Noahic Covenant

In the Bible, a Covenant is a promise between two parties, usually between God and Man (either a person or a people-group). There are 8 Divine Covenants in the Bible, depending on how you count them, and they fall into two categories: conditional (“if you do this, I’ll do that”) or unconditional (“I’ll do this regardless of what you do”).  We’re also interested to see which of these covenants are in effect today.

Entire studies and books have been written on the topic of Biblical Covenants, and we’ll not go to far in depth with them, but one thing is absolutely certain: if you want to have any idea of what God has done in the past, what He is doing now, and what He will do in the future, knowing these Covenants is imperative! Any attempt to understand God while ignoring His covenants will cause great frustration in trying to interpret many passages,  and will render them incoherent or incompatible with other passages of Scripture. (Take a look at who Jesus calls ‘Fool’ in the Gospels, and you’ll see that I’m not exaggerating: people who pursued God w/o listening to His Word end up confused. It’s not enough to have a heart for Him – listening to and trusting His Word is critical.)

The Covenants are as follows:

  • Edenic Covenant: Gen 1:26-28. Made in the garden of Eden, before sin came into the world. Some don’t count this as a covenant because the Bible doesn’t call it one, but it has all the provisions of a covenant: command, stipulation, penalty, etc.
  • Adamic Covenant: Gen 3:15. The whole serpent bit.
  • Noahic Covenant: Gen 9. Today’s topic.
  • Abrahamic Covenant: Gen 12; 15, 17. Yes, we’ll get to this later because it’s critical. This is the formation of God’s Promised People through the Person of Jesus Christ. Those who bless Abraham will be blessed by God, those who disregard Abraham will be cursed by God.
  • Mosaic Covenant: Ex 19. Legal covenant whereby God set aside His chosen nation to be His nation of Priests to the rest of the world.
  • Palestinian Covenant: Deut 30:1-10. Legal covenant governing the rules by which God’s people would handle His Word, His Land, their enemies, etc. Some people don’t count this as an ‘official’ Covenant.
  • Davidic Covenant: 2 Sam 7:4-17. Promise of the Messiah through the line of David. Messiah would be an earthly King of heavenly origins.
  • New Covenant: Jer 31:31-33. Unconditional covenant whereby God’s people would receive His blessings based on the work of Christ.

It’s important that we spend that time doing a brief review of the covenants because of two points I want to make:

  1. Not all these Covenants are conditional. Some of them are promises where God says He will hold up His end, regardless of what we do. Others, like the Mosaic Covenant, are made with a specific person or people group, while the rest are for everyone, everywhere at all times.
  2. Not all these Covenants are eternal. Some will last until the end of a particular time period. Some only last until one party (Man) breaks his end.

The Noahic Covenant is one such unconditional, eternal covenant:
– It was made to Noah and all his descendants. Yes, that includes you and me!
– It’s unconditional, in that God will hold up His end of the ‘bargain’ regardless of what we do.
– It comes with no expiration date.

Hang on to those 3 tidbits and let’s re-read the covenant again:

1 And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. 2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea. Into your hand they are delivered. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. And as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 And for your lifeblood I will require a reckoning: from every beast I will require it and from man. From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man.

6 ​​​​​​​​“Whoever sheds the blood of man,
by man shall his blood be shed,
for God made man in his own image.
7 And you, be fruitful and multiply, teem on the earth and multiply in it.”

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, 9 “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. 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.” 12 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. 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. 16 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.”   (Genesis 9:1-17, ESV)

Here are a few salient points:

  • v1 Man is to “be fruitful, multiply and fulfill the earth”. No excuses.
  • v2 Animals will now fear Men. This implies that they didn’t fear men prior to the flood. (That’d certainly explain how Noah got them all on the ark, right?)
  • v3 Moving animals can now be counted as food (meaning they were vegetarians prior to this. Chew on this vis-a-vis the fact that Noah was told to bring 7 clean animals and 2 unclean animals of every kind. We’ll touch on that in a later discussion)
  • v6 Capital punishment is now a divine requirement for murderers. Any one who murders another human, God will require that his man put him to death. (Hold on to that thought)
  • v9 The Covenant applies to *all* Noah’s offspring – meaning this applies to you and me
  • v11 A similar (world-wide) flood will never hit the earth to destroy everything (hint: next time, it’ll be fire)
  • v13 The rainbow is a reminder that God will keep His covenant. If you’ve got rainbows in your neck of the woods, you’ve got the Noahic Covenant in effect (and, yes, rainbows can be seen on every continent on the planet).

So.. The next time your friends or co-workers says “let’s not kill that animal to eat it! That’s not nice!”, you know that they’re not speaking from a Biblical perspective. And if they say “Ban all executions!!”, then somewhere in our minds, we really need to come to terms with the fact that this voice is blatantly rejecting commands that God has given us. If we let murderers go free, God says (v6) that He will hold us accountable for not executing that person. (Another note – many people will try and say “But our courts are imperfect, therefore we cannot do executions.” Really? Our courts were perfect back then? Of course not. No human court is, or ever was, or ever will be perfect – and God already knew that when He commanded us to execute murderers!)

I should repeat: none of these stipulations were overturned or rescinded by anyone, anywhere at any time in the Bible. Even Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount did not repeal the Noahic Covenant.

So the next time we look at one of these scenarios and ask ourselves WWJD – we know the answer.

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