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The Rechabite Tradition
The Rechabites were descendants of Rechab through his sons Jonadab and Jehonadab. They were related to the Kenites who were among the "foreign" people who entered the promised land with the Israelites (Moses' wife was the daughter of Jethro the Kenite i.e. "1:16 And the children of the Kenite, Moses' father in law" Judges 1:16 KJV). A distinctive characteristic of some of the Rechabites, those descended through Jehonadab, was that their forefather declared that they were to forever live in tents and to never drink wine. In later years, when the kings of Israel (see The Northern Kingdom) and Judah (see The Southern Kingdom) had become corrupt, that Rechabite tradition provided an object lesson in obedience to the LORD.
"35:1 The word which came unto Jeremiah from the LORD [i.e. from Christ - see Christ The Creator, 'The God Of The Old Testament' and 'Before Abraham Was, I AM'] in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah [see Kings of Israel and Judah and Israelite Dynasties], saying, 35:2 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.
"They obey their father's commandment"
The Rechabites then replied to explain that they did not consume wine. They also explained that they were seeking refuge in the city only because the open land was then under invasion by the Babylonians and Syrians.
"35:6 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: 35:7 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. 35:8 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; 35:9 Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed: 35:10 But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us. 35:11 But it came to pass, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon [see also Nebuchadnezzar's Dream] 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." (Jeremiah 35:6-11 KJV)
The LORD then used the Rechabites' obedience to their ancient father as a stark contrast of the people of Judah's disobedience to their Ancient Father (see also The Ancient of Days).
"35:12 Then came the word of the LORD unto Jeremiah, saying, 35:13 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. 35:14 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. 35:15 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. 35:16 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:
Although the abstinence from wine and living a nomadic life in tents was a matter of their own family tradition, their obedience and faithfulness to their forefather's commandment was rewarded by the LORD because what they did was righteous in the LORD's sight (which, unlike some other family and religious traditions, are not righteous in the LORD's sight i.e. see I Did It My Way and Did Jesus Break The Law?) - something that the people of Judah had thrown away for themselves.
"35:18 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: 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." (Jeremiah 35:18-19 KJV)
Fact Finder: The incident with the Rechabites as described in the verses quoted above occurred in the time of Jeremiah when the kingdom of Judah was about to fall to the Babylonans. Why was Judah allowed to be conquered? Was it going to be a permanent loss, or were they going to return after seventy years?