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Bible Commentaries

Pett's Commentary on the Bible

Jeremiah 35

Verses 1-11

Jeremiah Call The Rechabites To A Gathering And Offers Them Wine (Jeremiah 35:1-11 ).

Jeremiah 35:1

‘The word which came to Jeremiah from YHWH in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying,’

Here YHWH had sent His word through Jeremiah ‘in the days of Jehoiakim’. The time note is deliberately general and not specific. It is emphasising that the disobedience being described was common throughout the reign of Jehoiakim.

Jeremiah 35:2

“Go to the house of the Rechabites, and speak to them, and bring them into the house of YHWH, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.”

‘The house of the Rechabites’ may here be the equivalent of ‘the family of’ as it is in Jeremiah 35:3. Or it may refer to the house in which they were living as paralleled with ‘the house of YHWH’, emphasising that the Rechabites were now living in ‘a house’, contrary to their principles. It may have been for this last reason that YHWH put them to a further test so as to demonstrate that they were being loyal to their father’s requirements, in spite of living in a house, for Jeremiah was called on to invite them into the house of YHWH, ‘into one of the chambers’, and there to give them wine to drink. There were many side chambers in the court of the Temple where important people resided.

Jeremiah 35:3

‘Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites,’

It is noteworthy in the description of those whom he invited to the house of YHWH that both they and their fathers all have ‘Yah’ in their names. (The mention of a Jeremiah is purely coincidental). We know nothing further about these people, only that they appear to be dedicated to YHWH. ‘Brothers’ and ‘sons’ may be intended literally, or may refer to wider relationships (he would not for example exclude the sons of his brothers) like e.g. ‘sons of the prophets’. The name Jaazaniah was found on a seal discovered at Tel en-Nasbeh from c. 600 AD

Jeremiah 35:4

‘And I brought them into the house of YHWH, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, the 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 threshold.’

Jeremiah here clearly had the use of a chamber in the Temple which was in the possession of a fellow-prophet (a ‘man of God’) called Hanan, demonstrating that not all prophets were to be seen as false at this stage. Hanan was distinguished enough to have his chamber ‘by the chamber of the princes’ (used by the princes when visiting the Temple) and above that of the ‘keeper of the threshold’. The keeper of the threshold was an important post in the Temple. He was not just a doorkeeper but one of three high officials whose responsibility it was to ensure that no unauthorised or unclean persons entered the Temple area (Jeremiah 52:24; 2 Kings 25:18). He thus had high authority. ‘The sons of Hanan’ were probably Hanan’s trainee prophets.

It appears that Jeremiah was trying to give the appearance of bringing together two groups of religious zealots who were in sympathy with him, thus disarming the Rechabites who might otherwise have wondered what he was about.

Jeremiah 35:5

‘And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine, and cups, and I said to them, “Drink you wine.”

Once they were gathered he brought out drinking cups and wine bowls and invited the Rechabites to partake (along presumably with the ‘sons of Hanan’). Note the wider use of ‘sons’ here to signify all the Rechabites. It was a typical prophetic acted out parable for Jeremiah no doubt knew what to expect.

Jeremiah 35:6-7

‘But they said, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, saying, ‘You shall drink no wine, neither you, nor your sons, for ever, nor shall you build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any, but all your days you shall dwell in tents, that you may live many days in the land in which you sojourn.’ ”

The Rechabites stood firm by their convictions. They refused to drink wine on the grounds that their ancestor Jonadab, the son of Rechab, had commanded them to avoid the drinking of wine in perpetuity, along with the avoidance of all the other trappings of civilisation mentioned. They were not to live in houses or involve themselves in the kind of settled life which allowed time for grain to grow and vineyards to flourish. Rather they were to live a healthy life in tents, moving from one place to another, thus living healthy and long lives and surviving for many days. The aim would appear to have been to avoid the temptations of civilisation so that they might remain true to YHWH, copying the life of Israel when they were in the wilderness, and of course following the nomadic life of their own ancestors. The covenant that Jonadab had made may well have been a reaction to the ‘civilisation’ introduced by Jezebel, for they were probably already living in this way in accordance with their own lifestyle. Jonadab seemingly turned it into a ‘virtue’. The fact that Jehu had sought an alliance with Jonadab suggests that in his day the Rechabites were admired by the common people because of their simple way of living which was a reminder of ‘the great days in the wilderness’. (Note how these Kenites were now seen as native-born Israelites)

In fact by living the kind of lifestyle that they did wine would not be as important for them as it would be for people in cities, for they could move camp regularly and could always ensure that they encamped by a pure spring. In contrast those who lived in cities often had to depend on water from cisterns which as it became staler and more fouled was unpleasant to drink to say the least. In such circumstances wine was a more pleasant, and often even a more necessary, alternative. (Compare Paul’s advice to Timothy in Ephesus where the water was notorious for giving people sickness - 1 Timothy 5:23).

Jeremiah 35:8-10

“And we have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, in all that he charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters, nor to build houses for us to dwell in, nor 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.”

They stressed their loyalty to the requirements laid down by their ‘father’ in everything that he had required of them, a loyalty which was carried on in the family tradition. There was no loose living among the Rechabites. They lived disciplined lives and were obedient to the covenant by which they had been bound.

Jeremiah 35:11

“But it came about, 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.”

They were aware, however, that their claim appeared a little incongruous in the light of the fact that they were actually dwelling in houses in Jerusalem, so they pointed out that the only reason why they were living in Jerusalem was because they had sought refuge there from invaders. They wanted Jeremiah to know that the single reason for their presence was their fear of the armies of the Chaldeans and the Aramaeans who were harassing the land of Judah and would simply have gobbled up the Rechabites. Once they had gone the Rechabites would return to their previous way of living.

Verses 1-19

SECTION 2 (Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 45:5 ). (continued).

As we have previously seen this Section of Jeremiah from Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 45:5 divides up into four main subsections, which are as follows:

1. Commencing With A Speech In The Temple Jeremiah Warns Of What Is Coming And Repudiates The Promises Of The False Prophets (Jeremiah 26:1 to Jeremiah 29:32).

2. Following The Anguish To Come Promises Are Given Of Eventual Restoration, Central To Which is A New Covenant Written In The Heart And The Establishment Of A Shoot (Branch) Of David On His Throne (Jeremiah 30:1 to Jeremiah 33:26).

3. YHWH’s Continuing Word of Judgment Is Given Through Jeremiah, The Continuing Disobedience Of The People Is Brought Out, And Jeremiah’s Resulting Experiences Leading Up To The Fall Of Jerusalem Are Revealed (Jeremiah 34:1 to Jeremiah 38:28).

4. The Fall Of Jerusalem And Events Subsequent To It Are Described (Jeremiah 39:1 to Jeremiah 45:5).

We have already commented on Subsections 1). in Jeremiah 4:0 and subsection 2). in Jeremiah 5:0. We must now therefore consider subsection 3). This subsection deals with various experiences of Jeremiah (although not in chronological order) in the days of Jehoiakim and Zedekiah.

Section 2 Subsection 3. YHWH’s Continuing Word of Judgment Is Given Through Jeremiah, The Continuing Disobedience Of The People Is Brought Out, And Jeremiah’s Resulting Experiences Leading Up To The Fall Of Jerusalem Are Revealed (Jeremiah 34:1 to Jeremiah 38:28 ).

The promise of future restoration having been laid out Jeremiah now returns to the current situation with Jerusalem under threat. He demonstrates the different ways in which YHWH has been rejected, and treated with contempt by 1). a hypocritical pretence of obedience to the covenant, which is reneged on, 2). a treating of YHWH’s Fatherhood with contempt by the people, something which is in stark contrast with the obedience and reverence shown by the Rechabites to their father, 3). a burning of YHWH’s very word in a brazier, and 4). a continuing misuse of YHWH’s prophet. All this but confirms YHWH’s prophecies of judgment against Jerusalem,

The subsection divides up easily into five parts, each of which is opened by a crucial phrase, thus:

1. 34:1-7 ‘The word which came to Jeremiah from YHWH when Nebuchadnezzar --- fought against Jerusalem and all its cities.’ This was a word declaring that Jerusalem would be destroyed and Zedekiah would be carried off to Babylon and meet Nebuchadnezzar face to face. There he will die ‘in peace’ and be lamented by his nobles.

2. 34:8-22 ‘The word which came to Jeremiah from YHWH after King Zedekiah had made a covenant with all the people at Jerusalem to proclaim freedom to them.’ Zedekiah having persuaded the more wealthy in Jerusalem to enter into a covenant before YHWH to set free their Hebrew slaves, thus fulfilling the Sinai covenant, the more wealthy do so, but once the danger appears to be past, change their minds and re-enslave them, bringing down on themselves the renewed wrath of YHWH and the certainty of Babylonian subjection.

3. 35:1-19 ‘The word which came to Jeremiah from YHWH in the days of Jehoiakim.’ YHWH uses the example of the Rechabites as an illustration of a filial obedience to their father, which is the very opposite of Judah’s disobedience to their Father, something which will result in judgment coming on Judah and Jerusalem.

4. 36:1-32 ‘And it came about in the fourth year of Jehoiakim --- this word came to Jeremiah from YHWH.’ Jeremiah records his prophecies in a book in the days of Jehoiakim, prophecies which impress the nobles, but which are treated with disdain by Jehoiakim and his associates, resulting in Jehoiakim cutting up the ‘leaves’ of the book and burning them, thereby bringing judgment on himself.

5. 37:1-38:28 ‘And king Zedekiah the son of Josiah reigned instead of Coniah -- but did not listen to the words YHWH which He spoke by the prophet Jeremiah.’ YHWH’s prophet is rejected. Jeremiah warns the king not to expect deliverance through the approaching Egyptian army, and on seeking to visit his hometown during a lull in the siege is accused of attempted desertion and is shut up in prison, although there he is surreptitiously consulted by Zedekiah. His various sufferings, resulting from his prophesying, including a near death experience, are described, and he ends up in the royal prison where he is comparatively well treated.

It will be noted from this that after the initial warning of the success of the Babylonians there is a continuing emphasis on the growing disobedience towards, and rejection of, YHWH and His covenant. This is illustrated firstly by the breaking of a solemn covenant made by the people, a covenant in which they guaranteed to free their Hebrew slaves as required by the Sinaitic covenant, something which they subsequently reneged on; secondly by a disobedience which is shown to be the direct opposite of the obedience of the Rechabites (who sought to be faithful to the principles of wilderness days) to their father; thirdly by the disrespect shown to YHWH’s prophecies as written down by Jeremiah when Jehoiakim contemptuously burned them in a brazier; and fourthly by the continual disrespect shown to Jeremiah himself in his various imprisonments. The growth in intensity of the disobedience as each chapter progresses (breach of the ancient covenant, falling short of a righteous example presented before their very eyes, burning the currently received word of YHWH, and finally misusing the prophet of YHWH because of his up to date prophecies), helps to explain why the prophecies have been put in this order.

We may also see here a deliberate attempt to sandwich between two references to the approaching end and to Zedekiah’s reign, reasons as to why that end is necessary from earlier days. This follows a similar pattern to chapters 21-24 which also sandwiched earlier situations between two examples of the days of Zedekiah.

Verses 12-19

YHWH Uses The Loyalty Of The Rechabites To Their ‘Father’ As A Contrast With The Behaviour Of Judah Towards Their ‘Father’ (Jeremiah 35:12-19 ).

The Rechabites had proved their loyalty to their ‘father’ (their forefather) by their maintenance of the requirements that he had laid down, and they had done it over a long period of time. This was in total contrast to Judah’s attitude towards YHWH’s requirements. They had rather ignored YHWH’s requirements for a very long time.

Jeremiah 35:12

‘Then the word of YHWH came to Jeremiah, saying,’

Once again the direct word of YHWH came to Jeremiah. YHWH was very much involved in the situation

Jeremiah 35:13

“Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, Go, and say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, ‘Will you not receive instruction to listen to my words? The word of YHWH,’ ”

YHWH’s challenge (under His full title) towards the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem was that they had not been willing to receive instruction or to listen to His words, a fact which was to be seen as solemnly declared by the prophetic word of YHWH. In other words they had totally and blatantly ignored His requirements.

Jeremiah 35:14

“The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab, which he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are carried out, and to this day they drink none, for they obey their father’s commandment, but I have spoken to you, rising up early and speaking, and you have not listened to me.”

And He wanted them to note that this was in total contrast with the Rechabites who had obeyed their father’s commandments to abstain from wine, something which they had observed ‘to this day’. And this in spite of the effort that YHWH had put in to bringing home His word to the men of Judah. They had simply refused to listen. Note the Jeremaic ‘I have spoken to you, rising up early and speaking’.

Jeremiah 35:15

“I have also sent to you all my servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, ‘Return you now every man from his evil way, and amend your doings, and do not go after other gods to serve them, and you will dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers, but you have not inclined your ear, nor listened to me.”

Not only so, but He had also put great effort into sending the prophets to them, calling on them to return from their evil ways, to set right their behaviour, and not to go after other gods to worship and serve them. And He had promised that if they would do so He would ensure that they continued to dwell in their own land which He had given to them and their fathers. But they had refused to listen. (Thus annulling their rights in the promises given to the fathers).

Jeremiah 35:16

“Forasmuch as the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have carried out the commandment of their father which he commanded them, but this people have not listened to me.”

So because the sons of Jonadab had obeyed the commandments of their father, whilst the men of Judah had refused to listen to the commands of their Father, He would reward the one and punish the other.

Jeremiah 35:17

“Therefore thus says YHWH, the God of hosts, the God of Israel, Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil which I have pronounced against them, because I have spoken to them, but they have not heard, and I have called to them, but they have not answered.”

On Judah and Jerusalem, He, ‘YHWH the God of hosts, the God of Israel’, would bring ‘all the evil which He had pronounced against them’. He would make them desolate through the activities of the Babylonians, by sword and famine and pestilence, (the usual large-scale disasters that they often faced) and would carry them into exile far away. And He would do this because when He had spoken to them they had not heard, and when He had called on them they had not answered.

Jeremiah 35:18-19

‘And Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, “Thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done in accordance with all that he commanded you, therefore thus says YHWH of hosts, the God of Israel, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever.”

In contrast to the misery coming on Jerusalem and Judah His promise to the Rechabites was that He would preserve their name and their inheritance. Because they had proved their worth by their obedience to their father’s commandments and precepts, He would ensure their survival so that their group did not die out. There would ever be a ‘son of Jonadab’ to stand before Him. The group would never be wholly wiped out.

See for example in this regard Nehemiah 3:14 where ‘a son of Rechab’ was ruler of a district. Hegesippus also speaks of Rechabites who were priests in the Apostolic age, who stood by sympathising with James our Lord’s brother in his martyrdom. And according to the Mishnah 'the children of Jonadab son of Rechab' had a fixed day in each year for bringing wood for the altar of the temple. Even as late as the 12th century AD Benjamin of Tudela could speak of a group of Jews who were named Rechabites and who were governed by a prince of the house of David.

‘To stand before me’ was a technical term indicating that they would in some way serve YHWH in connection with the Sanctuary. They were to have special privileges.

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Bibliographical Information
Pett, Peter. "Commentary on Jeremiah 35". "Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". 2013.