Genesis 9:8-17 (CEB)

God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “I am now setting up my covenant with you, with your descendants, 10 and with every living being with you—with the birds, with the large animals, and with all the animals of the earth, leaving the ark with you. 11 I will set up my covenant with you so that never again will all life be cut off by floodwaters. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth.”

12 God said, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I am drawing up between me and you and every living thing with you, on behalf of every future generation. 13 I have placed my bow in the clouds; it will be the symbol of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow appears in the clouds, 15 I will remember the covenant between me and you and every living being among all the creatures. Floodwaters will never again destroy all creatures. 16 The bow will be in the clouds, and upon seeing it I will remember the enduring covenant between God and every living being of all the earth’s creatures.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the symbol of the covenant that I have set up between me and all creatures on earth.”


God’s bow–the rainbow–is set in the clouds. It wasn’t until I read the Bible commentary that I realized that the “bow” referenced the bent part of the bow for a bow and arrow. Note that with the rainbow, the weapon of the bow points away from the earth. God’s covenant is the promise that no matter the broken promises of humans, God will not seek vengeance again upon the earth. The rainbow is the symbol for God to be reminded of the covenantal relationship that God has made with the world. Yet, I feel certain that God is not the one that needs reminding of this promise! It seems more likely that the rainbow reminds us of the covenantal relationship that we share with God.

The rainbow reminds us of the covenant we share with God, but as Genesis 9:15 tells, there is another “one” who is a part of this covenant and that is, “every living being among all the creatures.” When reading this passage, I am reminded of the covenant we share with God and with all the earth. Perhaps we are not just the beneficiaries of God’s covenant; we are responsive and responsible to share this covenant with the earth on God’s behalf. Some will say that as God’s people, the earth is our gift to use as we see fit.

However, what I hear through this scripture is that because we share in this covenantal relationship, we are bound to care as deeply for the earth as God cares for all living creatures. True, the earth is God’s gift, but this shared covenant means a promise to be responsive to the needs of our planet. Our covenant with God and the earth says that these relationships are important. Our shared covenant means that we are committed to loving the earth just as God loves us.

By Barbara Carlson

For Pondering & Prayer

God did not just ask Noah to get on the ark with his family; God told him to take and care for the animals on the boat as well. What do you see as our commitment to the earth? How does God’s love for all translate into love for the planet? How does our love for the planet translate into love for God?

Prayer: Creator God, thank you for your covenant with us and all of the earth. We want so much to build a shared relationship with you that shows our care and love, but sometimes we fall short. Still, you keep the covenant, even when we break our promises. Thank you for the rainbow that symbolizes our covenant and reminds us to love all the earth just as you love us. Amen.