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:
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)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 17:11; Exodus 3:12; Exodus 12:13; Exodus 13:16; Numbers 17:10; Joshua 2:12; Job 21:29; Psalm 65:8; Psalm 86:17; Psalm 135:9; Isaiah 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.
It comes with its mild radiance only when the cloud condenses into a shower. It consists of heavenly light, variegated in hue, and mellowed in lustre, filling the beholder with an involuntary pleasure. It forms a perfect arch, extends as far as the shower extends, connects heaven and earth, and spans the horizon. In these respects it is a beautiful emblem of mercy rejoicing against judgment, of light from heaven irradiating and beatifying the soul, of grace always sufficient for the need of the reunion of earth and heaven, and of the universality of the offer of salvation. "Have I given." The rainbow existed as long as the present laws of light and air. But it is now mentioned for the first time, because it now becomes the fitting sign of security from another universal deluge, which is the special blessing of the covenant in its present form. "In the cloud." When a shower-cloud is spread over the sky, the bow appears, if the sun, the cloud, and the spectator are in the proper relation to one another. 16. "And I will look upon it to remember." The Scripture is most unhesitating and frank in ascribing to God all the attributes and exercises of personal freedom. While man looks on the bow to recall the promise of God, God himself looks on it to remember and perform this promise. Here freedom and immutability of purpose meet.
The covenant here ostensibly refers to the one point of the absence, for all time to come, of any danger to the human race from a deluge. But it presupposes and supplements the covenant with man subsisting from the very beginning. It is clearly of grace; for the Lord in the very terms affirms the fact that the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth, while at the same time the original transgression belonged to the whole race. The condition by which any man becomes interested in it is not expressed, but easily understood from the nature of a covenant, a promise, and a sign, all of which require of us consenting faith in the party who covenants, promises, and gives the sign. The meritorious condition of the covenant of grace is dimly shadowed forth in the burnt-offerings which Noah presented on coming out of the ark. One thing, however, was surely and clearly revealed to the early saints; namely, the mercy of God. Assured of this, they were prepared humbly to believe that all would rebound to the glory of his holiness, justice, and truth, as well as of his mercy, grace, and love, though they might not yet fully understand how this would be accomplished.This is the token, i.e. the bow mentioned in Genesis 9:13, I appoint to you for a sensible sign and evidence, to assure you that I shall perform this covenant or promise.
and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations; which more clearly shows and proves, that this covenant reaches to all creatures that then were, or should be in all ages, to the end of the world.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:
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
The word “token,” Heb. ’ôth is the same as that rendered “sign” in Genesis 4:15, “and the Lord appointed a sign for Cain.” The “token” is the outward and visible sign of the covenant relation. Its outwardness serves to remind man, whose spiritual adherence will become weak without something visible as the pledge of the inner and spiritual bond.Verse 12. - And God said, This is the token - אות (vide Genesis 1:14; 4:15) - of the covenant which I make - literally, am giving (cf. Genesis 17:2) - between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations. Le'doroth (vide Genesis 6:9); olam (from alam, to hide, to conceal), pr. that which is hidden; hence, specially, time of which either the beginning or the end is uncertain or undefined, the duration being usually determined by the nature of the case (vide Gesenius, 'Hebrews Lex.,' sub voce). Here the meaning is, that so long as there were circuits or generations of men upon the earth, so long would this covenant endure. Genesis 9:10, the prepositions are accumulated: first בּ embracing the whole, then the partitive מן restricting the enumeration to those which went out of the ark, and lastly ל yl, "with regard to," extending it again to every individual. There was a correspondence between the covenant (Genesis 9:11) and the sign which was to keep it before the sight of men (Genesis 9:12): "I give (set) My bow in the cloud" (Genesis 9:13). When God gathers (ענן Genesis 9:14, lit., clouds) clouds over the earth, "the bow shall be seen in the cloud," and that not for man only, but for God also, who will look at the bow, "to remember His everlasting covenant." An "everlasting covenant" is a covenant "for perpetual generations," i.e., one which shall extend to all ages, even to the end of the world. The fact that God Himself would look at the bow and remember His covenant, was "a glorious and living expression of the great truth, that God's covenant signs, in which He has put His promises, are real vehicles of His grace, that they have power and essential worth not only with men, but also before God" (O. v. Gerlach). The establishment of the rainbow as a covenant sign of the promise that there should be no flood again, presupposes that it appeared then for the first time in the vault and clouds of heaven. From this it may be inferred, not that it did not rain before the flood, which could hardly be reconciled with Genesis 2:5, but that the atmosphere was differently constituted; a supposition in perfect harmony with the facts of natural history, which point to differences in the climate of the earth's surface before and after the flood. The fact that the rainbow, that "coloured splendour thrown by the bursting forth of the sun upon the departing clouds," is the result of the reciprocal action of light, and air, and water, is no disproof of the origin and design recorded here. For the laws of nature are ordained by God, and have their ultimate ground and purpose in the divine plan of the universe which links together both nature and grace. "Springing as it does from the effect of the sun upon the dark mass of clouds, it typifies the readiness of the heavenly to pervade the earthly; spread out as it is between heaven and earth, it proclaims peace between God and man; and whilst spanning the whole horizon, it teaches the all-embracing universality of the covenant of grace" (Delitzsch).
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