Jeremiah 35 The Obedient Rechabites And Israel’s Disobedience.
Up to this point it does not appear that Jeremiah had many friends. His was a solitary existence. However, the Rechabites were a third party who largely kept to themselves. Normally these nomads would not be found in the city, but the times were tough, so they pitched their tents within the city and kept their flocks outside. They had showed kindness to the fathers in their passage through the wilderness, and so the LORD directs Jeremiah to invite them into a room in the temple where he was to give them wine to drink (vv. 1-2). “During the years after Moses, these people began worshipping Jehovah. In the time of Elijah (about 850 B.C.) they, like the intrepid prophet, were dismayed with the corruption in both the Northern and Southern Kingdoms. They took a vow never again to drink wine, nor live in houses, nor plant seed from that time on.” [William J. Petersen, ‘Jeremiah: The Prophet Who Wouldn’t Quit’ (78)]
The LORD wanted to use the Rechabites in an object lesson, since he obviously knew that they had continued to keep the vow of their father not to drink any wine, along with living the life of nomads, sojourners as it were, without houses or vineyards (vv. 3-10). However, out of necessity, due to the advance of Nebuchadnezzar they were forced into the city (11). There was a contrast here between the children of Israel who refused to keep their covenantal vows to the LORD, and the Rechabites who continued to keep the vow they had made to their father (vv. 12-14). “Though the Rechabites weren’t even true sons of Israel, they remained faithful to their promises to God. On the other hand, the true sons of Israel had forgotten their promises to God, and so disaster would soon overtake them. After Jeremiah finished reminding the Jews of impending disaster, he pronounced a blessing on the Rechabites for their faithfulness to God.” (Ibid. 79).
The Rechabites were also an object lesson for Jeremiah, that he was not alone in keeping his vow to the LORD, that the Rechabites had been doing some 250 years. The LORD had also sent his servants, the prophets, calling for the nation to repent of their idolatry and their evil ways, but they did not heed their words, unlike the Rechabites who faithfully kept the vow of their father (vv. 15-16). Since they refused to hear or answer the LORD’s call, the doom he warned them about would come upon them (v. 17). On the other hand, because the Rechabites were faithful in keeping their vow (v. 18), the LORD promised that “Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not lack a man to stand before Me forever” (v. 19). The Rechabites inclusion among the people of God shows that even in the old covenant administration ethnic outsiders were included, covenant blessings being based on faithfulness and not ethnic descent.