21And the Lord smelled a sweet savour; and the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. 22While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
-- Genesis 8:21-22 (KJV)

This is an unqualified statement by God that He would not again destroy the entire earth because of man. He made the covenant with Noah of the sign of the rainbow to remind us that the rains would never again flood the entire earth (Genesis 9:11-16). The rainbow was an emblem of that covenant promise against a world-wide destruction.

27And I saw as the colour of amber, as the appearance of fire round about within it, from the appearance of his loins even upward, and from the appearance of his loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about. 28As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of one that spake.
-- Ezekiel 1:27-28 (KJV)

2And immediately I was in the spirit: and, behold, a throne was set in heaven, and one sat on the throne. 3And he that sat was to look upon like a jasper and a sardine stone: and there was a rainbow round about the throne, in sight like unto an emerald.
-- Revelation 4:2-3 (KJV)

What does the rainbow that is around the throne in both of these prophesies stand for?

  • I've voted to close as opinion-based. The specific question being asked, 'Why did God do X?', is not an exegetical question, nor a history-of-the-text question. It is entirely dependent on the individual's beliefs about (1) whether God exists, (2) what God is like, and (3) how God might interact with people across several centuries.
    – user2910
    Oct 17, 2017 at 19:53
  • 1
    Rephrased the question. Any better?
    – Gina
    Oct 17, 2017 at 21:39
  • The Greek for rainbow is iris . Rainbow appeared after judgement of flood. God looks through the rainbow (as though it were an eye). It's to do with the everlasting covenant.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 18, 2017 at 6:04
  • Be a shame not to consider the matter in some way or other.
    – Nigel J
    Oct 18, 2017 at 6:05
  • @Gina Thank you for asking this question. It's one of the greatest questions as relating to God's dealing with the nations of Noah's other sons (Gentiles)
    – user20490
    Nov 21, 2017 at 12:22

2 Answers 2


The covenant / promise of the rainbow even today reminds us of God's promise to Noah. In Gen. 8:21-22 God stated that he would never again curse the earth for man's sake. In Gen. chap. 9 He told Noah that never again would the rains cover the entire earth. The rainbow was the sign from God to man that He would never again bring a world-wide destruction upon the earth.

In prophesy, God used the word "flood" as a metaphor for a destroying army.

Isa. 28:2,

"Behold, the Lord hath a mighty and strong one, which as a tempest of hail and a destroying storm, as a flood of mighty waters overflowing, shall cast down to the earth with the hand." (KJV)

Isa. 59:19,

"So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him."

Jer. 46:8,

"Egypt riseth up like a flood, and his waters are moved like the rivers; and he saith, I will go up, and will cover the earth; I will destroy the city and the inhabitants thereof."

Whenever God is sitting on His throne, He is sitting in judgment. A king will sit on his throne to hear reports from his council, and listen to requests from the people. The king dispenses judgment from the throne, answering the council and people. The king will also announce rules and laws from the throne.

Psa. 9:7,

"But the Lord shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment."

Psa. 89:14,

"Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face."

The sign of the rainbow around the throne of judgment was a comfort to the prophet and the people, that His judgment was tempered with mercy. The destruction foretold would not be a world-wide destruction, only a limited one upon the wicked who had rebelled against Him. The rainbow meant that a remnant would be saved.

In Ezekiel the judgment was for the still coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple. While many of Judah had been taken captive into Babylon, the city and the temple had not yet been destroyed.

Excerpt from Keil and Delitzsch Biblical Commentary on Ezek. 4:1:

"The meaning is not, that upon the roll was inscribed a multitude of mournful expressions of every kind, but that there was written upon it all that the prophet was to announce, and what we now read in his book. These contents were of a mournful nature, for they related to the destruction of the kingdom, the destruction of Jerusalem and of the temple." Source: Biblehub

Just as in Ezekiel, Revelation was again the prophesy of the complete destruction of the city and the temple of Jerusalem.

Excerpt again from Keil and Delitzsch on Ezek. 5:8,

"The punishment to be suspended shall be so great and heavy, that the like has never happened before, nor will ever happen again. These words do not require us either to refer the threatening, with Coccejus, to the last destruction of Jerusalem, which was marked by greater severity than the earlier one, or to suppose, with Hvernick, that the prophet's look is directed to both the periods of Israel's punishment - the times of the Babylonian and Roman calamity together. Both suppositions are irreconcilable with the words, as these can only be referred to the first impending penal judgment of the destruction of Jerusalem. This was, so far, more severe than any previous or subsequent one, inasmuch as by it the existence of the people of God was for a time suspended, while that Jerusalem and Israel, which were destroyed and annihilated by the Romans, were no longer the people of God, inasmuch as the latter consisted at that time of the Christian community, which was not affected by that catastrophe (Kliefoth)." Source: Biblehub

The rainbow is also seen around the strong messenger (YLT), the mighty angel of Rev. 10:1,

"And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:"

The strong messenger was Christ, with one foot upon the earth (the land of Judea) and one foot on the sea (the other nations) who told John he would prophesy again, and instructed him in chap. 11 to measure the temple that was about to be destroyed.

The rainbow signified that God would save a remnant of those who believed in Him.

Ezek. 6:8,

"Yet will I leave a remnant, that ye may have some that shall escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered through the countries."

In the first destruction of the city, God would bring back about 50,000 to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple, to restore the people to a covenant relationship with God. (Ezra 2:1-2; Hag. 1:1)

In the second destruction under the Roman empire in AD 70, the remnant of believers were the Jews who had followed Christ, who survived by fleeing from Jerusalem (Matt. 24: 15-20). They were dispersed into all the world, and the remnant who were baptized into Christ continued to spread the gospel through each generation of those will will believe.

I have more on "The Signs of Revelation" at my blog ShreddingTheVeil in Parts I - VIII. Part IV discusses the symbols of the throne scene.

(All scripture is from the KJV. All bold emphasis is mine.)


There are massive rearrangements spoken of in the section of scripture quoted in this question, Genesis 8:21 to 9:16. Only after the sacrifice of clean flesh , and God’s savouring that sweet smell, does God promise not to curse the earth again for man’s sake - whose heart imagination is only ever evil from his youth.

For the first time, flesh is given to men to eat; but not the blood. Man in Adam may partake of flesh, not blood. The later revelation, in Christ, makes clear that men must first repent, bring forth the fruits of repentance, Matthew 3:8, in understanding why Christ came to die, be born again of the Holy Spirit in receiving the gospel which reveals the righteousness of God, Romans 1:16 - to the Jew first and also to the Greek - thence to partake of the blood of Christ, John 6:53-54, in the new, and everlasting, testament.

There are two covenants being spoken of by God in Genesis 9:11 and 12. One is a covenant whereby a second age (the first being the antediluvian) is extended towards humanity in which flesh is offered, but not blood, to man. If men repent, individually, and eat of that flesh (my flesh I give for the life of the world, John 6:51) then more is revealed.

The more revealed is an everlasting testament, Isaiah 61:8 and Hebrews 13:20 in the blood of Jesus Christ.

The token of the covenant is the bow. It is the token of the first covenant - the agreement to extend another age towards mankind in which individuals may repent. It also heralds the everlasting testament in the blood of Jesus Christ.

The bow in Ezekiel 1:27-28, the second passage quoted, is not seen until, first, amber is seen.

Amber is found in coalfields; and coal, when burnt in a fireplace, often shows - by spurts of burning gas - that there is amber within it. During the Flood, forests were crushed and pulverised, the sap being immediately dissipated but the resin, subjected to intense heat and pressure, being hardened into amber, sometimes with larvae or small insects - even ants - trapped within its structure.

It is a symbol of judgment. And judgment, with living creatures transfixed within it, solidified in death.

Only after judgment, after the amber, is the bow seen. Only after Christ’s offering up of himself, only after suffering for sins and only after, being made sin, the eradication of sin in his death - only then is there the revelation of a new and everlasting testament in his blood. For his blood was shed after death, John 19:34, and not before it.

In the third passage quoted in the above question, Revelation 4:2-3, he that sits is likened to jasper and to sardine stone. He is clear as jasper, crystal clear, there is no darkness within him. And he is also red with fire, for our God is consuming fire, Hebrews 12:29; it is his nature.

Yet, because of the everlasting covenant, a better covenant than the first, there is a bow round about his throne. The Greek word for rainbow is ιρις, iris. He looks and he sees and, in Christ - after judgment has fallen and been utterly met - he sees no blemish, Ephesians 5:27.

And with the bow is emerald. As green as the living landscape can possibly be; a world to come that it is not possible to conceive of, I Corinthians 2:9, so far is it beyond the imagination of the heart of man to consider.

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