And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you…
Well might a reflecting mind look with wonder at the marvellous arch, which in magic swiftness, and in more magic colours, encompasses the still cloud covered part of heaven; whilst the radiant sun sends his glorious beams from the other part, already restored to its usual serenity. Its beauty delights the eye, whilst its grandeur elevates the mind; it teaches the omnipotence of God, but still more His love; when the flashes of lightning have ceased, and the roaring of the tempest is silent, its chaste brilliancy falls like morning dew on the desponding heart; admiration and gratitude mingle in the breast; and when the pearly bow then appears, like an eternal bridge, to connect heaven and earth, the soul rises on the soft wings of veneration, disturbed by no doubt, and awed by no fear, to those regions where love and beauty never cease. Almost all ancient nations, therefore, have connected religious ideas with the appearance of the rainbow. The Greeks considered it generally as the path on which Iris, the messenger of the king and queen of Olympus, travelled from heaven to earth; Homer describes it as fixed in the clouds to be a sign to man, either of war or of icy winter. But Iris herself was very frequently identified with the rainbow, and she was considered to be the daughter of Thaumas (Wonder), by Electra (Brightness), the daughter of Oceanus, which parentage describes appropriately the nature and origin of the rainbow. Her usual epithets are "swift-footed," and "gold-winged"; and the probable etymology of her name points either to the external, or, perhaps, to the internal connection between earth and heaven, between man and the deity; and thus she is the conciliating, the peace-restoring goddess, and is represented with the herald. staff in her left hand. The Persians seem likewise to have connected the office of divine messenger with that phenomenon; for an old picture represents a winged boy on a rainbow, and before him kneels an old man in a posture of worship. The Hindoos describe the rainbow as a weapon in the hands of Indras, with which he hurls flashing darts upon the impious giants, and the Chinese consider it as foreboding troubles and misfortunes on earth; but the former regard it as also the symbol of peace, which appears to man when the combat of the heavens is silenced. These analogies are sufficient to prove the generality with which higher notions were attached to the rainbow; they account for its application in the Pentateuch to a very remarkable purpose; they explain why the New Testament represented the rainbow as an attribute of the Divine throne (Revelation 4:3), or of angels sent as messengers upon the earth (Revelation 10:1); but they are likewise clear enough to manifest in this point also the great superiority of Biblical conceptions. In the Mosaic narrative every superstitious element is banished; it serves no other end but to remind God of His merciful promise never again to destroy the earth and its inhabitants; it is, indeed, appointed more for God than for the sake of man; God sees it, and remembers thus the everlasting covenant with the earth; and if the men are rejoiced at the sight of that beautiful phenomenon, it is merely because it gives them the certainty that the covenant is not forgotten; when torrents of rain begin to inundate the earth, and the thunder rolls through the heavy air, when lowering clouds conceal the light of the orb of day, and the heart of man begins to despond and to tremble, the rainbow appears suddenly like a thought from a better world; it announces the peace of nature, and the renewal of the eternal promise. And this implies another proof that the Noachian covenant imposed no obligations upon man, and that it was a pure act of mercy.
(M. M. Kalisch, Ph. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And God said, This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: