“I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” -Genesis 9:13
Read Genesis 9:8-17
God’s bow sits in the clouds, no longer aimed at earth and its inhabitants, but turned away as a sign of peace and protection. The bow symbolizes God’s first explicit covenant made with humankind: destruction will never again flood the earth. When clouds roll in and a bow appears in the sky, humans need not be afraid of another devastating flood, but can rest in God’s promise of peace. The bow points away from earth, not toward it.
Centuries later, something else would appear in the sky: an army of angels proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” (Luke 2:14). Here again, God’s goodwill toward humanity is made known to us from above. On that Christmas night, another flood would rise. This time not a flood of destruction, but a flood of restoration—a flood of the divine presence making good on the promise issued to Noah and all of creation. The salvation of humanity would be carried not in an ark but in a manger. God does not abandon human flesh but shows up in it.
While Noah certainly wasn’t at the first Christmas, imagine that God’s bow was. Imagine that, just maybe, it was a cloudy evening and a faintly colored rainbow streaked across the dimming sky—the bow still turned away from creation, just as God promised. With the arrival of Jesus on that holy night, the first covenant would hold true and the downpour of restoration would begin.
God of Noah, thank you for your covenant faithfulness. Show us again the bow of peace and touch us with the waters of restoration that we might trust in your promise for all living creatures.
Dallas Nord, M.A. Theology Student, Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary