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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

Jeremiah 35


By the obedience of the Rechabites Jeremiah condemneth the disobedience of the Jews. God blesseth the Rechabites for their obedience.

Before Christ 606.

Verse 1

Jeremiah 35:1. The word, &c.— What is related in this chapter happened long before that which is mentioned in the preceding chapters. Nebuchadnezzar besieged Jerusalem twice in the reign of Jehoiakim: the first time in the fourth year of this prince's reign, and the second three or four years after. It is most probable, that Jeremiah speaks here of the second siege; when the Rechabites, to avoid falling into the hands of the enemy, retired to Jerusalem. See Jer 35:11 and Calmet.

Verse 2

Jeremiah 35:2. Go unto the house of the Rechabites Several learned men are of opinion, that the Jonadab mentioned in this chapter was not the same with him who is mentioned 2Ki 10:15 for they think it is not likely that a man addicted to so quiet and retired a life as he instituted, would have come to meet Jehu. But why might not Jonadab, how well soever he loved retirement, come upon this occasion to congratulate Jehu's zeal against idolatry, and to advise and encourage him to proceed in fulfilling the word of God revealed to him? The reason is obvious, why Jehu might be glad of the countenance and company of such a man, whose known piety would gain him more respect than the attendance of any great captain could procure him. But though Jonadab the son of Rechab is allowed to have been a good man, yet it does not therefore follow that he received the ancient rules of the Rechabites, as some think, purely upon a religious account, but as a matter of policy. The history is this: the Rechabites were of the race of Hobab or Jethro the Kenite, priest of Midian, and father-in-law to Moses: 1 Chronicles 2:55. So that the Rechabites were Midianites, and the Midianites were dwellers in tents from the beginning; for in this manner Abraham lived while he sojourned in the land of Canaan; and, in imitation of him, the Midianites, who were of his posterity, might do the same. Now, when the children of Hobab, who were all Kenites, were invited by Moses to go with the people of God into Canaan, they might retain this pastoral manner of life; not only as a badge of the nation from which they were descended, but as a means likewise to make their habitation more quiet and secure, in a land where they were strangers, both from the envy of the Jews at home, and from the danger of enemies abroad; for, having neither houses nor lands, but tents and cattle only, which they move upon occasion from place to place, they could not be so subject to hostile invasion: but as in a course of time these Kenites were tempted by the more pleasant living of the Israelites, to think of changing this custom of their ancestors, this Jonadab the son of Rechab, a famous Kenite, and of much esteem and authority among them, took occasion to renew it again, and to bind his posterity to observe it. For which end he forbad the drinking of wine, lest the desire of so delicious a liquor might tempt them to plant vineyards and build houses as the Jews did. What authority he had to enforce these arbitrary injunctions, we cannot learn. It is plain, that he laid his posterity under no curse in case of disobedience. On the contrary, we find that our prophet was here directed by God to bring them to an apartment in the temple, to set wine before them, and invite them to drink, which would have been an unworthy action, if they had been under an indispensable obligation to abstain from it; and on the other hand the Rechabites refused it, not because their father laid them under any curse if they disobeyed him; but because he promised that they should live many days in the land wherein they were strangers, if they obeyed his voice, Jer 35:7 which promise being also made to those who honoured their parents, might the more incline them to that strict obedience for which they are so highly commended by God. Upon the whole, therefore, it appears, that Jonadab only renewed what his ancestors had observed long before he was born; and that his authority prevailed among his brethren to continue this form of abstinence for two hundred years after he was dead, rather as a civil custom than as a matter of religion. See Bishop Patrick and Bedford's Scripture Chronology, book 6: chap. 2. Instead of house, Houbigant reads, family of the Rechabites; and so Jeremiah 35:3.

Verse 4

Jeremiah 35:4. A man of God That is, a prophet. See 2 Kings 4:7. Instead of, The chamber of the princes, Houbigant reads, The chamber of the singers.

Verse 19

Jeremiah 35:19. Jonadab—shall not want a man See chap. Jeremiah 33:17-18. "When the main body of the Jewish nation are dispersed in their captivities, some of this family shall remain to attend on my service, and enjoy the privileges of worshipping in my temple at Jerusalem." The phrase for ever is often used in a restrained sense, as we have had frequent occasion to remark. A writer on this subject observes, that it hence appears of how great price in the sight of God is the virtue of filial duty and obedience. The law which enjoins it hath a promise of long life annexed thereto; and by this history of the Rechabites we may learn, that the surest way to entail a blessing on our children, and to perpetuate our names and families in a numerous and virtuous issue, is to reverence and obey our own parents. Worldly persons value themselves upon the nobility and greatness of their ancestors; but the servants of God set value on the virtue of their predecessors, and the piety of their descendants: so that all good parents are more solicitous to leave a good than a rich and powerful posterity, and to transmit true piety rather than great estates to their children; esteeming it more honourable to perpetuate virtue in their families, than wealth and grandeur; and the fear of God, rather than their own names and memories in a long and lasting succession of descendants. Yet even in this, God is often pleased to bless them: he seldom suffers the seed of the righteous to fail; his providence, for the most part, taking an especial care to continue the issue, as well as virtues, of those who have taken pains to propagate those virtues to their children and families. Jonadab, the son of Rechab, shall not want a man to stand before me for ever. This assurance of protection to him and his posterity was in a remarkable manner made good to this family, amid all the confusions and judgments which soon after fell upon the Jewish nation: for, as they had now found a place of refuge at Jerusalem from the danger of the Chaldean army; so afterwards, in the general desolation of that country, and the captivity of the people, it is certain these Rechabites were preserved, though we know not the particular manner of their deliverance. From history we learn, that there were great numbers of them in our Saviour's time: that they were the chief hearers and followers of Christ, the first and readiest to embrace the Gospel. They were then called, by way of distinction, THE POOR, from their professed poverty, Luke 7:22.; and THE GOOD, from their eminent piety, Romans 5:7. They had changed their names indeed from Rechabites to Ebionites, Esseni, Chasidim or Assideans, which signify the same as poor and good men. But these new names,—not assumed by themselves, but given by others,—shew, that their virtue was the same, and continued as eminent and remarkable as ever. And as these were the first converts to Christianity, and in general received the Gospel, it is much to be noted, how this promise of God by his prophet, that they should never want a man to stand before him, was performed and made good to his family. It is indeed verified, both in a literal and spiritual sense; both in a worldly and in a heavenly meaning; the race being preserved until the time of Christ, and then incorporated with him as head of the church, and adopted into that faithful and obedient family, against which "the gates of hell shall never prevail, nor any period of time extinguish it." See Essay on the proper Lessons, vol. 4: p. 223.

REFLECTIONS.—1st. The Rechabites here mentioned were Kenites, of the posterity of Hobab, Moses's father-in-law, 1 Chronicles 2:55. Jdg 1:16 one family of which, denominated from Rechab their great progenitor, observed some peculiar rites, enjoined them by Jonadab, the son or lineal descendant of Rechab, a man famous for his piety in the days of Jehu, about three hundred years before this time, 2 Kings 10:15-16. See the critical notes.

1. The injunctions laid on them were, to drink no wine, and dwell in tents, having neither houses nor land, nor vineyard, nor tillage; but to devote themselves to a pastoral life, remote from the busy world where corruption and vice most abound, and thereby be farther removed from temptation: as they were strangers in the land, they must be content with their lot, and desire no great things; nor seek to accumulate wealth, which might provoke the envy of the people among whom they dwelt: luxury also, the bane of body and soul, would thus be banished from them; and, accustomed to hard fare, they would be the better able to meet the days of calamity, which the sins of the land where they sojourned were bringing upon them. Note; (1.) Though God hath not forbidden us wine, temperance will dictate caution and self-denial. (2.) It is desirable to sit loose to this present world; and the less we have in it, generally, the less unwilling we shall be to part from it. (3.) They who are strangers upon earth must never think of taking up their rest below, but be ready, at a moment's warning, to put off this tabernacle.

2. The Rechabites strictly observed Jonadab's rule. Men, women, and children, were all a family of Nazarites, in this respect; and though they were now obliged through necessity, by reason of the invasion, to dispense with one part of their father's injunctions, and had for safety retired to Jerusalem, yet it was not with an intention to take up their abode there longer than the danger threatened: and as for the other, they still religiously observed it; and therefore, though urged by the prophet to drink, who had invited them together into one of the chambers of the temple, and set before them pots of wine, they absolutely refused, and pleaded their father's order as the reason of their conduct. Note; When there is a spirit of real sobriety, the wine, even when it sparkles, will have no influence, nor the solicitations of others be able to extort a compliance with the least excess.

2nd, It was not the prophet's intention to draw the Rechabites into a breach of their rule, but to set them forth as an example to Israel.
1. The obedience of the Rechabites to their father served to aggravate the rebellion of the Jews against the commands of God. The commands of Jonadab, a mere man, were kept; the words of the eternal God disregarded: his injunctions, descending only by tradition, had more influence over his posterity, than God's written laws on the Jews, urged by a succession of prophets daily inculcating their observance. It was a real piece of self-denial which the sons of Rechab enjoined, in a matter before lawful; whereas what God had forbidden was highly criminal, and what he commanded would be their real comfort. The Rechabites had no particular obligation to Jonadab to enforce their obedience; whilst every thing that Israel possessed in Canaan came from God's bounty, and was held on condition of their fidelity; so that both gratitude and duty should have engaged them to observe God's commandments.
2. The Jews are threatened for their disobedience and base ingratitude. The Rechabites shall rise up in judgment and condemn them; and God will execute upon them all the threatenings that he hath pronounced, since they remained incorrigible, and would neither by admonitions nor corrections be warned, and led unto repentance. Note; Though vengeance is slow in coming, it is sure to all that abide impenitent.

3. The Rechabites are commended and rewarded for their dutiful obedience to their father Jonadab's commands. Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever. As long as Israel was a nation, his posterity should continue in it; or perhaps to the end of time, the family, though now mixed with the Jews, should not be extinct; or it may have respect to better days, when they should be converted by the preaching of the Gospel, and, among other faithful souls, to the end of time stand before the Lord, to offer the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise. Note; Nothing entails more surely a blessing on children, than their dutiful observance of their pious parent's instructions.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Jeremiah 35". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.