*Scripture verses covered in this section's commentary are noted in italics

Genesis 9:14-17 meaning

Verses covered in this passage:

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

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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