The tribe of Rechab (see RECHAB, 2), which dwelt among the Israelites (Jeremiah 35:1-19). Professed descendants of the tribe still exist in Mesopotamia and Yemen.

After the days of David we read no more of the Kenites under that name; and the foregoing notices of their existence and virtual incorporation with Israel might have escaped attention but for the remarkable offshoot of the clan in the family of Rechabites. In 1 Chronicles 2:55, certain families of Kenites dwelling at Jabez (probably in Southern Judah) are described as descendents of one Hemath, "father of the house of Rechab." Whether Rechab is a proper name, or an appellative signifying "rider," and denoting the habits of the community, is not quite clear. No personage of the name is mentioned elsewhere in Scripture; but Jehonadab or Jonadab the son (or descendent) of Rechab appears in the days of Jehu's great uprising against the family of Ahab, as taking a stern and decisive part in the suppression of idolatry (2 Kings 10:15,23). As we learn from Jeremiah 35, Jonadab reorganized the Kenites, or a portion of them, into an ascetic community, pledging by stringent vows neither to dwell in cities, to built houses, nor to cultivate land, but to maintain a nomad life, and especially to abstain from wine and strong drink. In the days of Nebuchadnezzar, however, the approach of the Babylonian armies compelled these Rechabites to escape from their tents for safety to Jerusalem. For the sake of a lesson to the Jewish people, Jeremiah was directed to test the fidelity of the Rechabites. Driven from their wandering life, might not the disciples of Jonadab suppose themselves discharged from their ascetic vows, or at any rate seize the opportunity to release? Vessels of wine were set before them in the temple, and they were bidden to drink. They firmly refused; and the prophet takes occasion to impress upon the people of Judah the much-needed lesson of faithfulness to principle, adding at the same time the promise of the LORD (Yahweh) that the Rechabites should "stand before Him" continually, in other words, should minister in some capacity in His temple. The nature of this ministry we can only conjecture. In 1 Chronicles 2:55 the Rechabites appear as "scribes"; in the LXX. inscription to Psalm 71, they are given rank among the sweet singers of Israel. It appears certain that from the era of the captivity the nomad life was to some extent renounced, seeing that a son of Rechab is found cooperating with the priests and rulers in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem (Nehemiah 3:14). It may be added that at a much later period the historian Hegesippus, as preserved by Eusebius, in describing the martyrdom of James the "brother of the Lord," writes that "one of the priests, the sons of Rechab, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet," cried out against the crime. On the whole there seems satisfactory evidence that a place in the sanctuary itself was given to these descendants of an alien and wandering people. The subsequent history of the Rechabites is unknown; the reports of travelers who profess to have discovered their traces are hardly conclusive, while warranting further research into this interesting byway of Scripture history.

{Jewish Sects and Orders}

Re"chab*ite (?), n. Jewish Hist.

One of the descendants of Jonadab, the son of Rechab, all of whom by his injunction abstained from the use of intoxicating drinks and even from planting the vine. Jer. xxxv. 2-19. Also, in modern times, a member of a certain society of abstainers from alcoholic liquors.


© Webster 1913.

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