98 And God said to Noah and his sons, 9 “And I, I am about to set up my covenant with you, your descendants, 10 and every living creature—birds, domesticated animals, and all else that came out of the ark. 11 I will establish my covenant with you all that floodwaters will never again destroy all flesh and destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “The sign of the covenant between me and you and all living creatures will be for all generations: 13 I have placed a bow in the clouds that will signify this covenant between me and earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the bow will appear. 15 Then I will remember the covenant between me and you and all creatures, that the waters will not destroy all flesh. 16 Upon seeing the bow in the clouds, I will remember this everlasting covenant between God and all creatures.” 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the covenantal sign I have established between me and all life that is on earth.”
There is not a spoken covenant that precedes the first creation stories—they just appear. Having some history leading to a regretful/repentant wiping away or reboot with programs reinstalled at their present locations, we have heard promises of persistent presence (seedtime and harvest) and commands to effect behavior choices (no shedding of blood), we now come to a covenant agreement instituted by and guaranteed from only one side—G*D’s.
This covenant is generic, not for or with Noah in particular, though incorporating him. The covenant is with all that have ridden out the flood. The covenant begins to be made with yet another promise, in the guise of a covenant, that there will not be another flood.
At this point there is an implied silence on the part of Noah and all his cargo. And so the formula, “And G*D said…”, is repeated and given a visible token—a bow in the clouds.
At question is whether this is an extraordinary storm cloud about to rain flaming arrows down on creation, destroying it without technically breaking the covenant promise, or an ordinary cloud receding after rain to become the backdrop for a rainbow.
Is the bow a vehicle of a next repentant action or a sign that G*D is also not to shed blood, life?
This generalized covenant will need to be repeated in individual circumstances because such a general statement loses touch with the reality of individual lives—Abram to Abraham will be the next example.
All of this is difficult for any PTSD Noah has after seeing everything beg to come aboard and be denied by him—Noah, Destroyer of Life. Noah is not responding to such grandiloquent language. And so the formula is repeated a third time, “And G*D said…,” again, a fleeting rainbow will protect all flesh that is on earth.
[Anyone else hear, “And lo, the angel messengers pointed toward a baby….”? Trusting rainbows and babies, we are encouraged to carry creation on for one more day.]