The Rainbow
Moshe Ben-Chaim
If Noah was promised by God that He wouldn't again engage floods to destroy the world and all flesh, what purpose was there for the rainbow to act as a sign? God's word to Noah should have been sufficient.
Upon examination of the passages, we notice that there are a few more questions.
1) If God already addressed Noah, Gen. 9:8. "And God said to Noah and to his sons with him saying", who then is God addressing in 9:12, "and God said this the sign of the treaty........."? If God is already speaking to Noah, He need not repeat in the middle of His conversation, "And God said to Noah". It's superfluous.
2) During God's first address, He mentions nothing about the rainbow, nor the later on mentioned "(future) generations of the world", (Gen. 9:12)
3) In His first address, why does God keep repeating "your sons with you" (9:8), "I establish my treaty with you" (9:9), "and all the beasts of the land with you" (9:10)
4) Why does God only introduce the rainbow and "future generations" in His second address?
I believe the answer to be as follows: The first address repeatedly mentions "with you" to indicate that the first address was directed solely towards Noah and his sons. This being the case, they did not need anything but God's word. That was in fact sufficient for them. This is why there is no mention of the rainbow or "future generations" in that first address to Noah and his sons. They were completely reassured by God's word alone and needed no additional sign. "Future" generations is omitted as this first address was only to Noah and his sons with him.
The reason why we find God addressing a second time is to indicate there is a new party to whom He is addressing. God was now addressing the "future generations", those of us after Noah who are in desperate need of assurance that God's oath remains in effect. This is alluded to by God saying a second time in 9:12, "and God said". Here, God is redirecting His speech to us. Not Noah. Therefore, God only commences mention of "future generations" and the rainbow in this second address, directed to those of us who need the assurance that the original oath is firm.
The concept of an "os", a sign, means that the very rainbow which served to signify the commencement of the oath immediately subsequent to the flood, is still visible to us. The fact that it is still an intact heavenly phenomena, serves to prove to us that God's oath to never again destroy all flesh or the Earth is as real now, as when He declared it. This aberration in nature remains, teaching that God's oath remains.
We also notice that when God says in 9:15 that He will remember His oath, no mention of "seeing it" is necessary, as God needs no visual cues to keep a promise. Man however needs a security blanket, therefore in 9:16, it makes mention that it will be seen, as this passage refers to man's need.
Why was the oath signified by a rainbow in particular? I believe the Radak alludes to the answer when he recalls that during the flood itself there were no rainbows as there was complete cloud cover. No sun shone through. Perhaps what the Radak teaches is when we see a rainbow today, we realize that this is only possible if the cloud cover is incomplete, and allows the sun to shine through on the clouds, the moisture thereby refracting the peeking sunlight into its seven component hues - forming the rainbow. We are thereby assured that although based on our level, complete cloud cover and destruction should take place, but God doesn't allow it to, as proved to us by the rainbow's evidence of sunlight.
We are given a sign of God's mercy, that complete cloud cover and ultimate flooding will never again occur.

Philosophy | Tnach | New Postings | JewishTimes | Audio Archives | Suggested Reading | Live Classes | Search | Letters | Q&A's | Community Action | Volunteer | Links | Education | Chat | Banners | Classifieds | Advertise | Donate | Donors | About Us | Press | Contacts | Home


Mesora website designed by
© 2003 Mesora of New York, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Articles may be reprinted without permission.