RECHAB, RECHABITES re’ kăb, rĕk’ ə bīts (רֵכָ֗ב, רֵכָבִי, H8211; LXX ̔Ρηχάβ; meaning rider, charioteer, from root rkb to mount and ride.
1. A son of Rimmon, a Benjaminite from Beeroth. Together with his brother Baanah, the two guerilla captains treacherously murdered Ishbosheth, their king, and met with the due reward of their deed at David’s hands (
2. The house of Rechab i.e. Rechabites, famous for their rules to abstain from wine, build no houses, sow no seed, plant no vineyard, but live in tents all their lives (
a. Relationship to the Kenites. According to
Regarding his religious position there is no ambiguity. Like Elijah and Elisha he was a radical supporter of Yahwism in the face of the increasing threat of Baalism under the Omrides. The statement that Jehonadab was “coming to meet him (Jehu)” (
c. Object of Jehonadab’s rules. Scholars have differed also in their understanding of the object of the rules formulated by Jehonadab for his descendants. K. Budde, followed by most moderns, held that the object of the regulations was the preservation of primitive simplicity; i.e., the maintenance of nomadism because civilization and settled life inevitably leads to apostasy from Yahweh. Pope said: “The Rechabites struck at the root of the evil, the tendency to assimilate, by making the nomad mode of life a religious obligation and by rejecting virtually everything Canaanite except the language” (IDB, IV, 15). This understanding rests on three assumptions: (1) that abstention from intoxicants is a distinctive trait of nomadic society; (2) that tent-dwelling necessarily indicates nomadism; and (3) that the disdaining of agriculture is a sure sign of nomadism. This understanding is further supported by a parallel group among the Nabateans, mentioned by Diodorus of Sicily (cf. S. Cohen, IDB, III, 491).
Frick, on the other hand, contended that this group of Nabateans is not a valid parallel group because it ignores the significant difference in time, the disparate purpose of the discipline in Nabatean society (to avoid conquest), and the caution urged by Cohen in the use of classical sources vis-a-vis the Nabateans (Frick, 281). Moreover, he cited Albright to question whether teetotalism is a trait of nomadism at all (Frick, 285). Finally, he suggested that the Rechabites’ rules can be interpreted as belonging to a guild of metal-workers involved in the making of chariots and other weaponry because: (1) metallurgists in antiquity formed proud endogamous lines of families which could account for the staying power of the Rechabites. (2) In a pre-industrial society, the smith had to dispose of the formidable body of technical lore which was handed down and guarded jealously from generation to generation. He noted: “like other measures designed to guard the secrets of the trade, so too might the abstention from intoxicants be another attempt to prevent ‘loose lips’ from ‘sinking ships.’” (3) The smith’s social status among agriculturalists was an honored one. (4) Because a smith remained in one locality until the supply of ore and/or fuel was exhausted, he was prevented from establishing a permanent domicile or engaging in agriculture. (5) Whereas other craftsmen were not hindered from engaging in part-time agricultural work, the smith’s work required such skill that agriculture was excluded (Frick, 285).
d. Yahweh’s use of Rechabites. This much is sure: the Rechabites are not commended by Yahweh for their rules but rather for their obedience to the rules. K. Budde acknowledged: “An independent value in the precepts of Jonadab is not asserted” (“The Nomadic Ideal in the Old Testament,” The New World, IV , 727), and S. Talmon wrote: “By way of a simile the prophet had set the Rechabites before the nation as an example of steadfastness. But the tertium comparatonis lies in their relation to a command not in the contents of the command” (“The ‘Desert Motif’ in the Bible and the Qumran Literature,” Biblical Motifs; Origins and Transformations , 37).
e. Survival of the Rechabites. For their steadfastness these few Rechabites able to fit into one chamber of the Temple and all of whose names mentioned in the text contain Yahweh as a theophoric element (
Bibliography K. Budde, “The Nomadic Ideal in the Old Testament,” The New World, IV (1895), 726-746; L. Gautier, A propos des Récabites: un chapitre de l’histoire religieuse d’Israel avant l’exil (Lausanne, 1927); S. Talmon, “I Chronicles 2:55,” Eretz-Israel, 5 (1958), 111-113 (in Heb. with an Eng. summary, 90. Another VS of this article appears in Eng. in IEJ, 10 , 174-180); P. Seidensticker, “Prophetensöhne-Rechabiter-Nasiräer, Studii biblici franciscani liber annus, 10 (1959), 65-119; M. Y. Ben-Gavriel, “Das nomadische Ideal in der Bibel,” Stimmen der Zeit, CLXXI (1962-1963), 253-263; S. Abramsky, “The House of Rechab-Genealogy and Military League,” Eretz-Israel, 8 (1967), 255-264 (Heb. with an Eng. summary, 76*); F. S. Frick, “The Rechabites Reconsidered,” JBL, XC (1971), 279-287.