1st Sunday of Lent (B)
I am setting my covenant with you forever!
- Conclusion of the Noah story: The event takes place after the flood waters had receded.
- God makes a covenant with Noah and, through Noah, with all creation.
- For the original readers, whose world had seemed destroyed through exile, the story of God’s covenant with Noah established new hope.
SOURCE: Content adapted from Our Sunday Visitor
Feasting on the Word
The rainbow over Noah's ark
The rainbow bending over Noah’s ark with its doors wide open and spilling out pairs of animals into a new world is an image painted or hung on the walls of many a church nursery. We offer this story as a central message of God’s love and hope to our children, starting at the earliest ages. It is telling that we want them to know that, even in the midst of the worst chaos, God will never forget them. But why relegate this message to the nursery in the church basement? Why not let the rainbow colors emanate from the nursery up the stairwells and into worship and committee meetings, into youth group, adult education and mission projects, into choir rehearsal and church potlucks?
SOURCE: Content taken from FEASTING ON THE WORD, YEAR B (12 Volume Set); David L. Bartlett (Editor); Copyright © 2011. Westminster John Knox Press. All rights reserved.
God's Justice Bible
Judgment followed by grace
Genesis 9:14–17 The terrible judgment of Noah’s flood is followed by an act of God’s grace. This is typical of God’s justice—judgment followed by grace. Thus, the judgment of expulsion from the garden is accompanied by God’s clothing Adam and Eve—symbolic of care. The sentence on Cain is accompanied by the grace of the protective mark. Punishment by a flood is followed by the promise never again to destroy all living creatures in this way, symbolized by the rainbow. The scattering of peoples at Babel is followed by the gracious selection of Abraham, through whom all humankind will be united.
SOURCE: Content taken from GOD'S JUSTICE BIBLE: The flourishing of Creation & the Destruction of Evil notes by Tim Stafford; Copyright © 2016. Zondervan. All rights reserved.
Life Recovery Bible
Genesis 9:1-17 Noah and his family were the only people left after the Flood. The comforts of civilization had been washed away. They had to start all over again. God gave Noah his special blessing and instituted a program that, if followed, would result in a healthy society. God has given us his Word, which contains the ultimate blueprint for healthy living. And just as God gave the human race a new start with Noah, he can give each of us a new start, too.
SOURCE: Content taken from THE LIFE RECOVERY BIBLE notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Boice Expositional Commentary
Wounds of the Past
We speak of people being wounded by things that have come into their lives. Noah and those who were with him must have been wounded by the flood. They had not endured personal physical loss, but the civilization they had known was wiped out. The flood was a holocaust of major and unique proportions. It is difficult to see how they could have come through an experience like that without the wounds of the past on them. These wounds are the probable reason for the noticeable repetition as God gives the covenant.
SOURCE: Content taken from BOICE EXPOSITIONAL COMMENTARY (27 Volumes). James Montgomery Boice, 2007.All rights reserved.
1st Sunday of Lent (B)
CATHOLIC Bible Study
The Covenant with Noah and all Creation
by Michal Hunt (Agape Bible Study)
In verses 8-11, God established a covenant with Noah and Creation, vowing never again to destroy the earth by water.
Rainbow as sign
The sign that is a reminder of His covenant oath is the “bow” we call the rainbow that He placed in the heavens as our visual sign (verses 12-15). When He sees His bow, God remembers (zakar in Hebrew) His covenant promise.
God’s desire for peace
The bow is an ancient weapon used both for hunting and war. In hanging His “bow” (that stretches from earth to Heaven and horizon to horizon), God demonstrates His desire for peace with humankind and Creation. He will no longer make “war” upon the earth using water.
The visible sign of His promise and the renewed covenant formed with Noah and all Creation is the seven-colored bow we see in the sky, often after a rainstorm.
Rainbow references in the Bible
The Hebrew word translated into English as “rainbow” is qesheth (keh’-sheth), which means “bow” as in a weapon or an instrument for hunting.
- This word appears three times in Genesis chapter 9 (9:13, 14, and 16).
- The same Hebrew word appears in Genesis 27:3 ~ Now take your weapons, your quiver and bow (also see Gen 48:22; 49:24; Josh 24:12; 1 Sam 18:4; 2 Sam 1:18, 22; 22:35; 1 Kng 22:34; 2 Kng 6:22; 9:24; 13:15, 16; 1 Chr 5:18; 12:2; 2 Chr 17:17; 18:33; etc.).
Scripture mentions God’s “bow”/rainbow in Psalm 45:3-6; Ezekiel 1:26-28 (above the heavenly throne); Habakkuk 3:8-9; Revelation 4:3 (above God’s throne) and 6:2.
God’s war bow will not play another prominent role in Sacred Scripture until Revelation 6:2. Then, the war bow God hung in the heavens as a sign of the Noahide Covenant will become a symbol of judgment. It will be taken up again and carried by the mysterious “Rider on the White Horse”: Immediately I saw a white horse appear, and its rider was holding a bow; he was given a victor’s crown, and he went away, to go from victory to victory (NJB).
Seven colors of rainbow
Significantly, the rainbow has seven colors. The number seven is one of the so-called “perfect” numbers in Sacred Scripture, reflecting fullness and perfection, especially spiritual perfection.
In Hebrew, the number seven is sheba or shava, which also means “oath” or “to swear an oath.” In Hebrew, to swear an oath is to literally “seven one’s self.”
Seven is a number connected to the first Creation event, the Flood, and the renewed creation after the Flood, founded on a renewed covenant.
In its seven-color display, the rainbow recalls the seven days of the first Creation event and symbolizes the oath swearing necessary for a renewed covenant.
The number seven figures prominently in Genesis Chapter 1 in the Creation account and the formation of the covenant with Adam:
- Seven times God pronounced His act of creating as “good” (Gen 1:4, 10, 13, 19, 21, 25, and 31).
- God rested on the 7th day (Gen 2:1), establishing it as His day to commune with man.
The number seven also figures prominently in the Flood account:
- God commanded that Noah must take seven pairs of ritually clean animals aboard the Ark (Gen 7:2; Lev 11:1-47).
- Seven days after entering the Ark, the rains began (Gen 7:4, 10).
- On the 17th day of the 2nd month, all the “springs of the deep” burst open (Gen 7:11).
- Noah entered the Ark with seven family members; he was the eighth; eight is the number of rebirth and a new beginning (Gen 7:13).
- In the 7th month, on the 17th day, the Ark came to rest on Mt. Ararat (Gen 8:4).
- Noah waited seven days before releasing a dove a second time from the Ark (Genesis 8:10).
- After seven more days, God again released a dove, and it failed to return (Gen 8:12).
- In the second month, on the 27th day, the earth was dry (Genesis 8:14).
- The sign of the renewal of the covenant with God in a covenant formed with Noah and Creation (Gen 6:18) is a rainbow that displays seven colors (Gen 9:9, 12-17). Therefore, seven becomes the number of covenant formation.
See the chart on Yahweh’s seven Old Testament covenants and the eighth covenant in Christ Jesus.
Water as covenantal symbol
Through the events of the Great Flood, water became a covenantal symbol of exterior and interior purity.
In 1 Corinthians 10:1, St. Paul described the children of Israel passing through the Sea of Reeds (Red Sea) as a baptism/immersion unto Moses when the people passed from a life of slavery to new life as the chosen people of Yahweh. Covenant ritual purification by water in sprinkling and immersion became an important part of the Sinai Covenant’s religious rituals (Lev 8:6; 14:9; Ez 36:25; Mk 1:4-5).
All of the Old Testament water rituals prefigured Christian baptism in the washing away of the old life of sin and rebirth by the power of water and the Holy Spirit. In the Sacrament of Baptism, with Christ, we die to sin and death in the waters of baptism, and we resurrect with Christ into a new life as a child of God (see Jn chapter 3; Rom 6:3-4; 2 Cor 5:17; Gal 6:15; Col 2:12; Tit 3:4-8).
The covenant God formed with Noah
The covenant God formed with Noah, his descendants, and all living things is a royal grant covenant without stipulations. It is an eternal covenant based solely on God the Divine King’s graciousness. It is the second of the seven Old Testament covenants, some of which are royal grant covenants and others treaty covenants with stipulations. In a treaty covenant, the vassal with whom God makes the covenant is responsible for obligations and duties performed to maintain the covenant. In a royal grant covenant, the responsibility for maintaining the covenant is entirely God’s duty (Gen 9:11). The final covenant, the New Covenant of the Redeemer-Messiah, will be the 8th and final covenant (Jer 31:31; Mt 26:28; Lk 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25). The covenant signs of the eighth and final covenant in Christ Jesus are the Cross (the true “tree of life”), the Sacraments, and worship on the Lord’s Day (Sunday, the New Covenant sabbath). Sunday is the day after the first Creation’s seventh-day Sabbath. It is the eighth day and the sign of a new creation commemorating the day Jesus Christ rose from death to life.
In the Old Testament, there are seven covenant formations between God and those who enter into a relationship with Him, with each covenant building upon the next. Both Noah’s covenant and the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (the only New Testament covenant) include all the living things of Creation. All other covenants were between God and individuals (Adam, Noah, Abraham, Aaron and Phinehas, and David). There is also the corporate covenant with Israel as a unity of one people (Sinai Covenant). The New Covenant Kingdom of Jesus Christ is also a corporate covenant with the Church as One Body in Christ Jesus.
Sin and human destiny
God purged human wickedness from the earth in the Great Flood; however, because humanity’s free-will remained, Noah’s son Ham abused this gift, and sin returned. After the Great Flood, sin continued to grow in men and women’s lives, and human wickedness again came to affect all of God’s Creation. The destiny of all living creatures became linked to human destiny for good and or evil. It is why St. Paul wrote that it is through Christ’s saving act of self-sacrifice that not only all humanity but all Creation can be freed from and redeemed by God’s grace (Rom 8:19-25).
SOURCE: content taken from Michal E. Hunt at Agape Bible Study; used with permission. titles added.
1st Sunday of Lent (B)
Points to consider
- Once again we begin the crash course in salvation history which the church commends to us during Lent. First I hear God’s covenant with Noah, with you and your descendants after you and all the birds and tame and wild animals. The parties to the covenant are identified solemnly three times. I have no doubt that everyone on earth is included.
- Never again! I would let these words ring through the sanctuary today, because God means them and they are still true. There shall not be another flood to devastate the earth: that is God’s promise.
- And now for God’s sign that I am giving for all ages to come: I set my bow in the clouds. We have all seen rainbows, and we should let them remind us of God’s faithfulness with his people today.
- I will recall the covenant I have made. Do I, does our assembly, take this promise seriously? As we listen we see the coverage of killing floods in New Orleans, Colombia and Bangladesh. Alongside the ark perched on Ararat I see the hills of mud that cover hundreds in the Philippines. And why leave out the destructive droughts, cyclones, earthquakes and tsunamis? Has God played a cruel joke on us, leaving nature to its own excesses? Or does God say to us: You have survived to hear and see and complete the story. Don’t you see your brother and sister?
- Climax: Never again! Twice I hear it in the passage, and twice I make it heard.
- Message for our assembly: This pact between me and you and all living beings is just as enduring as the pact with Israel. God covenants with us not to destroy the earth. We must do our part to save the earth for our descendants after us.
- I will challenge myself: To bring this foundation event of Genesis into our own lived experience. I will make these Lenten readings speak to our roots.
A merciful renewal
Ask the presider to tell your listeners (or tell them yourself):
A group of Jewish priests rewrote an old story, editing it to emphasize the covenant that God wants to keep with the human race. They designate the rainbow as the reminder of that covenant.
We trust the reader will concede that this is not a report from an eyewitness just disembarked. It is rather a story told by a sage who has a history of his own and a purpose or two behind his telling. This sage has at heart the interests of an ancient priest.* He wants to remind people of their present covenant with the Lord and reinforce their commitment to it. So he emphasizes covenantal aspects of the ancient story: A very original covenant was almost irrevocably broken by humans’ sin. Fortunately God found Noah and his family with whom to renew the covenant. To make this covenant seem even more important, the priestly author places in God’s mouth again the same foundational words uttered to Adam and Eve. So does the priestly author emphasize that God is committed to the covenant with humanity, so willing to forgive, so ready to grant a new beginning.
Before starting the first reading, unless someone has read the boxed introduction above, read this one-sentence explanation to the congregation:
Or, you could just say “rainbow” in the two places where “bow” appears. No reasonable person will object.
In this reading, the expression “I set my bow in the clouds” means God is making a rainbow appear.
Of course, emphasize the word covenant everywhere in this reading. The merciful renewal of the covenant is what makes this reading appropriate for the beginning of Lent.
And make sure your listeners hear “to Noah and to his sons” in the first sentence. Unless you give an introduction more thorough than the one-liner in the box above, “to Noah and to his sons” is the only early clue that the setting of this reading is the end of the Flood.
Finally, the rainbow image. Can you remember how magical a rainbow seemed, when you saw one as a child? If that’s asking you to remember too far back, recall the last time you pointed out a rainbow to a child. For the Lord God, a rainbow is all in a day’s work. But an ancient priest, telling this story to a hard-luck people often on the verge of scrapping their covenant, would have wanted the rainbow detail to seem spectacular. He’d want his audience to take the rainbow as an incontrovertible sign** of the finality of God’s choice of humankind. You should sound like you want the same.