Tuesday, January 26, 2021

 Who Were the Rechabites?

We can read of the Rechabites in Jeremiah chapter 35. They lived as a people apart even when living in the city Jerusalem.

1 The word which came unto Jeremiah from the Lord in the days of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah king of Judah, saying,

2 Go unto the house of the Rechabites, and speak unto them, and bring them into the house of the Lord, into one of the chambers, and give them wine to drink.

3 Then I took Jaazaniah the son of Jeremiah, the son of Habaziniah, and his brethren, and all his sons, and the whole house of the Rechabites;

4 And I brought them into the house of the Lord, into the chamber of the sons of Hanan, the son of Igdaliah, a man of God, which was by the chamber of the princes, which was above the chamber of Maaseiah the son of Shallum, the keeper of the door:

5 And I set before the sons of the house of the Rechabites pots full of wine, and cups, and I said unto them, Drink ye wine.

6 But they said, We will drink no wine: for Jonadab the son of Rechab our father commanded us, saying, Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever:

7 Neither shall ye build house, nor sow seed, nor plant vineyard, nor have any: but all your days ye shall dwell in tents; that ye may live many days in the land where ye be strangers.

8 Thus have we obeyed the voice of Jonadab the son of Rechab our father in all that he hath charged us, to drink no wine all our days, we, our wives, our sons, nor our daughters;

9 Nor to build houses for us to dwell in: neither have we vineyard, nor field, nor seed:

10 But we have dwelt in tents, and have obeyed, and done according to all that Jonadab our father commanded us.

But when the Rechabites couldn't live according to their own manner while dwelling in Jerusalem they fled to the wilderness. This is a pattern we see among more pious groups of people from the days of Adam right up to our own time. When you can't stand the heat, you get out of the kitchen. 

The great Latter-day Saint scholar, Hugh Nibley, says, "This is the Rechabite doctrine. When Israel or Jerusalem becomes wicked, the pious go off and live by themselves in the desert and wait for God to give them more revelation."

Nibley further explains, "We are told in Jeremiah 35 that Jonadab ben Rechab and his son were righteous, and they were so blessed. They were the only people that were not corrupt in Jerusalem. They were blessed by having special offices in the temple forever after that. They went out to live in the desert by themselves. They would not live in houses of stone, and they would not even cultivate the ground. They would live as John the Baptist lived." ~See Nibley’s Commentary On The Book of Mormon, Lecture 58—A Review of Book of Mormon Themes, pages 25, 26.

Who were some of the contemporaries the Jeremiah and Jonadab and the rest of the Rechabites in Jerusalem about 600 B.C.? Besides Daniel and Ezekiel there were Lehi & Sariah, and their first four sons, and Ishmael & his wife and their offspring, and let's not forget Laban and Zoram.

What are the chances that Lehi was well acquainted with the Rechabites?

The Rechabites lived aloof from society whether living in the city of Jerusalem or alone out in the wilderness—as did Lehi and his family. They chose to live the commandments of God and to be guided by divine revelation—as did Lehi and his family. As a group they fled into the desert and lived in remote areas east of the Jordan and south of Jerusalem—the same areas that Lehi and his followers passed through on an epic journey to their promised land. The Rechabites were experts in metal working—as at least Nephi seemed to be. They lived in tents—as did Lehi and his party. They were a temple-oriented society—as the Nephites also proved to be. And when they could no longer live peaceably amongst a wicked society, they fled.

Nibley goes on to say, "So the ancestor of Ephraim is Egyptus. Don't worry about that. But that gives a terrific mixture because the Eqyptians were already a mixture of at least seven different lines. Asenath had at least seven. Remember they [Lehi's family] were half Manasseh. They were on the other side of the Jordan. They were desert Arabs. They all had Arab names, as you find in the Book of Mormon. [Lehi's family] marries up with Ishmael. A Jew isn't going to be called Ishmael because Ishmael was the enemy of Jacob. Ishmael was the father and hero of the Arabs. He [the Ishmael in the Book of Mormon] had his daughters marry the sons of Lehi. You can be sure they were Ishmaelites because Lehi himself was a desert man. He was a merchant who traveled in the desert. [Ishmael] would be his cousin and an Ishmaelite."

The Book of Mormon reads like a string of Rechabite events with the more pious continually fleeing out into one new wilderness after another as the societies around them inevitably grew corrupt. It isn't difficult to understand that the propensity for wandering was in their blood.

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Orem, Utah—January 26, 2021—©2021 Daniel Kemper Lubben

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