Genesis 9: The Rainbow Covenant


I had to. This comic perfectly sets up our next chapter. Our God is still a merciful God. When Noah and his family exited the ark after the flood, God gave Noah the same commandment he gave Adam in the beginning in Genesis 1:28 – Be fruitful and multiply. Let’s call this a “fresh start” for mankind. Yet God also gives Noah permission to eat animals, something that, as far as we know, Adam had not received. [I guess everyone before the flood was a Vegetarian]. Since man could now hunt animals, God made animals afraid of man. It’s interesting to imagine life before the flood.

Blood (v.4-6). It’s key in the Bible (mentioned 424 times). People can eat animals, but not while the animals are still alive, with the blood running through their veins. Meaning we can’t rip apart alive animals like animals do to each other. I think I’m okay with this!

“…for the life of every living thing is in the blood. So I myself have assigned it to you on the altar to make atonement for your lives, for the blood makes atonement by means of the life.” – Leviticus 17:11

If humans shed other human’s blood, the penalty is death. God requires it in the Old Testament. Man is made in the image of God, a gift, and the disregard towards this gift is an insult to the giver Himself. In it’s original language, the Bible describes this bloodshed as a murder not killing for self-defense, capital punishment, war, etc.

I know right now there are probably a lot of questions regarding the death penalty, and I myself do not have all the answers. So look to the Bible! Remember, Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17-20). In the Old Testament, the government was a theocracy (run by God). In the New Testament, Jesus spoke to individuals. He was also merciful and symbolized God’s grace. And, the government is established to punish evil to protect man. Man continues to bear the image of God as time goes on. Here are some verses to think about: Numbers 35:31-34; Matthew 5:38-41; Luke 9:52-56; John 8:7-11; Romans 12:17-21; Romans 13:1-4; 9-10.

“God establishes government and gives it the sword to hold wantonness in check, lest violence and other sins proceed without limit.” – Luther

Covenant (n) an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.

In verse 9, I can just hear Noah and his family breathe a huge sigh of relief. Thank God (literally) there will never again be a flood that wipes out mankind. How scary! God shows no signs of regret or wrongdoing here. Post-flood He puts in more preventative measures (Jude 1:6) so that the evil conditions of the pre-flood world wouldn’t happen again. Similar conditions would occur when the time comes for the world to end, though. But at that point God will destroy the Earth by fire.

Rainbow. First. Rainbow. Ever. How cool! This is a sign to Noah and all the generations after him (that’s us) that God will keep this covenant. Whenever we see a rainbow, we should be reminded of God’s faithfulness to and mercy on us (Isaiah 54:9-10). Other mentions of rainbows in the Bible are in the context of God’s glory extended to us on Earth (Revelation 4:3 and 10:1). How perfect and beautiful.

Now for a turn of events…

Drunkenness. Noah got drunk in his new vineyard. The Bible warns against drunkenness contrasting it with the works of the Spirit, as we will become not wise and do strange things we normally wouldn’t (Ephesians 5:18; Proverbs 20:1, 23:29-33). This next part is even more twisted. Noah became uncovered while laying their drunk. This phrasing usually refers to sexual relations in the Bible (Leviticus 18:6-20). Sickening. Things like this happen way too often today. Half of sexual assaults involve alcohol…

Noah’s son, Ham, sees him in this state and mocks him (it is unclear whether or not he is the perpetrator). When Noah wakes up and learns from this, he curses Ham’s son Canaan. Was he wrong to do so? Typically, if someone does something wrong in the Bible, we are told it is wrong. Here, God is not punishing the son for the sin of his father, since this is against God’s way (Ezekiel 18). Rather, this curse was one of prophetic foresight on Ham’s descendants through Canaan (versus direct proclamation). If this was a wrong prophecy, one not from God, it would not have come true (Deuteronomy 18:22). Later on, this is shown in Joshua and Judges, and even with King Solomon. We’ll get there!

Noah then praises his other two sons, Shem and Japeth, as they covered their father’s naked body and shielded their eyes. We’ll learn about their significant family trees in Genesis 10.




3 Replies to “Genesis 9: The Rainbow Covenant”

  1. First off, I really like your point on the rainbow and what it signifies. Namely, I think it is interesting on how you point out that God does not show regret; he just promises not to do it again. I think this is something we see throughout our lives- “bad things” happen to us, and it is easy to want to question why God would “allow this to happen.” But, the takeaway is really that it is in those moments, like the flood, that we truly see God’s faithfulness and mercy. I believe that those traits, along with a respect for life, are the two themes of the chapter. You talk about the importance of blood, which to me, represents the preciousness of life, leading to the various behaviors you highlight from that the chapter.

    The one thing I have an issue with is capital punishment. I tend to take the viewpoint that by killing someone, we are using their blood to punish them for their actions. Therefore, we are taking away any chance they have for repentance and atonement through the blood of Christ. Some might say that those people had their chance or they got what was coming for their extreme actions, but all sin is created equal. There are no levels of badness in sin. Thus, do we really have the right to remove their chance at repentance when we are sinners in need of the same thing- atonement through the blood of Christ?


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