The Admirable Racabites

Bible References: Jeremiah chapter 35; 2 kings 10:15-17.

Recabites refusing wine

Picture of Recabites refusing Jeremiah’s offer of wine.

Heart of the Story: The Recabites (Rechabites) lived by standards set by their ancestor Jonadab; yet, Judah ignored the commandments set by their God.

Story Line: The Recabites were a non-Jewish people closely aligned with the Israelites. They were a nomadic or semi-nomadic group. Most scholars believe they were kinsmen of the Kenites and entered the Promised Land with the Israelites. When the Bible first mentioned the Recabites, they lived in the Northern Kingdom (Israel). Their leader, Jonadab (also known as Jehonadab), was head of a conservative movement who believed in God and vehemently opposed the worship of Baal.

Shortly after King Jehu destroyed the house of King Ahab and Queen Jezebel in Israel, Jonadab went out to meet him. After Jonadab assured King Jehu of his support, Jehu took him into his chariot. Public association with Jonadab added to King Jehu’s credentials among the rural population of Israel and provided support for Jehu’s plan to demolish Baal’s temples and kill Baal’s priests.

For the next 250 years, the Bible is silent about the Recabites. A Jeremiah-Recabite interaction took place during the reign of Jehoiakim (609-598 BC) when Judah was overran by the Babylonians. At that time, the Recabites moved inside the Jerusalem walls to escape the marauding Babylonian and Aramean armies.

The Lord told Jeremiah to gather the Recab family into a side room of the Temple and serve them wine. Following God’s direction, Jeremiah brought Jaazaniah, his brothers and sons into the Temple. Jeremiah set wine before these Recabites and told them to drink. The Recabites declined the wine explaining that their ancestor, Jonadab, told them to never drink wine, plant vineyards or sow seeds. They were to live in tents rather than build houses. The believed that if they followed Jonadab’s directions, they would live a long time in the land.

Analysis of the Relationships: The Recabites commitment to Jonadab’s commands provided God with a powerful illustration to Judah and Jerusalem. Although the Recabites remained true to their ancestor’s instructions, Judah didn’t remain true to God’s instructions. We can almost see God shaking his head marveling: if the non-Israelite Recabites carried out their ancestor’s directions, why did Judah refuse to carry out the commands of a caring God who gave them the land and it abundance?

The Recabites believed that if they followed Jonadab’s instructions, they would live a long time in the land parallels the 6th commandment: honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord God is giving you (Exodus 20:12).

Because the people of Judah ignored God when he called and spoke to them, God planned to bring on Judah every disaster, e.g., famine, pestilence, and death, that he pronounced against them through the prophets. In contrast to Judah, the future for the Recabites would be secure. Because they obeyed their father, the clan would always have a man to serve God. The Jewish Mishnah claimed that the Recabites were given special duties to perform in connection with the Jerusalem temple build after the Babylonian exile (Metzger & Coogan, 2004). We will learn in heaven the effect of Jeremiah’s interaction with the Recabite clan. Maybe there are Recabites serving God in the 21st century.

Reflection: God wanted Judah to show him the same honor that the Racabites showed Jonadab. Do we honor God in the same way that the Racabites honored Jonadab?

It you want to learn more about Bible Clans and Townsmen, check out my book, Lesser Known Bible Characters, on my website Carolyn Roth Ministry (hppt://

Copyright: Carolyn A. Roth June 2014.


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