Now Jeremiah said that Yahweh was well pleased with the Rechabites because they obeyed the commandments of their ancestor Jonadab. They kept all his precepts and followed all his commands. Therefore Yahweh would make sure that they would never lack a descendant until the end of time. This group would continue on, something like the Davidic line of kings.
Yahweh is upset that the descendents of Jonadab, the Rechabite, have followed Jonadab’s command not to drink wine. But the people of Judah and Jerusalem have not obeyed Yahweh himself. Therefore the God of hosts and the God of Israel was going to bring on them all the disasters that he had proclaimed against them. He had spoken. They had not listened. He had called them, but they did not answer. Watch out Judah and Jerusalem!
Yahweh was upset that the Rechabites precisely followed the commands of their ancestor Jonadab up to the present day, as they refused to drink wine based on Jonadab’s command. However, the people of Judah and Jerusalem have not listened or obeyed Yahweh, even though he has continually told them to listen to his commands. They have not listened to his persistent servants, the prophets, who told them to change from their evil ways and amend their life style. They kept going to other gods to serve them. All they had to do to live in this land was to serve and obey Yahweh, something their ancestors knew about. However, they had not inclined their ears or obeyed Yahweh.
These Rechabites followed the commandments of Jonadab the son of Rechab. Thus they lived a unique nomad live style. Jonadab had commanded them not to build houses or sow seeds. They were to live in tents. They did not practice any kind of agriculture, so that they neither planted nor owned any vineyards or fields. They would live a long life, as long as they abstained from intoxicants, as they, their wives, and their children did not drink any wine. Since they did not cultivate grapes, they drank the milk of their animals. Thus they seem to be closer to the Hebrew Nazirites, who vowed a sacred separate life style, but only for a set time period, not cutting their hair, not drinking intoxicating liquids, and not touching unclean things. These Rechabites seem to be like a religious order or communal monks, actually like wandering desert Arabs.
This short chapter is all about the Rechabites. They get their name from Rechab, who was mentioned in 1 Chronicles, chapter 2, listed under the descendants of Hur. They seem to be descendants of Hammath, a northern city, or Hemath, a Kenite, who was also called Hobab. The Rechabites were not descendants of Jacob, but Kenites, a people originally settled in that part of Arabia called the land of Midian. They may have been the descendants of Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, who was a Kenite. Thus these Rechabites were not true Israelites, but were friendly to the Israelites. They were generally nomads in the desert, living in tents. The most prominent Rechabite may have been Jehonadab or Jonadab, the son of Rechab, in 2 Kings, chapter 10, where he joined with King Jehu of Israel (841-814 BCE) in helping wipe out the family of King Ahab of Israel (874-853 BCE). Yahweh told Jeremiah to go to their house, talk to them, and bring them back to the Temple in Jerusalem. There he was to find a chamber in the Temple and offer these Rechabites some wine. This seems like a simple task.
“While they were on the way, the report came to David that Absalom had killed all of the king’s sons. None of them was left. The king rose. He tore his garments. He lay on the ground. All of his servants who were standing by tore their garments. But Jonadab, the son of David’s brother Shimeah, said. ‘Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons. Amnon alone is dead. This has been determined by Absalom from the day that Amnon raped his sister Tamar. Now therefore do not let my lord, the king, take it to heart, as if all the king’s sons are dead. For Amnon alone is dead.”
Someone reported to King David that Absalom had killed all his sons. David and all his servants tore their garments and prostrated themselves. However, Absalom’s cousin Jonadab, who first instigated this affair, reported that only Amnon was dead, because Absalom had been planning this since Amnon had raped his sister 2 years ago. So the death of all his sons was a false alarm. Jonadab was able to explain everything.
“Some time passed. David’s son, Absalom had a beautiful sister, whose name was Tamar. David’s son Amnon fell in love with her. Amnon was so tormented that he made himself ill because of his sister Tamar. She was a virgin. It seemed impossible to Amnon to do anything to her. But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very crafty man. He said to him. ‘O son of the king, why are you so haggard morning after morning? Will you not tell me?’ Amnon said to him. ‘I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.’ Jonadab said to him. ‘Lie down on your bed. Pretend to be ill. When your father comes to see you, say to him. ‘Let my sister Tamar come and give me something to eat. Prepare the food in my sight, so that I may see it and eat it from her hand.’ So Amnon lay down, and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to the king. ‘Please let my sister Tamar come and make a couple of cakes in my sight, so that I may eat from her hand.’”
Amnon was the oldest son of David, whose mother was Ahinoam of Jezreel. His name appears only 23 times in biblical literature. Absalom was the 3rd son of David with his mother Maacah, also born at Hebron. His name appears over 90 times in the biblical literature. Chileab, the 2nd son with his mother Abigail is only mentioned once in all these disputes and that was in the listing of the children born to David at Hebron in chapter 3 of this book. This Tamar is different from the one who married the two sons of Judah in Genesis, chapter 38. She has the same mother Maacah as Absalom. Jonadab is Amnon’s first cousin, the son of David’s older brother Shimeah. Now you have the cast of characters. Amnon loves his half sister. He was tormented with this love until his cousin Jonadab came up with a plan to have him pretend that he is sick and ask for Tamar to prepare some food for him. King David, unwittingly, said okay, when his son Amnon made this request from his sick bed.