Genesis 9:17
And God said to Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.
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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.God seems here to direct Noah's attention to a rainbow actually existing at the time in the sky, and presenting to the patriarch the assurance of the promise, with all the impressiveness of reality.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. The same thing is so oft repeated for the strengthening of the faith of all men, and especially of Noah and his sons, whom the remembrance of that dreadful deluge, which they had experience of, had made exceeding prone to fears of the like for time to come. And God said to Noah, this is the token of the covenant,.... Which is repeated for the greater confirmation and certainty of it, since the fears of men would be apt to run very high, especially while the flood was fresh in memory:

which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth: see Genesis 9:9, it is highly probable, that from the rainbow being the token of the covenant between God and Noah, and the creatures, sprung the fable of the Chinese concerning their first emperor, Fohi, who seems to be the same with Noah, and whom they call the son of heaven, and say he had no father; which is this, that his mother, walking on the bank of a lake near Lanthien, in the province of Xensi, trod upon a large footstep of a man impressed upon the sand, and from thence, being surrounded with the rainbow, conceived and brought forth Fohi (x).

(x) Martin. Sinic. Hist. p. 11.

And God said unto Noah, {m} This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.

(m) God repeats this often to confirm Noah's faith even more.

17. This is the token, &c.] This verse, according to the style of P, reiterates the substance of 11–13.Verse 17. - And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant. Murphy thinks that God here directed the patriarch's attention to an actual rainbow; it seems more natural to conclude that from the beginning of the interview (Genesis 8:20) the ark, altar, and worshippers were encircled by its variegated arch. Kalisch compares with the rainbow the other signs which God subsequently appended to his covenants; as, e.g., circumcision (Genesis 17:11), the passover (Exodus 12:13), the sabbath (ibid. 31:13). The Noachic covenant being universal, the sign was also universal - "τέρας μερόπων ἀνθρώπων (I1, 11:27), a sign to men of many tongues. The later covenants being limited to Israel, their signs were local and provisional, and have now been supplanted by the higher symbolism of the Christian Church, viz., baptism, the Lord's Supper, and the Christian sabbath. Which I have established. The different verbs used in this passage in connection with בְּרִית may be here brought together.

1. נָתַן (ver. 12) representing the covenant as a gift of Divine grace.

2. קוּס (Hiph.; vers. 9, 11, 17) exhibiting the covenant as something which God has both caused to stand and raised up when fallen.

3. זָכַר (ver. 15) depicting the covenant as always present to the Divine mind. Tuch, Stahelin, and Delitzsch detect an idiosyncrasy of the Elohist in using the first and second of these verbs instead of כָּרַת, the favorite expression of the Jehovist. But כָּרַת is used by the Elohist in Genesis 21:27, 32, while in Deuteronomy 4:18 the Jehovist uses הֵקִיס. Between ms and all flesh that is upon 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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