The Significance of Genesis: God’s Covenant with the New World (Genesis 9:1-17)

In the summer of 2005, the London Zoo posted a sign in front of their newest exhibit, reading, “Warning: Humans in Their Natural Environment.” The exhibit featured eight Homo sapiens in a sealed enclosure adjacent to another sealed enclosure of various primates. The human “captives” were chosen from an online contest, and spent their time sunning on a rock ledge, playing board games, and waving to spectators. A signboard informed visitors about the species’ diet, habitat, worldwide distribution, and threats.

The goal of the exhibit, according to Zoo spokesperson Polly Wills, was to downplay the uniqueness of human beings as a species. “Seeing people in a different environment, among other animals,” said Wills, “teaches members of the public that the human is just another primate.”

Tom Mahoney, one of the participants in the exhibit, agreed. “A lot of people think that humans are above other animals,” he said. “When they see humans as animals, here, it kind of reminds them that we’re not that special.”

What a contrast to the biblical promise that human beings are fearfully and wonderfully made in the image of God.[1]

What a contrast between what God teaches us in Genesis. Genesis 9 re-affirms that we are not just another primate.

We are going to begin to wrap up the narrative about Noah. We are in a series talking about how Genesis chapters 1-11 are foundational to our faith. Today, we see a passage in which God gives instructions to Noah and God makes a covenant with Noah.

My Theme is God makes a covenant with Noah.

  1. Noah, the vice-regent (verses 1-7).
    1. I am going to put this in context and then summarize the first seven verses.
    2. Context: The flood is over. They have left the ark. God had reassured them that seasons will continue, or maybe begin, as maybe they did not have seasons as we do before the flood.
    3. Now, God is blessing Noah.
    4. God tells Noah to be fruitful, to multiply, and to fill the earth. This is like His message to Adam.
    5. Like Adam and Eve, they are vice-regents.
    6. See Genesis 1:28.
    7. Now the animals outnumber the people. God placed a fear of man into animals.
    8. Andy Crouch writes: There is simply no other creature in the world that harbors the ambition to “be like God;’ except for image bearers. Next time you are at the zoo, try approaching an elephant, cheetah or crocodile and whispering to them, “You shall be like God.” Not only will they regard you with indifference (or possibly faint stirrings of hunger), you will have a hard time not laughing. For all their grandeur and power, the world’s creatures just do not give the faintest evidence of wanting to be something other than a well-fed version of what they already are. (I will admit there is a partial exception—cats. But cats give every sign of already considering themselves equal to God, and thus they are supremely, serenely free of petty human traits like ambition.)[2]
    9. Noah and humanity are the masters of the earth. Again, the vice-regent.
    10. This includes animals and vegetation. Humans were originally vegetarians. Eating meat was a consequence of the fall.
    11. I wonder if the post-flood earth could not provide enough food for vegetarians. I wonder if before the modern age it would not work.
    12. See Gen 2:17; see also Gen 1:29
    13. There is an exception. They are not to eat the blood.
    14. Life is in the blood. NET: Because of the carnage produced by the flood, people might conclude that life is cheap and therefore treat it lightly. But God will not permit them to kill or even to eat anything with the lifeblood still in it, serving as a reminder of the sanctity of life.[3]
    15. Moody: The reference in v. 6 to the image of God—the first reference to this image in the postfall world (previously mentioned only in 1:26–27)—is also significant for it establishes beyond any doubt not only that the image of God is still present in humanity, but that that image is present in every individual.[4]
    16. It seems that verse 5 is introducing the prohibition against murder and capitol punishment.
    17. Notice: Man is made in the image of God.
    18. To hurt a human being is to hurt the image of God.
    19. This is about the biblical worldview of man and woman and what it means to be human.
    20. They are to be fruitful and multiply.
    21. ESV Study Bible: This positive view of population growth stands in sharp contrast to the Babylonian flood story, which ends with the gods taking measures to inhibit mankind from filling the earth.[5]
    22. The phrase “be fruitful and multiply” is repeated from verse 1. CSB: God’s blessing of humanity in Noah’s day begins (v. 1) and ends with the command to be fruitful and multiply. This repetition underscores the sacredness and desirability of human reproduction within God’s plan.[6]
    23. They are vice-regents.
  2. The covenant with Noah (verses 8-17).

Verses 8-10, Genesis 9:8-10: Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 

  • God is speaking to Noah and his sons.
    • This covenant is with Noah and his sons and their descendants (literally seed) after them.
    • CSB: These verses are the formal conclusion of the covenant first mentioned in 6:18. The initial expression of the covenant unconditionally offered safety in the ark to Noah’s family and many classes of animals. In the style of a royal grant or unilateral agreement, this portion of the Noahic covenant unconditionally promises that there will never again be a flood of the same destructive scale as Noah’s flood.[7]
    • This covenant is still in effect.
    • In Genesis 9:9-15 God says 5 times that the covenant is between Him and all the creation of the earth, again, including animals.

Verse 11, Genesis 9:11: I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

  • This is now the covenant.
    • All flesh, all flesh, all animals and humanity shall never again be cut off by water like the flood.
    • Never a flood to destroy the earth.
    • In Genesis 8:21 God had said that He will never again curse the ground.

Verses 12-13, Genesis 9:12-13: And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 

  • This is now the sign of the covenant.
    • K&D: An “everlasting covenant” is a covenant “for perpetual generations,” i.e., one which shall extend to all ages, even to the end of the world.[8]
    • The rainbow. The NET Bible does share: The Hebrew word קֶשֶׁת (qeshet) normally refers to a warrior’s bow. Some understand this to mean that God the warrior hangs up his battle bow at the end of the flood, indicating he is now at peace with humankind, but others question the legitimacy of this proposal.[9]

Verses 14-15, Genesis 9:14-15: 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 

  • God talks about Himself seeing the bow and remembering the covenant.
    • God shall never again use water to destroy all flesh.
    • God oftentimes talked about remembering the covenant: Lev 26:42, 45; Deut 7:9; Ezek 16:60.[10]
    • Verses 16-17, Genesis 9:16-17 make more emphasis: When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” 17 God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
    • The bow is in the clouds. Again, this is a reminder.
    • This covenant is everlasting.
    • Verse 17: God is speaking to Noah.
    • This is the sign.
    • Again: the covenant is between God and all flesh, not just humanity.
  • Applications and review:
    • God continues to re-affirm His love and support for Noah, his family, and humans. We must trust and worship God.
    • God put the fear of humans in every animal (Gen 9:2), this shows God’s protection of humanity. This also shows that humans are not equal to animals. God created humans in His image. This teaches a lot about what it means to be human. We are created in the image of God. Though we are not to abuse animals, we are on a different level than animals.
    • It is okay to eat meat (Gen 9:3).
    • We are not to eat blood (Gen 9:4).
    • We are not to take human life and for those that take human life, there is a penalty (Gen 9:5-6).
    • God makes an everlasting covenant with Noah (Gen 9:8-17), this covenant is still in place. We can trust God that He will never again flood the whole earth.

God is good. The problem is that many of His children are ungrateful—quick to complain about what they don’t have but slow to give thanks for what they do.

A little boy went grocery store shopping with his mother. They were in the checkout line and the grocer asked the mother if he could offer her son some candy. The mother agreed. As the grocer held out the jar, encouraging the boy to reach in, the little boy shook his head. The man stretched the jar out a little further and told the boy he could take as much as he would like. The boy continued to say no. With a confused look on his face, the grocer gave one last effort. The boy finally said, “I want you to give it to me.” The grocer happily took some candy out of the container and handed it to the boy who quickly offered his thanks.

When he and his mother were in the car and on their way, she curiously asked, “Why wouldn’t you take the candy? Why did you tell him to give the candy to you?” Her son replied, “Because, Momma, his hands were bigger than mine!” Smart boy. He understood that the hands of the source were bigger.

If God’s children would simply let Him be God, they would soon discover that His hands are bigger than their own.392[11]


[1] “Humans Are Ones on Display at London Zoo,” yahoonews (8-26-05)

[2] Andy Crouch, Playing God(InterVarsity Press, 2013), page 66

[3] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 9:4.

v. verse

[4] Michael A. Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds., “Genesis,” in The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2014), 62.

[5] Crossway Bibles, The ESV Study Bible (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2008), 65.

v. verse

[6] Robert D. Bergen, “Genesis,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 22.

[7] Robert D. Bergen, “Genesis,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 22–23.

[8] Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 1 (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1996), 97.

[9] Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition Notes (Biblical Studies Press, 2006), Ge 9:13.

[10] New American Standard Bible: 1995 Update (La Habra, CA: The Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[11] Tony Evans, Tony Evans’ Book of Illustrations: Stories, Quotes, and Anecdotes from More than 30 Years of Preaching and Public Speaking (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 2009), 130–131.

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