After Moses killed an Egyptian and hid him in the sand, his crime was discovered by Pharaoh, so he had to flee Egypt and he “dwelt in the land of Midian” (Exodus 2:15). While he was there, Moses developed a relationship with the priest of Midian, who later became his father in law. Forty years later, Moses was called to return to Egypt and deliver God’s people from their bondage (Exodus 3:10). Moses initially took his family with him to Egypt, but later sent them back to live with his father in law in Midian. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea and entered the desert, Moses was reunited with his family (Exodus 18:6). Moses’ father in law became an advisor to the Israelites and eventually his relatives joined with the Israelites and were a permanent part of their community, even though they were not entitled to live with them in the Promised Land.
The descendants of Moses’ father in law were known as the Kenites. It says about them in Judges 1:16, “And the children of the Kenite, Moses’ father in law, went up out of the city of palm trees with the children of Judah into the wilderness of Judah, which lie in the south of Arad; and they went and dwelt among the people.” The Kenites are mentioned in the genealogy of the sons of Israel. It says in 1 Chronicles 2:55, “And the families of the scribes which dwelt at Jabez; the Tirathites, the Shimeathites, and the Suchathites. These are the Kenites that came of Hemath, the father of the house of Rechab.” One of the sons of Rechab, named Jehonadab, helped Jehu massacre all the Baal worshippers in Israel during the reign of the wicked king Ahab (2 Kings 10:23-25). Afterwards, Jehonadab commanded his relatives, “Ye shall drink no wine, neither ye, nor your sons for ever: 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” (Jeremiah 35:7).
The Hebrew word translated strangers, guwr (goor) means to lodge somewhere as a guest. Jehonadab’s command to his family was meant to make sure they would be good guests or to behave properly, so as not to offend the God of the Israelites while they were living among his people. Nearly 250 years later, the Rechabites were commended for their good behavior. “And Jeremiah said unto the house of the Rechabites, Thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Because you have obeyed the commandment of Jonadab your father, and kept all his precepts, and done according unto all that he hath commanded you: therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel; Jonadab the son of Rechab shall not want a man to stand before me for ever” (Jeremiah 35: 18-19). In other words, Jehonadab’s family managed to work their way into heaven.