Nehemiah Chapter 10 – The Covenant
A Firm Agreement in Writing
Chapter 9 ended with a “firm agreement in writing” that all the officials, Levites, and priests signed. Chapter 10 begins (v. 1-27) with a list of the names of those who signed.
28-29 Here we hear what was in the agreement. Even those who didn’t sign but separated themselves from the” peoples of the land” agree to adhere to this agreement stating they will live by the law of God. This was such a serious covenant that they took “a curse and an oath to walk in God’s law” and not just men as usual, but the women and children too. They vow to do all the commandments of the Lord and his ordinances and statues.
This next part is a bit troubling to me but I’ll share some thoughts on that in a moment.
30-31 They agree not to intermarry. They won’t give their daughters to the people of the land nor take any daughters of them. They won’t purchase merchandise from them on the Sabbath or other holy days either.
This part, the separating themselves, is hard for me take but I do understand the fear behind it. They were afraid of losing property through intermarriages. They were afraid that might cause them to lose the much-needed income for the temple for upkeep and taxes. They also fear the influence of the outsiders.
This whole idea of separating ourselves disturbs me. I know it was a different time then but many people still live this way in some respects – keeping the outsiders out – pushing away those who are different in the name of the Lord.
Now, I’m a wonder-er… I’m always wondering. Wondering if things had been different what today would be like.
What if instead of trying to separate themselves, instead of trying to keep everyone out, they had welcomed them, lived among them, saw ‘them’ also as children of God and loved them and shared with them, cared for them? What would the world look like today? Would we even have a New Testament? Would the Kingdom of God have been laid here on earth then? I feel like all that is what it would be like – everyone together, caring for one another, loving one another, sharing with one another.
Maybe I’m weird… this is where my thoughts often go when I read about the separateness. I often wonder if it was more about staying true to God than about keeping others out. More about loving God wholeheartedly and not leaving him, not turning away from him because we are so easily influenced and swayed.
Back to the last verses of Chapter 10
32-39 Here they pledge their tithes to the service of the house of God – 1/3 a shekel, regular grain offering, wood offering, their first fruits of the soil and livestock, the wine and oil. Levites were put in charge of it – to bring it in. They vow not to neglect the house of God.
People don’t like to talk about money and the church, or money for the needy, the sick or… “We earned it! It’s ours! We worked hard for it!” It’s a very sensitive subject.
But giving and generosity to God, for his service, for his church (not just the building but all his children) is mentioned a lot in the Bible. Giving is good for us, for our physical and mental health, but also for the health of our community. Generosity changes people – both the giver and receiver. It helps us to remember there is more than just us in this world. And giving and generosity aren’t just about money. It’s about our time, our talents. It’s about service to God and his children however we are able. We are called to love God and neighbor and in fact, we can’t love God and not love our neighbor. (1 John 4:20) We love God best by loving our neighbor.
So what did you think of Chapter 10? Share your thoughts in the comments below.