New European Commentary


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Deeper Commentary

Jeremiah 35:1 The word which came to Jeremiah from Yahweh in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying- The book of Jeremiah isn't arranged chronologically, but perhaps thematically. For this follows on from the theme of disobedience in Jer. 34.

Jeremiah 35:2 Go to the house of the Rechabites, and speak to them, and bring them into the house of Yahweh, into one of the rooms, and give them wine to drink-
The Rechabites were a wandering tribe descended from the Kenites (1 Chron. 2:55; Jud. 1:16). Being given wine to drink by a prophet was a symbol of judgment. They refused to drink it because of their obedience to principle. Whilst judgment cannot be avoided, perhaps the idea is that people could be saved from judgment because of obedience- which is the context provided by the previous chapter (see on :1).

Jeremiah 35:3 Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habazziniah, and his brothers, all his sons and the whole family of the Rechabites-
These three names all include the name "Yah". These wandering Gentiles (see on :2) had clearly accepted the Jewish faith and Yahweh as their God. If "the whole family" were brought into the temple for this occasion, they may not have been that numerous; they had all fled into Jerusalem for fear of the Babylonians.

Jeremiah 35:4 and I brought them into the house of Yahweh, into the room of the sons of Hanan the son of Igdaliah, the man of God-
If as AV "a man of God", this may be a comment upon his spirituality. He would have been one of a very small remnant of faithful priests.

Which was by the room of the princes- The rooms around the temple were intended for the priests. But they were in coalition with the princes, and so the princes had some of the Levites' chambers in the temple.

Which was above the room of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the threshold- This may have been the Maaseiah of Jer. 21:1; 29:25; 37:3; 52:4, who was one of the "priests" who were generally condemned and judged. The temple was used for this object lesson in order to make a public witness to the priests and princes.

Jeremiah 35:5 I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites bowls full of wine and cups; and I said to them, Drink wine!-
The Hebrew for "bowls" is mainly used about the "bowls" of the candlestick. Perhaps abuse of alcohol had become part of the general apostasy and idolatry going on in the temple.

Jeremiah 35:6 But they said, We will drink no wine; for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us saying, You shall drink no wine, neither you, nor your sons, forever-
"Our father" doesn't have to mean that the "Rechabites" were his literal descendants; they may have been attracted to this ascetic lifestyle and considered themselves the spiritual descendants of Jonadab.

Jeremiah 35:7 neither shall you build house, nor sow seed, nor plant a vineyard nor own one; but all your days you shall dwell in tents; that you may live many days in the land in which you live-
Houses, fields and lands could legitimately be bought and sold, and would be in the restored kingdom (Jer. 32:15). It seems the connection with this verse is intentional. The point could be that these people were obedient to principles which were not strictly correct, they were not kingdom principles; and God's people can take a lesson from those who are fiercely loyal to principles which aren't correct. For how much stronger should be our loyalty and obedience to that which is ultimately true. "If they can do that for that, then how much more should I..." give my best for His highest.

Jeremiah 35:8 We have obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he commanded us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, or our daughters-
Drinking wine was in fact one of the covenant blessings. The commend not to drink wine was therefore out of step with God's kingdom principles; as noted too on :7. And yet despite the fact that the Rechabites 'got it wrong' in their understanding of things, their names openly reflect their commitment to Yahweh (see on :3) and despite their misplaced idealism and faulty understanding, God accepted that and held them up as an example to those of His people who were merely living according to the flesh.

Jeremiah 35:9 nor to build houses for us to dwell in; neither do we have vineyard, nor field, nor seed-
It could be that these commands about vineyard and seed refer specifically to seeds of the vine, as if this strange situation arose from a desire to be Nazirites, but it became twisted into a tradition and formalism which they blindly adhered to. As noted on :8, the Rechabites come over as a case of misplaced idealism, and yet they are commended. We conclude therefore that intellectual purity of understanding is not utterly critical to acceptability with God.

Jeremiah 35:10 but we have lived in tents and have obeyed and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us-
The phrase for "obeyed and done" is that used of Israel's obedience to the commandments of God in the old covenant (Dt. 6:3; 7:12 and often). The Rechabites are being held up as an example of how Israel ought to have kept their Heavenly Father's commandments. They didn't do so because they failed to grasp that He really was their Father and they had responsibility to Him which arose from a sense of personal family loyalty.

Jeremiah 35:11 But it happened, when Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon came up into the land, that we said, Come, and let us go to Jerusalem for fear of the army of the Chaldeans, and for fear of the army of the Syrians; so we dwell at Jerusalem-
They were forced by the invasion to break some of their covenant loyalty; perhaps to make them reflect that the laws they were keeping were not in fact so important. They were driven into Jerusalem as the invasion was designed to drive the Jews to God.

Jeremiah 35:12 Then came the word of Yahweh to Jeremiah saying-
The lesson of the Rechabites was not just to be for those gathered in the temple at that time, but to be spread throughout the community (:13).

Jeremiah 35:13 Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: Go, and tell the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Will you not receive instruction to listen to My words? says Yahweh-
This is not quite the same as saying "Will you not listen to My words". It was through receiving instruction that they would listen to or be obedient to God's words. The same phrase is translated "receive correction" (Jer. 2:30). The invasion was designed to correct them and make them sensitive and obedient to God's words; but they like us at times refused that education. We see here how God doesn't simply give commandments and waits for obedience to them. He takes the initiative in seeking to give stimulus for that obedience. In this sense He gives repentance, and not simply forgiveness (Acts 3:25,26; 11:18).

Jeremiah 35:14 The words of Jonadab the son of Rechab that he commanded his sons, not to drink wine, are performed; and to this day they drink none, for they obey their father’s commandment: but I have spoken to you, rising up early and speaking; and you have not listened to Me-
The Rechabites wouldn’t drink wine nor live in cities, just because they respected the commands of their ancestor about these matters. Yet Yahweh God of Israel had been rising up early, sending His prophets, pleading with Israel to hear. And His people didn’t take Him seriously at all. If the sons of Rechab could live as they did, based on their obedience to human words and traditions, why couldn’t Israel even more so when it came to God’s word? And so with us. There are communities which blindly follow the faith of their fathers, obedient to their traditions and demands regarding, e.g., whom they marry. If men and women can be so obedient to the word of men… shouldn’t the word of God , black print on white paper that it is, but nonetheless the same word that made Moses tremble and that Sinai ablaze, have an even deeper impact and more insistent imperative in our lives?

Jeremiah 35:15 I have sent also to you all My servants the prophets, rising up early and sending them, saying, Return now every man from his evil way-
The prophetic word was not generic, it had a way of appealing to every hearer individually.

And amend your doings, and don’t go after other gods to serve them, and you shall dwell in the land which I have given to you and to your fathers- Even when Jerusalem was about to fall to the besiegers, there was still the possibility that they could remain in the land- if they repented and humbled themselves before God's word.

But you have not inclined your ear, nor listened to Me- Inclining or humbling / bowing down the ear means that true response to God's word ought to be a humbling experience. We cannot come away from engagement with God's word without being humbled. And this very phrase is used of how God bows down / inclines His ear to human prayer (2 Kings 19:16; Ps. 17:6; 31:2; 71:2 and often). We see here the mutuality possible between God and man, and the interplay between Bible reading and God's response to our prayers. We speak to God in line with our understanding of His word, and He responds to our prayers. Bible reading and prayer therefore mesh together in the Christian life, as part of the upward spiral of spirituality. God is not silent to our prayers- He reveals Himself in response through His word.

Jeremiah 35:16 Because the sons of Jonadab the son of Rechab have performed the commandment of their father which he commanded them, but this people has not listened to Me-
Just as in Jer. 34 the whole purpose of God in destroying Judah could have been changed had they stopped abusing their servants, so here too there was a single challenge given- to accept that they hadn't obeyed their God as the Rechabites had obeyed their fathers. But they refused to humble themselves to realize that.

Jeremiah 35:17 therefore thus says Yahweh, the God of Armies, the God of Israel: Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the evil that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken to them, but they have not heard; and I have called to them, but they have not answered-
"Heard" has the idea of 'understanding'. God expects us to understand much more than we think He does. Thus He condemned Israel in Jeremiah’s time because He had spoken to them but they had not understood, and therefore they had not responded. They heard the word, as we read it, but they didn’t really hear His voice. They thought that getting to grips with God’s word was just for those who were into that kind of thing; with the result that God rejected them. The evil was pronounced, but in the gap between the statement and the fulfillment of it, they could have repented and changed the outcome; the evil would not then have happened. The pronouncement of judgment was not therefore stated simply in Divine anger; it was His calling to them. And yet they would not answer.

Jeremiah 35:18 Jeremiah said to the house of the Rechabites, Thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according to all that he commanded you-
The blessing was that they would eternally have their family members standing before God in the priesthood (:19). And yet the priesthood ended, and the children of Jonadab didn't eternally "stand before Me". So we can conclude that the idea here is that if they continued obeying their father, then God would count that as obedience to Him, and they would continue standing before Him. I noted above that the commandments given by Jonadab were not completely correct and were based upon misunderstandings. But God was eager that they continued keeping them. It's as if they had misplaced ideals and miseducated conscience; but God commended them for respecting that conscience, and encourages them to continue in it. We would perhaps have expected Him to correct them on an intellectual level, and redirect their zeal towards keeping His commandments rather than Jonadab's. But as with many folks today, it seems God accepts their intellectual failure on some points, and is glad they live in good conscience before Him within the limits of their understanding, even if there is a degree of misconception within that understanding.

Jeremiah 35:19 therefore thus says Yahweh of Armies, the God of Israel: Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before Me forever
- See on :18. This didn't actually happen, because they didn't continue upholding the precepts of their father. And the priesthood was ended.