It must be first observed, that the order of time in which the prophecies were written has not been retained. In history the regular succession of days and years ought to be preserved, but in prophetic writings this is not so necessary, as I have already reminded you. The Prophets, after having been preaching, reduced to a summary what they had spoken; a copy of this was usually affixed to the doors of the Temple, that every one desirous of knowing celestial doctrine might read the copy; and it was afterwards laid up in the archives. From these were formed the books now extant. And what I say may be gathered from certain and known facts. But that we may not now multiply words, this passage shews that the prophecy of Jeremiah inserted here did not follow the last discourse, for he relates what he had been commanded to say and to do in the time of Jehoiakim, that is, fifteen years before the destruction of the city. Hence what I have said is evident, that Jeremiah did not write the book as it exists now, but that his discourses were collected and formed into a volume, without regard to the order of time. The same may be also gathered from the prophecies which we shall hereafter see, from the forty-fifth to the end of the fiftieth chapter.
The power of the kingdom of Judah was not so weakened under King Jehoiakim, but that they were still inflated with pride. As, then, their security kept them from being attentive to the words of the Prophet, it was necessary to set before them a visible sign, in order to make them ashamed. It was, then, God’s purpose to shew how inexcusable was their perverseness. This was the design of this prophecy. And the Prophet was expressly commanded to call together the Rechabites, and to offer wine to them, in order that the obstinacy of the people might appear more disgraceful, as they could not be induced to render obedience to God, while the Rechabites were so obedient to their father, a mortal man, and who had been dead for nearly three centuries. The Rechabites derived their origin from Obad and from Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. There are those indeed who think that Obad and Jethro were the same; but this conjecture seems not to me probable. However this may be, interpreters think that, the Rechabites were the descendants of Obad, who followed Moses and the Israelites. And their opinion seems to be confirmed, because it is said here that they were commanded by Jonadab to live as sojourners in the land. An inheritance was indeed promised them, but as it appears from many parts of Scripture, they were unfaithfully dealt with, for they were scattered here and there throughout the tribes. They then did not enjoy an inheritance as it was right and as they deserved. And we see also that they lived among other nations.
With regard to Jonadab, of whom mention is made, we read in 2Kg_10:15, that he was a man of great name and influence, for when Jehu began to reign, he had him as his friend, though he was an alien. He must, then, have been in high esteem, and a man of power and wealth among the Israelites. And it is certain that it was the same Jonadab of whom sacred history speaks of there, because he is called the son of Rechab; and yet three hundred years, or nearly so, had elapsed from that time to the reign of Jehoiakim. As to the origin of this family or people, the first was Obad; from him came Rechab, whose son was Jonadab, who lived in the time of King Jehu, and was raised up into his chariot to be, as it were, next to him, when Jehu had not as yet his power firmly established. But they went afterwards to Jerusalem on account of the continual calamities of the land of Israel, for it was exposed to constant plunders, and this we shall hereafter see in the narrative. Then the sons of Rechab did once dwell in the kingdom of Israel; but when various incursions laid waste the land, and final ruin was at hand, having left their tents they went to Jerusalem; for they were not allowed to cultivate either fields or vineyards, as we shall hereafter see. The Rechabites, therefore, dwelt in the city Jerusalem, which protectedthem from the incursions and violence of enemies; but they still retained their ancient mode of living in abstaining from wine, and in not cultivating either fields or vineyards. They thought it indeed right for them to dwell in buildings, because they could not find a vacant place in the city where they might pitch their tents: but this was done from necessity. In the meantime they obeyed the command of their father Jonadab; and though he had been dead three hundred years, they yet so venerated the memory of their father, that they willingly abstained from wine, and led not only a frugal but an austere life.
The Prophet is now bidden to bring these to the Temple, and to offer them wine to drinkI have briefly explained the design of God in this matter, even that he purposed to lay before the Jews the example of the Rechabites, in order to shame them; for that family obeyed their father after he was dead, but the Jews could not be induced to submit to the command of the living God, who was also the only Father of all. The Prophet then was bidden to bring them to the Temple, and to lay before them cups full of wine, that they might drink. He says that they refused to drink, and brought as a reason, that Jenadab their father forbade them to do so. We shall hereafter see how this example was applied; for the whole cannot be explained at the same time.
Let us consider the Prophet’s words, he says that the word came to him in the days of Jehoiakim, that is, after he had found out by the trial of many years how untameable the Jews were, and how great was their ferocity. Much labor then had the Prophet undertaken, and yet they were not so subdued as to submit to the yoke of God. When, therefore, they had now for many years given many proofs of their obduracy, God summoned the Rechabites as witnesses, who, by their example, proved that the Jews were inexcusable for being so rebellious and disobedient to the commands of the Prophet.
The word which came – in the days of Jehoiakim – What strange confusion in the placing of these chapters! Who could have expected to hear of Jehoiakim again, whom we have long ago buried; and we have now arrived in the history at the very last year of the last Jewish king.
This discourse was probably delivered in the fourth or fifth year of Jehoiakim’s reign.
Jer 35:1 The third member of this group of short prophecies. In it, Jeremiah points to the faithful obedience of the Rechabites, as putting to shame the infidelity of Judahites. It belongs obviously to the time before the arrival of Nebuchadnezzar, perhaps to the summer of B.C. 606. (See Dr. Plumptre”s poem, “The House of the Rechabites,” part 2, in “Lazarus and other Poems.”)
Go, said he, to the house of Rechab, (we have said that they dwelt then at Jerusalem, and this will appear hereafter) and bring them unto the house of Jehovah But we must inquire why the Prophet was ordered to lay wine before them in the Temple rather than in a private house. The reason, indeed, is evident; for God’s purpose was to shew how wicked and perverse the Jews were, for not even the priests abstained from wine except when they were performing their duties. The Law commanded them to abstain then from wine; but the Levites, who took care of the Temple, and also the priests, when not engaged in the discharge of their office, were fully allowed to drink wine. As, then, the priests were permitted to drink wine even in the Temple, that is, in the chambers adjoining the priests’ court, what excuse could have been made when the Rechabites, who were yet of the common people, and even aliens among the Jews, refused wine according to the command of their father Jenadab? Had God forbidden the whole people the use of wine, the Law might have appeared too rigid; but God not only permitted the people to drink wine, but also the priests; nay, no religious reverence prevented them from drinking wine close to the Temple when they were not engaged in their duties. We now, then, perceive why the place has been mentioned, that is, that the Prophet relates that he brought the Rechabites into the Temple.
Go, then, and bring them into the house of Jehovah, into one of the chambers, and offer them wine to drinkWe have said that the chambers were nigh the priests’ court; for many of the Levites were always keeping watch, guarding the Temple, and also some of the priests. The priests, while serving their turn, alone abstained from wine; but a permission was given by the Law to the Levites to drink wine, and in those very chambers, which were on both sides a sort of appendages to the Temple.
The house – The family.
The Rechabites – The Rechabites were a nomadic tribe not of Jewish but of Kenite race, and connected with the Amalekites Num_24:21; 1Sa_15:6, from whom however they had separated themselves, and made a close alliance with the tribe of Judah Jdg_1:16, on whose southern borders they took up their dwelling 1Sa_27:10. While, however, the main body of the Kenites gradually adopted settled habits, and dwelt in cities 1Sa_30:29, the Rechabites persisted in leading the free desert life, and in this determination they were finally confirmed by the influence and authority of Jonadab, who lived in Jehu’s reign. He was a zealous adherent of Yahweh 2Ki_10:15-17, and possibly a religious reformer; and as the names of the men mentioned in the present narrative are all compounded with Yah, it is plain that the tribe continued their allegiance to Him.
The object of Jonadab in endeavoring to preserve the nomad habits of his race was probably twofold. He wished first to maintain among them the purer morality and higher feeling of the desert contrasted with the laxity and effeminacy of the city life; and secondly he was anxious for the preservation of their freedom. Their punctilious obedience Jer_35:14 to Jonadab’s precepts is employed by Jeremiah to point a useful lesson for his own people.
The date of the prophecy is the interval between the battle of Carchemish and the appearance of Nebuchadnezzar at Jerusalem, Jer_35:11 at the end of the same year. It is consequently 17 years earlier than the narrative in Jer_34:8 ff
The house of the Rechabites – The Rechabites were not descendants of Jacob; they were Kenites, 1Ch_2:55, a people originally settled in that part of Arabia Petroea, called the land of Midian; and most probably the descendants of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses. Compare Num_10:29-32, with Jdg_1:16; Jdg_4:11.
Those mentioned here seem to have been a tribe of Nomades or Scenite Arabs, who fed their flocks in the deserts of Judea; they preserved the simple manners of their ancestors, considering the life of the inhabitants of cities and large towns as the death of liberty; believing that they would dishonor themselves by using that sort of food that would oblige them to live a sedentary life. Jonadab, one of their ancestors, had required his children and descendants to abide faithful to the customs of their forefathers; to continue to live in tents, and to nourish themselves on the produce of their flocks; to abstain from the cultivation of the ground, and from that particularly of the vine and its produce. His descendants religiously observed this rule, till the time when the armies of the Chaldeans had entered Judea; when, to preserve their lives, they retired within the walls of Jerusalem. But even there we find, from the account in this chapter, they did not quit their frugal manner of life: but most scrupulously observed the law of Jonadab their ancestor, and probably of this family.
When the children of Hobab, or Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, were invited by him to accompany them in their journeying to the Promised Land, it is very likely that they continued their ancient usages, and lived a patriarchal life. Their property, consisting in nothing but their cattle and tents, was easily removable from place to place; and their manner of living was not likely to excite the envy or jealousy of those who had learnt to relish the luxuries of life; and therefore we may naturally conclude that as they were enemies to none, so they had no enemies themselves. Nature has few wants. Most of those which we feel are factitious; and howsoever what we call civilization may furnish us with the conveniences and comforts of life, let us not deceive ourselves by supposing that these very things do not create the very wants which they are called in to supply; and most certainly do not contribute to the comfort of life, when the term of life is considerably abridged by their use. But it is time to return to the case of the Rechabites before us.
He says, that he set wine before them and requested them to drink when full cups were placed before them. Then he adds that they refused, We will not drink wine, because Jonadab our father commanded us, saying, Drink ye no wine, nor build houses, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyards, nor have any such thing as your ownWe see that four things were commanded the Rechabites by their father, to drink no wine, to cultivate no fields, and to plant no vineyards, — these were three; and the fourth was, not to build houses, but to be content with tents. Here is also added a promise, that ye may live long in the land where ye are strangersThen Jonadab promised to his sons and his posterity a long life, if they obeyed his precepts, that is, to live without wine all their life, and not to possess anything, nor build houses. Their saying that they had obeyed their father’s precept, shall be hereafter considered, for we cannot take in everything at once.
But let us now see whether Jenadab did what was right in forbidding his posterity to drink wine and to cultivate land. Agriculture is in itself a mode of living not only honest and innocent, but also remote from ambition, fraud, and plunder: in short, it seems to be of all kinds of living the simplest and the most innocent. Then the advice of Jenadab to keep his sons from agriculture might in this instance be blamed and condemned. But the probability is, that when he saw the Jews and the Israelites despising the Law of their God, he thought of the vengeance, which, though it followed not for a long time, yet ought then to have been dreaded. He also saw the sources of vices, even that the Israelites especially gave themselves up to luxuries, and indulged themselves, as it clearly appears from the Prophets, in all manner of excesses. When, therefore, he saw, on the one hand, the corruptions of the land, and that on the other he dreaded punishment, he wished his posterity to accustom themselves to an austere mode of living, so that they might more easily move here and there, and also that they might with more tranquil minds endure any adversity that might happen, being neither rich nor used to delicacies. Jenadab then did not condemn agriculture, nor the use of wine, nor commodious habitations, when he commanded his posterity to be contented with tents and water, and wished them to buy wheat and to follow only a pastoral life; but as we have said, he had another object in view. This, then, is what we are, in the first place, to bear in mind.
But we must observe, at the same time, that the posterity of Jenadab did not live on plunder, nor spend their time in idleness; for they were shepherds, who with great labor and many watchings gained their own living. But it was their father Jonadab’s wish that they should in a manner be separated from the common affairs of life, on account of the corruptions which prevailed, and which he saw rampant before his eyes; so that he had no doubt as to what was to be, when the Israelites abandoned themselves more and more to all kinds of excesses, and when all integrity was disregarded. This then was the reason why Jenadab restrained his posterity from following the common way of living.
His counsel is, however, not commended, but the obedience which his sons rendered; and this is here proposed as an example, in order to make the Jews ashamed, because they so perversely rejected the Law of God and the doctrine of the Prophets: and it is an argument from the less to the greater; for if the authority of a mortal man prevailed so much with his posterity as to cause them to abstain from wine, and not only to live frugally, but also to endure cold and want and other hard things, how much more it behoved the Jews to do what was right and easy, when God commanded them: This is one thing, even a comparison between God and mortal man. And then there is another, — that this precept continued in force for three hundred years, and kept posterity from neglect; but the Law of God, which continually sounded in the ears of the people, had no power to influence them. Here is another comparison. The third is, that God acted equitably, and did not press too much on the Jews, so as to make the rigor of the law odious and wearisome: as then God used moderation in his Law, so as to require from the people nothing but what was easy to be borne, he says that Jonadab was rigid and austere, for he forbade the use of wine and did not allow his posterity to cultivate fields, nor to dwell in houses.
This threefold comparison ought then to be borne in mind, and these three parts of the contrast ought to be well considered, even that God had not obtained from his people what Jonadab had from his posterity; and also that God, continually admonishing, prevailed nothing, when a regard for a dead man retained posterity in their duty; and further, that the Law of God, which required nothing but what might be easily done, had been perversely rejected by the Jews, when the Rechabites, in honor to their dead father, suffered themselves to be deprived of all luxuries, and dreaded not an austere, rustic, and, as it were, a savage kind of life; for they not only abstained from wine, but also dared not to shelter themselves from cold by dwelling in houses, and were forbidden all the comforts of life.
Now that. the Prophet was ordered to offer them wine, and that they refused, a question here arises, Was their continency in this respect laudable? They seemed thus to prefer Jonadab to God, for they knew that Jeremiah, who offered them wine, was sent by God. But the Rechabites, no doubt, modestly excused themselves, when they said that it was not right for them to drink wine, because they had been forbidden by their father. It was not then their purpose to give more honor to their father than to God or to his Prophet, but they simply answered for the sake of excusing themselves, that they had abstained from wine for three hundred years, that is, that the whole family had done so. This, then, is the solution of the question. But what the Papists do in bringing against us the Rechabites, first to support their tyrannical laws, and secondly, in order to torment miserable consciences at their pleasure, is frivolous in the extreme. As I have already said, the advice of Jonadab is not commended, as though he had rightly forbidden his sons to drink wine; but only his sons are spoken of as having reverently and humbly obeyed the command of their dead father. Then this passage gives no countenance to the Papists, as though the object of it was to bind the consciences of the faithful to their laws; for what is here spoken of is, that the Rechabites proved by their obedience how base and wicked was the obduracy of the people, as they shewed less reverence and honor to God than these did to a man that was dead.
But the Papists, however, dwell much on another point, — that whatever has been handed down from the fathers ought to be observed; and thus they reason, “The authority of the whole Church is greater than that of a private man; now the Rechabites are commended for having followed the command of a private individual, much more then ought we to obey the laws of the Church.” To this I answer, that we ought to obey the fathers and the whole Church: nor have we a controversy with them on this subject; for we do not simply say, that everything which men have delivered to us ought to be rejected; but we deny that we ought to obey the laws of men, when they bind the conscience without any necessity. When, therefore, a religious act is enjoined on us, men arrogate to themselves what is peculiar to God alone; thus the authority of God is violated, when men claim so much for themselves as to bind consciences by their own laws. We must then distinguish between civil laws, such as are introduced to preserve order, or for some other end, and spiritual laws, such as are introduced into God’s worship, and by which religion is enjoined, and necessity is laid on consciences. — But I cannot now finish, for I see that the hour has already passed.
Pots full of wine, and cups – The cups were to draw the wine out of the pots, in order to drink it.
We will drink no wine – The reason is given above. Their whole religious and political institution consisted in obedience to three simple precepts, each of which has an appropriate spiritual meaning:
1. Ye shall drink no wine – Ye shall preserve your bodies in temperance, shall use nothing that would deprive you of the exercise of your sober reason at any time; lest in such a time ye should do what might be prejudicial to yourselves, injurious to your neighbor, or dishonorable to your God.
2. Neither shall ye build house – Ye shall not become residents in any place; ye shall not court earthly possessions; ye shall live free from ambition and from envy, that ye may be free from contention and strife.
3. But – ye shall dwell in tents – Ye shall imitate your forefathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the rest of the patriarchs, who dwelt in tents, being strangers and pilgrims upon earth, looking for a heavenly country, and being determined to have nothing here that would indispose their minds towards that place of endless rest, or prevent them from passing through temporal things so as not to lose those that are eternal.
There must necessarily be more in these injunctions than meets the eye in the letter of this account.
Jer 35:6 Jonadab the son of Rechab our father. Jonadab (the contemporary of King John) is here called the “father” of the Rechabites (comp. vers. 14, 16), in the same sense in which the disciples of the prophets are called the “sons of the prophets;” he was a teacher, if not (in some sense) a prophet. This illustrates the uncompromising zeal of Jonadab 2Ki_10:23; the religion of Baal was probably at the opposite pole in the matter of luxury to that of Jehovah as practised by Jonadab. Not for you the life Of sloth and ease within the city”s gates, Where idol feasts are held, and incense smokes To Baalim and Ashtaroth; where man Loses his manhood, and the scoffers sit Perverting judgment, selfish, soft, impure. (Plumptre.)
Ye shall drink no wine, etc. The Rechabites were, in fact, typical Arabs. The Wahhabee movement, in our own century, may be taken as partly parallel, though, of course, a settled life is not one of the abominations of the neo-orthodox Islam. A still more complete parallel is given by Diodorus Siculus (19:94), who states it to be the law of the Nabataeans, “neither to sow corn, nor to plant any fruit-bearing herb, nor to drink wine, nor to prepare houses,” and gives as the motive of this the preservation of their independence.
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tents — (Jdg_4:17).
live many days — according to the promise connected with the fifth commandment (Exo_20:12; Eph_6:2, Eph_6:3).
strangers — They were not of the stock of Jacob, but sojourners in Israel. Types of the children of God, pilgrims on earth, looking for heaven as their home: having little to lose, so that losing times cost them little alarm; sitting loose to what they have (Heb_10:34; Heb_11:9, Heb_11:10, Heb_11:13-16).
Jeremiah explains at large what might have been expressed in few words, in order to amplify the constancy of the Rechabites. For one may obey his father, and yet be not so fixed in his purpose, but that he might on some slight occasion fail in his duty. Jeremiah here shews that such was the prompt perseverance of the Rechabites, that they could not be enticed by having wine set before them; but that as though no temptation had been presented to them, they kept the commandment of their father, who, at the same time, had been dead, as it has already appeared, some ages before.
They then said, that they hearkened to the voice of Jonabab the son of Rechab, their father; and also added, according to all the things which he has commanded ustle again relates what Jonadab had commanded, and to this belongs the sentence, According to all things, etc. For had he ordered them only to be abstemious, to obey would not have been difficult or hard; he designed to bind them to a wandering life, that they might be covered only by tents, and that they might not possess anything. As then Jonadab did not in one thing only try the obedience of his family, it appears more clearly how great was their promptitude and perseverance in obeying.
They then said, first, that they were not to drink wine; and also added, all their days We indeed know that the Nazarites were forbidden to drink wine, but it was only for a time, until they had performed their vow; we also know, that when the priest was discharging his duty, he was not allowed, for that time, to take wine. But afterwards the priests as well as the Nazarites, resumed their common mode of living. But to taste no wine throughout life was a thing far more difficult. The Prophet, no doubt, detailed these particulars, that he might load the Jews with greater disgrace, who, in a matter the most just, and by no means hard, were not, as we shall see, obedient to God. They said, We, our wives, our sons, our daughters, as though they had said, “This precept has ever been observed in our family; and what has been delivered to us, by our fathers, we have followed to this day, as also our fathers, who obeyed the command of a dead man, because his will had been explained to them.”
Jer 35:12 Then came the word of the Lord, etc. The substance of the severe address which follows must have been delivered in one of the outer courts of the temple, when Jeremiah had left the Rechabites.
Here Jeremiah applies the example which he had related; for subjoined is God’s complaint, — that he was less regarded by his people than Jonadab was by his posterity. He then says, Go and speak to the men of Judah, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem To make the reproof the more effectual, the Prophet introduces God as the speaker. It was therefore God’s purpose to convey the reproof to the Jews in his own name, and as it were in his own person. Will ye not receive instruction, he says, so as to obey me? The word מוסרmusar, means sometimes ruling or governing, and sometimes correction. But God here no doubt reprehends that madness of the Jews in which they had long hardened themselves, as though he had said, “You never think it right to return to a sound mind.” Since, then, they had been for a long time incorrigible and wandered after their own lusts like unbridled wild beasts, a reproof is here given, as though he had said, “Will this people be always ungovernably wanton so as never to submit to the yoke?” And he says, so as to obey me God shews that he required nothing unjust from the Jews, so that a true excuse could be pretended, as though he was too rigid: “I require only,” he says, “that ye obey me: this is all my severity, for lovely is the rule of meekness which I use towards you. Since, then, I demand nothing but what children ought willingly to render to their fathers without being admonished, how is it that this mederation is so displeasing to you, and can by no means be approved by you?”
Jeremiah, accompanied by the main body of the Rechabites, went into one of the courts of the temple, and there addressed to the people the rebuke following.
It is then added, confirmed have been the words of Jonadab by his children; but my people do not obey me. But as we have said in the last lecture, the Prophet touches particularly on this circumstance, — that the Rechabites obeyed the command of their father in not drinking wine: this was hard; they did not drink even to that day But what did God require from his children? only to receive his Law, and not to go astray, as it is here added, after alien gods. There is, then, a contrast between the hard precept of Jonadab and the equity of the Law; for God required nothing from his people except to render him pure worship, he says, They have drunk no wine to this day — and why? because they obeyed; that is, there was no scruple of conscience to prevent them, but the authority of a man who was dead so far prevailed witIt them, that they willingly gave up the use of wine. “As then simple obedience, that is, piety or respect for their father, produced such influence on the Rechabites, how is it that I am not heard? for I have spoken,” he says, “so that the sin of the people is not excusable on the ground of ignorance.”
Then he adds, Early rising and speaking Here assiduity and diligence are mentioned. Jonadab only once gave his command to his children; that command, which might have been forgotten, remained perpetually in the hearts of his sons, so that they taught the same to his grandsons. But God commanded what was right not only once, but rose up early, that is, he sedulously anticipated them; for by this metaphor he intimates that he did not wait until after a continued licentiousness they became more addicted to their vices; for we know that those who have for many years been without restraint, are not easily brought into order, but they become habitually refractory. And hence, also, it comes to be necessary to form those from infancy who are to be ruled by us; for if they be allowed to act as they please, their wantonness cannot afterwards be restrained by any laws. God then says, that he rose up early, that is, that he anticipated the Jews, so that together with their milk they might imbibe religion.
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obey … father’s commandment: notwithstanding I — (Mal_1:6).
rising early and speaking — God Himself speaking late and early by His various ways of providence and grace.
The Prophet, after having shewn that the Jews were so condemned by the example of the Rechabites, that there was no defense for them, now adds, — that as the word of God had been to them useless, it would now be efficacious against them. This is the purport of the verse.
I have spoken to them, says God; I will now speak to them no more, but I will speak against them, that is, I will command the Chaldeans, and they shall be my ministers and the executioners of my vengeance. We hence see the order which the Prophet has observed: he did not bring forward this final sentence, which is like a thunderbolt, until he had proved the Jews guilty. For this purpose was the comparison he made, when he said that the Rechabites had obeyed their father, and that the Jews had disregarded God’s Law and all the warnings given by the Prophets. I will bring, he says, upon Judah, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, all the evil which I have spoken against them; for I have spoken to them, and they heard not
Here the Prophet distinguishes between two sorts of speaking. For God had spoken to the Jews, but he had also spoken against them. Here are two prepositions, not very unlike, the one begins with an אaleph, and the other with ע, oin. By the one the Prophet denotes doctrine, exhortations, and whatever may lead to repentance, so that men may either be recalled to their duty or retained in it. This, then, is one mode of speaking, that is, when God addresses us and invites us to himself. The other mode is that which refers to threatenings, that is, when God, after having found that he can do nothing by teaching, has recourse to threatenings, and shews what vengeance awaits us. This passage, then, is especially worthy of observation, because we hence learn, that when men reject the word of teaching, they cannot escape the other word, which denounces the judgment of God. Teaching appears useless when not received by men; but whosoever despises his word, will find at last, to his own ruin, that the denunciations by which God confirms and ratifies the authority of his word, cannot possibly be made void: as, then, they heard not the word which I had spoken to them, come upon them shall all the evils which I have pronounced against them
By adding, I have called and they answered not, he amplifies the atrocity of their sin; for God had not simply shewn what was necessary for their salvation, but had also called them to himself, and had even loudly called them; but he spoke to the deaf, for they answered not. It follows, —
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because I have spoken … not heard … I … called … not answered — (Pro_1:24; Isa_65:12).
Here the Prophet, that he might affect the Jews more deeply, promises a reward to the sons of Jonadab, because they obeyed their father; and he promises them a blessing from God. Nor is it to be wondered at, for this commandment, as Paul says, is the first to which a promise is annexed. (Eph_6:2 ) God promises generally a reward to all who keep the Law, for every command has in general connected with it the hope of reward; but this is in a special manner added to the Fifth Commandment: “Honor thy father and thy mother, that thou mayest prolong thy life,” etc. It is, then, nothing strange that God promised a reward to the Rechabites, because they followed the command of their father, for he had promised that in the Law.
But what the Papists allege, that the obedience rendered to the Church is on the same account pleasing to God, may, as we have said, be easily confuted; for if the Rechabites had followed the command of their father in a thing unlawfill, they would have been worthy of punishment; but as this precept, as we have shewn, was not inconsistent with God’s Law, God approved of their obedience. But the laws which are made for the purpose of setting up fictitious modes of worship are altogether impious, for they introduce idolatry. God has prescribed how he would have us to worship him; whatever, therefore, men bring in of themselves is wholly impious, for it adulterates the pure worship of God; and further, when necessity is laid on consciences, it is, as we have said, a tyrannical bondage. Such was not the object of Jonadab; for what he commanded his posterity was useful, and referred only to things of this life; and it did not bind their consciences; for when it was necessary they moved to Jerusalem and dwelt as others in houses; for they did not erect tents at Jerusalem, but lived in hired dwellings; and yet they obeyed their father’s command, for his purpose in ordering them to dwell in tents, was, that they might remain unincumbered, so that they might be always ready to move. We hence see how foolishly the Papists pervert this passage in order to support their tyrannical laws.
And thus this truth may stand, that the obedience of the Rechabites pleased God, because nature itself requires that children should obey their parents; and we also know that God often rewards the shadows of virtues in order to shew that virtues themselves are pleasing to him. But there is no doubt but that this promise, as I have before said, was designedly given, in order to stimulate the Jews, according to what is said in the Song of Moses, “I will provoke them by a foolish nation, because they have provoked me by those who are no gods; and I will take vengeance on them, for I will bring forth nations which were not before.” (Deu_32:21 )
Jer 35:18 Vers. 18, 19. A promise to the Rechabites (perhaps removed from its original connection). The form of the promise is remarkable; it runs, Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me forever. The phrase is, as Dr. Plumptre remarks, “all but essentially liturgical. It is used of the Levites, (Deu_10:8 Deu_18:5, Deu_18:7) of the worship of the patriarchs, (Gen_19:27) of the priests, (2Ch_29:11 Neh_7:65) of prophets, (1Ki_18:15) of priests and Levites together.” (Psa_134:1 Psa_135:2) It is, however, rash, perhaps, to maintain, with the same acute scholar, that the Rechabites were adopted into the tribe of Levi. The phrase may be simply chosen to indicate the singular favour with which Jehovah regarded the Rechabites a favour only to be compared to that accorded to his most honoured servants among the Israelites the patriarchs, the priests, and the prophets.
So then God now, in order to excite and rouse the Jews, promises to bless the Rechabites, because they had been obedient to their father, There shall not be cut off a man from Jonadab, that is, from the offspring of Jonadab, standing (literally) before my face; but as the conciseness of the verse renders it obscure and ambiguous, I have introduced an addition, — but that he may stand before my face And he says that they would stand before his face, not that they were to be priests or Levites, as some of the Rabbins have said, who have applied this passage to the priesthood, because it is often said in Scripture both of the Levites and the priests, that they stood before the face of God. They, therefore, think that the same thing is meant here when spoken of the Rechabites. But this is a strained meaning. God simply intimates, that some of Jonadab’s offspring would be always living, and that through his special favor, that their obedience might not appear to be without its just reward. This is the meaning. Now follows, —
Thus saith the Lord – Jonadab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever – His name shall ever be honorable, and his posterity shall enjoy my continual protection, and there shall never be found a time in which men of his spirit shall be wanting as patterns of genuine simplicity, filial obedience, purity of manners, and deadness to the world. True Christians may be considered as the genuine successors of these ancient Rechabites; and some suppose that the Essenes, in our Lord’s time, were literally their descendants and that these were they who followed our Lord particularly, and became the first converts to the Gospel. If so, the prophecy is literally fulfilled: they shall never want a man to stand before God, to proclaim his salvation, and minister to the edification and salvation of others, as long as the earth shall endure.
Jer 35:19 Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel,…. Who has enjoined children obedience to their parents, and has promised to reward it, and does:
Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever; which may be understood of a long time, of ages to come; or as long as the people of the Jews were a people, or the world should stand, the posterity of this man should continue: or, “a man shall not be cut off from Jonadab &c.” (h); his offspring shall never fail. It is certain that some of this family returned from the captivity, 1Ch_2:55; and, according to Scaliger (i), the Hasidaeans sprung from them. And, if any credit could be given to Benjamin Tudelensis, there were Rechabites in the twelfth century, since the times of Christ; for he tells (k) us, that in his travels he found a place where Jews dwelt, who were called Rechabites. The phrase, “to stand before me”, is by the Targum paraphrased, “ministering before me;” serving and worshipping God, for they were religious people; that is, in their own families, carrying on religious worship among themselves, and not in the temple, where they had no office, and did no service; though some think they had, because called scribes, 1Ch_2:55. Kimchi says that some of their Rabbins asserted that the daughters of these people married priests, and so some of their children’s children offered sacrifice on the altar. And if what Eusebius reports from Hegesippus is true, there were priests of this family after the times of Christ; for he says (l), that when the Jews were stoning James the just, a priest of the sons of Rechab cried out, saying, stop, what are ye doing? but these testimonies are not to be depended on; however, we may be sure of this, that the promise of God shall not fail, but be certainly accomplished. Very appropriate are the words of the learned Alting (m) upon this subject:
“not only the Lord promises length of life to the obedient, which proselytes, equally with Israelites, have the promise of; but, particularly, that the posterity of Jonadab should not perish, should have a place in the church of God, and an admission to the gracious enjoyment of God; not as priests and Levites, but as other Israelites and strangers, Isa_56:4; so that the posterity of Jonadab must still continue, and hope of restoration of them with the Israelites remains; as in Jer_31:36; but in the same way and manner; so that being equally sharers in exile, they are to be restored after a long interruption. Indeed, the family is not at this day known; but from the ignorance of men, to the denial of a thing, there is no available argument. Families cannot be confounded, since they descend by the fathers; mothers do not belong to them; and as is the father as to tribe, so also is the son and grandson, and so on. A genealogical series may perish from the knowledge of men, but not from the nature of things, and the knowledge of God. Though the seeds of wheat, barley, and other things, may be mixed together, that men cannot distinguish them, yet their distinction does not perish; and God not only knows it, but also discovers it, when he makes every seed to rise in its own body, 1Co_15:37; so must we judge concerning families.”
Perhaps, since these Rechabites were proselytes, and not Israelites, the conversion of the Gentiles may be respected; who are priests in a spiritual sense, and minister before the Lord, offering up, through Christ, the spiritual sacrifices of prayer and praise; and such a generation to serve the Lord will never be wanting.
(h) לא יכרת איש ליונדב “non exidetur vir Jonadabo”, Junius & Tremellius, Piscator, Schmidt, &c. (i) Elench. Trihaeres. c. 24, (k) Itinerarium, p. 82. (l) Eccles. Hist. l. 2. c. 23. (m) Apud Witsii Exercitat. 9. de Rechabitis in Miscell. Sacr. tom. 2. p. 235, 236.