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Verses 8-17

The Noahic Covenant was a suzerainty treaty that God made with humankind through Noah. [Note: See note on 6:18.] In it He promised never to destroy all flesh with a flood of water again (Genesis 9:11). The sign God appointed to remind people of this promise and to guarantee its veracity was the rainbow (Genesis 9:12-15; cf. Genesis 6:12). There may have been rainbows before this pronouncement, but now God attached significance to the rainbow.

"Shining upon a dark ground, . . . it represents the victory of the light of love over the fiery darkness of wrath. Originating from the effect of the sun upon a dark cloud, it typifies the willingness of the heavenly to penetrate the earthly. Stretched between heaven and earth, it is as a bond of peace between both, and, spanning the horizon, it points to the all-embracing universality of the Divine mercy." [Note: Franz Delitzsch, A New Commentary on Genesis , 1:289-90.]

"The rainbow arcs like a battle bow hung against the clouds. (The Hebrew word for rainbow, qeset, is also the word for a battle bow.) . . .

"The bow is now ’put away,’ hung in place by the clouds, suggesting that the ’battle,’ the storm, is over. Thus the rainbow speaks of peace." [Note: Ross, "Genesis," p. 40.]

This covenant would remain for "all successive generations" (Genesis 9:12). People have no responsibility to guarantee the perpetuity of this covenant; God will do all that He promised (Genesis 9:9). Observe the recurrence of "I," "Myself," and "My" in these verses. Thus, this covenant is unconditional (Genesis 9:9), universal (Genesis 9:11), and everlasting (Genesis 9:12). [Note: See Thomas, pp. 89-93.]

"What distinguishes the Noahic [Covenant] from the patriarchal one and for that matter all others recounted in the Old Testament is its truly universal perspective. It is God’s commitment to the whole of humanity and all terrestrial creation-including the surviving animal population." [Note: Mathews, p. 62.]

"The covenant with Noah [Genesis 6:18; Genesis 9:9-16] is entirely unconditional rather than a conditional covenant, as in the Edenic situation. The certainty of the fulfillment of the covenant with Noah rested entirely with God and not with Noah. As this point is somewhat obscured in current discussion on the covenants of Scripture, it is important to distinguish covenants that are conditional from those that are unconditional. Conditional covenants depend on the recipients meeting the conditions imposed by God. Unconditional covenants declare that God’s purpose will be fulfilled regardless of an individual’s response. The fact that the covenant is one-sided-from God to humankind-does not mean that there is no response on the part of humankind. But the point is that the response is anticipated and does not leave the fulfillment of the covenant in doubt." [Note: Walvoord, pp. 188-89.]

The elements of the Noahic Covenant are the following. God held man responsible for protecting the sanctity of human life by orderly governmental rule even specifying the use of capital punishment (Genesis 9:5-6; cf. Romans 13:1-7). God promised not to judge humanity again with a universal flood (Genesis 8:21; Genesis 9:11-16), and He confirmed the established order of nature (Genesis 8:22; Genesis 9:2). God now permitted people to eat animal flesh, evidently for the first time (Genesis 9:3-4). God announced that Canaan’s descendants would be servants to their brethren (Genesis 9:25-26), Shem’s descendants would enjoy a special relationship to the Lord (Genesis 9:26-27), and Japheth’s descendants would become enlarged races (Genesis 9:27).

". . . the author is intentionally drawing out the similarities between God’s covenant with Noah and the covenant at Sinai. Why? The answer that best fits with the author’s purposes is that he wants to show that God’s covenant at Sinai is not a new act of God. The covenant is rather a return to God’s original promises. Once again at Sinai, as he had done in the past, God is at work restoring his fellowship with man and bringing man back to himself. The covenant with Noah plays an important role in the author’s development of God’s restoration of blessing. It lies midway between God’s original blessing of all mankind (Genesis 1:28) and God’s promise to bless ’all peoples on the earth’ through Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3)." [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 93.]

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