A covenant is a binding agreement which should not be entered into lightly. All the people, from the priests to the youngest child, declared before God that they would keep God’s commandments: they would obey his laws as recorded in the book of Moses; they would separate themselves from the unbelievers; they would give a tithe of grain harvest, and would contribute to the upkeep of the temple. The people understood that this was a sacred undertaking and vowed a curse on themselves if they reneged on their promise.
It is difficult to accuse someone of wrongdoing if they are ignorant of the rules. Here, the people, acting as one body, make a sworn deposition that they “enter into an agreement with a complete understanding of what [they] are doing.” They state they are not ignorant, nor are they coerced into making this decision. They made this covenant with God with a clear conscience and a free will. Yet, although it was made with solemnity of heart, we learn in chapter 13 that as time passed, the people broke their covenant with God.
What oaths or covenants have you made with God? How easy has it been to keep your word? What distractions get in your way? Why is it not advisable to hastily make a vow before God? Gather a group of believers and pledge your efforts to a mission or goal such as mentoring adolescent girls and boys or feeding the homeless.