Genesis 9:14-17

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Genesis 9:14
  • Genesis 9:15
  • Genesis 9:16
  • Genesis 9:17

Genesis is a book about many beginnings. The beginnings of the world, the human race, sin and redemption, and the nation of Israel to name a few. In fact, the word Genesis from the Greek means “origin,” and in Hebrew it means “beginning.” The book of Genesis contains the events of the flood, tower of Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, and the lives of the Patriarchs.

In the beginning, God created everything by simply speaking, “God said…and it was so” (Genesis 1:6-7, 9, 11, 14-15). This is not a scientific technical account of creation, but it shows a loving God creating a universe and mankind to rule it and fellowship with God. Man was formed especially from the ground and given the breath of life from God. The woman was made from the man’s rib (Genesis 2:7).

After man fell into sin, things began to spin out of control quickly. Cain murdered his brother Abel and the human race became so violent that God decided to destroy them all with a flood. God saved one righteous man (Noah) and his family in an ark filled with animals to deliver the human race from extinction. God chose Abraham and blessed a special group of people named “Israel.” God began to unfold a plan of salvation from a coming famine by sending Joseph to rule in Egypt. The failure of man in every circumstance is met by the salvation of God. We fail, but the good news is God saves us.

Genesis chapter 9 is about new beginnings and new order after the flood. God establishes an everlasting covenant with Noah. The sign of this covenant can still be seen today. God makes some new commandments that are different from the pre-flood era. There is an event that causes Noah to feel shame and Ham to sin that results in a blessing and a curse. No promise of God can fail. We see a repetition of human failure and godly punishment, but through it all there is hope and salvation.

When the rainbow is seen in the clouds, God will remember His covenant and the promise not to destroy all flesh by a flood again. The bow is the sign of the covenant.


God’s grace is seen in the sign of the rainbow, the seal of His covenant promise never to destroy all life by flood again. God used the rain and water to bring about His judgment on the earth. Now, the rainbow (a meteorological phenomenon) which is associated with rain would be an image or symbol of God’s covenant.


The text infers that the rainbow is something new. That underscores the reality that “the world at that time was destroyed” (2 Peter 3:6). The new earth after the flood is substantially different from the earth prior to the flood. It seems likely that the atmosphere is now substantially different. It could be that there was a canopy of vapor surrounding the earth that is now collapsed, accounting for the 40 days of rain followed by the appearance of a rainbow.


In verse 15, God states, I will remember my covenant. Not that God forgets, but because of being described in the language of men, who are forgetful and need help with their memory, it is described this way. The Noahic covenant helps us understand the character of God as seen through Him as a covenant-maker. Every time we see a rainbow, we should remember the justice and the faithfulness of God. God will honor every one of His promises. God does not forget, and He does not change.

Biblical Text

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.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”

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