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Long before Abraham there was Noah and this covenant:

[Gen 9:15-16 NIV] 15 I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. 16 Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth."

Does this say that "there will never again be a flood" or that "there will never again be a flood that destroys all life"?

If "never again will there be a flood" then that seems patently false, yes?

If "never will a flood kill all life", that is a very small comfort, no?

And what does "never again" mean? Should we infer that there was a prior "heaven and earth" that was destroyed in a flood before Genesis 1:1?

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    Can you please elaborate a bit more. The text is not so ambiguous and the English is rendering the Hebrew quite well "Never again" (with עֹ֤וד) rather seems related to the events described in Genesis 7. Perhaps here the English is not very clear. There are quite a few English versions, where this is: „ the waters shall no more become”, which I think is better. However, why pointing to something prior to Genesis 1:1? Can you please explain this connection? – Constantin Jinga Dec 8 '18 at 21:06
  • Since the flood did not kill everything, why does he say "I won't kill everything again"? – Ruminator Dec 8 '18 at 21:09
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    The Hebrew goes “כָּל־בָּשָֽׂר” which is “all flesh”, like in the Greek: “πᾶσαν σάρκα” So it is not “everything” that gets killed. In Genesis 6:3: the spirit of God will not remain in humankind … since they are flesh (בָשָׂ֑ר/σάρκας). So it is not about destroying everything. It is about destroying all that is flesh, i.e. about all that is deprived of the spirit of God. – Constantin Jinga Dec 8 '18 at 21:26
  • The flood did not kill everything - some plants, most sea creatures and those in the ark survived. So the everything here must be moderated and qualified. This is true even if we use the "breath of God" qualification etc. – user25930 Dec 8 '18 at 21:31
  • @ Dr Peter: True, Genesis 7:22 says that "All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died." – alb Dec 8 '18 at 23:28
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Genesis 9:9-11 speaks to the covenant between God and Noah:

9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you, neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.

The covenant says that from this time forward, there will never be a worldwide flood that will destroy all life on the earth.

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The description of the covenant process with Noah occupies Gen 8:20 to 9:15. The terms of the covenant were as follows.

Parties

  • Between God, mankind and all living creatures (9:8-11a)

God

  1. Not curse the ground (8:21a)
  2. Never destroy all living things by flood (8:21b, 9:11b, 15b, 16b)
  3. Seasons (both annual and daily) will continue (8:22)
  4. The "fear" of mankind will be on all animals (9:2)
  5. All food is given (9:3)

Mankind

  1. Be fruitful and multiply on the earth (9:1, 7)
  2. Not to eat flesh with blood in it (9:4)
  3. Punishment for murder (9:5, 6)

Sign or Seal

Rainbow (9:12-15a, 16a, 17)

Matthew Henry (Concise Commentary) offers this remark:

As the old world was ruined, to be a monument of justice, so this world remains to this day a monument of mercy.

Thus, the Noahide covenant involved far more than a divine promise not to flood the entire earth to destroy life - it involved a promise to perpetuate the ability to farm with seasons and sunshine, provided mankind obeyed the human terms.

(Later Rabbinic law made much more of this covenant that is not recorded in Genesis but that is not germane.)

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The flood during Noah's time was provoked by God. And that covenant means he won't use flood to destroy humanity like the deluge again. But flood as a natural disaster can still occur, and later God flooded the Egyptians pursuing Moses and the Israelites. But this wasn't a deluge similar to what happened during Noah's time.

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