Genesis 9

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God Make a Covenant with Noah (1-17)

This is one of the main times in the Bible when God forms a legal relationship with a person or group of people. The covenant consists of promises that God gives to the people in exchange for what they will do. This particular covenant is unique because it involves all of Earth, even the animals. And any requirements on our part are tentative at best.


Verse 8: Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: (NIV)

  • We can assume that the women were there as well, but that they were simply not mentioned.


Verse 9: “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you (NIV)

  • This covenant was anticipated in Genesis 6:18, a promise now fulfilled.
  • There is no time limit on this covenant. It is still in effect. God does not revoke his agreements, people just stop following them.


Verse 10: 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. (NIV)

  • There is no mention of a different covenant with the animals than with the people. It is about life for all.
  • There is a lot of questions about whether "came out of the ark" and "on the earth" are different categories of animals.
    • If they are the same, then it is Hebrew repitition.
    • If these are two different categories of animals, however, that means that some of the animals on Earth survived the flood outside of the ark.


Verse 11: 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.” (NIV)

  • This is not a promise to never destroy the Earth, but only to not have a mega flood again.
  • There is also no promise that no lives will be lost because of floods. It is a promise that some life will continue.
  • ”Cut off” means an excommunication for people who don't accept God's covenant, specifically when used with Abraham (Matthews 408).


Verse 12: And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: (NIV)

  • This is the first time “sign” is used in connection with covenant sign (Matthews 408). **The sign most familiar to the OT is the sign that Abraham used to signify his following of God's covenant with him and his family, circumcision.
    • This is not necessarily a creation myth of how rainbows came to be, but a renewed significance (Matthews 411).
  • ”You” is plural here, indicating not just Noah, but all people.
  • Covenants normally require both parties to do something. The covenants with God always have a component of service from us.
    • This is the only covenant that does not require anything from us in return for God's actions.
    • The stipulation in verse 4 of not eating any blood, could qualify as the second half, but is not phrased formally, and appears to fit better with the giving of animals as food.
    • Perhaps this is because the covenant is given to all creation instead of just to people.


Verse 13: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. (NIV)

  • More literally, God will set his bow, as in archery, in the sky. The image shows God setting aside his weapon (Reyburn 212). This fits with this being a symbol of God refusing to destroy people again.
  • The entire Earth is treated as the second party of this covenant, and not any individual group or person.


Verse 14: Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, (NIV)

  • Clouds of course indicate rain, and so this is tied so that when destruction seems immanent, there will be a sign that God is not going to destroy us.
  • There would have been a lot of fear after the flood every time the rains came again, without this sign.


Verse 15: I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. (NIV)

  • It is strange that it is not we who are remembering the covenant when the rainbow appears, but God.


Verse 16: Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.” (NIV)

  • Repetition is one major way in Hebrew thought of adding emphasis to something. This passage uses a lot of repetition and so is showing the importance of what is being said.
  • Again, “rainbow” is more literally just “bow.”


Verse 17: So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.” (NIV)

  • This verse is pretty much purely repetition of previous verses, but serves as a closing statement for this section.


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