Genesis 9:13
I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Genesis 9:13. I set my bow in the clouds — The rainbow, it is likely, was seen in the clouds before, but was never a seal of the covenant till now. Now, observe, 1st, This seal is affixed with repeated assurances of the truth of that promise, which it was designed to be the ratification of; I do set my bow in the cloud, Genesis 9:13. It shall be seen in the cloud, Genesis 9:14, and it shall be a token of the covenant, Genesis 9:12-13. And I will remember my covenant, that the waters shall no more become a flood, Genesis 9:15. Nay, as if the Eternal Mind needed a memorandum, I will look upon it that I may remember the everlasting covenant, Genesis 9:16. 2d, The rainbow appears when the clouds are most disposed to wet; when we have most reason to fear the rain prevailing, God shows this seal of the promise that it shall not prevail. 3d, The rainbow appears when one part of the sky is clear, which intimates mercy remembered in the midst of wrath, and the clouds are hemmed, as it were, with the rainbow, that they may not overspread the heavens; for the bow is coloured rain, or the edges of a cloud gilded. As God looks upon the bow that he may remember the covenant, so should we, that we also may be ever mindful of the covenant with faith and thankfulness.9:8-17 As the old world was ruined, to be a monument of justice, so this world remains to this day a monument of mercy. But sin, that drowned the old world, will burn this. Articles of agreement among men are sealed, that what is promised may be the more solemn, and the doing of what is covenanted the more sure to mutual satisfaction. 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 glory 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. Without revelation this gracious assurance could not be known; and without faith it can be of no use to us; and thus it is as to the still greater dangers to which all are exposed, and as to the new covenant with its blessings.The token of the covenant is now pointed out. "For perpetual ages." This stability of sea and land is to last during the remainder of the human period. What is to happen when the race of man is completed, is not the question at present. "My bow." As God's covenant is the well-known and still remembered compact formed with man when the command was issued in the Garden of Eden, so God's bow is the primeval arch, coexistent with the rays of light and the drops of rain. It is caused by the rays of the sun reflected from the falling raindrops at a particular angle to the eye of the spectator. A beautiful arch of reflected and refracted light is in this way formed for every eye. The rainbow is thus an index that the sky is not wholly overcast, since the sun is shining through the shower, and thereby demonstrating its partial extent. There could not, therefore, be a more beautiful or fitting token that there shall be no more a flood to sweep away all flesh and destroy the land.

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.

13. I do set my bow in the cloud—set, that is, constitute or appoint. This common and familiar phenomenon being made the pledge of peace, its appearance when showers began to fall would be welcomed with the liveliest feelings of joy. I do set my bow; Heb. I have given, i.e. I will from time to time give and place. God calleth it his bow, partly because it was his workmanship, and chiefly because it was his pledge, and the seal of his promise.

In the cloud, a proper seat for it; that they might now fetch an argument of faith from thence, whence before they had matter of just fear; and that which naturally was and is a sign of rain, might by this new appointment of God be turned into an assurance that there should be no such overflowing rain as now had been. I do set my bow in the cloud,.... Or "I have given", or "have set it" (p); which seems as if it was at that instant set; this is the same we call the "rainbow": and so Horace (q) calls it "arcus pluvius": it is called a "bow", because of its form, being a semicircle, and a "rainbow", because it is seen in a day of rain, and is a sign of it, or of its being quickly over, Ezekiel 1:28 and this appears in a moist dewy cloud, neither very thick nor very thin, and is occasioned by the rays of the sun opposite to it, refracted on it: and this God calls "his bow", not only because made by him, for, notwithstanding the natural causes of it, the cloud and sun, the disposition of these to produce it, such a phenomenon is of God; but also because he appointed it to be a sign and token of his covenant with his creatures; so the Heathen poets (r) call the rainbow the messenger of Juno. It is a question whether there was a rainbow before the flood, and it is not easily answered; both Jews and Christians are divided about it; Saadiah thought there was one; but Aben Ezra disapproves of his opinion, and thinks it was first now made. The greater part of Christian interpreters are of the mind of Saadiah, that it was from the beginning, the natural causes of it, the sun and cloud, being before the flood; and that it was now after it only appointed to be a sign and token of the covenant; but though the natural causes of it did exist before, it does not follow, nor is it to be proved, that there was such a disposition of them to produce such an effect; and it might be so ordered in Providence, that there should not be any, that this might be entirely a new thing, and so a wonderful one, as the word for "token" (s) signifies; and the Greeks calls the rainbow the "daughter of Thaumas" or "Wonder" (t); and be the more fit to be a sign and token of the covenant, that God would no more destroy the earth with water; for otherwise, if this had been what Noah and his sons had been used to see, it can hardly be thought sufficient to take off their fears of a future inundation, which was the end and use it was to serve, as follows:

it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth; that is, between God and the creatures of the earth; or of a promise that God would no more destroy the earth, and cut off the creatures in it by a flood; for though it is a bow, yet without arrows, and is not turned downwards towards the earth, but upwards towards heaven, and so is a token of mercy and kindness, and not of wrath and anger.

(p) "dedi", Montanus; so Ainsworth; "posui", Pisator, Drusius, Buxtorf. (q) De Arte Poetica, ver. 18. (r) Nuntia Junonis varios induta colores Concipit Iris aquas--------- Ovid. Metamorph. l. 1. Fab. 7. (s) "signum, tam nudum, quam prodigiosum", Buxtorf. (t) Plato in Theaeeteto, Plutarch. de Placit, Philosoph. 3, 4. Apollodor. Bibliothec. l. 1. p. 5.

I do set my {k} bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.

(k) By this we see that signs or ordinances should not be separate from the word.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
13. I do set my bow in the cloud] Better, as marg., I have set. The Hebrew would literally be rendered “I do give,” or “have given.”

The language is capable of two interpretations:

(1) “I do now, and have just for the first time, set the rainbow in the sky, that mankind may hereafter have a token of the covenant between us.”

(2) “I have appointed my bow, which you and mankind have often seen in the heavens, that henceforth it may be for a token of the covenant between us.”

The former seems preferable. Hebrew legend explains thus the origin of the rainbow. Of course, it must have been visible from the first, being dependent upon the refraction of the light from the particles of water. The words “my bow” imply either that the bow was a familiar object, or that it was God’s gift. The giving of a “token” is not necessarily equivalent to the creation of a feature in nature (cf. Genesis 4:15). Nevertheless, the simplicity of the language favours the most literal interpretation; and the promise in Genesis 9:14-15 suggests that the rainbow was a new phenomenon.Verse 13. - I do set. Literally, I have given, or placed, an indication that the atmospheric phenomenon referred to had already frequently appeared (Syriac, Arabic, Aben Ezra, Chrysostom, Calvin, Willet, Murphy, Wordsworth, Kalisch, Lange). The contrary opinion has been maintained that it now for the first time appeared (Bush, Keil, Delitzsch), or at least that the historian thought so (Knobel); but unless there had been no rain, or the laws of light and the atmospheric conditions of the earth had been different from what they are at present, it must have been a frequent spectacle in the primeval heavens. My bow. i.e. the rainbow, τόξον (LXX.), (cf. Ezekiel 1:28). The ordinary rainbow consists of a series of successive zones or bands of polarized light, forming little concentric circles in the sky, and having a common center almost always below the horizon, and diametrically opposite to the sun. It is produced by the refraction and reflection of the sun's light through the spherical raindrops on which the rays fall, and, accordingly, must always appear, with a greater or a lesser degree of visibility, when the two material agencies come in contact The part of the sky on which the rainbow is thrown is much more bright within than without the bow. The outer space is dark, almost black; and the inner space, on the contrary, melts into the violet almost insensibly (Nichol's 'Cyclopedia of the Sciences,' art. Rainbow). It is here styled God's bow, as being his workmanship (cf. Ecclus. 43:12), and his seal appended to his covenant (Genesis 9:17). In the cloud, עָנָן that which veils the heavens, from a root signifying to cover (Gesenius). And it shall be for a token, לְאות = εἰς σημεῖον, (LXX.). In Greek mythology the rainbow is designated by a name (Iris) which is at least connected with εἴρω, to speak, and εἰρήνη, peace; is represented as the daughter of Thaumas (wonder), and Electra (brightness) the daughter of Oceanus; is assigned the office of messenger to the king and queen of Olympus; and is depicted as set in heaven for a sign (Homer, 'I1,' 11:27; 17:547, 548; 24:144, 159; Virgil, AEn.,' 4:694; 5:606; Ovid, 'Met.,' 1:270; 11:585). The Persians seem to have associated the rainbow with similar ideas. An old picture, mentioned by Stolberg, represents a winged boy on a rainbow with an old man kneeling in a posture, of worship. The Hindoos describe the rainbow as a warlike weapon in the hands of Indras their god, "with which he hurls flashing darts upon the impious giants;" but also as a symbol of peace exhibited to man "when the combat of the heavens is silenced." By the Chinese it is regarded as the harbinger of troubles and misfortunes on earth, and by the old Scandinavians as a bridge uniting earth and heaven ('Kalisch on Genesis,' pp. 223, 224). Traditional reflections of the Biblical narrative, they do not "account for the application in the Pentateuch of the rainbow to a very remarkable purpose," or "explain why the New Testament represents the rainbow as an attribute of the Divine throne," or "why angels are sent as messengers on earth" (Kalisch); but are themselves accounted for and explained by it. The institution of the rainbow as a sign clearly negatives the idea (Aquinas, Cajetan) that it was originally and naturally a sign; which, if it was, "it was a lying sign," since the Flood came notwithstanding its prognostications (Willet). Of a covenant. "The bow in the hands of man was an instrument of battle (Genesis 48:22; Psalm 7:12; Proverbs 6:2; Zechariah 9:10); but the bow bent by the hand of God has become a symbol of peace" (Wordsworth). Between me and the earth. To give Noah and his sons a firm assurance of the prosperous continuance of the human race, God condescended to establish a covenant with them and their descendants, and to confirm this covenant by a visible sign for all generations. בּרית הקים is not equivalent to בּרית כּרת; it does not denote the formal conclusion of an actual covenant, but the "setting up of a covenant," or the giving of a promise possessing the nature of a covenant. In summing up the animals in 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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