Exposition of Genesis 1–11: Genesis 9:16–17

Genesis 9:16–17
“When the rainbow is in the clouds, I will notice it and remember the perpetual covenant between God and all living creatures of all kinds that are on the earth.” 17 So God said to Noah, “This is the guarantee of the covenant that I am confirming between me and all living things that are on the earth.”
(NET Bible)

A commitment we can count on

When God makes a commitment, he keeps it! The problems all lie on our side, because “flesh” is notoriously weak (Rom. 8:3). So, what we need to rely on first are those things God does entirely on his own. Those divine actions are often expressed in covenants between God and man.

What other forms of God’s grace may we rely on? How does prayer fit into this picture? What divine covenants cover those who have never trusted in Christ for salvation?

Today’s passage restates the message of Gen. 9:14–15 in slightly different words. The added element (as in Gen. 9:12) is the word “perpetual,” which ties the promise to us as well!

God does not have a problem with forgetfulness, so it comes as a linguistic surprise to be told God remembers something. When something comes to God’s focused attention, stand by!

It is time to learn a lesson about Hebrew words in contrast to English words. In English, when we say “remember,” it simply means that we have an event, thing or person come to mind. We might, for example, remember a book we once read or a birthday party we enjoyed as a child. But when God is the subject for the Hebrew verb “remember,” it means an event, thing or person comes to God’s mind and he does something about it. For example, in Genesis 8:1, God remembers Noah and the creatures on the ark and causes the flood waters to recede. Later God remembered Abraham and took his nephew Lot out of Sodom before destroying it (Gen. 19:29).

The same element of action also is integral to other Hebrew verbs. When God feels compassion, he shows kindness. When men turn and believe in the Lord, their lives are expected to actually change. Hebrew verbs are concrete and action-oriented, but English often stops with conceptual meanings.

When the NET Bible says that God confirmed his covenant with “all living things” (Gen. 9:17), it actually translates the phrase “all flesh.” The phrase “all flesh” occurs 13 times from Gen. 6:12 to Gen. 9:17. In Gen. 6:12 God said that all flesh had corrupted its way, and in Gen. 9:17 he confirms a covenant with all flesh after the flood. Speaking of covenants, the word “flesh” does not occur again until Genesis 17:11 when God tells Abraham what he must do to confirm the new covenant God made with him.

Copyright © 2011 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived fr