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: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. — Genesis 9:12-13
Promises are a familiar part of our lives. Business agreements, international treaties, political alliances, and legal settlements appear every day in the news. Personal commitments are made and financial deals negotiated. Warranties and guarantees accompany purchases, bargains are advertised, and pledges are made. Some of these many promises are kept, some are not.
Promises made by God, however, are certain to be kept. We read in today’s passage about the covenant God made with Noah following the Flood. A covenant is an attestation that goes beyond a promise. It is defined as “a formal agreement of legal validity, especially one under seal.” When the God of the whole universe makes a covenant with man, it is the most venerable agreement, because embedded in the covenant is the full weight of the name, honor, character, and deity of God. It is awe-inspiring to consider the security given to Noah, as the recipient of a covenant with God!
When Noah and his family came out of the ark, they discovered a world very different from what it had been prior to the Flood. The surroundings they knew had become a wasteland. While in the ark, no doubt their focus had been on the raging waters surrounding them, their survival, and the thousands of animals that were with them. After the Flood, the waters that covered the earth obscured the vast devastation for a few more months. However, when the waters receded and the inhabitants of the ark first assessed the changed world around them, it is likely this lone family felt uncertain and vulnerable. It was true that the Lord had saved them from the Flood, but the desolation was now part of their history. They knew that since it happened once, it could happen again. Perhaps they wondered how long it would be before another flood would come, and what its outcome would be.
The Lord was attentive to their concerns, just as He is attentive to our concerns today. He responded by establishing a covenant with them, promising that He would never again destroy the world with water. From that day forward, the rainbow would be visible as a seal of His promise.
God’s promises are sure! The earth’s order and seasons are still preserved, and the beauty of rainbows — in every part of the world, and to every generation — still remind us of God’s faithfulness to His Word.
When Noah and his family came out of the ark, the eight survivors ushered in a new beginning for the human race. Chapters 9 and 10 of Genesis cover the latter life of Noah and his descendents.
Chapter 9 begins with God’s second command to Noah to “be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.” (See also Genesis 1:28 and 8:17.) Though mankind had sinned and judgment had fallen, God’s divine purpose still included man: he was still to reproduce and fill the earth with his kind. God reminded Noah that he had been created “in the image of God” (verse 6) and thus had a unique status. He reestablished man’s dominion over the animal kingdom, and sanctioned the eating of meat, but with the prohibition that man was not to eat flesh in which the blood remained.
In verses 8-17, God established a new covenant with Noah and his descendants, giving the pledge of the rainbow as a sign of this covenant.
Verses 18 through 27 begin the account of Noah’s sons. This passage relates the breakdown of respect for human dignity within Noah’s family. Honor for parents and the cohesiveness of the family unit rapidly deteriorated, and the corruption of moral standards were evidence of the carnal nature of man that continued on in Noah’s descendents.
Verse 21 indicates that Noah “drank of the wine.” Commentators observe that this is the first time the production of wine is referred to in Scripture. Thus, Noah possibly did not comprehend the intoxicating power of fermented juice.
In verse 25, Noah prophetically cursed Canaan, the son of Ham, who had disrespected him. Ancient literature and archaeological remains verify that in the years that followed, Canaanite religion included child sacrifice, idolatry, religious prostitution, and divination. God expressly warned Israel against copying Canaan’s ways. Noah also blessed Shem and Japheth. Chapter 9 concludes with the death of Noah.
Chapter 10 documents the spread of Noah’s family. While all of Noah’s descendants were important to God, He focused especially on the line of Shem. The blessing Noah bestowed upon this son (see Genesis 9:26) was significant, for those in Shem’s lineage had a major role in bearing the message of redemption to the world. Abram, the man God chose to be the founder of the Jewish nation, was a descendant of Shem.
Archaeological findings give details of the nations that descended from Noah’s sons, which were established between the Flood and the time of Abraham. The oldest known villages were farming communities with walls and wells. Each community developed its own cult and gods, with much of the worship tied to the cycle of seasons. Eventually these communities began to unite into religious states or empires.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
I. The early history of the human race
E. The renewal of mankind (9:1 — 10:32)
1. The new decrees (9:1-7)
2. The new covenant (9:8-17)
3. The failure of Noah (9:18-27)
4. The death of Noah (9:28-29)
5. The posterity of Noah (10:1-32)
a. Prologue (10:1)
b. Japheth (10:2-5)
c. Ham (10:6-20)
d. Shem (10:21-31)
e. Epilogue (10:32)
God’s promises are unchangeable and His covenants are unbreakable. In a world of turmoil, what security we find in this assurance!