Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
The Example of the Rechabites
By the command of God, Jeremiah brings the family of the Rechabites (who had fled for refuge to Jerusalem before the approach of the Chaldeans) into one of the chambers of the temple, and sets before them some wine to drink (Jer 35:1-5). They decline to drink, because the head of their family had forbidden them the use of wine, as well as the possession of houses and the cultivation of the soil, and had commanded them to live in tents (Jer 35:6-11). Jeremiah is to put this before the people of Judah. The Rechabites faithfully observe the command of their ancestor, while the people of Judah transgress the commands of their God, which are continually presented to them (Jer 35:12-16). Therefore the threatened calamity shall fall upon Judah; but the house of Rechab, as a reward for their faithfulness to the injunctions of their ancestor, shall continue for ever (Jer 35:17-19).
According to Jer 35:1, this word of the Lord came to Jeremiah in the fourth year of the reign of Jehoiakim, and, according to Jer 35:11, previous to the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar and his host before Jerusalem; therefore perhaps in the summer of the year 606 b.c., for Jerusalem was taken for the first time by Nebuchadnezzar in the ninth month (December) of that year.
Jeremiah's dealings with the Rechabites - Jer 35:2. Jeremiah is to go to the house, i.e., the family, of the Rechabites, speak with them, and bring them into tone of the chambers of the temple, and set before them wine to drink. בּית , Jer 35:2, Jer 35:3, Jer 35:18, is exchanged for בּני בית־הרכבים, Jer 35:5, from which it is apparent that "the house of the Rechabites" does not mean their dwelling-place, but the family, called in Ch1 2:55 בּית־רכב. According to this passage, the Rechabites were a branch of the Kenites, i.e., descendants of the Kenite, the father-in-law of Moses (Jdg 1:16), who had gone to Canaan with the Israelites, and welt among them, partly in the wilderness on the southern frontier of the tribe of Judah (Sa1 15:6; Sa1 27:10; Sa1 30:29), partly at Kadesh in Naphtali (Jdg 4:11, Jdg 4:17; Jdg 5:24). Their ancestor, or father of the tribe, was Rechab, the father of Jonadab, with whom Jehu made a friendly alliance (Kg2 10:15, Kg2 10:23). Jonadab had laid on them the obligation to live in the special manner mentioned below, in order to keep them in the simplicity of nomad life observed by their fathers, and to preserve them from the corrupting influences connected with a settled life. לשׁכות, "cells of the temple," were additional buildings in the temple fore-courts, used partly for keeping the stores of the temple (Ch1 28:12), partly as dwellings for those who served in it, and as places of meeting for those who came to visit it; see Eze 40:17.
In executing the command of the Lord, Jeremiah took (went for) Jaazaniah, son of Jeremiah, son of Habaziniah, and all his brethren, and sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites, and brought them into the temple-chamber of the sons of Hanan. Jaazaniah was probably the then chief of the Rechabites. The chamber of the sons of Hanan was situated next the princes' chamber, which stood over that of Maaseiah the door-keeper. Nothing further is known about Hanan the son of Jigdaliah; here he is called "the man of God," an honourable title of the prophets - see e.g., Kg1 12:22 - for, according to the usual mode of construction, אישׁ האלהים does not belong to Jigdaliah, but to Hanan, cf. Jer 28:1; Zac 1:1. "The chamber of the princes" is the chamber where the princes, the chiefs of the people, used to assemble in the temple. Its position is more exactly described by ממּעל לל, "over the chamber of Maaseiah," but not very clearly for us, since the buildings of the temple fore-courts are nowhere else more exactly described; however, see on Jer 36:10. Maaseiah was שׁמר הסּף, "keeper of the threshold," i.e., overseer of the watchmen of the temple gates, of which, according to Jer 52:24 and Kg2 25:18, there were three, who are there mentioned along with the high priest and his substitute Maaseiah is probably the same whose son Zephaniah was כּהן המּשׁנה , cf. Jer 52:24 with Jer 37:3; Jer 29:25, and Jer 21:1.
There, Jeremiah caused bowls filled with wine to be set before the Rechabites, and commanded them to drink. (גּביעים are large goblets, bowls, out of which drinking-cups [כּסות] were filled.) But they explained that they did not drink wine, because their father, i.e., their ancestor, Jonadab had forbidden them and their posterity to drink wine for ever, as also to build houses, to sow seed, and to plant vineyards, i.e., to settle themselves down in permanent dwellings and to pursue agriculture. ולא יהיה לכם, "And there shall not be to you," sc. what has just been named, i.e., ye must not possess houses, growing-crops, or vineyards (cf. Jer 35:9),
(Note: These injunctions, given by Jonadab to his posterity, that he might make them always lead a nomad life, are quoted by Diodorus Siculus, xix. 94, as a law among the Nabateans: Νόμος ἐστὶν αὐτοῖς μήτε σίτον σπείρειν, μήτε φυτεύειν μηδὲν φυτὸν καρποφόρον, μήτε οἴνῳ χρῆσθαι, μήτε οἰκίαν κατασεκυάζειν; while the object of the law is stated to have been the maintenance of their freedom against the more powerful who sought to bring them into subjection. And even at the present day the Bedouins imagine that they are prevented, by the nobility of their descent from Ishmael, from engaging in agriculture, handicraft, or the arts; cf. Arvieux, Sitten der Beduinen-Araber, 5f.)
but ye are to dwell in tents all your life, that ye may live long, etc. This promise is an imitation of that found in Exo 20:12.
This command of their forefather they observe in all points, and therefore dwell in tents; and only because of Nebuchadnezzar's arrival in the country have they come to Jerusalem, in order to find refuge for a time from the army of the Chaldeans and that of Aram (the Arameans). The special mention of the army of Aram in connection with that of the Chaldeans is perhaps due to the frequent predatory incursions made, at an earlier period, on Israel and Judah by the Syrians. According to Kg2 24:2, after Jehoiakim had rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar, hostile bands of Arameans invaded Judah for the purpose of laying waste the country.
The example of the Rechabites is one for Judah. - Jeremiah is to proclaim the word of the Lord to the people of Judah, as follows: Jer 35:13. "Thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel: Go and say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will ye not receive instruction by listening to my words? saith Jahveh. Jer 35:14. The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, who commanded this sons not to drink wine, are performed, and they have drunk no wine to this day, but have obeyed the command of their father. But I have spoken unto you, rising up early and speaking, yet ye have not listened unto me. Jer 35:15. And I sent unto you all my servants the prophets, rising early and sending them, saying, Turn ye, now, every one from his evil way, and do good deeds, and do not go after other gods, to serve them; then shall ye dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers. But ye did not incline your ear, nor hearken unto me. Jer 35:16. Yea, the children of Jonadab the son of Rechab have observed the commandment of their father which he commanded them, while this people have not hearkened unto me. Jer 35:17. Therefore, thus saith Jahveh, the God of hosts, the God of Israel: Behold, I will bring upon Judah and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil which I have uttered regarding them, because I spake unto them and they did not hear, and I called unto them, but they did not answer. Jer 35:18. And to the house of the Rechabites Jeremiah said: Thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel, Because ye have listened to the command of Jonadab your father, and have kept all his commandments, and have done according to all that he commanded you, Jer 35:19. Therefore, thus saith Jahveh of hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever."
The command, "Go and speak to the men of Judah," etc., shows that it was not in the chamber of the temple, in presence of the Rechabites, but probably in one of the temple fore-courts, that Jeremiah addressed the following word of the Lord to the people assembled there. In order to shame the Jews thoroughly, he shows them the faithfulness with which the Rechabites observe the ordinances of their ancestor Jonadab. The character of the address, as one intended to rouse feelings of shame, is indicated even at the beginning of Jer 35:13 : "Will ye not receive instruction by hearkening to the words of the Lord?" The Hoph. הוּקם is construed as a passive with the accus.; in the older writers we frequently find this construction, in which the passive is used impersonally, hence the sing. is here employed: cf. Ges. 143, 1, Ew. 295, b. "To this day" - now for nearly 300 years without interruption; for Jonadab was already held in high esteem when Jehu ascended the throne, 883 b.c. (Kg2 10:15). Judah, on the contrary, does not listen to the commandments which his God unceasingly inculcates on him, but rather wanders after other gods, to serve them. On Jer 35:15 cf. Jer 25:4-5. אל־האדמה stands for על־האדמה , Jer 25:5. - In Jer 35:16, where the introductory כּי, imo, indicates a culmination, the idea is once more briefly expressed. Ngelsbach incorrectly renders כּי "because," and makes Jer 35:16 the protasis to Jer 35:17. "Such a protasis with because (quia), without any connection with what precedes, is contrary to the use of language" (Hitzig). On the threat of punishment in Jer 35:17, see Jer 11:11.
The 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 (Jer 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 Jer 35:19, cf. Jer 33:18. Since עמד denotes the standing of a servant before his master, and in Jer 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, Jer 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.)