Bible Commentaries
Jeremiah 35

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-19

Jeremiah 35:2 . Go to the house of the Rechabites, then come up to Jerusalem with their flocks for fear of the Chaldean army. This family is often named in the scriptures, as descended from Jethro, priest of Midian. They were descendants of Midian, son of Cush. They are called Kenites by Moses. Numbers 24:0. Judges 1:16. Jonadab was the son of Rechab in a near or remote line, and sheik or prince of his people at the time when Jehu ascended the throne. Abhorring the crimes of the late reign, he came early to congratulate Jehu, and was as a prince admitted to ride in his chariot. 2 Kings 15:0. They had followed the Hebrews on the invitation of Moses, Numbers 10:29, and their lot of land fell to the west of Amalek.

In habits, rather than worship, they differed from the Hebrews, preferring the ancient life of their fathers, who like the Bedouin Arabs, dwelt in tents. This illustrious Jonadab imposed a paternal injunction on his house, not to drink wine nor strong drink, by which metheglin, or bee-wine may be understood. When the rulers, the priests, and the prophets erred through wine; when all tables were full of vomit, and no place clean, Isaiah 27:7, Isaiah 27:8, 14, the Lord would reprove them by the temperance of the Rechabites. And I am happy to add from printed documents, that about a million of persons in England have subscribed the books to abstain from spirituous liquors, except in cases of need.

Jeremiah 35:6 . Jonadab commanded, saying, ye shall drink no wine, neither ye nor your sons for ever. This injunction was founded, no doubt, on high authorities of primitive example. And what is the base of all spirits? Is it not corn, grapes, or other fruits? Is not all spirit the result of fermentation, which raises a heat in the mass to seventy degrees? This spirit is taken off by distillation; and all the vessels being made of copper, abundance of mineral poison is combined with the liquor, and remains in it in a state of solution. If this be done by a chemical process, is there any chemical process equal to the natural preparations of chyle in the stomach? Do not the horse which works extremely hard grow fat by living on corn and water? It must therefore be a vulgar error to suppose that man needs concoction of spirits to strengthen him for the labours of life. On the contrary, does not destruction follow to the constitution, wretchedness to families, and ruin to the whole scale of public morals, from the filthy habits of smoking and drinking drams.

Jeremiah 35:7 . Ye shall dwell in tents, as Jael did, and all their fathers, and as the Bedouins do to the present day; that ye may live many days, which is not the case with drunkards and licentious citizens.

Jeremiah 35:19 . Jonadab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever. Three hundred years had now elapsed from the days of Jonadab, and a thousand from the time of Hobab; and here is still a promise of continuance. After the captivity, it is generally allowed that the Assideans, who came to Judas Maccabeus, are the same as the Rechabites. 1Ma 2:42 ; 1Ma 7:13, 2Ma 14:6 .

Some have supposed the Essenes to be successors of the Rechabites. Josephus names them for their virtues in the most honourable manner. Wars of the Jews, book 2. chap. 12. Their life was full of piety and devotion, somewhat like the solitaries of later times. They had a community of temporal goods, and carried on no merchandize, though they abhorred idleness. They wore white clothes, which they never changed till they were worn out. They regarded an oath as a great crime, accounting a simple affirmation quite sufficient. They believed the soul to be immortal, and affirmed that after death it passed the bounds of the ocean to enjoy Elysian delights.

It is no way likely that so remarkable a people should escape the notice of the elegant Pliny. He names them as abhorrent of marriage, as needing no money, as residing under palm trees; and yet, though pressed with miseries, their nation had supported all privations for more than a thousand years. Plin, lib. 5. cap. 17. A religious order may exist, but a nation cannot exist in a state of celibacy. The long continuance of this nation, agrees very much with the character of the Rechabites, who might have among them a sect of solitaries: and a people of those habits might make an easy association with the christian church.


The love of God, ever watchful of motives to bring sinners to recollection and repentance, availed itself of the temperance of the Rechabites to reprove the Jews. Here we cannot but remark the high character of Jonadab, who had saluted Jehu two hundred and seventy seven years previous to the first invasion of Nebuchadnezzar. He was attached to the independent life and the industrious and temperate habits of his fathers; he despised the effeminacy and voluptuous pleasures of towns; and there is no trace that this family was ever contaminated with idolatry.

He was moreover a prudent man. Trusting in the God of his fathers, and in the patriarchal covenant, he not only avoided vice, but war also, by a rigid adherence to patriarchal habits. Hence his house, was preserved in health, in peace, and in prosperity. His children also revered his memory, as a father beloved and counselled of God. Christians, whose lot is cast in great towns, are not circumstanced to preserve their children from a daily sight of vice, but let us do our best. Let us insolate our families from those who revere not the maxims of God, and then we can pray with greater confidence for covenant blessings.

Jeremiah, to make the case more conspicuous, and to reprove the drunken priests and rulers with more effect, was directed to take the Rechabites into a chamber of the temple. And behold, though tempted by a prophet, they would drink no wine! The sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah a prophet, were no doubt present to attest their temperance and filial obedience. Here was Jeremiah’s text for a new sermon. Here was a family who obeyed their father, but Judah obeyed not the God of their fathers. This fact he pressed with an emphasis which imposed conviction and silence on a guilty audience; yet we do not hear that any converts were made by the power of his word. It is however some consolation to a minister when vice is shamed, and put out of countenance. All ministers ought therefore to avail themselves of recent and local occurrences to attack the vices of the age with advantage and effect.

By honouring our father and mother we claim the promise of long life: and the happiest way of honouring them is to imitate their virtues. Here we have an illustrious instance. The Rechabites obeyed their father, and God blessed them with family prosperity, and promised to bless them to the end; for his eyes are always over the righteous for good, and for a sure defence.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Jeremiah 35". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.