International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
re'-kab, rek'-a-bits (rekhabh, rekhabhim): Rechab is the name of two men of some prominence in the Old Testament records:
(1) A Benjamite of the town of Beeroth, son of Rimmon (2 Samuel 4:2); he and his brother Baanah were "captains" of the military host of Ish-bosheth. On the death of Abner (2 Samuel 3:30) the two brothers treacherously entered Ish-bosheth's house, when at noon he was resting and helpless, beheaded him, and escaped with the head to David at Hebron (2 Samuel 4:6-8). They expected to receive reward and honor from David for the foul deed, which left him without a rival for the throne of all Israel. But the just and noble-minded king ordered their immediate execution (2 Samuel 4:9-12), as in the case of the Amalekite, who asserted that he had killed Saul (2 Samuel 1). For some reason the Beerothites left their own town and fled to Gittaim, another town in Benjamin, where they were still living when the Books of Samuel were written (2 Samuel 4:3).
(2) The more prominent of the men bearing this name was a Kenite (see KENITES), a descendant of Hammath (1 Chronicles 2:55). A part of the Kenite tribe joined the Israelites during the wilderness wanderings (Numbers 10:29-32 Judges 1:16; Judges 4:17), becoming identified with the tribe of Judah, although Heber and Jael his wife were settled in Northern Palestine (Judges 4:17). Rechab was the ancestor or founder of a family, or order, in Israel known as the Rechabites, who at various times were conspicuous in the religious life of the nation. The most notable member of this family was Jehonadab (2 Kings 10:15; 2 Kings 23), or Jonadab, as he is called in Jeremiah 35. Jehonadab was a zealous Yahweh-worshipper and took part with Jehu in the extirpation of Baal-worship and the house of Ahab. He set for his descendants a vow of asceticism: that they should drink no wine, nor plant fields or vineyards, nor build nor live in houses throughout their generations (Jeremiah 35:6, 7). That must have been a singular feature in Palestinian life: the simple, nomadic life of this family from generation to generation in the midst of settled agricultural and industrial conditions! They followed this simple life in order to guard against the enervating tendencies of sensualism, and as a covenant of fidelity to Yahweh, to whom they wholly devoted themselves when they joined themselves to Israel. Jeremiah used the Rechabites, who had been driven into Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar's investment of the land, as an object-lesson to covenant-breaking Judah. The Rechabites, hungry and thirsty, refused wine when it was set before them, because of the command of their ancestor Jonadab (Jeremiah 35:8-10); but Judah refused to heed Yahweh's commands or to keep His covenant (Jeremiah 35:14, 15).
If the Rechab of Nehemiah 3:14 is the same as this Kenite, then his descendant Malchijah, who assisted Nehemiah in rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, may have abandoned the vow of his ancestors, for he was "ruler of the district of Beth-haccherem" (i.e. "house of the vineyard").