 18, 19. - A promise to the Rechabites (perhaps removed from its original connection). The form of the promise is remarkable; it runs, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever. The phrase is, as Dr. Plumptre remarks, "all but essentially liturgical. It is used of the Levites (Deuteronomy 10:8; Deuteronomy 18:5, 7), of the worship of the patriarchs (Genesis 19:27), of the priests (1 Kings 8:11; 2 Chronicles 29:11; Nehemiah 7:65), of prophets (1 Kings 18:15), of priests and Levites together (Psalm 134:1; Psalm 135:2)." It is, however, rash, perhaps, to maintain, with the same acute scholar, that the Rechabites were adopted into the tribe of Levi. The phrase may be simply chosen to indicate the singular favour with which Jehovah regarded the Rechabites - a favour only to be compared to that accorded to his most honoured servants among the Israelites - the patriarchs, the priests, and the prophets.
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.