Summary: In this covenant, which is the first covenant that God made with man, God promised unconditionally that He would never send another flood to destroy all life on earth.
November 26, 2013
Commentary on the Book of Genesis
By: Tom Lowe
Lesson I.E.2: God Makes a Covenant with Noah. Gen. 9:8-17
Genesis 9.8-17 (KJV)
8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,
9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;
10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth.
11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
12 And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:
15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.
16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.
17 And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
This section is what theologians call “The Noahic Covenant.” Though God spoke these words to Noah and his family, this covenant includes all of Noah’s descendants (v. 9, “with your seed after you”) and “all generations to come” (v. 12). The covenant doesn’t stop here, however, for it also includes every living creature (vv. 10, 12) and “all living creatures of every kind” (v. 15). Humans, birds, beasts, and wild animals are included in this wonderful covenant.
In this covenant, which is the first covenant that God made with man, God promised unconditionally that He would never send another flood to destroy all life on earth. As if he wanted to make it emphatic, three times He said, “Never again” (vv. 11, 15). He didn’t lay down any conditions that men and women had to obey; He simply stated the fact that there would be no more universal floods. From that day on, Noah and his family could enjoy life and not worry every time it began to rain.
A Covenant with Creation
At least four times in this covenant, the Lord mentioned “every living creature.” He was speaking about the animals and birds Noah kept safe in the ark during the flood (v. 10). Once again, we are reminded of God’s special concern for animal life.
When the apostle John beheld the throne room in heaven, he saw four unusual “living creatures” worshiping before God’s throne, each one having a different face (Rev. 4.6, 7[i]). The first had a face like a lion, the second like a calf, the third like a man, and the fourth like an eagle. These four faces parallel the four kinds of creatures with whom God made this covenant: wild beasts, cattle, humans and birds (vv. 9, 10). These creatures are represented perpetually before the throne of God, because the Lord is concerned about His creations. They remind us that all creation worships and praises the God who provides for His creatures and rejoices in their worship[ii].
The forming of a covenant involves the solemn binding together of two parties, who were previously free from obligation to each other. God’s binding Himself to this one family group was a voluntary act of free grace. Noah and his family had done nothing to merit the covenant relationship, and God was not obligated to them. A covenant agreement may contain sanctions in case of “non-compliance”; but that is not mentioned here. God acted unilaterally as sovereign Lord, and He demanded only that they accept the covenant.
A Covenant Sign
To help His people remember His covenants, God would give them a visible sign. His covenant with Abraham was sealed with the sign of circumcision (Ge. 17.11[iii]; Rom. 4.9-12[iv]), And the Mosaic covenant at Sinai with the sign of the weekly Sabbath (Ex. 31.16, 17[v]). God’s covenant with Noah and the animal creation was sealed with the sign of the rainbow. Whenever people saw the rainbow, they would remember God’s promise that no future storm would ever become a worldwide flood that would destroy humanity. This covenant, however, does not rule out God sending other disasters to inflict punishment upon mankind. He may choose to destroy particular places and countries through what we call “natural disasters”;--floods, drought, earthquakes, typhoons, tornados, monsoons, cyclones, hurricanes, volcanos, etc. Neither will the destruction of the world at the last day by fire (2 Pe. 3.10[vi]) be a breach of this promise.