Genesis 8:15-9:17 The Noahic Covenant In Succession.
“Then God Spoke,” echoes the original word spoken at creation (v. 15). Noah is called, along with his family and indeed the whole of creation, to fulfill the original creation mandate of dominion stewardship. God called every living thing out of judgment into a condition of a new heavens and a new earth. As with Adam, so with Noah, this restoration comes via an administration of the covenant of grace. “Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar” (v. 20). Noah did as God spoke to him. This was the first axiom of Noah’s thought and existence. It is by this word that he knew the way of reconciliation. Moses goes from using the name ‘God’ to that of the covenant making and covenant keeping ‘LORD’ (vv. 20-21).
The renewal of the covenant comes at this point to show that the original creation mandate would only come via the covenant of grace. Only as “the LORD smelled a soothing aroma” coming from the offering of the sacrificial victims, do we find the promise of this covenant administration. The promise is one of a creation which the whole of creation could depend on, including the very course of linear time and history. This covenant teaches us that this dependability ultimately rests in the sovereign will of the LORD of the covenant. This word spoken also acknowledges the sinful state of the human heart, and hence the provision made via the sacrificial victims and innocent blood shed. The LORD promises the regularity of creation for His image bearer to fulfill the mandate given, and a means of dealing with sin.
The LORD’s promise is God’s blessing, and the dominion mandate is reiterated. With the fall we now also have the animals as food, “even as the green herbs” (v. 3). The only prohibition at this stage, is the restriction on eating blood (v. 4). Since life is in the blood, we also now have the prohibition against murder. Any beast or man who takes the life of another man will be required to give his life as a consequence. We should also not lose sight of the command given for the duty of the kinsman redeemer to be the one to redeem the innocent brother’s life (Cf. Nu. 35:19-21). “From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man” (v. 5). Of course, the actual command itself is reiterated in the Decalogue (Ex. 20:13; Dt. 5:17). The prohibition of murder is also reinforced by the reality that man is uniquely created as God’s image bearer (v. 6 Cf. 1:26).
The duty to multiply and fill the earth is again reiterated (v. 7). Again God speaks to Noah, “And as for Me, behold I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you” (vv. 8-10). So the duty for Noah remains the creation mandate, but the covenant is what God Himself will establish. The former can only be accomplished through the latter. The promise of the regularity of the creation is also reiterated (v. 11). The sign of this covenantal administration would be the rainbow (vv. 12-14). The rainbow likely always existed up to this point, but now it takes on added covenantal significance. Again we find the word ‘remembrance’, not that God could somehow forget, but as an indication of this special relationship, indicated by the sign given (v. 15, 17).
That this was a renewal of the one covenant of grace is made clear by God calling it “the everlasting covenant” (v. 16). The covenant with Abraham and his seed is also described as “an everlasting covenant” (Gen. 17:13, 19). The covenantal administration under Moses is also described as “an everlasting covenant” (Lev. 24:8), as also with the Davidic (II Sam. 23:5). The initial covenant of works under Adam was never described as everlasting. In point of fact, when it was broken Adam and Eve were barred from the tree of everlasting life (3:22-24). Everlasting life would never come by way of works. In the same way the final administration of the one covenant of grace, the new covenant, is also described as “an everlasting covenant” (Jer. 32:40; Heb. 13:20), in the line of succession from the Davidic (Is. 55:3).