7. A NEW DIET AND A RAINBOW APPEARS
Welcome to another presentation of the history of Noah in the land of Ararat, modern Armenia
Verse 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
Not that man then first began to eat animal flesh, but only that God for the first time authorized, or rather allowed, him to do what the Flood had made a necessity.
The wicked antediluvians were flesh eaters (CH 109).
But it was not the original will of the Creator that His creatures should consume one another. He had given man plants for food (1:29).
With the temporary destruction of all plant life during the Flood and the exhaustion of the food supplies that were taken into the ark, an emergency arose that God met by giving permission to eat the flesh of animals.
Furthermore, the eating of flesh food would shorten men’s sinful lives (CD 373).
This permission did not imply an unrestrained and unlimited eating of every kind of animal. The phrase, “Every moving thing that lives,” clearly excludes the eating of carcasses of animals that had died or been killed by other beasts, which the Mosaic law later specifically forbade (Ex. 22:31; Lev. 22:8).
Though the distinction between clean and unclean animals in regard to food is not made here, it does not follow that it was unknown to Noah.
That Noah was acquainted with this distinction is clear from the previous command to bring more clean than unclean beasts into the ark (Gen. 7:2), and by the fact that he offered only clean animals as his burnt offering (8:20).
This distinction must have been known to early man so well that it was not necessary for God to draw Noah’s special attention to it. It was only when this distinction had been lost through the centuries of man’s estrangement from God that new and written directives were issued regarding clean and unclean animals (see Lev. 11; Deut. 14).
The immutability of God’s character (James 1:17) precludes the possibility of construing this passage as permission to slaughter and eat all creatures. Animals that were unclean for one purpose could not have been clean for another
Verse 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.
This implies the newness of the permission to eat flesh food, in addition to the vegetables and fruits that had originally been destined to be man’s food.
Not only was the temporary absence of plant life, as a result of the Flood, the reason for God’s permission to man to supplement his vegetarian diet with meat
But probably also the fact that the Flood had so thoroughly changed this earth’s outward form and diminished its fertility that in some lands, such as the far north, it would not produce sufficient vegetarian food to sustain the human race.
Verse 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.
The prohibition applies to the eating of flesh with blood in it, whether of living animals, as had been the barbarous custom of some pagan tribes in the past, or of slaughtered animals from which the blood had not been properly drained.
This prohibition was, among other things, a safeguard against cruelty and a reminder of the sacrifice of animals, in which blood, as the bearer of life, was held sacred.
God foresaw that man, easily falling victim to superstitious beliefs, would think that, in partaking of the life-bearing fluid of animals, his own life power would be either strengthened or prolonged.
For these and probably other reasons not now clear to us, the eating of flesh with the blood in it was irrevocably prohibited. The apostles considered this prohibition still binding in the Christian Era.
They especially drew the attention of Gentile Christian believers to it, because these new believers, before their conversion, had been accustomed to the eating of flesh with blood in it (Acts 15:20, 29).
“Life,” nephesh (see on Gen. 2:7). To translate it “soul,” as some have done, obscures the true meaning (see Lev. 17:11). Blood is vital to life. If the circulation of blood to any part of the body is cut off, that part dies. A complete loss of blood inevitably brings death.
Verse 5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
God would personally concern Himself with avenging the shedding of human blood, as is implied by the words, “will I require,” literally, “search after,” with a view to punishment.
From the hand of every beast.
The life of man was made secure against animals as well as against other men by a solemn proclamation of the sanctity of human life.
The statute that a beast which slew a man should be destroyed was later incorporated into the Mosaic code (Ex. 21:28–32). This command was not given by way of punishing the murderous beast, which is not under moral law and so cannot sin, but for the safety of men.
From the hand of man.
This warning is directed against suicide and homicide. God requires the man who takes his own life as well as the one who takes the life of his fellow man to give an account of his act.
The commandment, “You shall not kill,” is so wide in its implications that every kind of shortening or taking of life is prohibited. Man cannot give life and has therefore no right to take it, unless required to do so by a divine command.
No one in possession of his mental and moral faculties, and thus responsible for his acts, can escape God’s retribution, not even the man who lays hand on himself.
At the resurrection every individual will have to appear before the judgment seat of God to receive his reward (Rom. 14:10; 2 Cor. 5:10).
Verse 6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed; For in the image of God He made man.
God would inflict punishment for every murder, not directly, however, as He did in the case of Cain, but indirectly, by placing in the hand of man judicial power.
The word “sheds” implies willful murder and not an accidental taking of life, manslaughter, for which the law made other provisions than those mentioned here (Num. 35:11).
The divine injunction endows temporal government with judicial power, and places in its hand the sword. God took care to erect a barrier against the supremacy of evil, and thus laid the foundation for an orderly civil development of humanity.
Verse 7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply; Bring forth abundantly in the earth And multiply in it.”
GOD SPEAKS TO THE FAMILY
Verses 8,9 Then God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him, saying: 9 “And as for Me, behold, I establish My covenant with you and with your descendants after you,
How did God give Noah and his sons a firm assurance of the prosperous continuance of the human race? God established a covenant with them and their descendants and confirmed it with a visible sign.
The covenant contemplated all subsequent posterity in its provisions, and, along with the human family, the entire animal creation.
Verse 10 and with every living creature that is with you: the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, of all that go out of the ark, every beast of the earth.
Verse 11 Thus I establish My covenant with you: Never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood; never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.”
This “covenant” contained but one provision and assumed the form of a divine promise.
Regions might be devastated and animals and men swept away by the hundreds or thousands, but never again would there be a universal destruction of the earth by a flood.
However, this promise does not imply that God is bound never to destroy the world again by another means than water.
His declared plan to put an end to all wickedness at the close of this world’s history by a great destructive fire (2 Peter 3:7, 10, 11; Rev. 20:9; etc.) in no way contradicts the promise.
Verse 12 And God said: “This is the sign of the covenant which I make between Me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations:
This token God deemed necessary in order to give His creatures faith in His promises, it being an instance of His condescension to the weakness of man.
Man looks for signs (Matt. 24:3; 1 Cor. 1:22), and God in His mercy and goodness has provided them, within limits, although He wants His followers to retain their faith even when no signs guide them, and to believe without visible evidence (John 20:29).
Verse 13 I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.
The establishment of the rainbow as a covenant sign of the promise that there would never be another flood, presupposes that it appeared then for the first time in the clouds of heaven. This is one more indication that no rain had fallen before the Flood.
The rainbow is produced by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s light through the ball-shaped raindrops on which the rays fall.
Verse 14 It shall be, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the rainbow shall be seen in the cloud;
Verse 15 and I will remember My covenant which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.
The rainbow, a natural physical phenomenon, was a fitting symbol of God’s promise never to destroy the earth again by a flood.
Inasmuch as the climatic conditions of the earth would be completely different after the Flood, and rains would in most parts of the world take the place of the former beneficent dew to moisten the soil, something was needed to quiet men’s fears each time rain began to fall.
The spiritual mind can see in natural phenomena God’s revelations of Himself (see Rom. 1:20). Thus the rainbow is evidence to the believer that the rain will bring blessing and not universal destruction.
John saw in vision a rainbow surrounding the throne of God (Rev. 4:3). Man looks on the bow to recall the promise of God, but God Himself looks upon it to remember and fulfill His promise.
In the bow man’s faith and trust meet God’s faithfulness and immutability. The beams of holy light streaming forth from the Sun of Righteousness (Mal. 4:2), as seen by the eye of faith through the prism of life’s experiences, reveal the beauty of the righteous character of Jesus Christ.
The eternal covenant between Father and Son (Zech. 6:13) assures to every humble, faithful son and daughter of God the privilege of beholding in Jesus the One altogether lovely, and, beholding Him, of being changed into His very likeness.
Verse 16 The rainbow shall be in the cloud, and I will look on it to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”
Verse 17 And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
This covenant between God and Noah brought to a conclusion the events connected with the greatest catastrophe this earth has ever experienced. The earth, once beautiful and perfect, offered a picture of utter desolation as far as the eye could reach.
Man had received a lesson concerning the awful results of sin. The unfallen worlds had seen the fearful end to which man comes when he follows the bidding of Satan.
A new beginning was to be made.
Inasmuch as only faithful and obedient members of the antediluvian human family had survived the Flood, there was reason to hope that the future would present a happier picture than the past.
After having been saved by God’s grace from the greatest imaginable cataclysm, the descendants of Noah might be expected to apply for all future ages the lessons learned from the Flood.
At the next lecture we will look at the shocking sin of Noah. We will also look at the way God saves sinners. If you need forgiveness, the story of Noah will give you new courage.