What does Genesis 9:17 mean?
ESV: God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
NIV: So God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.'
NASB: And God said to Noah, 'This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.'
CSB: God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and every creature on earth."
NLT: Then God said to Noah, 'Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.'
KJV: And God said unto Noah, This is the token of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.
NKJV: And God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant which I have established between Me and all flesh that is on the earth.”
Verse Commentary:
This verse restates, yet again, that the sign of the rainbow is meant to prove His covenant promise to all humanity and all animal-kind forever. The symbolism hints at a battle bow "set" in the clouds, instead of being held in God's hand, representing a lasting peace. That peace comes in the form of God's promise to never flood the earth and destroy all life again.

Notice once more that humans and animals have done nothing to earn or deserve God's gift of mercy in never wiping out life with a flood again. God established the covenant. God will keep the agreement. God provided a sign of the promise. As those who live after the terrible, catastrophic destruction of the flood, God's righteous judgment for the sinfulness and violence on the earth, we are left to simply receive and enjoy God's promise.

This will serve as a model for other promises of God in the rest of Scripture.
Verse Context:
Genesis 9:1–17 continues God's interaction with Noah and his sons following the flood. First, God blesses them and gives them specific instructions about how to live in this remade world. God commands them to reproduce and fill the earth, among other things. Next, God establishes His unilateral covenant to never again end all life on earth with a flood, offering the rainbow as a sign of this promise.
Chapter Summary:
Chapter 9 describes God's interactions with Noah and his sons following the flood. First, God gives blessings and instructions, including the command to reproduce and fill the earth. Next, God makes a unilateral covenant with humanity and animals never to end all life with a flood again. He offers the rainbow as a sign of this promise. Finally, Noah prophesies about the future of his son's descendants after an awkward episode in which Ham talks to his brothers about seeing Noah passed out drunk and naked.
Chapter Context:
Chapters 6, 7, and 8 describe God's destruction of the world in a massive flood. Now, in Genesis 9, Scripture describes God's dealings with Noah and his sons following the flood. First, God blesses them and gives specific instructions, including the command to fill the earth. Next, God expands on His promise to never again end all life on earth a flood. Finally, Noah curses Ham and blesses Shem and Japheth after Ham tells his brothers about seeing Noah passed out drunk and naked. Chapters 10 and 11 will sketch out the history of mankind from Noah to Abraham.
Book Summary:
The book of Genesis establishes fundamental truths about God. Among these are His role as the Creator, His holiness, His hatred of sin, His love for mankind, and His willingness to provide for our redemption. We learn not only where mankind has come from, but why the world is in its present form. The book also presents the establishment of Israel, God's chosen people. Many of the principles given in other parts of Scripture depend on the basic ideas presented here in the book of Genesis. Within the framework of the Bible, Genesis explains the bare-bones history of the universe leading up to the captivity of Israel in Egypt, setting the stage for the book of Exodus.
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