Commented Bible Passages

These Bible meditations are meant as a way of seeking God in silence and prayer in the midst of our daily life. During the course of a day, take a moment to read the Bible passage with the short commentary and to reflect on the questions which follow. Afterwards, a small group of 3 to 10 people can meet to share what they have discovered and perhaps for a time of prayer.

JPEG - 134.8 kb



Genesis 9:8-17: The tense patience of God
Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: "I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth." And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth." So God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth." (Genesis 9:8-17)

God announces good news to Noah: there will be no more great floods; life on earth will not be annihilated. He commits himself by an “eternal covenant between God and all living creatures.” Here, the covenant is not an agreement between partners, but the unilateral decision of God. The ultimate horizon of life on earth is not a disaster but the promise of God.

According to the Bible, the great catastrophe is behind us; it is what living beings have been saved from. Today, some worry that a catastrophe of global dimensions lies before us. An environmental disaster or an unrestrained war could trigger the end of the world.

The flood is not behind us in a historical sense. The story does not speak about a single event in the past, but about permanent human fears. From time immemorial, stories about floods of water or of fire have depicted potential ends of life on earth.

The biblical account says that God, who created the world, does not let it drown but safeguards it. The world in which we live is always already saved from disaster. And saved from violence, too. The flood wiped out those who, by their “great evil” (Genesis 6, 5), made life unbearable. A new beginning is possible.

The great promise of God, that “the waters will never again become a flood to destroy,” is a mixed blessing. For in this way, God has forsworn employing any radical solutions. He will never again wash the earth with floods of water to rid it of the violent and the wicked. From now on, “he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good” (Matthew 5:45). Will God give free rein to the wicked? In any case, he has decided to bear them with long-suffering.

The rainbow, the sign of the covenant, is a symbol of God’s patience. By saying “my bow,” God appears as a warrior. In the world of the Bible, the image of God going out to battle to wrest the weakest from the hands of their oppressors is not unusual. But here, God “sets his bow in the clouds”; he lays down his weapon. Is God refusing to fight, resigning himself to the ineradicable evil in human beings?

God’s bow in the clouds is rounded; it is a strung bow. God is patient, yes, but his patience is tense, full of pent-up energy. The profusion of colors of the rainbow could stand for the infinite resources of God’s love. He will find a way of defeating evil without waging war.

- What is the rainbow a symbol of for me?

- What way of looking at our world today and our future does this Bible passage offer us?

- What attitudes and behavior does the tense patience of God commit us to?

Other bible meditations:

Last updated: 1 May 2024