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Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Noahic Covenant: The Renewal of the Creation Covenant for the Purpose of Redemption


In telling Noah how to escape the world-wide flood–the means that God had chosen to blot out life from the earth–God said, “But I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons' wives with you” (Gen 6:18). This is the first time the word “covenant” actually appears in the biblical text. Note, however, the phrase “establish my covenant;” this phrase is different than “cut a covenant,” which is used of the Abrahamic Covenant in Genesis 15:18. “Cut a covenant” refers to the initiation of a covenant, whereas “establish a covenant” refers to the renewal of a previous covenant arrangement.[1] The Noahic Covenant was a renewal of the Creation Covenant aspects of the Adamic Covenant. [2]

            The terms in which God established the Noahic Covenant were reflective of God’s original act of creation. When it was first made, the earth was formless and void: covered with water (Gen1:2). God made light and darkness–naming the day and night–then He made the sun, moon, and stars to govern the day and night, as well as the seasons, days and years. Following the flood in Noah’s day–in which the earth was returned to a watery, formless state, God re-established seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night (Gen 8:22).

            When God made human beings, He directed them to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 1:28), and He gave them instructions concerning the food that they were to eat (Gen 1:29). Likewise, in the context of the Noahic Covenant, God directed people to be fruitful and multiply (Gen 9:17), and He instructed them concerning the food they were to eat (Gen 9:3). The most basic human functions–eating and procreation–are circumscribed by God’s commands, both according to God’s original dealings with humanity in creation and according to the Noahic Covenant.

Some parallels between the context of God’s work in His original creation and in His dealings with Noah:

-The earth was formless and void: covered with water. Gen 1:2
-The earth was entirely covered with water. Gen 6:17-20

-God made light and darkness–naming the day and night–then He made the sun, moon, and stars to govern the day and night, as well as the seasons, days and years. Gen 1:3-5, 14-19

-God re-established seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night. Gen 8:22
-God directed people to be fruitful and multiply. Gen 1:28
-God directed people to be fruitful and multiply. Gen 9:17

-God instructed people concerning the food they were allowed to eat. Gen 1:29
-God instructed people concerning the food they were allowed to eat. Gen 9:3

The Gracious, Unconditional Nature of the Noahic Covenant

            Spirit-inspired Scripture declares, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). There would be one exception to this rule (Heb 4:15), but Noah was not that exception. God’s choosing of Noah was an act of His grace (the word translated “favor” may be translated “grace”).

            God had told Adam that he would face death for eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on the day that he ate the fruit (Gen 2:17). Adam indeed experienced the condemnation of death, the curse of suffering, and forsakenness from God from the very day that he broke God’s command. But Adam did not immediately drop dead; he was not immediately cast into Hell, which is what he deserved. Instead–even as God was pronouncing curses on Adam, Eve, and the serpent–God also issued a promise. God promised that a seed from the woman would–though having His heel bruised by the serpent’s seed–nevertheless bruise the head of the serpent’s seed (Gen 3:15). This seed, who would break the serpent’s head, had not yet been brought into the world during Noah’s time. Therefore, the Covenant of Redemption–as it first began to be revealed in God’s promise concerning the seed of the woman–came to depend on God’s gracious, covenantal dealings with Noah. If Adam had immediately been destroyed in the Garden of Eden, then he would have had no hope of salvation; if all mankind had been destroyed in the flood, then God’s eternal plan (the Covenant of Redemption) would have been frustrated, and His promise concerning the seed of the woman would have been broken.[3]

            Seen in this light, the Noahic Covenant was a means used by the Father, by which He (re-)set the world-stage in order to fulfill His eternal decree concerning His Son (the head of the Covenant Redemption and the promised seed). For this reason, the Noahic Covenant–unlike some other covenants–did not include a curse that would be given if people broke this covenant. The Noahic Covenant “was simply a unilateral promise to save Noah and his family and never destroy the world by water again. God Himself even supplied the ‘sign’ of the covenant (Gen 6:18-22; 9:8-17).[4] Man could do nothing to break the covenant so that God would destroy the world by water again as a curse.”[5]

            As a unilateral covenant given for the purpose of redemption, the Noahic Covenant (which was given in connection with an acceptable sacrifice, Gen 8:20-21) was similar to a later covenant: the New Covenant established in Christ. The similarity between the Noahic Covenant and the New Covenant is not just something that modern scholars may “read-in” to the text. Rather, the Spirit-inspired Prophet, in a passage predicting the New Covenant, declared, “This is like the days of Noah to me: as I swore that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you” (Isa 54:9). The Noahic Covenant set the stage for and pointed forward to the New Covenant: the Covenant of Grace by which the blood of Christ removes God’s wrath toward elect sinners.




            [1]Peter J. Gentry, “Kingdom Through Covenant: Humanity as the Divine Image,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 12, Number 1 (Spring 2008), 20.

            [2]There is a single Noahic Covenant. Though the “covenant” with Noah was first mentioned in Genesis 6:18, the covenant was not ratified, along with the covenant sign being given, until Genesis 8:22­­-9:17. God gave an initial expression of a covenant commitment to Noah before the flood, followed by a formal inauguration of the covenant after the flood. Robertson notes: “This covenantal activity fits a frequent pattern of covenantal administration in Scripture. It is not necessary to posit two covenants with Noah, one preceding the flood and one following the flood” (Robertson, 110n2). Likewise, Goldsworthy notes that God spoke of the covenant using the singular: though the details were different each time God spoke of the covenant with Noah, and the covenant is revealed in several places, we must think of it as one covenant. Graeme Goldsworthy, According to Plan: The Unfolding Revelation of God in the Bible (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1991), 114-115.

            [3]Coxe and Owen, 65.

            [4]That is, unlike the Abrahamic Covenant–in which people had to administer the covenant sign of circumcision–the sign of the Noahic Covenant–the rainbow–was unilateral (Gen 9:12-13).

            [5]Malone, 59-60.


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