Genesis 8:20–9:17: Covenant of Preservation
Graciously, God deals faithfully with Noah, Noah’s family, and all the animals on the ark to bring them through the judgment of the Flood to dry ground. Still, the Flood sets a frightening precedent. What happens the next time a storm rolls over the earth? Do human beings need to keep an ark at the ready for extreme storms on the chance that God may again wipe out the earth? Will the human race advance in fits and starts, expanding for a time only to be decimated the next time their iniquity rises to a certain point? Also, what exactly is the minimum requirements for avoiding annihilation that God expects from the world? As human societies grow, what should their cultures and laws look like?
These are all real questions that linger after the Flood. If God simply dismisses Noah, his family, and the animals to start new lives without any further guidance, then it will only be a matter of time before God sends another Flood. Instead, God promises that he will never again send another Flood to destroy the world. Additionally, God goes a step further by swearing a covenant with all creation as a confirmation of his faithfulness to that promise. From the outset, we should understand something very important about this covenant: its terms are still in effect to this day. This text has perpetual relevance for our understanding of God’s ongoing relationship to creation, as well as understanding God’s requirements for societies in the world.
1. Why does Noah need to offer sacrifice after disembarking from the ark? What does our need to offer sacrifices say about the severity of our sin and the holiness of God? If God did not accept sacrifices as atonement for our sins, what would happen? How much of God’s forbearance do we take for granted (cf. Rom. 2:3–5; 3:25)?
2. What did God originally intend for the relationship between human beings and animals? What has changed in our relationship with animals since the Flood? How does God protect us from animals? Why does God require accountability for animals who shed human blood? What applications does this text have for any settings where we interact with animals?
3. Why does God require the death penalty for human beings who murder other human beings? How does God’s rationale relate to what our society typically talks about in our debates about the death penalty? What surprising factors does emphasizing the value of the image of God drive us to consider? Has God’s word modified your thinking on this subject?
4. Why does God add a covenant to his promises? Why isn’t God’s word enough for us? Why does God add a rainbow as a sign of the covenant? In this case, what does God’s covenant promise to us? Why should we classify this covenant in terms of preservation rather than redemption? How does this covenant relate to God’s work in redemption?