3) Gen 9:8–11: In the verses prior to these, the Lord blessed Noah and his sons and then gave them several prohibitions (Gen 9:1–7).[1]

In keeping with the overall literary structure of a chiasm in the flood narrative (Gen 6:9–9:19),[2] Gen 9:9 repeats several key terms from Gen 6:17.[3]

Furthermore, this passage refers to the covenant with Noah which the Lord formally established in Gen 6:18.[4]

While God announced the destruction of the entire world before the flood, here he proclaimed its preservation.[5]

Moses and his original audience understood the concept of covenants well.[6] They consist of formal treaties ratified by an oath between two parties.[7]

Typically, one group or individual imposed a covenant upon another as an obligation.[8] They bound one or both parties to uphold stipulations: performing or refraining from certain duties.[9]

Unlike most covenants, God made this pact unilaterally. He promised to keep it regardless of the human ability to obey the commands he delivered in Gen 9:4–6.[10]

This passage begins by saying, “Then God spoke to Noah and his sons, saying ‘And behold, I myself am establishing my covenant with you and your seed after you, and with all living beings which [are] with you: birds, and cattle, and every animal on the earth with you, of all which go out from the ark with you, to every animal of the earth.’”

The Hebrew construction of the verb “establishing” (qum) makes it difficult to determine whether the Lord spoke of beginning a new treaty or continuing an existing one.[11]

A majority of scholars believe it refers to a previously established relationship.[12]

Some argue that God set this covenant in place at creation due to the blessing of humanity and the animals in Gen 1:20–22.[13]

However, the Lord did not bless the land animals in Gen 1:24–25.

Most experts assert that God referred to the legal agreement he instituted in Gen 6:18,[14] since that verse first employs the term “covenant” (berith).[15]

Thus, Gen 9:9–17 likely represents the fulfillment of the Lord’s earlier promise to Noah.[16]

Not only did God make this covenant unilateral, it was universal.[17]

Within nine verses, the Lord repeated the phrase “every living being” (kol nephesh khay) eight times.[18]

All on earth come under its promise.[19]

This reflects the Lord’s passionate care for both his human and nonhuman creation (Prov 12:10; Jon 4:11; Isa 11:6–9). It also proves the unilateral nature of this covenant, as animals cannot enter into binding agreements.[20]

The Lord repeated, “‘And I establish my covenant with you. And all flesh will never again be cut off by the waters of the flood. And there will never again be a flood to ruin the earth.’”

This creates the antithesis of Gen 6:13, 17.[21]

Hebrew grammar uses various degrees of negation. Here the Lord stated the strongest form, which means “never.”[22]

Years later, God referred to the certainty of redemption for his people by citing this promise (Isa 54:7–10).[23]

To be “cut off” (kharath) depicts God’s judgment against sin (Gen 17:14; Mic 5:10–15; Zeph 1:1–6),[24]  removing someone from the safety of the Lord’s care and into death.[25]

By stating twice that such a flood will never again cut off all living things, the Lord made this pronouncement emphatic.

However, this covenant does not mean that judgment upon all will never occur,[26] only that God will not send another cataclysmic flood (Gen 8:22).[27]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Gen 9:8–11. Do you think that this speech refers to the covenant which the Lord promised to Noah in Gen 6:18? Why or why not? Whom did God include in this compact? What is its limitation? How does this passage impact your understanding of God’s care for those he creates? What can you do to emulate him?





Go to A Bow Set in a Cloud

[Related posts include Inhabitants of the Sea and Sky (Gen 1:20–23); Living Things from the Earth (Gen 1:24–25); The End was Near (Gen 6:13); A Deluge to Ruin All Flesh (Gen 6:17); God Establishes a Covenant (Gen 6:18); Noah’s Grateful Response (Gen 8:20); A Rest-Inducing Aroma (Gen 8:21); A Promise of Stability (Gen 8:22); A Renewed Mandate (Gen 9:1); Every Moving Living Thing (Gen 9:2–4); Blood for Blood (Gen 9:5–7); A Bow Set in a Cloud (Gen 9:12–17); and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: A Covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20–9:17)]


[1]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 316.

[2]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 158.

[3]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 146.

[4]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 74.

[5]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 158.

[6]Walton, Genesis, 343. I discuss this in detail in Author and Date of Genesis.

[7]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 9:17.

[8]M. Weinfeld, “בְּרִית” (berith), TDOT 2:255–79, 255.

[9]Mendenhall and Herion, “Covenant,” ABD 1: 1179.

[10]Kline, Kingdom Prologue: Genesis Foundations for a Covenantal Worldview, 246.

[11]J. Gamberoni, “qum,” TDOT 12:589–612, 600. Here the verb occurs as a hiphil participle.

[12]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 75–6.

[13]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 146.

[14]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 194.

[15] Result of Logos 7 word study on “בְּרִית” (berith).

[16]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 316.

[17]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 64.

[18]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 146.

[19]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 64.

[20]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 316.

[21] Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 195.

[22] Gesenius, Gesenius’ Hebrew Grammar, 317, https://archive.org/stream/geseniushebrewgr00geseuoft#page/316/mode/2up. This is an imperfect verb paired with lo (“not”).

[23]Vos, Biblical Theology: Old and New Testaments, 66.

[24]G. F. Hasel, “כָּרַת” (berith), TDOT 7:345–52, 345.

[25]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 146.

[26]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 316.

[27]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 195.