Scripture acquaints us, Jer 35:2-11, that Jonadab son of Rechab, in the time of Jehu king of Israel; laid an injunction on his posterity not to drink wine, not to build houses, not to plant vineyards, to have no lands, and to dwell in tents all their lives. This they continued to observe for above three hundred years; but in the last year of Jehoiakim king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar coming to besiege Jerusalem, the Rechabites were forced to take refuge in the city, though still lodging in tents. During this siege, Jeremiah received orders from the Lord to invite them into the temple, and to offer them wine to drink. They refused to partake of it; and their fidelity to their father's injunction was a severe reproof to the Jews; and the divine promise concerning the perpetuity of the family, Jer 35:19, was undoubtedly fulfilled, though it may now be impossible to distinguish temm, as some profess to do, among the tribes of Central Arabia.
the descendants of Rechab through Jonadab or Jehonadab. They belonged to the Kenites, who accompanied the children of Israel into Palestine, and dwelt among them. Moses married a Kenite wife (Jg 1:16), and Jael was the wife of "Heber the Kenite" (Jg 4:17). Saul also showed kindness to the Kenites (1SA 15:6). The main body of the Kenites dwelt in cities, and adopted settled habits of life (Jg 21:25); but Jehonadab forbade his descendants to drink wine or to live in cities. They were commanded to lead always a nomad life. They adhered to the law laid down by Jonadab, and were noted for their fidelity to the old-established custom of their family in the days of Jeremiah (35); and this feature of their character is referred to by the prophet for the purpose of giving point to his own exhortation. They are referred to in Ne 3:14; 1Ch 2:55. Dr. Wolff (1839) found in Arabia, near Mecca, a tribe claiming to be descendants of Jehonadab; and recently a Bedouin tribe has been found near the Dead Sea who also profess to be descendants of the same Kenite chief.
Descendants of Rechab, the father of Jonadab. The account of these people is given by themselves: they abstained from wine, and they did not build houses, nor sow seed. Being nomads they did not plant vineyards, nor had any; but all their days they dwelt in tents. Though called Rechabites, they trace their mode of life to what their ancestor Jonadab had commanded. When compelled to dwell in Jerusalem for fear of the Chaldeans and Syrians, Jeremiah called them together and offered them wine; but they refused to drink any, and gave the above explanation.
God instructed Jeremiah to hold up the obedience of the Rechabites as an example to the men of Judah. These men faithfully obeyed their father, whereas Judah had not obeyed their God. It was said of them that because of their faithfulness to their father's commands Jonadab should not want a man to stand before God for ever. The Rabbis interpret this to signify that they should minister in the sanctuary, and say they became united to the Levites; but we find nothing of this in scripture. Jer 35. Travellers in the East have met with people who trace their origin to Rechab, and who appeal to the scripture as a proof of God having preserved them. There are still about 60,000 of them, dwelling in tents in the oases of the desert.
RECHABITES. The Rechabites, though they dwelt among the Israelites, did not belong to any of their tribes; for they were Kenites, as appears from 1Ch 2:55, where the Kenites are said to have come of "Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab." These Kenites, afterward styled Rechabites, were of the family of Jethro, otherwise called Hobab, whose daughter Moses married; for "the children of the Kenite, Moses's father-in-law," it is said, "went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah, and dwelt among the people," Jg 1:16; and we read of "Heber the Kenite, who was of the children of Hobab, the father-in- law of Moses, who had severed himself from the Kenites," or from the bulk of them who settled in the tribe of Judah, "and pitched his tent in the plain of Zaanaim," Jg 4:11. They appear to have sprung from Midian, the son of Abraham by Keturah, Ge 25:2; for Jethro, from whom they are descended, is called a Midianite, Nu 10:23. Of this family was Jehonadab, the son of Rechab, a man of eminent zeal for the pure worship of God against idolatry, who assisted King Jehu in destroying the house of Ahab, and the worshippers of Baal, 2Ki 10:15-16,23, &c. It was he who gave that rule of life to his children and posterity which we read of in Jer 35:6-7. It consisted of these three articles: that they should drink no wine; that they should neither possess nor occupy any houses, fields, or vineyards; that they should dwell in tents. This was the institution of the children of Rechab; and this they continued to observe for upward of three hundred years, from the time of Jehu to that of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, when Nebuchadnezzar coming to besiege Jerusalem, the Rechabites were obliged to leave the country and take refuge in the city. In Jeremiah 35, there is a promise made to this people, that Jonadab, the son of Rechab, should not want a man to stand before the Lord; that is, that his posterity should not fail: and to this day this tribe is found among the Arabians of the desert, distinct, free, and practising exactly the institutions of Jonadab, whose name they bear, and of whose institutions they boast. This is a remarkable instance of the exact fulfilment of a minute and isolated prophecy. See BENI KHAIBIR.