THE RECHABITES

APPENDIX 2

    In Jeremiah 35 there is an account of how the Lord commanded Jeremiah to take Jonadab and other Rechabites into the temple and to offer them wine. We are told in that story that they had made a covenant to never drink wine or build houses. Consequently, they abstained from wine and lived in tents. In this pericope, the Rechabites refuse to drink the wine, citing their ancient covenant. Yahweh then uses their stalwart attitude in keeping their covenant as an example which is in stark contrast to the men of Judah, who repeatedly left their own covenant with Yahweh.
    If we look for more information on the Rechabites (i.e. descendants of Rechab) in the Old Testament, we find only two references:
    1. In I Chron. 2:55 the Rechabites (called Kenites) are mentioned as scribes in Jabez, who came from Hamath. They are also called Kenites.
    2. In II Kings 10:15 Jehonadab (a companion of Jehu when the latter rounds up all the Baal worshipers in the temple of Baal and kills all of them) is said to be a descendant of Rechab.

    The Kenite connection points us toward Jethro, 1 the father-in-law of Moses, who was said to have been a Kenite (Judges 1:16), and we are told that his descendants went up from the “city of palm trees” 2 to live in Judah, and, as noted above, some of them later became scribes, and therefore presumably had some connection with the temple, where there was almost certainly a scribal school. This also begs the question of whether some or all of the scribes mentioned in the New Testament may have been descendants of the Rechabites.

    In Rabbinic literature, Rabbi Jonathan interpreted Jer. 35:19 as indicating that the Rechabites would become scribes and members of the Sanhedrin. We read, for example in the Babylonian Talmud (Baba Bathra 91b) concerning their understanding of I Chron. 4:23: “These were the potters, refers to the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab who kept the oath of their father. Those that dwelt among the plantations, has reference to Solomon who in his kingdom was like a (constantly flourishing) plant. And hedges, refers to the Sanhedrin who fenced in the breaches in Israel. . . .” It is also said that they sat with the Sanhedrin in the granite chamber (lishkat ha-gazit, which is perhaps the same as the chamber of Hanan) of the temple. 3

Footnotes

1. In Judges 4:11 he is called Hobab.
2. In Deut. 34:3 the “city of palm trees” is identified with Jericho.
3. Cf. the 1906 edition of the Jewish Encyclopedia sub Rechabites.