Genesis (Part 39)

Welcome back to my study/review of Genesis. If you missed the previous parts of this study, you can find the previous posts HERE.

Genesis 9:8-17

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

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In this section of verses, we read about the Covenant between God and all living things after the Flood.

בְּרִיתbᵉrîyth, ber-eeth’; from H1262 (in the sense of cutting [like H1254]); a compact (because made by passing between pieces of flesh):—confederacy, (con-) feder(-ate), covenant, league.

In verse 8, we are told that God (‘elohiym) spoke with Noah and his sons. We are not told that Yahweh specifically spoke with them. God here comes from the plural ‘elohiym which would more directly be translated as “the gods said to Noah..”

In verse 9, we see “Behold, I establish my covenant…” The word “I” comes from אֲנִי ʼănîy, an-ee’; contracted from H595; I:—I, (as for) me, mine, myself, we, × which, × who.

אֱלֹהִים ʼĕlôhîym, el-o-heem’; plural of H433; gods in the ordinary sense; but specifically used (in the plural thus, especially with the article) of the supreme God; occasionally applied by way of deference to magistrates; and sometimes as a superlative:—angels, × exceeding, God (gods) (-dess, -ly), × (very) great, judges, × mighty.

So… it appears that you could render the translation as “the gods said to Noah… Behold, we establish our covenant.” I would be happy to see grammatical correction from a Hebrew scholar on this if there is correction to give.

Does it actually matter if angels are speaking with Noah and his sons instead of Yahweh? I do not know.

Let’s look at what a couple of commentaries say about these verses substantively.

From the Pulpit Commentary:

Genesis 9:8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying,Verse 8. – And God spake – in continuation of the preceding discourse – unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying.

Genesis 9:9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you;Verse 9. – And I, behold, I establish – literally, am causing to rise up or stand; ἀνίστημι (LXX.) – my covenant (cf. Genesis 6:18) with you, and with your seed after you. I.e. the covenant contemplated all subsequent posterity in its provisions, and, along with the human family, the entire animal creation.

Genesis 9:10 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.Verse 10. – And with every living creature – literally, every soul (or breathing thing) that liveth, a generic designation of which the particulars are now specified – that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth – literally, in fowl, &c.; i.e. belonging to these classes of animals (cf. Genesis 1:25, 30Genesis 6:20Genesis 8:17) with you; from all that go out of the ark, – not necessarily implying (‘Speaker s Commentary,’ Murphy), though in all probability it was the case, that there were animals which had never been in the ark; but simply an idiomatic phrase expressive of the totality of the animal creation (Alford) – to every beast of the earth. I.e. wild beast (Genesis 1:25), the chayyah of the land, which was not included among the animals that entered the ark (Murphy); or living creature (Genesis 2:19), referring here to the fishes of the sea, which were not included in the ark (Kalisch). That the entire brute creation was designed to be embraced in the Noachic covenant seems apparent from the use of the prepositions – בְּ describing the classes to which the animals belong, as in Genesis 7:21; מִן indicating one portion of the whole, the to minus aquo, and לְ the terminus ad quem – in their enumeration (vide Furst, ‘Hebrew Lex.,’ sub לְ., p. 715; cf. Kell in loco). Kalisch thinks the language applies only to the animals of Noah’s time, and not to those of a later age, on the ground that “the destiny of the animals is everywhere connected with that of the human race;” but this is equivalent to their being included in the covenant.

From David Guzik‘s Commentary

3. (Gen 9:8-11) God makes a covenant with man and with all of creation.

Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth. Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

a. I establish My covenant: This covenant was made with mankind (you and your descendants after you), and even with the animals (every living creature that is with you). God promised He would never again destroy all with a flood or cover the earth with a flood.

b. Never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth: God did not believe He did something wrong or too harsh in the flood. He made the promise because He did things in the post-flood world to guarantee that the exact evil conditions of the pre-flood world would never be precisely duplicated. These things included the imprisonment of the angels who sinned with human women (Jude 6) and shortening the life span of man.

i. However, when things again become similar to the days of Noah (Matthew 24:37), God will destroy the earth – but by fire, not by flood (2 Peter 3:1-7).

Regarding subheading b. from Guzik’s commentary, here is the relevant passage from Jude 6.

And the angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day—

Is it clear from Jude that he is talking about angels who sinned in Genesis 6 rather than a general “Fall” by angels at a more unspecific time? That is not clear. HOWEVER, Jude is the passage of the bible where the controversial Book of Enoch is widely believed to have been quoted. Jude 14

“And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, “Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones” 

2 Peter 2:4-6

For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly;

On the one hand, this passage from Peter seems to link the sin of angels with the Flood. On the other hand, it seems to list these sins as separate events. Maybe we will learn with the Sodom and Gomorrah story that the sin of these cities and their subsequent destruction also involves angelic sin in some way (stay tuned for later verses, I suppose.)

The Sign of the Covenant

The word we see translated in English as rainbow is:

קֶשֶׁת qesheth, keh’-sheth; from H7185 in the original sense (of H6983) of bending; a bow, for shooting (hence, figuratively, strength) or the iris:—× arch(-er), arrow, bow(-man, -shot).

I suspect that modern readers no longer associate the rainbow with the bow generally. But here in this covenant, God is making a promise to show us his bow in the clouds. Bow in this sense refers to something that is traditionally a weapon.

From David Guzik again:

4. (Gen 9:12-17) The sign of God’s covenant.

a. I set My rainbow in the cloud: Because the blanket of water vapors was broken up in the flood and the water cycle of the earth changed after the flood, this may be the first occurrence of a rainbow. God used the rainbow as a sign to Noah and all generations that He would be faithful to His covenant.

b. It shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth: Every time we see a rainbow, we should remember the faithfulness of God and every one of His promises. He even says His covenant of peace with us is just as sure as His covenant with Noah and all generations.

c. I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant: The other mentions of a rainbow in the Bible are set in the context of God’s enthroned glory (Ezekiel 1:28Revelation 4:3 and 10:1). It is staggering to see God, in His glory, setting so close to Himself a reminder of His promise to man.

Note here that Guzik’s subheading a. makes a reference to the idea that the Flood was brought about by a significant change to the earth itself.

From Christianity.com

According to biblical cosmology, the firmament, seen as the sky from earth, is essentially a fixed upside-down container over the Earth, colored blue from the heavenly waters above it. The water for rain, snow, hail, etc. was stored outside the raki’a, which had “windows” to release them onto the earth. Genesis 7:11 mentions these windows, stating “In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst forth, and the windows of the heavens were opened.”

If you follow the link about biblical cosmology, from the excerpt… prepare yourself for a long read. This is a dense subject with a diverse range of points of view, with many differences tied to differences of opinion regarding translation. That said, Genesis is the type of book wherein you probably need a grasp of biblical cosmology to understand the potential interpretations given by the text.

Ellicott’s Commentary makes the following observation about the covenant

Verse 12

(12) This is the token of the covenant.—The word rendered “token” really means sign, and is a term that has met with very unfortunate treatment in our Version, especially in the New Testament, where—as, for instance, in St. John’s Gospel—it is too frequently translated miracle. Its meaning will be best seen by examining some of the places where it occurs: e.g., Genesis 17:11Exodus 3:12Exodus 12:13Exodus 13:16Numbers 17:10Joshua 2:12Job 21:29Psalms 65:8Psalms 86:17Psalms 135:9Isaiah 44:25. In the majority of these places the sign, or token, is some natural occurrence, but in its higher meaning it is a proof or indication of God’s immediate working. On proper occasions, therefore, it will be supernatural, because the proof of God’s direct agency will most fitly be some act such as God alone can accomplish. More frequently it is something natural. Thus the sign to the shepherds of the birth of a Saviour, who was “the anointed Jehovah” (Luke 2:11), was their finding in a manger a babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, a thing of the most simple and ordinary kind. We may dismiss, then, all such curious speculations as that no rain fell before the flood, or that some condition was wanting necessary for producing this glorious symbol. What Noah needed was a guarantee and a memorial which, as often as rain occurred, would bring back to his thoughts the Divine promise; and such a memorial was best taken from the natural accompaniments of rain. We may further notice with Maimonides that the words are not, as in our version, “I do set,” but my how I have set in the cloud: that is, the bow which God set in the cloud on that day of creation in which He imposed upon air and water those laws which produce this phenomenon, is now to become the sign of a solemn compact made with man by God, whereby He gives man the assurance that neither himself nor his works shall ever again be swept away by a flood.

But a covenant is a contract between two parties; and what, we may ask, was the undertaking on man’s part? The Talmud enumerates several of the chief moral laws, which it supposes that Noah was now bound to observe. More truly it was a covenant of grace, just as that in Genesis 6:18 was one simply of mercy. What then might have been granted simply as a promise on God’s part is made into a covenant, not merely for man’s greater assurance, but also to indicate that it was irrevocable. Promises are revocable, and their fulfilment may depend upon man’s co-agency; a covenant is irrevocable, and under no circumstances will the earth again be destroyed by water.

The rainbow appears in the Chaldean Genesis, but in a heathenish manner:—

“From afar the great goddess (Istar) at her approach

Lifted up the mighty arches (i.e., the rainbow) which Anu

had created as his glory.

The crystal of those gods before me (i.e., the rainbow) never

may I forget.”—Chald. Gen., p. 287.

  1. The first point made by Ellicott is that the rainbow, as a sign, need not be something new to the earth. We can have the debate about the Firmament, but it is irrelevant to the rainbow functioning as a sign – even if Noah had seen rainbows before the Flood.
  2. Ellicott notes that the covenant typically requires something from both parties. God has promised to never again destroy the earth with a flood and God has set his bow in the sky to show that He is keeping that promise. Mankind is doing… what? Ellicott notes then that this is a covenant of grace.
  3. He shares that the Chaldean Genesis account bears a similarity inasmuch as it mentions the rainbow but the surrounding circumstances are according to his notes, “heathenish.”

That pretty much wraps up this section of Genesis. I will do a recap / review / FAQ section for everything that we’ve covered from Cain and Abel right up to this covenant. I want to go back through my old posts in this section and see if there’s anything I want to dig into a little more in the recap, before moving on, so the next Genesis post might be several days away.

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