Jeremiah is the only prophetic book in the Bible that records the fulfillment of its main prophecy: the fall of Jerusalem and the captivity of the Jews in Babylon. Chapters 34 through 44 tell that part of the story; the siege of Jerusalem is in chapters 34—38, its fall in chapter 39, and the events after the fall are found in chapters 40—44. We are now in chapter 35.
Once again Jeremiah takes a step back in Judean history under King Jehoiakim, to bring to the forefront another example of a willing and faithful heart by contrast to that of the chosen people; i.e. Judah. He is told (35:2) “Go to the Recabite family and invite them to come to one of the side rooms of the LORD’S Temple. Offer them wine to drink.”
What is unusual about this? The Racabites were not even a Hebrew people. They were Kenites first mentioned in I Chronicles 2:55…
“...and the clans of scribes who lived at Jabez: the Tirathites, Shimeathites and Sucathites. These are the Kenites who came from Hammath, the father of the house of Recab.”
However, they were nomadic but followers of Yahweh/Israel’s God as far back as Israeli captivity in Egypt; long faithful to Yahweh. In a shorter way of remembering them, they were related to Jethro the Midianite who was the father-in-law of Moses. As a people they had taken the a similar Judaism vow of a Nazarite. Strong opposition to cutting of hair or drinking strong drink of any kind. They had been and remained more faithful to God than any of the twelve Tribes of Israel.
“Chapter 35 has one purpose: to contrast the remarkable obedience of the Recabites with the consistent disobedience of Judah. The Recabites had come to Jerusalem at this time seeking refuge from the Babylonian armies. Under the direction of God, Jeremiah was to go to the Recabites, offer them sanctuary in one of the rooms in the Temple and a drink of wine” (firstname.lastname@example.org). These were a tent-dwelling desert people who had a concern per the advancing Babylonian armies.
NOTE: Some denominations use the Recabites as an example and reason for complete abstinence per strong drink. This is a false pretense for forcing such a practice of total abstinence on others. They took a vow by choice, like the Nazarites of that time; just as they vowed to follow Jehovah-God and to be independent desert tent-dwellers. The fact that Jeremiah is about to offer them “strong drink” points to the fact it was available to Jeremiah IN THE TEMPLE.
[ESV] But they answered, “We will drink no wine, for Jonadab the son of Rechab, our father, commanded us, ‘You shall not drink wine, neither you nor your sons forever. (Jeremiah 35:6)
Keep this comment per wine within context. The Racabites were also told to not live in cities, build houses, plant vineyards (or juice or otherwise), or grow crops. How many denominations with which one might recall this too being an all-inclusive edict or statute from God?
What was or could be God’s reasoning behind this? At first swipe one might think it a test of the Racabites, but that would be a false supposition. Jeremiah 35:12-17 gives us the answer. God wanted this to be a LIVING EXAMPLE of obedience. The Racabites were not even people of the “chosen,” but outsiders who none the less listened and obeyed God.
The power within the “If you ____, then I (God) will ____” covenant between God and man is found throughout the bible (Old and New Testaments). It is again so apparent. God rewards the outsiders (Racabites) for their obedience. This chapter closes with God telling the Racabites:
Jer 35:18 “Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the command of Jonadab your father and kept all his precepts and done all that he commanded you,
Jer 35:19 therefore thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall never lack a man to stand before me.”
Lack a man to stand before me???? This means God promised this clan of people that there will always be Racabites’ descendants until End Time. Their clan will never die out