Judah’s Unfaithfulness Contrasted with the Rechabites’ Faithfulness1 The Lord spoke to Jeremiah when Jehoiakim ▼
▼ The introductory statement here shows that this incident is earlier than those in Jer 32–34 which all take place in the reign of Zedekiah. Jehoiakim ruled from 609/8 b.c. until 598/97 b.c. and his brother Zedekiah followed him after a brief reign of three months by Jehoiakim’s son who was captured by Nebuchadnezzar and taken to Babylon. Zedekiah ruled from 598/7 b.c. until the kingdom fell in 587/86. The position of this chapter is out of chronological order emphasizing the theme of covenant infidelity (Jer 34; 35:12–17) versus the faithfulness to his commands that God expected from Israel as illustrated by the Rechabites’ faithfulness to the commands of their progenitor. This is thus another one of those symbolic acts in Jeremiah which have significance to the message of the book (compare Jer 13, 19). This incident likely took place during the time that people living in the countryside like the Rechabites were forced to take shelter in the fortified cities because of the raiding parties that Nebuchadnezzar had sent against Jehoiakim after he had rebelled against him in 603 b.c. (compare v. 11 and Jer 4:5 with 2 Kgs 24:1–2).son of Josiah was ruling over Judah. ▼
▼ Heb “The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, saying.”2 “Go to the Rechabite community. ▼
▼ Heb “the house of the Rechabites.” “House” is used here in terms of “household” or “family” (cf. BDB 109 s.v. בַּיִת 5.a, b).▼
▼ Nothing is known about the Rechabite community other than what is said about them in this chapter. From vv. 7–8 it appears that they were a nomadic tribe that had resisted settling down and taking up farming. They had also agreed to abstain from drinking wine. Most scholars agree in equating the Jonadab son of Rechab mentioned as the leader who had instituted these strictures as the same Jonadab who assisted Jehu in his religious purge of Baalism following the reign of Ahab (2 Kgs 10:15, 23–24). If this is the case, the Rechabites followed these same rules for almost 250 years because Jehu’s purge of Baalism and the beginning of his reign was in 841 b.c. and the incident here took place some time after Jehoiakim’s rebellion in 603 b.c. (see the study note on v. 1).Invite them to come into one of the side rooms ▼ of the Lord’s temple and offer them some wine to drink.” 3 So I went and got Jaazaniah son of Jeremiah the grandson of Habazziniah, his brothers, all his sons, and all the rest of the Rechabite community. 4 I took them to the Lord’s temple. I took them into the room where the disciples of the prophet Hanan son of Igdaliah stayed. ▼
▼ Heb “the sons of Hanan son of Igdaliah, the man of God.” The reference to “sons” and to “man of God” fits the usage of these terms elsewhere to refer to prophets and their disciples (see BDB 43-44 s.v. אֱלֹהִים 3(b) and compare usage in 2 Kgs 4:40 for the former and BDB 121 s.v. בֵּן 7.a and compare the usage in 2 Kgs 4:38 for the latter).That room was next to the one where the temple officers stayed and above the room where Maaseiah son of Shallum, one of the doorkeepers ▼ of the temple, stayed. 5 Then I set cups and pitchers full of wine in front of the members of the Rechabite community and said to them, “Have some wine.” ▼
▼ Heb “Drink wine.”6 But they answered, “We do not drink wine because our ancestor Jonadab son of Rechab commanded us not to. He told us, ‘You and your children must never drink wine. 7 Do not build houses. Do not plant crops. Do not plant a vineyard or own one. ▼
▼ Heb “Don’t plant a vineyard and it shall not be to you [= and you shall/must not have one].”Live in tents all your lives. If you do these things you will ▼
▼ Heb “Don’t…and don’t…but live…in order that you might….”live a long time in the land that you wander about on.’ ▼
▼ Heb “where you are sojourning.” The terms “sojourn” and “sojourner” referred to a person who resided in a country not his own, without the rights and privileges of citizenship as a member of a nation, state, or principality. In the ancient Near East such people were dependent on the laws of hospitality rather than the laws of state for protection and provision of legal rights. Perhaps the best illustration of this is Abraham who “sojourned” among the Philistines and the Hittites in Canaan and was dependent upon them for grazing and water rights and for a place to bury his wife (cf. Gen 20–24). What is described here is the typical lifestyle of a nomadic tribe.8 We and our wives and our sons and daughters have obeyed everything our ancestor Jonadab commanded us. We have never drunk wine. ▼
▼ Heb “We have not drunk wine all our days.” Actually vv. 8b–9a are a series of infinitive constructs plus the negative לְבִלְתִּי (levilti) explaining the particulars of how they have obeyed, i.e., by not drinking wine…and by not building….” The more direct declarative statement is used here to shorten the sentence and is more in keeping with contemporary style.9 We have not built any houses to live in. We do not own any vineyards, fields, or crops. 10 We have lived in tents. We have obeyed our ancestor Jonadab and done exactly as he commanded us. ▼
▼ Heb “We have obeyed and done according to all which our ancestor Jonadab commanded us.”11 But when King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon invaded the land we said, ‘Let’s get up and go to Jerusalem ▼ to get away from the Babylonian ▼ and Aramean armies.’ That is why we are staying here in Jerusalem.”
12 Then the Lord spoke to Jeremiah. 13 The Lord God of Israel who rules over all ▼ told him, “Go and speak to the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem. Tell them, ▼
▼ Heb “35:12 And the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah, saying, ‘Thus says Yahweh of armies the God of Israel, “Go and say…‘Will you not learn…’”’” The use of the indirect introduction has been chosen here as in 34:1–2 to try to cut down on the confusion created by embedding quotations within quotations.‘I, the Lord, say: ▼
▼ Heb “Oracle of the Lord.”“You must learn a lesson from this ▼
▼ The words “from this” are not in the text but are implicit from the context. They have been supplied in the translation for the sake of clarity.about obeying what I say! ▼
▼ Heb “Will you not learn a lesson…?” The rhetorical question here has the force of an imperative, made explicit in the translation.14 Jonadab son of Rechab ordered his descendants not to drink wine. His orders have been carried out. ▼
▼ Heb “The words of Jonadab son of Rechab which he commanded his descendants not to drink wine have been carried out.” (For the construction of the accusative of subject after a passive verb illustrated here see GKC 388 #121.b.) The sentence has been broken down and made more direct to better conform to contemporary English style.To this day his descendants have drunk no wine because they have obeyed what their ancestor commanded them. But I ▼
▼ The vav (ו) plus the independent pronoun before the verb is intended to mark a sharp contrast. It is difficult, if not impossible to mark this in English other than “But I.”have spoken to you over and over again, ▼ but you have not obeyed me! 15 I sent all my servants the prophets to warn you over and over again. They said, “Every one of you, stop doing the evil things you have been doing and do what is right. ▼ Do not pay allegiance to other gods ▼ and worship them. Then you can continue to live in this land that I gave to you and your ancestors.” But you did not pay any attention or listen to me. 16 Yes, ▼
▼ This is an attempt to represent the particle כִּי (ki) which is probably not really intensive here (cf. BDB 472 s.v. כִּי 1.e) but is one of those causal uses of כִּי that BDB discusses on 473-74 s.v. כִּי 3.c where the cause is really the failure of the people of Judah and Jerusalem to listen/obey. I.e., the causal particle is at the beginning of the sentence so as not to interrupt the contrast drawn.the descendants of Jonadab son of Rechab have carried out the orders that their ancestor gave them. But you people ▼
▼ Heb “this people.” However, the speech is addressed to the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, so the second person is retained in English. In addition to the stylistic difference that Hebrew exhibits in the rapid shift between persons (second to third and third to second, which have repeatedly been noted and documented from GKC 462 #144.p) there may be a subtle rhetorical reason for the shift here. The shift from direct address to indirect address which characterizes this verse and the next may reflect the Lord’s rejection of the people he is addressing. A similar shift takes place in Wisdom’s address to the simple minded, fools, and mockers in Prov 1:28–32 after the direct address of 1:22–27.have not obeyed me! 17 So I, the Lord, the God who rules over all, the God of Israel, say: ▼ “I will soon bring on Judah and all the citizens of Jerusalem all the disaster that I threatened to bring on them. I will do this because I spoke to them but they did not listen. I called out to them but they did not answer.”’”
18 Then Jeremiah spoke to the Rechabite community, “The Lord God of Israel who rules over all ▼ says, ‘You have obeyed the orders of your ancestor Jonadab. You have followed all his instructions. You have done exactly as he commanded you.’ 19 So the Lord God of Israel who rules over all says, ‘Jonadab son of Rechab will never lack a male descendant to serve me.’” ▼
▼ Heb “There shall not be cut to Jonadab son of Rechab a man standing before me all the days.” For the first part of this idiom see 33:17–18 where it is applied to David always having a descendant to occupy the throne and the Levites will always have priests to offer up sacrifices. For the latter part of the idiom “to stand before” referring to service see BDB 764 s.v. עָמַד 1.e and compare the usage in 1 Kgs 1:2; 2 Kgs 3:14; Jer 15:19; Deut 10:8. As comparison with those passages will show, it refers to attending on, or serving a superior, a king, or the Lord. It is used of both prophets (e.g., 1 Kgs 17:1) and priests (e.g., Deut 10:8) serving the Lord. Its most common use is to refer to priestly service. The nature of the service is not further defined in this case, though several of the commentaries point out a Mishnaic tradition that the Rechabites later were given the function of bringing wood for the altar.
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