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Bible Commentaries

Kingcomments on the Whole Bible

Jeremiah 35

Verses 1-5

The Rechabites Tested

In Jer 35:1, we again have a time indication that determines us in what time the event being described takes place. Here we go back seventeen years in time. There is no chronological order in this book. Jerusalem is not yet under siege. Nebuchadnezzar comes up against the land (Jer 35:11).

The Rechabites (Jer 35:2) are descendants of the Kenites or Midianites (1Chr 2:55; Jdg 1:16; Jdg 4:11). They have joined the people of God. Jeremiah is to speak to them, which will mean informing them of the LORD’s will. That will is for them to go to the house of the LORD, where in one of its chambers Jeremiah is to give them wine to drink.

Jeremiah does as he is instructed (Jer 35:3). He takes Jaazaniah, the leader of the house of the Rechabites, with his brothers and all their relatives. He brings the whole company into the house of the LORD in a chamber that is specifically described (Jer 35:4). First it is said who the chamber belongs to. It is “the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, the man of God”.

About Igdaliah – his name means ’great is Yahweh’ – we are told nothing else in Scripture than what we read here. He has a son and grandsons. His son Hanan is a “man of God” – given the structure of the sentence, that title seems to apply to him and not to Igdaliah – an expression also used for men like Elijah and Elisha. That name means that Hanan is someone who upholds God’s rights in a time when the masses do not take those rights into account.

This is followed by saying who the neighbors next door and below are. In the chamber next door are the princes and in the chamber below that lives the doorkeeper. These are all people with a high and responsible position in the midst of the people and with regard to the house of God. Maaseiah is one of the three doorkeepers of the temple (Jer 52:24).

In the chamber of the sons of the man of God, a chamber surrounded by an exquisite company, Jeremiah brings in the raw nomads. There he sets before them a large quantity of wine and commands them to drink wine (Jer 35:5).

Verses 6-11

Loyalty of the Rechabites to Jonadab

However, the Rechabites refuse to drink of the wine that Jeremiah has set before them (Jer 35:6). They refuse not because the LORD would have forbidden them to drink wine. They refuse because their ancestor Jonadab forbade them to do so. He not only forbade it to his own children, but gave the prohibition for his entire posterity, forever. Their lifestyle resembles that of the Nazirite (Num 6:1-7).

Jonadab lived during the time of Jehu, who had to exterminate the house of Ahab (2Kgs 10:11-17). Here we are about two and a half centuries later. Jehu found an ally in Jonadab. Jonadab did not participate in the worship of Baal. He is one of the seven thousand who did not bow their knee to Baal (1Kgs 19:18).

The faithfulness to the word of Jonadab is great. The time of Jehu is a time of great wickedness. During that time, Jonadab wants to live as a true Nazirite. He does not want to go along with the trend of the times and he wants his children to live like that as well. This does not mean that they are hermits, but people who are aware of the temporal nature of life and entrust themselves to the LORD for that.

Obedience to Jonadab’s words does not only involve not drinking wine. He also told them not to build a house, sow seed, plant a vineyard or take possession of a piece of land (Jer 35:7). The command is to live in tents as long as they live. As a result, they will live many days in the land where they are staying as strangers. Jonadab was aware of his foreignness and lived consistently accordingly. He has lived as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and as a Nazirite.

This he also told his descendants, and they complied (Jer 35:8). They listened to his voice, they, their wives and their sons and daughters, and drank no wine. They repeated everything Jonadab commanded them and said they have obeyed and have done according to all that Jonadab commanded them. They did not build houses to live in. Nor did they have a vineyard or a field, not even seed (Jer 35:9). In tents they dwelt according to the word of their forefather Jonadab (Jer 35:10).

Driven by circumstances, they came to give up life in tents and live in Jerusalem (Jer 35:11). This is not disobedience to the word of their forefather. They are acting with deliberation here, exchanging nomadic life for life in the city for the sake of safety. But they keep the commandment not to drink wine.

Verses 12-17

The Reproach to Judah

After this example of obedience of the Rechabites to the word of their forefather Jonadab comes the word of the LORD to Jeremiah (Jer 35:12). We are now told why the foregoing took place. It is not to make Israel live the way the Rechabites do, but to impress upon unfaithful Israel the faithfulness of the Rechabites to the word of their forefather. For example, Israel must plant vineyards and may live in cities.

With the words “go and say” the LORD instructs Jeremiah to go out of the chamber and go to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to ask them if they will not listen to the words of the LORD (Jer 35:13). Here we see that the action in the temple has a symbolic meaning. The LORD draws a comparison between His words to the children of Israel and Jonadab’s words to his children (Jer 35:14). Jonadab commanded his children not to drink wine and they listened to that and did not drink wine until this day. The LORD has called His people to obedience time and time again, but they have not listened to Him.

The LORD has sent His servants, the prophets, again and again to His people with the call to repent (Jer 35:15). He has also promised them that they will then remain in the land. But He has to conclude that they have not listened. Yes, the children of Jonadab, the man who does not belong to God’s people and neither do his descendants, have done what His people refuse to do (Jer 35:16).

The contrast is great. Jonadab is a man and his descendants listen to him. The LORD is the eternal God and His people do not listen to Him. The Rechabites are made an example of Judah and Jerusalem. Judah and Jerusalem, so privileged, will be punished because of their disobedience, their unwillingness to listen or even respond to God’s call (Jer 35:17).

Verses 18-19

Reward for the Rechabites

We now hear the LORD’s appreciation of obedience to the word of the parents (Jer 35:18). The Rechabites, says the LORD, have been obedient to Jonadab’s command in everything. Because of this complete faithfulness, He promises that Jonadab will always have a descendant, a man, to serve Him (Jer 35:19). Serving God is the true life. It recalls the call for children to obey their parents in everything (Col 3:20). The reward for them is long life in the land (Eph 6:1-3), which for us means enjoying the spiritual blessings in the heavenly places all the time we are on earth and the eternity that follows.

If we summarize the differences between the Rechabites and God’s people, we see that
1. the Rechabites obey a fallible leader, while the Leader of Judah is the eternal, infallible God (Jer 35:14);
2. the Rechabites receive a command from Jonadab only once, while the LORD has spoken to His people time and time again (Jer 35:15);
3. the Rechabites obeyed Jonadab’s commands for about 300 years, while God’s people continually disobeyed (Jer 35:16);
4. the faithfulness of the Rechabites will be rewarded, while the unfaithfulness of God’s people will be punished (Jer 35:17).

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Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Jeremiah 35". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.