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  • Genesis 9:16 NKJV - The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God (אֱלֹהִ֔ים) and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Here, God is remembering the covenant between God. How should this self-reference be understood? Is it poetic?

Why does God remember the covenant with God?

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  • Genesis 9:16 states the covenant is between God and every living creature, rather than God with God. Commented May 21 at 3:13
  • Downvote because the answer is in your question. You just "conveniently" forgot to highlight it.
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 21 at 4:44
  • @Jason_ "between God and every living creature".
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 21 at 22:19
  • @Jason_ " It's like God speaks to Himself." Haven't you ever heard of the Royal We?
    – RonJohn
    Commented May 21 at 22:20
  • @RonJohn I have, but I'm unsure if that would be constituted as a "we" compared to more like talking about ones' self in the third-person.
    – Jason_
    Commented May 21 at 22:36

3 Answers 3

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The so-called "Noahide Covenant" is actually a covenant between God and every living creature - see appendix below.

The enduring symbol of this covenant was the "bow" symbolized by the rainbow. [The Hebrew word is simply “bow” (the weapon) which is significantly aimed at heaven quintessentially signifying that if the covenant broke down then God had to fix the problem.]

Thus, the very existence of the "bow" was to be an enduring and eternal symbol that tells the beneficiaries, all living creatures, that God cannot forget his initiative of creating the covenant. The Hebrew is quite poetic - God cannot forget; BUT, God places the reminder in the sky to show that He will not forget and to mind humans that God will not forget the covenant.

Gill expresses it thus:

and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth; not that forgetfulness, or remembrance, properly speaking, belong to God, but this is said after the manner of men; who by this token may be assured, whenever they see the bow in the cloud, that God is not unmindful of the covenant he has made with all creatures, and which is to continue to the end of the world.

APPENDIX - Noahide Covenant, Gen 8:20 – 9:17

The Noahide Covenant is an eternal covenant (Gen 9:16) and is actually a covenant with all living creatures and all mankind. It consisted of:

  • This covenant was initiated in order to ensure continuity of seasons without interruption, Gen 8:21, 22.
  • God promises never to curse the ground again, Gen 8:21.
  • God promises never to destroy humans and animals by flood again, Gen 8:21, 9:11.
  • God promises that seasons would never be stopped again, Gen 8:22.
  • God commands humans to multiply and increase on the earth, Gen 9:2, 7.
  • God commands humans to take charge of the earth and maintain it responsibly, Gen 9:2, 3; see also Gen 1:28, 29.
  • God commands humans not to eat blood, Gen 9:4.
  • God commands humans not to commit murder else an accounting will be required. Murder destroys the image of God in mankind, Gen 9:5, 6.
  • The rainbow is given as a token/sign (Heb: “oth”, Gen 9:12, 13, 17) of God’s promise to save mankind.
  • The covenant was initiated and solemnized by animal sacrifice, Gen 8:20.

Note that in this statement of God’s covenant of grace, it is universal and applying to all mankind and all animals (Gen 9:8-10, 16, 17), despite the recognition that mankind is evil (Gen 8:21). Further, the prohibition against murder and eating blood are specifically prohibited to prevent God’s image in mankind being marred. One of the unusual aspects of this covenant is the animals – God promises something to animals!

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The Hebrew bible contains many different Names of G-d. The different Names reflect the different ways we relate to or conceptualize G-d. Historically the various names also probably reflect adoption of Canaanite words or theological constructs. The Name אֱלֹהִ֔ים is specifically associated with justice traditionally:

אלהים According to Rashi this Name signifies lordship and greatness; according to the Rambam, judgment; according to the Ibn Ezra, kingship; according to the Seforno, eternality. HaKtav VeHaKabalah Bereshit 1:1

Rashi's commentary on Genesis 9:16 specifically calls out this construct as the applicable understanding since the grammar of the divine promise in this verse is awkward:

Between Divine Justice and you; for otherwise it should have written “between Me and every living thing”. But this is its explanation: when Justice will come to accuse and condemn you I will look upon the sign and remember the covenant (see Genesis Rabbah 35:3) - Rashi on Genesis

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    To the downvoters, can you explain what’s wrong with the answer? Commented May 21 at 1:02
  • I also find this deep frustrating that downvoters do not explain their quarrel with the answers. I think this answer is quite reasonable, and so I upvoted it to balance things a little.
    – Dottard
    Commented May 21 at 3:12
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Answer

The answer is found in John 17:1 and 5:

“Jesus spoke these things and lifted up His eyes to Heaven, and said, Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You”.

And ,

“And now Father, glorify Me with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the existence of the world”.

Explanation

The Son glorifies Himself in the Father and the Father glorifies Himself in the Son.

Genesis 9:16 is one such rare instance where we see such glorification.

One Good Instance

Moses once wanted to see the glory of Yahweh and Yahweh replied:

“And He (Jehovah) said, I will cause all My goodness to pass before your face. And I (Jehovah) will call out the name of Jehovah before your face” (Exo 33:19).

Yahweh says He will call out the name of Yahweh!

And He does, in Exo 34:6:

“And Jehovah passed by before his face and called out: Jehovah! Jehovah God! Merciful and gracious………”.

Conclusion

The Exodus incidence is similar to and more powerful than Genesis 9:16.

Unless we understand Jesus’ words, these will continue to remain as mysteries.

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