God’s Covenant with Noah
God calls this a covenant in Genesis 6:18. In actuality, God’s covenant with Noah is in two parts. The first part is prior to the flood, and the second part is after the flood.
Part I: Prior to and Including the Flood (Genesis 6:9-8:19)
The Parties Involved: God and Noah, and through Noah was included his family and the human race. In addition, it included all animal life.
Conditions of Obedience: Build the ark and gather the animals and provisions into the ark. This was an enormous undertaking that spanned many decades. Noah was completely obedient to God’s commands.
Promise: God promised that Noah and his family and the animals with him would be saved from the massive flood.
No threat was openly stated. However, no threat was needed because Noah was faithful to all of God’s Commandments. Clearly if Noah had refused to obey God’s command to build the Ark, he too would have been destroyed by the flood. Therefore, this portion of the covenant God made with Noah carried with it an implied threat.
Part II: After the Flood (Genesis 8:20-10:32)
The Parties: God, Noah and his family, and all animals.
Conditions of Obedience: God commanded the family of man through Noah not to eat blood and that they must institute capital punishment for murder.
God made the following promises: “while the Earth remains” (Genesis 8:22), God would not curse the ground again because of man (Genesis 8:21), God would not strike down all the creatures again (Genesis 8:21), God would never again use a flood to cut off all flesh, and God would never use the flood again to destroy the earth (Genesis 9:11).
The Sign of Covenant: The rainbow (Genesis 9:13-17). The rainbow serves to continuously reassure man that God will not destroy the earth by a massive flood again.
Many people would affirm that God’s Covenant with Noah was a Unilateral Covenant where God bound Himself without any obligation from man. However, Noah was required to do an enormous amount of work for many years in building the ark before the flood. This work included not only building the ark, but also preaching to that lost generation in hope that some might repent (2 Peter 2:5). In addition, the clear command of God after the flood based on the preciousness of life meant that Noah and the family of man must not eat blood. They also were required to administer capital punishment for murder. Therefore, it does not appear that the entirety of God’s covenant with Noah was a Unilateral Covenant because God certainly laid substantial requirements on Noah and his offspring.
It is true that God bound Himself to not destroy the earth again with water, and that portion of God’s covenant with Noah and the family of man is unilateral and without expectations on the part of man. It should be noted that God responded with this promise after Noah freely offered sacrifices after coming out of the Ark. However, in view of the enormous work required of Noah and in view of the post-Flood commandments, it would seem to be an oversimplification to call the whole of God’s Covenant with Noah a Unilateral Covenant that carried no obligations for Noah and the family of man. I would prefer to call the majority of this covenant a Suzerainty Treaty because of God’s commands.
Restoration of God’s Covenant with Noah
We have God’s word that he will not destroy the world with a massive flood again. The rainbow is a sign and symbol of that covenant and God restores and renews that covenant every time He puts a rainbow in the sky.
Moreover, God’s salvation of Noah and his family from Satan’s domain by means of water is symbolic of the salvation from sin that we obtain in the waters of baptism. Peter makes this clear in the following passage: 1 Peter 3:18-21
From God’s Covenants and Restorations by Victor Vadney, Desert Willow Publishing
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