Read Nehemiah 10:1-29
(and refresh your memory by reading Nehemiah 9:36-38
). Who is making this covenant, and why did they enter into it?
Although only the leaders signed the document, the text pointedly notes that all of “the rest the people”
entered into “a curse and an oath to follow the Law of God”
(Neh. 10:28, 29
, NIV). What was so significant about the covenant that they all desired to enter into an agreement with God? In order to answer this question, we have to go back to the very beginning, and understand the biblical idea of the covenant.
The covenant was important because it was part of God’s story in dealing with sinful humanity, and it demonstrated God’s yearning for a relationship with people. It also allowed people to demonstrate their desire to be dedicated to God.
The biblical creation story in Genesis 1 and 2
reveals not only the creation of the first humans but the relationship between them and God, and between each other, as well. However, sin then entered and broke all those relationships. Sin is the antithesis of creation, bringing de-creation (death) instead.
The genealogy of Adam eventually splits, as Cain chooses evil (Gen. 4:8-19
) and Seth embraces God (Gen. 5:3-24
). Cain’s genealogy culminates in Lamech (Gen. 4:17-19
), the seventh (inclusively) from Adam, who introduced polygamy. Violence and vengeance on Cain’s side stand in juxtaposition to the faithful lineage of Seth. Seth’s genealogy is also enumerated, but the seventh in this line is Enoch, who “walked with God”
) and was taken to heaven.
Unfortunately, the world embraced evil more than it did God, and there came a point when the lineage of the faithful was very small, and soon there might not be any family left through whom God could fulfill His word by sending the promised Seed to save humans. At that point, God intervenes with the flood. The flood, however, was a further de-creation, a reversal and destruction of life, and yet God destroyed only what humans had already ruined (Gen. 6:11-13