Gen. 8:15-22; 9:1, 11-16 - T. Constable Exposition
vv. 15-19: 15 Then God spoke to Noah, saying, 16 "Go out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and your sons' wives with you. 17 Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you, birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, that they may breed abundantly on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth." 18 So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him. 19 Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by their families from the ark.
There are many interesting thematic parallels between God calling Noah out of the ark and God calling Abraham out of Ur (cf. Genesis 8:15 and Genesis 12:1; Genesis 8:16 and Genesis 12:1; Genesis 8:18 and Genesis 12:4; Genesis 8:20 and Genesis 12:7; Genesis 9:1 and Genesis 12:2; Genesis 9:9 and Genesis 12:7).
"Both Noah and Abraham represent new beginnings in the course of events recorded in Genesis. Both are marked by God's promise of blessing and his gift of the covenant." [Note: Sailhamer, "Genesis," p. 91.] Genesis 8:15 introduces the third dispensation, the dispensation of human government. When Noah and his family stepped out of the ark to begin life on earth anew, God laid down new rules for humanity, including a new test. Previously no one had the right to take another human life (cf. Genesis 4:10-11; Genesis 4:14-15; Genesis 4:23-24). Now, though man's direct moral responsibility to God continued, God delegated to man certain areas of His authority. Man was now to express his obedience to God not only by obeying God directly but also by obeying the human authorities God would set over him, namely, human governors (cf. Matthew 22:21; Romans 13:1-2).
The highest function of human government is the protection of human life. God now specified that human beings were not to avenge murder individually but to do so as a corporate group, to practice capital punishment, to safeguard the sanctity of human life. Human life is a gift from God that people should not dispose of except as God permits. Restraint on man in the preceding dispensation was internal (Genesis 6:3), God's Spirit working through moral responsibility. But now a new external restraint was added: the influence and power of civil government.
Unfortunately, man failed to rule his fellowman righteously. Civil leaders have abused their function as God's vice-regents by ruling for themselves rather than for God. Examples are the failures at Babel (Genesis 11:9), in Israel's theocracy (2 Chronicles 36:15-21), and in "the times of the Gentiles" (Daniel 2:31-45). The glorious reign of Jesus Christ over the earth will supersede man's rule eventually. The dispensation of human government ended as a specific test of human obedience when God called Abraham to be His instrument of blessing to the whole world (Genesis 12:2). Nevertheless man's responsibility for government did not end then but will continue until Christ sets up His kingdom on the earth. Genesis 8:18-19 may seem like needless repetition to the modern reader, but they underline Noah's obedience to God's words, which Moses stressed in the entire Flood narrative.
Verses 20-22: 20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 The Lord smelled the soothing aroma; and the Lord said [k]to Himself, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done. 22 "While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, And cold and heat, And summer and winter, And day and night Shall not cease."
Noah's "altar" is the first altar mentioned in the Bible. His "burnt offerings" were for worship. Some of the burnt offerings in the Mosaic cultus (system of worship) were for the same purpose. Specifically, a burnt offering made atonement and expressed the offerer's complete personal devotion to God (cf. Leviticus 1; Romans 12:1-2). As the head of the new humanity, Noah's sacrifice represented all humankind.
God may judge the wicked catastrophically and begin a new era of existence with faithful believers.
The non-biblical stories of the Flood are undoubtedly perversions of the true account that God preserved in Scripture. God may have revealed the true account directly to Moses, or He may have preserved a true oral or written account that Moses used as his source of this information. Moses may have written Genesis under divine inspiration to correct the Mesopotamian versions (the maximalist view), or both the biblical and Mesopotamian accounts may go back to a common tradition (the minimalist view). [Note: For a chart that compares the biblical account of the Flood with four other ancient Near Eastern accounts of it, see Appendix 2 at the end of these notes.]
"Biblical religion explained that the seasonal cycle was the consequence of Yahweh's pronouncement and, moreover, evidence of a divine dominion that transcends the elements of the earth. There is no place for Mother-earth in biblical ideology. Earth owes its powers (not her powers!) to the divine command." [Note: Mathews, p. 397.]
Verses 1-7: And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the terror of you will be on every beast of the earth and on every bird of the sky; with everything that creeps on the ground, and all the fish of the sea, into your hand they are given. 3 Every moving thing that is alive shall be food for you; I give all to you, as I gave the green plant. 4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man's brother I will require the life of man. 6 "Whoever sheds man's blood,By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man. 7 "As for you, be fruitful and multiply; Populate the earth abundantly and multiply in it."
At this new beginning of the human family, God again commanded Noah and his sons to fill the earth with their descendants (Genesis 9:1; cf. Genesis 1:28; Genesis 9:7). [Note: See Bernhard W. Anderson, "Creation and Ecology," American Journal of Theology and Philosophy 4:1 (January 1983):14-30; and Waltke, Genesis, pp. 155-56.] As with Adam, He also gave them dominion over the animals and permission to eat food with only one prohibition (cf. Genesis 1:26; Genesis 1:28-29; Genesis 2:16-17).
God gave Noah permission to eat animals (Genesis 9:3). Until now, evidently people had eaten only plants (cf. Genesis 1:29). Now humanity received the power of life and death over the animal kingdom.
"God did not expressly prohibit the eating of meat in the initial stipulation at creation, but by inference Genesis 9:3's provision for flesh is used as a dividing mark between the antediluvian and postdiluvian periods. Whether or not early man could eat meat by permission from the beginning, now it is stated formally in the Noahic covenant." [Note: Mathews, p. 401.]
God did, however, prohibit the eating of animal blood to instill respect for the sacredness of life, since blood is a symbol of life (cf. Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:2-27; Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 12:1-24; 1 Samuel 14:32-34).
Until the Mosaic Law, God made no distinction between clean and unclean animals with regard to human consumption. Under the Mosaic Law, the Israelites could not eat certain foods. Under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), we may again eat any foods (Romans 14:14; 1 Timothy 4:3). These changes illustrate the fact that God has changed some of the rules for human conduct at various strategic times in history. These changes are significant features that help us identify the various dispensations (economies) by which God has ruled historically. [Note: See Charles C. Ryrie, Dispensationalism Today, pp. 22-64; or idem, Dispensationalism, pp. 23-59.]
God not only reasserted the cultural mandate to reproduce and modified the food law, but He also reasserted the sanctity of human life (cf. ch. 4). The reason for capital punishment (Genesis 9:6) is that God made man in His own image. This is one reason, therefore, that murder is so serious. A person extinguishes a revelation of God when he or she murders someone. [Note: See Elmer L. Gray, "Capital Punishment in the Ancient Near East," Biblical Illustrator 13:1 (Fall 1986):65-67; Charles C. Ryrie, "The Doctrine of Capital Punishment," Bibliotheca Sacra 129:515 (July-September 1972):211-17; Marshall Shelley, "The Death Penalty: Two Sides of a Growing Issue," Christianity Today (March 2, 1984), pp. 14-17; James A. Stahr, "The Death Penalty," Interest (March 1984), pp. 2-3; Duane C. Caylor, "Capital Punishment, a different Christian perspective," Reformed Journal 36:7 (July 1986):10-12; Bruce W. Ballard, "The Death Penalty: God's Timeless Standard for the Nations?" Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:3 (September 2000):471-87; Hamilton, p. 315; and Mathews, pp. 403-6.] Later the writing prophets announced that God would judge certain foreign nations because they shed human blood without divine authorization (e.g., Amos 1:3; Amos 1:11; Amos 1:13; Amos 2:1). God has never countermanded this command, so it is still in force. Before the Flood the lack of capital punishment led to bloody vendettas (cf. ch. 4).
"This command laid the foundation for all civil government." [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, 1:153. See Waltke, Genesis, pp. 157-58.]
"The human government and the governors that existed previously-as in the city which Cain established (Genesis 4:17), or in the case of the mighty men (Genesis 6:4)-existed solely on human authority. Now, however, divine authority was conferred on human government to exercise oversight over those who lived under its jurisdiction." [Note: Pentecost, p. 46.]
"I sometimes feel that often the hue and cry against capital punishment today does not so much rest upon humanitarian interest or even an interest in justice, but rather in a failure to understand that man is unique. The simple fact is that Genesis 9:6 is a sociological statement: The reason that the punishment for murder can be so severe is that man, being created in the image of God, has a particular value-not just a theoretical value at some time before the Fall, but such a value yet today." [Note: Schaeffer, pp. 50-51.]
The Noahic Covenant
Verses 8-16: 8 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9 "Now behold, I Myself do establish My covenant with you, and with your descendants after you; 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you; of all that comes out of the ark, even every beast of the earth. 11 I establish My covenant with you; and all flesh shall never again be cut off by the water of the flood, neither shall there again be a flood to destroy the earth." 12 God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all successive generations; 13 I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. 14 It shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow will 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 never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the cloud, then I will look upon it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth."
Following the Flood, God established human life anew on the earth showing His high regard for it. He promised to bless humanity with faithfulness, and He prohibited murder. He also promised with a sign that He would not destroy His creation again with a flood.
"The Noahic covenant's common allusions to Genesis 1:1 to Genesis 2:3 show that Noah is the second Adam who heads the new family of humanity, indicating that the blessing continues through the progeny of the Sethite line. Also Genesis 8:20 to Genesis 9:17 possesses lexical and thematic connections with the ratification of the Sinai covenant by Moses and the elders (Exodus 24:4-18)." [Note: Ibid., p. 398. See also Kenneth Mulzac, "Genesis 9:1-7: Its Theological Connections with the Creation Motif," Journal of the Adventist Theological Society 12:1 (Spring 2001):65-77.]
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.]
Genesis 9:8-17 - EXEGESIS (Donovan)
Gen. 3-9 CONTEXT: The context for this story begins with Genesis 3, which introduces sin by telling of the Fall. Chapter 4 continues the dark story by telling of the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. Chapter 5 lays the groundwork for Noah's story by providing his genealogy. Chapter 6 tells of the wickedness of the people of the world and God's determination to "destroy man whom I have created from the surface of the ground" (6:7)-but it also tells of Noah, who pleased God. Chapter 7 tells of the Great Flood, and chapter 8 tells of the subsiding of the flood waters and God's promise, "I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, because the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again strike everything living, as I have done" (8:21). Chapter 9 begins with God blessing Noah and his sons and giving them "every moving thing that lives" for food (9:3). Then God says, "Be fruitful and multiply. Increase abundantly in the earth, and multiply in it" (9:7)-effectively reestablishing the human community begun earlier with Adam and Eve.
• Genesis 9:1-7 establishes two restrictions on people. The first is, "But flesh with its life, its blood, you shall not eat" (v. 4). The second prohibits the shedding of human life (v. 6). If these two prohibitions followed the giving of the covenant (9:8-17), they could be construed as conditions of the covenant. In other words, if humans violated either of the two prohibitions, God would no longer be obligated to honor his promise not to destroy all flesh (v. 15). However, the prohibitions precede the covenant, and God nowhere suggests that they impose conditions on the covenant. The covenant, therefore, remains unconditional-not dependent on people's response.
GENESIS 9:8-11. I ESTABLISH MY COVENANT WITH YOU
8God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying, 9"As for me, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your offspring after you, 10and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the livestock, and every animal of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ship, even every animal of the earth. 11 I will establish my covenant with you: all flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood, neither will there ever again be a flood to destroy the earth."
Primitive peoples often think of God as a threat to be placated, but the Israelites thought of God as a benevolent power (Bowie, 550).
"As for me, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your offspring after you" (v. 9). When we think of a covenant, we usually think of "an agreement between two or more parties outlining mutual rights and responsibilities" (Myers, 240). Most covenants of that sort are made between people who agree to an arrangement that benefits both parties. Both pay a price-both exact a benefit-and both anticipate penalties if they fail to comply with the terms of the covenant. The word covenant is often used in the Old Testament to describe agreements of that kind between people. However, covenants between God and people necessarily take on a different character, because people cannot negotiate as equals with God. Therefore, God typically initiates covenants, dictates their terms, outlines their benefits, and might or might not require a particular response from the person with whom God is covenanting.
"As for me, behold, I establish my covenant" (v. 9a). The wording is emphatic-it is God who initiates this covenant. In this covenant, God obligates himself not to destroy all life by floodwaters again, and does not require any particular response from Noah and his family. God does not say, "I will agree not to destroy all life by floodwaters again IF you will do thus and so." God simply says, "I will establish my covenant with you: all flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood, neither will there ever again be a flood to destroy the earth" (v. 11)-end of sentence-no "ifs," "ands," or "buts"-no response required from Noah.
Godly covenants are not always unconditional. Sometimes God requires a response. A little later, God will tell Abram, "Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. All of the families of the earth will be blessed in you" (12:1-3). While the word covenant is not used in this passage, the agreement has the characteristics of a Godly covenant-initiated by God-terms dictated by God-benefits provided by God-and a response required of Abram ("Get out of your country...to the land that I will show you").
The fact that God does not require a response from Noah and his family might be, in part, because they have already complied with the terms of an earlier covenant (6:18) in which God announced that he was going to destroy all life (6:17), but where he commanded Noah to enter the ark along with his family and representatives of "every living thing" (6:18-19). God couched the terms of that first covenant (6:18) quite differently from this second one (9:9):
• In the first covenant, God did not specify a benefit to Noah (although there was the implied benefit that Noah would survive the flood if he entered the ark)-but God did specify a response (enter the ark).
• In the second covenant, God does specify a benefit (no more destruction of all life by water), but requires no response.
Again, the reason for this difference might be that Noah complied with the terms of the original covenant, so this second covenant could be a reward for that compliance.
"with you, and with your offspring after you" (v. 9b). God establishes this covenant, not only with Noah and his immediate family, but also with Noah's descendants-in essence the entire human race-"independent of the community of faith" (Fretheim, 401). It is not only Israel who enjoys this guarantee, but even the enemies of Israel.
"and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the livestock, and every animal of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ship, even every animal of the earth" (v. 10). The covenant is not only between God and humans but also between God and the animal kingdom.
"I will establish my covenant with you: all flesh will not be cut off any more by the waters of the flood, neither will there ever again be a flood to destroy the earth" (v. 11). Note the double "ever again"-used for emphasis. God leaves himself no room to rethink this covenant when humans once again descend into a moral abyss.
• But note also the limited nature of this covenant. God does not promise never again to cut off all flesh or never again to destroy the earth, but instead promises only not to accomplish this by means of a flood. However, immediately after the flood, God made a much broader promise: "I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, because the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again strike everything living, as I have done" (8:21-also see Isaiah 54:9-10)-so it would appear that God's intent in verse 11 is to assure us that he will never again destroy all life by any means.
GENESIS 9:12-17. THIS IS THE TOKEN OF THE COVENANT
12God 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 set my rainbow (Hebrew: qeset) in the cloud, and it will be for a sign of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 It will happen, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, 15and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16The rainbow will be in the cloud. I will look at it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." 17God said to Noah, "This is the token of the covenant which I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."
"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" (v. 12). Just as God initiates covenants and dictates their terms, God also establishes the sign that serves to ratify the covenant and by which the covenant will be remembered.
Later, God will say, "You shall be circumcised in the flesh of your foreskin. It will be a token of the covenant between me and you" (17:11). In that case, it would seem that the sign is to remind Abraham and his descendants of the covenant.
• Still later, God will give the Israelites another sign when he commands them to mark their houses with the blood of a lamb, saying: "The blood shall be to you for a token on the houses where you are: and when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and there shall no plague be on you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt" (Exodus 12:13). In that case, the sign will be "to you," the Israelites-but it will also be for God, who will look for the mark so that he can pass over the house where he finds it.
• Later yet, God will say, "Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations, for a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days Yahweh made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed" (Exodus 31:16-17). This also sounds as if it is intended as a reminder for Israel rather than for God.
"I set my rainbow (qeset) in the cloud, and it will be for a sign of a covenant between me and the earth" (v. 13). The Hebrew qeset can mean bow as well as rainbow. Some scholars see a parallel here with the Babylonian god, Marduk, who suspended his bow in the heavens after winning a victory over a rival. However, this verse sees Yahweh placing a rainbow in the heavens as a reminder of his promise never again to destroy all mankind.
"and I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh, and the waters will no more become a flood to destroy all flesh" (v. 15). When we see a rainbow, we are inclined to remember this story and to take comfort in God's promise not to destroy all life by floodwaters again. However, God says that he has set the bow in the clouds so that "I will remember my covenant" (v. 15a). The rainbow serves to remind us, but more importantly it serves to remind God of his promise.
Gen 8:15-22; 9:1, 11-16 - Bible Ref
Ch. 8: Even as all other life was being destroyed, God didn't forget Noah and the animals. He stops the deluge of water flowing from above and below and causes a great wind to blow to begin drying out the earth. The ark comes to rest on the mountains of Ararat. There, its occupants wait for the flood waters to go down. After a full year aboard, Noah and his family and the animals finally disembark. Noah builds an altar in worship to God and offers animal sacrifices. God commits to never curse the earth as He had through the flood, and to never again strike down all life on earth. Verses 1-19 describe the process of God drying out the earth following the flood. Noah and his family and the animals wait for the waters to recede. Noah uses birds as a test to see if any land is nearby. When the time is finally right, a full year after they entered, God commands Noah, his family, and all the animals to leave the ark. Their mission from God is to swarm over the earth, multiply, and begin again. Verses 20-22 describe Noah's first recorded act after leaving the ark. He builds an altar to God and offers clean animals as a sacrifice. Using a common metaphor, Scripture says God smells the aroma and is pleased. God commits to never again curse the earth in the way He did with the flood, and never to strike down all life on earth. As long as the earth remains, the cycles of nature will continue as God had designed them
Ch. 9: Chapter 9 describes God's interactions with Noah and his sons following the flood. First, God gives blessings and instructions, including the command to reproduce and fill the earth. Next, God makes a unilateral covenant with humanity and animals never to end all life with a flood again. He offers the rainbow as a sign of this promise. Finally, Noah prophesies about the future of his son's descendants after an awkward episode in which Ham talks to his brothers about seeing Noah passed out drunk and naked. Verses 1-17 continue God's interaction with Noah and his sons following the flood. First, God blesses them and gives them specific instructions about how to live in this remade world. God commands them to reproduce and fill the earth, among other things. Next, God establishes His unilateral covenant to never again end all life on earth with a flood, offering the rainbow as a sign of this promise.
v. 15: "Then God said to Noah," - The previous two verses showed a gap of nearly two months between when Noah saw that the earth was dry and this day. The fact that Noah waited for God's direct instruction before leaving the ark is no coincidence. Earlier, Scripture indicated that Noah was faithful and obedient to God (Genesis 6:8, 22; 7:5). Noah's survival to this point required him to trust God's commands in building the ark. Before taking the last living members of the human race out into a radically-changed world, Noah will remain patient and allow God to control his timing. Rather than rushing out at the first sign of muddy earth, Noah waits for God to give the word that they could leave the ark. This is that moment.
v. 16: "Go out from the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you." - It is finally time to leave the ark! This is the moment Noah and his family have likely been eagerly anticipating for quite some time. After all of the work preparing the ark, the catastrophic deaths of all other people, and an entire year sealed inside a floating box, this is a moment of incredible triumph.
• Without the ark, they would all have died along with the rest of humanity. But the purpose of the ark was simply to preserve Noah, his family (Genesis 7:13), and the animals for this moment. Now, God intends them to begin humanity over again. The fact that Scripture specifically refers to Noah, and his wife, and his sons, and his sons' wives is no accident. This emphasizes the fact that God has had them in his sight, and that He recognizes their desire to walk freely on the earth once again (Genesis 8:18).
v. 17: Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh-birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth-that they may swarm on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth." - God's command from the prior verse was not merely for Noah and his family to make a temporary excursion. The specific reference to all the human beings on board highlights the fact that all of them are to leave the vessel. Here, God continues His command to Noah to empty the ark. Once again, God is clear: Every single living thing needs to leave the ark, head out into the world remade by the flood, and begin to "swarm" and reproduce. The ark has served its purpose, and the living things God has saved through it now need to fulfill theirs. At this moment in history, the main task of humanity and animals and insects is the same: Multiply, expand, begin the process of filling the earth up again.
v. 18: So Noah went out, and his sons and his wife and his sons' wives with him." - Once God gave the word that it was time to leave the ark, Noah and the other human occupants left together. This is yet another example of Noah's obedience to God. Prior Scriptures showed Noah responding to the will of God with total compliance (Genesis 6:22; 7:5). While it's likely the people on board were eager to walk on open ground again, it's also possible that fear might have been a problem. After the catastrophe of the flood, one would hardly blame those on board the ark for being nervous about what the world was like. The command of God in the prior verse shows this was not His intent. Fearful, or eager, the obedience of Noah and his family is exemplary. They would become the "new" first, the beginning again, of all the humans on earth.
v. 19: Every beast, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out by families from the ark." - Finally, after a full year aboard the ark, all the animals-wild animals, creeping things, birds, everything that moves-left the ark together in an orderly fashion. Note that, while the animals were specifically said to have entered in pairs (Genesis 6:19-20; 7:8-9), this verse simply says that the animals went out "by families." No mention is made of pairs here, and "families" were not mentioned when the ark was being filled. While the text itself does not say so explicitly, it is all but certain that many of the pairs of animals reproduced during the voyage. These creatures are now setting foot on the remade earth as a larger family groupings.
• Also clear in this verse is the supernatural influence of God. Animals simply don't co-exist in an orderly fashion like this. Noah was not an expert in taming wild beasts. The only way these animals could have entered, survived together, and exited the ark was through the direct intervention of God for the sake of saving each kind of animal that was saved.
v. 20: Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar." - Noah's first recorded act after leaving the ark is one of worship. He builds an altar to the Lord and offers animal sacrifices on it. This is the first time Scripture refers to building an altar to God. In the previous chapter, God sent seven pairs each of every kind of clean bird and animal. That was the first hint that God regards some animals as clean and others as unclean. Only clean animals could be used as sacrificial offerings to God (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14).
• Noah's act here corresponds with the most common form of offering to God, which Israel would later practice under Mosaic Law. In that offering, the whole animal is burned and fully consumed by fire on the altar. This offering would have been a truly faith-based sacrifice, even if it was commanded directly by God. So few of each kind of animal existed in the world that to purposely kill any of them, even the more plentiful clean animals, was very costly to Noah and his family. It was clearly an act of faith in God's ability to provide.
• This act of worship to God reveals that Noah continued to be faithful to God, even after the flood. Noah proves that he is motivated by allegiance to God. As far as Noah was concerned, this new world remade by the flood would be built on a foundation of obedience and submission to the Creator.
v. 21: "And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, "I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man's heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done." - The previous verse recorded Noah's first act after leaving the ark: to build an altar and offer animal sacrifices to God. Now God responds to this humble act of worship. We're told that God smells the pleasing or soothing aroma of the sacrifice and, apparently greatly pleased, makes a new commitment. This is the only time Scripture shows God explicitly smelling the aroma from a sacrifice, though that is the direct intention of many sacrifices described later in the Bible. This is not meant to be read as if God is literally inhaling smoke. Rather, the reference to smoke, and its scent, is a common Scriptural metaphor involving prayer, and how our sacrifices are received by God.
• God's commitment is to never again curse the ground or the earth as He has done through the flood. This should not be read as God lifting the original curse on the ground in response to Adam's sin. The curse of weeds and frustrating toil and the work required to bring crops from the ground remains to this day. Instead, God's commitment here should be seen as a decision not to annihilate life on the ground as He did with the flood. The flood brought destruction on the whole earth, on all the ground. God is declaring that He won't do that again.
• God seems to make this commitment while acknowledging that human nature has not been changed by the flood. Human beings will continue to harbor evil intentions from youth and throughout their lives. God knows this and decides not to respond to human sinfulness in the same way again by cursing the earth with a flood. In addition, God promises to never again strike down every living thing. He will not wipe out humanity and animal-kind with a global and fully life-ending catastrophe as He has done with the flood. We are meant to be comforted by these promises and to be intrigued about how God might respond to human sinfulness, instead.
v. 22: While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease." - After the previous verse revealed God's commitment to never again curse the earth as He had through the flood or to wipe out humanity and animal-kind in that way, this verse completes God's promise. From this point, throughout the planet's history, the patterns of nature will remain as God has created them. The cycles will continue. Day will follow night. One season will follow another. The world will continue to function predictably according to God's design. This is the grace of God upon all His creation. • It is important to notice that this promise begins with "while the earth remains." God doesn't guarantee that the planet in its current form will exist eternally. In fact, at some point in the future, God will re-make the heavens and the earth (Revelation 21:1). But while it does, those who live on earth will enjoy the goodness of the repetition of the days and seasons by God's great mercy on sinful humanity.
v. 1: And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. - Genesis 9 begins with God's blessing on, and charge to, the humans who remain alive on the earth. This blessing is similar to God's blessing on humankind in Genesis 1:28 and Genesis 5:2. This is also the third instance so far in Scripture where God commands humanity to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28; 8:17). In a very real sense, this blessing shows that God is beginning again with Noah what He started with Adam.
• This time, however, there will be specific differences set out from the start of this reboot of God's relationship with humanity. Among these will be slightly different directions regarding food and the consequences of murder, for example. The tendency of animals to fear and flee human beings will also be brought up in this passage.
• Previously, God indicated that the animals of the ark were meant to repopulate the land devastated by the flood (Genesis 8:17). Now, God's command defines for Noah and his sons their greatest remaining purpose: reproduce.
v. 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." - After declaring in the previous few verses that He was about to make a covenant promise to all of humanity, and all of animal-kind, God now reveals the unilateral agreement He is making. The first part of this agreement was Noah's responsibility to build an ark (Genesis 6:16-18), after which God said He would establish this binding promise. This type of covenant agreement was common in ancient times, but this one is unusual in that God also includes animals as participants. They have no particular obligation, but God includes them in His vow.
• That oath is given here in direct terms: God will never again use a flood to destroy the earth or to destroy all living things. Period. God is finished with world-killing floods. This is not a casual commitment for God. The language used here is of a legally binding contract. God is structuring an official agreement that He will bind Himself to for all of the earth's history. As with other covenants of that era, God will establish some sign, or proof, indicating that this covenant is real. In this case, God's sign of the Noahic covenant is a rainbow (Genesis 9:13).
v. 12: "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: - God restates that this covenant promise to never again use a flood to destroy the earth or wipe out every living thing is between Himself and all of humanity for all generations to come. Interestingly, God also includes all animals as part of this agreement, meaning this vow is not only for the benefit of mankind, but for all living things.
• In addition, God will give a visual sign as confirmation of this legally binding contract. This was a common aspect of covenant agreements. Later, when establishing a covenant with Abraham, God will use the sign of circumcision (Genesis 17:11). That sign is revealed in the next verse: God's bow, "set" in the sky, rather than being held in God's hand. The bow was a symbol of warfare, so the symbolism of it being set in the clouds as a human might hang their bow on a wall represents God's peaceful intentions through the covenant. Rainbow?
v. 13: I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. - In the previous verse, God says there will be a sign of the new covenant promise He has made. God vowed to again never destroy the earth or wipe out all living things with a flood. Now He reveals that sign: the rainbow.
• More specifically, God says that He has set His bow in the cloud. The word for bow can be used of a battle bow, but the description of the bow being set on the occasion of clouds and being visible on the earth-along with the fact that the same word can be used for rainbow-makes it clear God is speaking of the rainbow. This is a "sign" which people can see directly.
• The language used by God here is meant to suggest the symbolic hanging up of a battle weapon after the war is done and it is time for peace. God is taking responsibility for creating rainbows as a symbol of His pledge to humanity and to animals, never again to send a global flood. While rainbows are a scientific, meteorological phenomenon, Genesis asserts that God is responsible for every scientific and meteorological phenomenon (Genesis 1:1; Psalm 19:1). God chose to cause rainbows to function as a symbol of His covenant promise.
v. 14: When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, - Verse 14 and 15 complete a single thought. Prior to the flood, God began to establish a covenant agreement with Noah (Genesis 6:18). At that time, the obligation was on Noah to build an ark to hold himself, his family, and the animals God intended to save. After the flood, God establishes His side of the promise. This binding vow is made to all of the people of the earth, as well as all of the animals. He will never bring a global flood again.
• Covenant agreements were often remembered using some kind of visual sign or symbol (Genesis 17:11). In the prior verse, God explained that the sign of this particular covenant would be His bow set in the clouds. This evokes the idea of a warrior setting his weapon aside once the battle is over and the time has come for peace.
• In verses 14 and 15, God begins to describe what will happen when a rainbow becomes visible.
v. 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. - This completes the thought begun in the previous verse. God has established His covenant promise with all life on the earth that He will never again bring a global flood to destroy every living thing. Now God says that when the rainbow becomes visible against the clouds, He will remember His covenant. He will not send another flood.
• Usually in Scripture, signs for covenants are given by humans, not by God. Those signs, such as circumcision (Genesis 17:11), are meant to demonstrate the commitment of people to the covenant and to remind them to hold to the agreement they have made. In this case, though, the sign is given by God and it is to serve as a reminder to God of the agreement He has made.
• It's an odd idea, to us, that God would somehow need to be reminded of His agreement. He doesn't need to have His memory jogged, of course, but He claims the right to be reminded anyway. This is similar to the reason why God, who cannot lie or change (Numbers 23:19; Malachi 3:6), speaks of "covenants" in the first place: to emphasize to mankind the serious nature of His promise. And while God says that the reminder is for Him, it's also true that the appearance of the rainbow is a reminder to humanity of God's covenant promise, of His grace and mercy to all life on the earth.
v. 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." - Repetition, in ancient literature, was a sign of certainty or emphasis. To repeat the same idea more than once in a row served to establish it as a strong point. This verse restates the same information given by God in verses 14 and 15, with slightly different language. This language is typical of God's relationship with mankind: speaking in human terms for our understanding, though God is above some of the ideas being presented. Symbolically then, when God "sees" the rainbow in the clouds, He will "remember" His everlasting covenant with every living creature of every kind on earth. While God does not need to "see" the rainbow or "remember" His agreement, these words clarify that the rainbow is meant for our reassurance.
• This verse adds the word "everlasting" to the description of the covenant. This is a unilateral agreement on God's part, and it is not a casual one. It does not depend on the faithfulness of humanity or the animals or anyone else to keep the other side of the agreement. God will do it. Period. He will not send a global killing flood. Ever. Symbolically, the rainbow will always remind God of His promise. Literally, it is meant to remind us as well.
Gen 8:15-22; 9:1, 11-16 - Extra Commentary
Genesis 8:15 "And God spake unto Noah, saying,"
"And God spake unto Noah, saying": Whether in a dream or vision, or by an articulate voice, appearing in a human form, or by an impulse on his mind, is not certain; however, the Lord spoke so to him, that he heard him and understood him: it was, no doubt, very rejoicing to him, since he had not heard his voice for a year or more.
Genesis 8:16 "Go forth of the ark, thou, and thy wife, and thy sons, and thy sons' wives with thee."
Noah declares his obedience, in that he would not leave the ark without God's express commandment, as he did not enter in without the same: the ark being a figure of the Church, in which nothing must be done outside the word of God.
Verses 17-19: "Be fruitful and multiply": In the process of replenishing the created order that He had judged with destruction, God repeated the words of the blessing which He had put upon non-human creatures (1:22).
Noah faced a new world where longevity of life began to decline immediately; the earth was subject to storms and severe weather, blazing heat, freezing cold, seismic action, and natural disasters.
Genesis 8:17 "Bring forth with thee every living thing that [is]with thee, of all flesh, [both] of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth."
"Bring forth with thee every living thing that is with thee": There is a various reading of the word for "bring forth"; according to the margin, as Jarchi observes, the sense is, order them to come forth; and according to the Scripture, if they will not, oblige them to come.
"Of all flesh, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth": For of each of these there were some that went with him into the ark, and continued there. "That they may breed abundantly in the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth": for which end they were preserved in the ark
In other words, turn them loose and let them go to make a home for themselves. These few would repopulate the world.
Genesis 8:18 "And Noah went forth, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him:"
"And Noah went forth": Being obedient to the divine command, and no doubt with great pleasure in his countenance, and with a heart full of thankfulness for so great a deliverance: and his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him: in all eight persons, and no more were saved in the ark.
As Peter observes (1 Peter 3:20), and the Arabic writers say: Noah and his sons built a city near the place where they came out of the ark, and called it Themanin, giving this as a reason of the name, we are eight, that is, who have escaped. So Berosus says that the earth being dried of the waters, there were then only eight in Armenia, from whence all mankind sprung.
Genesis 8:19 "Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, [and] whatsoever creepeth upon the earth, after their kinds, went forth out of the ark."
The command to leave the ark is given and obeyed. "The fowl, the cattle, and the creeper." Here, again, these three classes are specified. They are again to multiply on the earth. "Every living thing" evidently takes the place of the cattle mentioned before. "After their families" this word denotes their tribes. It is usually applied to families or clans.
"Every beast, every creeping thing, and every fowl, and whatsoever creepeth upon the earth": All went out, not one was left, and they went out after their kind; not in a confused disorderly manner, mixing with one another; but as they went in by pairs, male and female of every sort, so they came forth in like manner, or, "according to their families"
"After their kinds" literally, "according to their families," implying that there had been an increase in the ark.
Noah just opened the big door, and out they came. The same way they went in. Noah did not drive them out. It was as if some power, far beyond Noah's, was calling them out. This particular area is rugged and has much bad weather, so they most probably left the area, except for those for Noah's own personal use.
Genesis 8:20 "And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar."
"Noah builded an altar" This was done as an act of worship in response to God's covenant faithfulness in sparing him and his family.
Illustrating his walk with God, the Lord regarded this sacrifice as a "sweet savor," or more literally, "a smell of satisfaction" (Lev. 1:9, 13, 17; 2:2, 9; 3:5, 16, all for the voluntary offering of consecration).
Noah's first thought was not of self, but God. Can you imagine the thanksgiving Noah was bringing to God for saving his family? This is firstfruits worship. It really did not matter what day of the week it was. It was Noah's first thought to please God.
God had not yet told His people what was clean and unclean, but Noah was so tuned to God, that he knew what was pleasing to Him. These altars were stones piled upon each other. Noah took no thought of the cost of the loss of animals; he was more interested in pleasing God.
Genesis 8:21 "And the LORD smelled a sweet savor; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart [is] evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done."
"Smelled a sweet savor": God accepted Noah's sacrifice.
"Curse ... smite": Regardless of how sinful mankind would become in the future, God promised not to engage in global catastrophe by flood again (9:11). See notes on (2 Pet. 3:3-10), for how God will destroy the earth in the future.
He promised never again to curse the ground, that is, to destroy the earth by a flood, and not a reversal of
(3:17 or 5:29). Not (9:9-17), in this regard. If the Flood of Noah's day had been merely a local one, the Lord has
violated His promise many times over.
This greatly pleased God. Noah had not only won blessings for himself, but for all mankind. The Lord's heart was touched by this unselfish act. God knows that man has an evil heart, until he completely turns to God. This sacrifice that Noah made, reconciled God to man.
The ground would no longer be cursed, but would grow. God said He would never again smite all mankind. A great promise for all mankind was made by God (in verse 22).
Genesis 8:22 "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease."
"While the earth remaineth": With many alterations from the global flood, God reestablished the cycle of seasons after the catastrophic interruption.
"Shall not cease": This may be considered the basis text for the doctrine of "limited uniformitarianism." The theory of "total uniformitarianism" is refuted (in 2 Peter 3:1-6), for such a theory denies the possibility of a universal flood and a final supernatural judgment for the world.
Genesis 8:22 guarantees that after the Flood, the seasonal cycle will continue uninterrupted "while the earth remaineth", until the end of the Millennium. Thus, the doctrine of "limited uniformitarianism" assures us the world cannot be destroyed by water during our lifetime.
Uniformitarianism: Definition: The concept that the earth's surface was shaped in the past by gradual processes, such as erosion, and by small sudden changes, such as earthquakes. Of the type acting today rather than by the sudden divine acts, such as the flood survived by Noah (Genesis 6-8), demanded by the doctrine of catastrophism.
I cannot let this pass without taking note that this is while the earth remains. There will be a time (after the 1000 year reign of Christ upon the earth), when there will be a new heaven and new earth for this one will have passed away.
In verse 22, not only a literal seedtime and harvest was meant. The Bible said one will plant; another water, but God will get the increase. I believe the planting days are about over. Harvest time is here. The fields are white unto the harvest.
God is about to gather us into His barn, and there will be no night there, for we will be in the presence of the Light. Night shall cease then. There will be one eternal day. Not until we are carried home to be with God, will this be so.
Genesis 9:1 "And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth."
"Blessed Noah ... Be fruitful, and multiply and replenish the earth": God blessed Noah and re-commissioned him to fill the earth (1:28).
Not only did God bless Noah by saving him and his family during the flood, but this was another blessing that God spoke on Noah and his family. God's request was that they produce children and repopulate the earth.
Genesis 9:11 "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."
"By the waters": The specific promise of this covenant, never to destroy the world again by water, was qualified by the means, for God has since promised to destroy the earth with fire one day (2 Peter 3:10-11; Rev. 20:9; 21:1).
We see here, that God had reconciled Himself to man. God Himself established the covenant. Covenant was translated from the word "beright". It means (in the sense of cutting), compact (made by passing between pieces of flesh), or it could mean confederacy or league.
Many serious covenants were made by killing an animal and passing between the two halves of the animal. At any rate, we know that this promise of God to mankind was a very serious promise. It probably was sealed by blood.
Genesis 9:12 "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;"
"The token of the covenant": The rainbow is the perpetual, symbolic reminder of this covenant promise, just as circumcision of all males would be for the Abrahamic Covenant (17:10-11).
This covenant involved the dispensation of human government, with humanity governing itself. Man was responsible to govern the world for God. The governing covenant of this era was the Noahic covenant (verse 11).
Under it, man's relationship to the earth and to the order of nature was confirmed (verses 2-11), human government was established, and God promised never again to use a universal flood to judge the world (verses 11-17).
The failure of man under his dispensation culminated in the building of the tower of Babel and resulted in the judgment of the confusion of tongues (11:1-3, 7).
Notice here, that just like salvation, this covenant of God was made by Him alone. Mankind has nothing to offer God as surety. Salvation is a free gift; we have nothing good enough to trade for it. Please also note that this covenant was not just for Noah and his sons, but for all of us, as well. This word that is translated perpetual could mean a number of things.
"Olam" means: Vanishing point, time out of mind, always, eternity, or without end. You see, this promise is still good today.
Genesis 9:13-15: "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth." "And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud:" "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."
The seal of this covenant was the rainbow, which it is likely, was seen in the clouds before, but was never a seal of the covenant till now it was made so. The rainbow appears when we have most reason to fear the rain prevailing; God then shows this seal of the promise that it shall not prevail. The thicker the cloud, the brighter the bow in the cloud.
Thus, as threatening afflictions abound, encouraging consolations much more abound. The rainbow is the reflection of the beams of the sun shining upon or through the drops of rain: all the glories of the seals of the covenant are derived from Christ, the Sun of righteousness. And he will shed a glory on the tears of his saints.
A bow speaks terror, but this has neither string nor arrow; and a bow alone will do little hurt. It is a bow, but it is directed upward, not toward the earth; for the seals of the covenant were intended to comfort, not to terrify. As God looks upon the bow, that he may remember the covenant, so should we, that we may be mindful of the covenant with faith and thankfulness.
"I will remember": Not simple recognition, but God's commitment to keep the promise.
Genesis 9:16 "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."
"The everlasting covenant": This covenant with Noah is the first of 5 divinely originated covenants in Scripture explicitly described as "everlasting." The other 4 include;
(1) Abrahamic (Gen. 17:7);
(2) Priestly (Num. 25:10-13);
(3) Davidic (2 Sam. 23:5); and
(4) New (Jer. 32:40).
The term "everlasting" can mean either
(1) To the end of time and/or;
(2) Through eternity future. It never looks back to eternity past.
Of the 6 explicitly mentioned covenants of this kind in Scripture, only the Mosaic or Old Covenant was nullified.