9:1 Then God blessed Noah and his sons [cf. divine blessing in Gen. 1:28], saying [God’s blessing was followed by a command] to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth.
Noah and his family represented the hope of a new beginning for humanity. In the same way in which God had blessed Adam and Eve (see Gen. 1:28), God blessed Noah and his sons. God also gave them the same charge He had given Adam and Eve — to reproduce and fill the earth. Noah was like a “second Adam” whom God would use to usher in a fresh start for the human race. His sons and their wives would repopulate the planet.
Ultimately the Messiah, whose coming was foretold in Genesis 3:15, would come from the line of Abraham who had come from the line of Noah’s son Shem. When we look back and connect the dots, they eventually lead us to the eight human beings who survived the Flood aboard the ark.
9:2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands.
9:3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants [cf. Gen. 1:29-30], I now [after the flood] give you everything [human beings were allowed to add meat to their diet].
9:4 “But you must not [important prohibition that applied to all people and was permanently binding] eat meat that has its lifeblood [blood equated with life itself] still in it [see Lev. 17:10-14; Deut. 12:23 for God’s reason for this restriction].
9:5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting [threefold use of these words emphasize God’s attitude about the taking of a human life]. I will demand an accounting from every animal [e.g., Ex. 21:28-29]. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.
Note: What are you doing in your family to help promote respect for human life? Are your attitudes and actions regarding the value of all created life consistent with biblical teachings, including the truths contained in God’s covenant with Noah?
9:6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man [cf. Rom. 13:1-4] shall his blood be shed [offender’s punishment must be in proportion to the crime; sometimes referred to as lex talionis (Latin) or “law of retaliation”]; for in the image of God has God made man.
9:7 As for you [Noah and his family], be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”
9:8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him:
9:9 “I now establish [“to make stand something previously instituted”] my covenant [basic meaning is “obligation” (in this particular covenant God placed an obligation to His creation on Himself)] with you and with your descendants after you [God’s covenant commitment was universal and inclusive]
9:10 [God’s covenant commitment extended to animal life as well] and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth.
9:11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again [an expression of grace] will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood [a universal flood (not a reference to localized flooding)] to destroy the earth.”
God had told Noah before the Flood that He would establish a covenant with him (see Gen. 6:18) but waited until after the Flood to reveal the details of that covenant. Theologians refer to this as the Noahic Covenant — a binding agreement between God and Noah and “all future generations” (Gen. 9:12).
In this covenant, God promised that He would never again use a flood to destroy all life on the earth. The words “never again” are repeated three times (see Gen. 9:11,15) for emphasis. God did not say that He would never again judge people for their sins but instead that He would never again use a universal flood as a form of judgment.
Unlike other covenants in the Bible, this particular covenant is unconditional. God did not require humanity to do anything in order for Him to keep His promise.
9:12 And God said, “This is the sign [visible symbol; a sign is designed to point beyond itself, not to itself] of the covenant [the obligations and promises God had made to Noah] I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come [i.e., forever or as long as the earth exists]:
9:13 I have set my rainbow [“a bridge of beauty that joins heaven and earth” (Wiersbe)] in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.
God often included visible signs to help His people remember His covenants. Circumcision, for example, was the sign of the covenant between God and Abraham (see Gen. 17:11). God designated the bow as the sign or pledge of His covenant with Noah.
The bow is a symbol of warfare and destruction. After the Flood, however, God put down His bow and turned it into a symbol and guarantee of peace. God placed His bow in the clouds as a visible reminder that He would never again destroy all flesh with a universal flood.
Interestingly, the bow is pointed upward to heaven and not downward to the earth, toward those who deserve judgment. The appearance and position of the rainbow is a reminder to all mankind of God’s gracious promise to Noah. God’s promise, however, extended beyond Noah and his family to include all future generations — an indication that His covenant is an enduring and unending one with every living creature. The phrase every living creature includes more than people. It also includes all of the animals that Noah had cared for on the ark and that later multiplied and filled the earth.
Note: What thoughts do you have when you see a rainbow? What do you imagine God thinks?
9:14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds,
9:15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life.
God assured Noah that every time the bow appears in the clouds He would remember His covenant. This, of course, does not suggest that God forgets or needs to be reminded of His covenant with Noah. The phrase I will remember is instead a way to assure human beings that they do not need to be afraid that God will break His promise.
God promised Noah that water will never again become a deluge to destroy all flesh. God keeps His promises. And, because the Noahic Covenant is unconditional, we can count on God to do what He said He will do. He is utterly reliable and faithful.
A rainbow is indeed a beautiful sign displayed in a place where it can be seen by all. Scientists have discovered that a rainbow is caused by light filtering through rain droplets in the air. These droplets become a prism that separates sunlight into the seven colors of the spectrum. The Apostle Peter would later write about “the varied” or many-colored “grace of God” (1 Peter 4:10). The rainbow is a reminder of the beauty of God’s grace and His faithfulness to keep His promise to Noah and every succeeding generation.
9:16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.”
Whenever we see a rainbow in the clouds we should remember that God also sees the same rainbow. When God sees the rainbow He remembers the everlasting covenant He made with all the living creatures on the earth. We too should remember and reflect on God’s goodness and the opportunities He offers to all who need to make a fresh start.
9:17 So God said [cf. 9:12] to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established [a completed action that continues in force] between me and all life on the earth.”