Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.” – Genesis 9:8-11
God’s promises to Noah covered several items concerning responsibilities of Noah and his descendants, but the word “covenant” is first used in Genesis 6:18.
Covenant means “a binding promise”.
Alongside God’s judgment of the devastating flood is a promise. No doubt, God’s repetitive promises brought great hope to Noah and his family who had experienced great stress through the flood. (Click on Chiastic Structure of Gen. 9:8-17 to view the pattern of this Scripture, with the main point placed in the middle.)
Layman’s Bible Commentary observes: The Hebrew word for rainbow is also the word for a battle bow. The point seems to be that the bow is now put away, hung in place by the clouds, suggesting that the storm is over.
God’s special sign is a beautiful reminder to both Him and to us: There would never again be a universal flood.
I like Henry Morris’ observation in The Genesis Record: The rainbow demonstrates most gloriously the grace of God. The pure white light from the unapproachable holiness of His throne (1 Tim. 6:16) is refracted, as it were, through the glory clouds surrounding His presence (1 Kings 8:10, 11), breaking into all the glorious colors of God’s creation. In wrath, He remembers mercy. The glory follows the sufferings; and where sin abounded, grace did much more abound!
Three Other Rainbow Appearances in Scripture
Morris also points out that the rainbow reappears only three more times in Scripture. The first two cases paint a picture of expected judgment and suffering, but they are limited judgment and suffering. We also see God’s grace, which rules over all.
- Ezekiel 1:28 – The rainbow surrounds God’s throne as He prepares to judge His people Israel.
- Revelation 4:3 – The rainbow surrounds God’s throne again. This time preceding the Great Tribulation.
- Revelation 10:1 – This verse speaks of a mighty angel, which is Jesus Christ Himself. He pronounces “seven thunders” of judgment. And instead of wearing a crown of thorns when Jesus bore sin’s curse for us, there will be “a rainbow above His head” as He comes to claim dominion over the world.
God never changes (Psalm 55:19). He is faithful; His promises are sure (Numbers 23:19). Which promises of God do you need to remember today?