In the original “creation mandate,” God told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it” (Gen. 1:28–31). Humanity is to rule and care for the natural world as stewards under God’s divine rulership. This command remains both a blessing and a responsibility.
After the Flood, this blessing and responsibility were renewed for Noah and his descendants. The conversation took place after Noah and his family had emerged from the ark, thankful to be alive and mindful that God had saved them from His worldwide judgment on sin. In response, Noah built an altar and offered burnt sacrifices to the Lord (8:20).
Pleased with this worship, God promised never again to destroy all living creatures. This wasn’t because He thought humanity would act better now; the observation that “every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood” was embedded in the promise (8:21). Rather, He made this promise out of His mercy and in His plan of redemption.
He also renewed the command for people to be fruitful and multiply, though He indicated that the relationship with the natural world would be different now. Animals would live in “fear and dread” of people, who would now add meat to their diets. In addition, a basic moral command was laid down to respect human life as created in God’s image (9:6).
These new and renewed realities were communicated as a covenant, accompanied by the sign of the rainbow. This covenant was not only for humanity, but for “all life on the earth” (9:16–17). Whenever we see a rainbow, we remember God’s promises and renew our trust in His faithfulness.
Apply the Word
God gave us the Bible, His special and verbal revelation. He also gave us nature or the creation, His general and nonverbal revelation. Scripture itself affirms the role of nature as testifying and pointing us to the Creator (Ps. 19:1–6; Rom. 1:20). The sign of the rainbow is a beautiful place in which Scripture and creation meet to testify to God’s promise!