RECHABITES, or SONS OF RECHAB, a sort of religious order among the Israelites in some respects analogous to the NAZARITES (q.v.), with whom they shared the rule of abstinence from wine. They also eschewed the luxuries and pursuits of settled life, and lived in tents, refusing to sow grain as well as to plant vineyards. They represent a protest against the contemporary Canaanite civilization and a reaction towards the simplicity of life which was felt more strongly in Judah or to the east of the Jordan than in the northern kingdom of Israel. Their " father," or founder, was that Jehonadab or Jonadab, son of Rechab, who encouraged Jehu to abolish the Tyrian Baal-worship (2 Kings x.). The order founded by Jehonadab must from its constitution have soon become a sort of hereditary clan, and as such the " house of Rechab " appears in Judah after the fall of the northern kingdom and continued to observe the ordinance of Jehonadab till the approach of Nebuchadrezzar drove them for protection into Jerusalem (Jer. xxxv.). Jeremiah promised them as a reward of their obedience that they should never lack a man to represent them (as a priest) before Yahweh, whence perhaps the later Jewish tradition that the Rechabites intermarried with the Levites and so entered the temple service.
Later references to them probably indicate that the term was used as meaning merely ascetes (Euseb., H. E. ii. 23), the particular form of asceticism (q.v.) being less essential. One may compare the modern society of total abstainers known as the " Rechabites." In I Chron. ii. 55 the " house of Rechab " is associated with the KENITES (q.v.) as_ a family of scribes. Their origin is ascribed to Hammath (conceivably the Naphtalite city, Josh. xix. 35), but in i Chron. iv. 12 Rechab (so the LXX) is of Calebite descent.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)