THE NOAHIC COVENANT: The Covenant of Preservation

B. Childress
Apr 4, 2008

Under the Adamic Covenant man was put on probation to test his faith and obedience to the covenant.  The
importance of man's obedience to God, the necessity of conquering Satan, the place of diligence in work, and the trust
in the substitutionary death of an animal for their faith-covering were emphasized in the Adamic Covenant. This put a
requirement on man to live up to these realities.  It was, once again, a period of probation extending from Adam to
Noah.  During this time, the human race became divided into two groups, those who believed and obeyed God and
those who refused.  Beginning with Cain and Abel two seed lines developed until the days of Noah; the ungodly
(Genesis 4) and the godly (Genesis 5).  Though man was under the law of conscience, the law of sin continued to
drive him away from covenantal relationship with God.  Cain's rejection of the covenant sacrifice and murder of his
covenant brother, Abel, led eventually to the corruption of the entire human race with one exception; "Noah found
grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 4:1-24; 6:1-13).

The days of Noah were characterized by intermarriage, great wickedness, evil imaginations and desires, corruption
and violence.  This total failure to keep the covenant demanded God's judgment (Genesis 6:1-13; Matthew 24:37-39).  
The judgment from breaking the Edenic Covenant was death and expulsion from Eden while the judgment for breaking
the Adamic Covenant was death by a universal flood.

Even before the judgment was executed, God began to move in covenant grace to preserve His next covenant man.  
Out of the godly line, God chose Noah - a man who was keeping the Adamic Covenant (Genesis 6:8,9; 7:1).  He was
told to build an ark of safety to  preserve his household and certain of the animal kingdom.  This he did in obedience
to God's commandment (Genesis 6,-8; Hebrews 11:7; 1 Peter 3:30; 11 Peter 2:5).

When Noah departed from the ark after the Flood, God made a covenant with him, his family and all creatures.  This
constituted a new beginning for man upon an earth cleansed from sinful flesh.

I.  The WORDS of the Covenant

    A.  The Promises of the Covenant

    The promises of the Noahic Covenant reinstate God's purpose for man as stated in the Edenic Covenant adding
    certain restrictions and responsibilities.

    1.  Promises of Blessing (Genesis 8:15-19,21,22; 9:1-7,11,15)

    a.  God's Blessing upon Noah and his sons (Genesis 9:1)

    God promised Noah that His favour and benevolence would remain on him and his family (Isaiah 54:
    9,10; Hebrews 11:7).

    b.  Fruitfulness and Multiplicity (Genesis 9:1,7; 8:15-17)

    This fruitfulness involved both natural and spiritual reproduction.  It involved re-populating the earth
    with people that would be in covenantal relationship with God (Genesis 1:18; John 15:16; Acts 9:31).

    c.  Ruling over Creatures (Genesis 9:2)

    The creatures of the earth were made subject to man's authority, to be ruled by fear and dread
    (Genesis 2:19,20; Romans 8:20-22).

    d.  Eating of Meats (Genesis 9:3)

    For the first time man was allowed to eat meat as well as herbs.  Though "clean and unclean"
    animals were distinguished going into the ark none were forbidden to Noah to be eaten (Genesis 1:
    29,20; 2:9,16; 6:18-22; 7:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:1-5; Hebrews 13:9; Romans 14:1-6,14,15).  Prohibition
    of unclean meats was not given until the Mosaic Covenant which was given to the nation of Israel
    (Leviticus 11).

    e.  Earth Preserved from further Curse (Genesis 8:21)

    Though the ground was cursed under the Adamic Covenant, God promised that He would for man's
    sake restrain any further curse (Genesis 3:17-19; Revelation 22:3).

    f.  Creatures preserved from annihilation (Genesis 8:21)

    Though the creatures would be ruled by fear and dread and affected by the results of sin, the
    animal creation would not be totally destroyed by God (Jonah 4:11; Psalm 104:9-29; Romans 8:19-

    g.  Four Seasons established (Genesis 8:22)

    Under the Edenic Covenant, the sun, moon, and stars were given for signs and seasons, days and
    years (Genesis 1:14-19).  However, from Adam to Noah the earth had a constant climate and was
    watered by a mist rather than rain (Genesis 2:5-6; 7:4).  Though the earth was cursed before the
    flood the seasons were established after the flood to further affect man's toil with the cursed earth.  
    These seasons were to be a blessing to man upon his obedience to the covenant but could be
    turned into judgment upon his disobedience (Deuteronomy 11:10-17; Psalm 1:3; Acts 3:19-21; 1
    Thessalonians 5:1,2; Ecclesiastes 3:1; Song of Solomon 2:11-13).

    h.  No more Universal Flood (Genesis 9:11,15)

    To free man from the fear of another universal deluge God promised to never destroy the earth
    again with a flood.  Though there have been many local floods the earth is never again to be
    destroyed by water (Isaiah 54:9,10; II Peter 3:5-7).

    2.  Promises of Cursing (Genesis 9:25-27)

    The curse given in relation to this covenant is a part of the progressive unfolding of the curses in
    Scripture.  Under the Adamic Covenant the curse was placed upon the serpent and the earth (Genesis 3:
    14-17; 8:21).  The first man to be cursed was Cain who was a liar, murderer, and blood-of-the lamb
    rejector (Genesis 4:1-16).  As the son of Adam came under a curse, so Ham, a son of Noah, brought his
    son under a curse.  When Ham dishonored his father in relation to his nakedness he brought a curse
    upon Canaan his son (Genesis 9:20-27; Leviticus 18:6,7).

    3.  National and Temporal (Genesis 9:25-27)

    From the three sons of Noah the earth was repopulated and divided into families, tongues, lands and
    nations (Genesis 9:18,19; 10:5,20,31,32).

    a.  Shem (Genesis 9:26,27; 10:21-31; 11:10-32)

    Shem was to be a blessed race having Canaan as his servant and being a blessing to Japheth.  
    The Biblical history of the nation of Israel illustrates this.

    b.  Ham (Genesis 9:24-27; 10:6-20)

    As Noah was affected by the sin of his son, Ham, so Ham as a father was judged in his son,
    Canaan.  Canaan was cursed and was to be a servant of servants to both Shem and Japheth.  The
    Biblical history of the Canaanite nations illustrates this.

    c.  Japheth (Genesis 9:27; 10:2-5)

    Japheth was to be blessed with enlargement.  He was to dwell in the tents of Shem, and Canaan
    was also to be his servant.  Subsequent history illustrates that the Japhetic races were given large
    parts of the earth to dwell in and were blessed therein.

    4.  Spiritual and Eternal (Genesis 9:25-27)

    Shem was blessed by God for honoring his father and was chosen to be the progenitor of the godly seed
    line.  From him came Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Israel, David, and the Messiah who were all given
    covenants of redemption (Romans 9:4-6; Luke 3:23-38).  It was to be through the seed of Shem that the
    Messianic blessing would come on all families of the earth.

    B.  The Terms of the Covenant

    1.  Faith and Obedience

    Noah was a man who believed and obeyed the commandments of the Lord (Genesis 6:22; 7:5; Hebrews
    11:7; 1 Peter 3:20; II Peter 2:5)

    2.  Not to eat blood  (Genesis 9:4)

    Though man was permitted to eat meats under this covenant, he was not to eat blood.  God stated that
    the blood represents life and the shedding of blood represents death.  Because God established the
    shedding of animal blood as the substitutionary sacrifice for man's sin, He has reserved the blood unto
    Himself and thus forbade man to partake of it.  The Mosaic Covenant later confirmed this restriction, which
    was to ensure that man would neither believe that the sacrifice  of the animal could cleanse him from sin,
    nor that he could receive the life of the animal (Leviticus 3:17); 17:10-16; Deuteronomy 12:16).  Life and
    cleansing would in due time come through the incorruptible blood of the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus
    Christ (John 6:55-63).

    3.  Murder Forbidden (Genesis 9:5,6)

    In response to the violence beginning with Cain and increasing to the days of Noah, God specifically
    forbade murder.  This was to remind man of how valuable the life of man made in the image of God was.  
    This protection of human life was confirmed and amplified under the Mosaic Covenant (Exodus 10:13;
    Numbers 35).

    4.  Capital Punishment (Genesis 9:5,6)

    With the prohibition of murder came the punishment for it.  Under the Adamic Covenant murders were
    judged by God Himself, as with Cain and Abel (Genesis 4).  With the Noahic Covenant, God delegated the
    authority to man to deal with murderers.  The death penalty as the highest act of governmental authority
    implies all lesser levels of human government.  The Mosaic Covenant confirmed the principles of a "life for
    a life" whether by man or beast (Exodus 21:23-25; Leviticus 24:17-22; Deuteronomy 19:21; Numbers 35).  
    Under the New Covenant, the institution of human government is fully endorsed even to the extent of
    capital punishment (Matthew 22:17-21; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; 1 Peter 2:17).  Paul's reference to the sword of
    the state would have clearly indicated to the Church at Rome the right of execution (Romans 13:1-7).  
    Though murderers may escape capital punishment in this life there is eternal punishment for unrepentant
    murderers (Revelation 21:8; 22:15).

    C.  The OATH of the Covenant

    Though the word "oath" is not specifically used in Genesis 8 and 9, Isaiah 54:9 reveals that God did attach His
    oath to the Noahic Covenant.  This confirmation of God's commitment to the covenant promises made it
    irrevocable (Hebrews 6:13-20).

    D.  The Book

    Though there is no specific account of this covenant being written in a book, it does find its place, as do
    previous covenants, in the Book of Genesis.

II.  The BLOOD of the Covenant

    A.  The Sacrifice of the Covenant

    Though Noah took both clean and unclean animals into the ark, only clean animals were sacrificed to God as
    burnt offerings.  This animal body and blood constituted the sacrifice of the Noahic Covenant and was a "sweet
    savour" unto the Lord (Genesis 6:19,20; 7:2,3,8,9; 8:20).

    Under the Mosaic Covenant voluntary offerings were "sweet savour" offerings, while compulsory offerings were
    "non-sweet" sacrifices (Leviticus 1-7).

    B.  The Mediator of the Covenant

    Following the pattern of the Adamic Covenant, Noah functioned as the partriarchal king-priest of his priestly
    office (Genesis 8:20; Hebrews 8:3).  Adam, Noah, Job, and Abraham all illustrate the existence of the household
    priesthood order.  The fullest illustration of the details of priestly ministry came later under the Mosaic
    Covenant.  Noah's priesthood pointed to the ultimate mediator who began a new creation - Jesus Christ.

    C.  The Sanctuary of the Covenant

Noah's altar is the first mention of an altar in Scripture (Genesis 8:20).  In that this was the place where the priest
offered his sacrifice, the altar constituted the sanctuary of the patriarchs.  Wherever God's covenant people built an
altar, whether of earth or stone, there God promised to record His name, come to them, meet with them, and bless
them.  This revelation of His presence would consecrate that place as being sacred and holy to the Lord (Exodus 20:

III.  The SEAL of the Covenant

Genesis 9:12-17 plainly states that the rainbow was given by God as the token of the Noahic Covenant.  God placed a
sign in the sky between heaven and earth, and between God and man.  God committed Himself to look upon it as He
looked towards earth and remember His covenant mercy.  Likewise man was to look upon it as he looked toward
heaven and remember with faith God's covenant promise.  In that this covenant was made with the whole earth for the
duration of its existence, all the world may witness to the fact that God is a covenant keeping God.

Subsequent Scripture reveals that the rainbow is also around God's throne, indicating that all the administrations of
God's authority in relation to earth and to man pass through the remembrance of His covenant mercy (Ezekiel 1:28;
Revelation 4:3).  The ultimate revelation of the token of the Noahic Covenant is seen in the Lord Jesus Christ, the
mediator of the New Covenant, having the rainbow around His head (Revelation 10:1).

The Noahic Covenant contains a reaffirmation of the creative purposes of God as stated in the Edenic Covenant.  It is
also an extension of "the seed" promises of redemption as in the Adamic Covenant.  Though it arises out of a time of
great judgment, it establishes a hope that God's purposes in creation will be fulfilled through redemption.  The hope of
the Noahic Covenant finds its complete fulfillment in the New Covenant.

The 'Second' Covenant of Redemption

In God's covenant with Adam the first reference to the two lines of development among humanity appears.  One line
belongs to the seed of Satan, one line belongs to the seed of the woman.  Genesis 4-11 sketches the early
development of these two divergent lines.

The covenant with Noah appears in the context of the unfolding of these two lines, and manifests God's attitude toward
both.  Total and absolute destruction shall be heaped on the seed of Satan, while free and unmerited grace shall be
lavished on the seed of the woman.  

Primarily four passages present the nature of the covenant established with Noah:  Genesis 6:17-22; Genesis 8:20-22;
Genesis 9:1-7; and Genesis 9:8-17.  The following characteristics of the covenant with Noah may be noted on the
basis of these passages:

1)  The covenant with Noah emphasizes the close interrelation of the creative and redemptive covenants.  Much of
God's bond with Noah entails a renewal of the provisions of creation, and even reflects closely the language of the
original covenant.  The reference to the "birds...cattle...(and) creeping things" of Genesis 6:20 and 8:17 compares with
the similar description in Genesis 1:24,25,30.  God's charge to Noah and his family to "be fruitful, and multiply, and fill
the earth" (Genesis 9:1,7) reflects the identical command given at creation (Genesis 1:28).

Still further, the cultural mandate to "subdue" the earth (Genesis 1:28) finds a close parallel in the covenant with
Noah.  God's judgment on sin brought a disharmony into man's ruling role over creation.  As a consequence, the fear
and terror of man was to fall on every beast, bird, and fish of creation (Genesis 9:2).  Man's rule shall be exercised in
an unnatural context of "terror" and "dread."  Yet he continues to maintain his created position as "subduer."

The explicit repetition of these creation mandates in the context of the covenant of redemption expands the vistas of
redemption's horizons.  Redeemed man must not internalize his salvation so that he thinks narrowly in terms of a "soul-
saving" deliverance.  To the contrary, redemption involves his total life-style as a social, cultural creature.  Rather than
withdrawing narrowly into a restricted form of "spiritual" existence, redeemed man must move out with a total world-and-
life perspective.

At the same time, these broader implications of God's covenant with Noah must be viewed in a distinctively redemptive
rather than in a more generalized context.  God does not relate to his creation through Noah apart from his on-going
program of redemption.  Even the provision concerning the ordering of seasons must be understood in the framework
of God's purposes respecting redemption.

One of the earliest writings of Israel's prophets rather forcefully emphasizes the unity of these broader dimensions of
the covenant with Noah to God's redemptive purposes.  Hosea expresses himself in the language of God's covenant
with Noah on questions relating to God's ongoing purposes of redemption for Israel.  God will "cut a covenant" with the
created universe, including the beast of the field, the birds of the heaven, and the creeping things of the ground
(Hosea 2:18).  In anticipation of future redemptive activity for Israel, Hosea employs the distinctive categories of the
universe found in God's covenant with Noah.

Thus Hosea anticipates the continuing significance of God's broader covenant commitments squarely in the context of
God's purposes to redeem a people to himself.  The sustaining of all God's creatures by the grace of the Noahic
covenant relates immediately to God's reestablishing of Israel in a fruitful relation to Himself.

The covenant with Noah binds together God's purposes in creation with His purposes in redemption.  Noah, his seed,
and all creation benefit from this gracious relationship.

2)  A second distinctive of the covenant with Noah relates to the particularity of God's redemptive grace.  Prior to the
flood, the wickedness of man provoked God's decision to destroy him from the face of the earth (Genesis 6:5-7).  In
contrast to this solemn determination, God expressed a gracious attitude toward Noah: "
But Noah found grace in the
eyes of the LORD.
"  Genesis 6:8.  From among the mass of depraved humanity, God directed His grace toward one
man and his family.  

It may be that God's grace had kept Noah from sinking to the levels of depravity found among his contemporaries.  But
nothing indicates that Noah's favored position arose from anything other than the grace of the Lord Himself.  The term
"grace," which describes God's attitude to Noah, occasionally refers to something other than a response of mercy to a
sinful situation  (Genesis 39:4; 50:4).  But when describing God's response to fallen man, "grace" depicts a merciful
attitude to an undeserving sinner.  In Noah's day, every initial formation of the thoughts of man's heart (Genesis 6:5),
were only evil all the day.  But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.

Although Genesis 6:9 affirms that Noah was a "righteous man," structural considerations characteristic of the book of
Genesis forbid the conclusion that Noah received "grace" because of a previously existing righteousness.  The phrase
"these are the generations of..." which begins Genesis 6:9 occurs 10 times in Genesis.  Each time the phrase indicates
the beginning of another major section of the book.  This phrase decisively separates the statement that "Noah found
grace" (Genesis 6:9) from the affirmation that Noah was a "righteous man"  (Genesis 6:9). God's grace to Noah did not
appear because of this man's righteousness, but because of the particularity of God's program of redemption.

The principle of particularity as seen in God's favor toward Noah represents an early manifestation of a theme which
continues throughout the covenant of redemption.  As stressed by the apostle Paul, the whole by-grace-through-faith
salvation-experience comes as a gift of God to those who are dead in trespasses and sin (Ephesians 2:1, 2, 8-10).

3)  A third principle inherent in the establishment of the covenant with Noah relates to God's intention to deal with
families in his covenant relationships.  God will destroy all the earth.  But to Noah God says:

But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy
son's wives with thee.
"  Genesis 6:18

The repetition of this theme of God's dealing with the family of Noah through the narrative indicates the significance of
the concept for the Noahic covenant.  One text in particular may be noted:

And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in
this generation.
"  Genesis 7:1

The righteousness of the single head of the family serves as the basis for including the whole of his descendants in
the ark.  Because Noah is righteous, his entire family experiences deliverance from the flood.

4)  Fourthly, the covenant with Noah primarily may be characterized as the covenant of preservation.  This dimension
of the Noahic covenant becomes evident in God's response to Noah's thank-offering after the flood-waters had

And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt
offerings on the altar. And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the
ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any
more every thing living, as I have done.  While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold, and heat, and
summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
"  Genesis 8:20-22.

By this decree, God binds himself to preserve the earth in its present world-order until the time of the consummation.

In some respects, the reason given for God's affirmation never again to curse the earth appears to be a
non sequitur.  
"Because the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth,"  God will not again curse the ground.  It might be
expected that God would determine to curse the ground repeatedly because of man's persistent depravity.

However, God understands that the sin-problem never will be cured by judgment and curse.  If appropriate relief from
sin's corruption is to appear, the earth must be preserved free of devastating judgments such as the flood for a time.

God exercised his prerogative of just judgment in the days of Noah not because he was ignorant of the inability of
judgment to cure sin.  The Lord knew precisely the state of man's heart before the flood, and certainly understood the
limitations of judgment's power to change the heart of man (Genesis 6:5-7).

However, to provide an appropriate historical demonstration of the ultimate destiny of a world under sin, God
consumed the earth with the flood.  This cataclysmic event later became the model of God's final judgment of the
earth, and the basis for refuting the argument of scoffers who would mock the certainty of an ultimate accounting-day
(11 Peter 3:4-6).

The divine dealing with man after the flood must be viewed with this overall perspective in mind.  Man is totally
depraved, inclined toward self-destruction, and worthy of judgment.  But God in grace and mercy determines to
preserve the life of man, and promotes the multiplication of his descendants.

God's commitment to preserve man subsequent to the flood also becomes evident in the provisions of Genesis 9:3-6:

Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.  But flesh with
the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.  And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the
hand of every beast will I require it, and at the hand of man; at the hand of every man's brother will I require the life of
man.  Whoso sheddeth man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
" Genesis

All created life is sacred.  Yet the highest value must be attached to the life of man.  To sustain life, man may eat of all
the beasts of God's creation.  Yet reverence must be shown for the life-principle of the creature, symbolized by his

More particularly, the man or beast that commits murder stands under special sanctions.  God requires that the life of
the manslayer must be taken by the hand of man.

Preservation of mankind is not stated explicitly as the reason for this requirement.  The reason goes deeper.  Because
God's own image is stamped in man, the murderer must die.

Yet preservation of the race plays a major role in this legislation.  The immediately succeeding verse reiterates the
earlier command to Noah and his family to, "
And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and
multiply, and replenish the earth.
"  Genesis 9:1.  If this divine mandate of multiplication is to be realized, humanity must
be preserved from the murderous forces of man and beast, which so obviously are present in a depraved world.  The
taking of the life of the manslayer enforces the sanctity of human life, and preserves the race for future multiplication.

Earlier, God had reserved for himself alone the right to deal with the manslayer.  In the case of Cain, God spoke
judgment against the one who dared touch him (Genesis 4:15).  But now God deliberately places the responsibility for
the execution of the wrongdoer on man himself.  If the degenerating character of man is to be stopped short of total
self-destruction, adequate curbs to the advancement of wickedness must be erected. In the wisdom of God, the
execution of the manslayer provides a major curb to overflowing wickedness.

While the words spoken to Noah do not present an elaborately developed theology of the role of the state, the seed-
concept certainly is present.  In effect, God institutes the temporal power of the state as his instrument in the insistent
necessity of controlling evil.  This power of the sword, now for the first time placed in the hands of men, terrifies the
potential evildoer and restrains his conscious activity of wickedness.

Generally, commentators tend to modify the reference to capital punishment in the covenant with Noah.  Either they
deny the presence of such a reference, or they oppose the application of the principle to current societal structures.

A series of questions addressed to the issue may aid in clarifying the problem:

First question: Does God's covenant with Noah sanction the taking of the life of a murderer under any

This question may be asked without entering immediately into the particular problems involved in determining the
current relevance of this provision to the new covenant believer.  Does the covenant with Noah in itself offer divine
sanction to capital punishment?

Genesis 9:5,6 might be interpreted simply as stating a fact that shall occur.  If a man sheds blood, his blood shall be
shed.  On the other hand, the verse might be understood as offering divine sanction for the taking of the life of a

The first consideration in deciding between these optional understandings relates to the precise meaning of the
phrase which may be rendered literally, "from the hand of (man or beast) I shall require it."  The phrase could mean:
"By the instrumentality (of man) I shall demand an accounting." In this case, man would be the instrument by which
God would bring the murderer to account.  Thus the principle of capital punishment would be established.

However, this interpretation of this particular phrase runs into immediate difficulty.  For the verse says that "by the
hand of beast" as well as "by the hand of man" God will require life.  It would be rather difficult to imagine a wild beast
serving as an instrument of God's judgment in the same sense in which a man would function in this regard.

The more likely interpretation of this phrase "by the hand of (man or beast) I shall demand an accounting is: "
(man or beast) I shall demand an accounting."  That is, God will exact justice from either man or beast that murder.

This interpretation of the phrase "from the hand of (man or beast) I shall require" is supported elsewhere in Scripture.  
The prophet Ezekiel states that God shall "require from" the hand of the watchman the blood of the unwarned, using
the identical phaseology found in Genesis 9:5,6, Ezekiel 33:6; 34:10.

Genesis 9:5 in itself would not appear to settle the question as to whether or not God intends man to be his instrument
in the execution of justice on the murderer.  Indeed, God shall require the life of the manslayer.  But does He require it
specifically from the hand of another man?

Genesis 9:6 answers this question in the affirmative.  Both the parallelism in the structure of the verse and the
indication of the instrument for executing justice point in this direction.  The parellelism of phraseology as found in the
original text of Scripture may be represented as follows in English translation:

    a  He who pours out

    b  the blood of

    c  man

    c  by man

    b  his blood

    a  shall be poured out (Genesis 9:6)

The structure of the verse suggests in itself the
lex talionis, the law  of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.  The one
who sheds man's blood shall have his blood shed  by man.  More specifically, man is indicated as the agent by which
the murderer's blood shall be shed.  When this thought is combined with the affirmation in verse 5 that God shall
"demand an accounting" of the murderer, it becomes clear that the intention of the passage is to designate man as
God's agent in the execution of justice on the murderer.

This conclusion is supported by subsequent scriptural legislation.  Exodus 21:28 indicates that the animal that takes
the life of a man must have its life taken by man.  In addition, Israel is charged explicitly with the responsibility of
executing capital punishment on the murderer (Exodus 21:12; Numbers 35:16-21).

In conclusion, this text indicates that man has a responsibility respecting the murderer given to him by God.  The
requirement is unmistakable:  the person who takes the life of a man must have his life taken by man.

Second question: May the covenant with Noah be regarded as the first revelation of this requirement?  

Those who work from the framework of a critical reconstruction of the text of Genesis would have genuine difficulty with
this question.  Much of the narrative concerning Noah is attributed by critical scholars to the "priestly" school, and
dated into the sixth century B.C. or later.  If such were the case, the material relating to capital punishment in the
covenant with Noah very possibly would follow chronologically the stipulations regarding capital punishment found in
the Mosaic covenant.

However, the prominence in Hosea of material strongly reminiscent of God's covenant with Noah raises serious doubts
concerning the sixth-century "priestly" character of the material under discussion.  Hosea, writing in the eighth century,
echoes the language of a covenantal relationship preceding his own time, Hosea anticipates Israel's future situation.  
In this light, it is hardly appropriate to suggest that the distinctive provisions of the covenant with Noah did not appear
until some 200 years after Hosea.

On an even more basic level, it is essential to accept the Scriptures as reporting faithfully the character of God's
Covenant with Noah.  From this perspective, the covenant with Noah must be regarded as the first revelation of the
sanction of capital punishment.  The concept did not arise in the legislation given for Israel in the days of Moses, which
subsequently was projected into a legendary past.  Instead, it originated at the point of humanity's new beginning with
the family of Noah.

Third question:  Is this injunction concerning capital punishment limited in a temporal or ethnic sense, or
universally binding in its requirements?

Obviously the provisions concerning the execution of the murderer have no ethnic limitations.  Noah's covenant does
not speak narrowly to one race.  The first father of the new humanity, together with his entire family, constitutes the
human party of this covenant.  God makes his covenant to sanction life with "every living creature" (Genesis 9:9,10).

Quite interestingly, ethnically universal legislation concerning the sanctity of life reappears at a later turning-point in
the history of redemption.  At the time of apostolic confirmation of the extension of the gospel to Gentile as well as Jew
the law concerning the non-eating of blood reappears.  The decision of the Jerusalem council frees Gentiles from the
ritualistic laws of Moses. But they must abstain, ".
..from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things
strangled, and from blood.
"  Acts 15:20,29.

Apparently this passage alludes to the Noahic covenant.  The entry of the gospel into the broadstream of humanity
passes once more through the provisions of the covenant with Noah.  It is not necessary to retain up to the present the
letter of the ritual laws of the Noahic covenant to appreciate their significance as transitional legislation.  To avoid
unnecessary stumbling among Jewish converts to Christ, this broader Old Testament legislation taken from God's
covenant with Noah was enforced for a period, although later New Testament evidence points to its early repeal
(Romans 14:14; 1 Corinthians 10:25).

The question of a temporal limitation of the specific legislation concerning capital punishment is a more disputable
point.  Primarily, the problem centers on the relation of the legislation concerning the non-eating of blood to the
requirement that the life of a man-slayer be taken from him. If one aspect of the legislation is temporally limited, could it
not indicate a temporal limitation for the entirety of Noahic legislation?  In response to this question, two points may be

First, the possible presence of some temporally limited elements in a divine covenant does not automatically
temporalize every element of the covenant.  The covenant with Abraham had its circumcision rite.  The covenant with
Moses had its sacrificial system.  Yet the essence of both these covenants continues to play a vital role in the life of
God's people.

Secondly, the sanctity of the life of man finds abiding reinforcement through the recognition of the power granted to
the state in Scripture.  Civil authorities continue to bear the sword on behalf of God.

In any case, the preservative character of the covenant with Noah plays a central role in the progress of redemptive
history.  Men today still live under the provisions inaugurated in this covenant.  The regularity of the seasons derives
directly from God's determination to preserve the earth until deliverance from sin can be accomplished.  The institution
of the state indicates the purpose of God to restrain the evil inherent in humanity.

Thirdly, the covenant with Noah possesses a distinctively universalistic aspect.  The particular stress on the cosmic
dimensions of the covenant with Noah should be noted in this regard.  The whole of the created universe, including the
totality of humanity, benefits from this covenant.  Not only Noah and his seed, but "every living creature" lives under
the sign of the rainbow (Genesis 9:10).

This inclusion of the totality of the universe in God's redemptive covenant finds vivid recognition in Paul's expression
concerning the final expectation of the redeemed:

For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  And not only they, but
ourselves also, which have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the
adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
"  Romans 8:22,23.

Not only man, but the entire universe shall experience ultimate deliverance from the curse.  This universal character of
the covenant with Noah provides the foundation for the world-wide proclamation of the gospel in the present age.  
God's commitment to maintain faithfully the orderings of creation displays his longsuffering toward the whole of
humanity.  He desires to make known the testimony of his goodness throughout the universe.

At a subsequent point in the history of redemption, the Psalmist reflects on the regularity of day and night as witness to
the universality of God's redemptive program.  Day following day utters speech, and night following night shows
knowledge.  The "voice" of these regulated ordinances goes out through all the earth, and their words to the end of
the world (Psalm 19:2-4).  Wherever man is found, the witness of God's ordering as determined by the covenant with
Noah testifies to the glory of the Creator.

God's commitment to maintain a universal witness to the whole of humanity through the ordering of creation later plays
a significant role in the missionary mandate of the apostle Paul.  In establishing that the gospel should be proclaimed
among all nations, he appeals to the universal witness borne by God through creation (Romans 10:18 in its reference
to Psalm 19:4).  The world-wide scope of the testimony of creation provides the foundation for the universal
proclamation of the gospel.  The God who has commissioned the witness of himself to the ends of the earth through
creation also has shown himself to be "
...Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him."  Romans 10:12.

This universal witness of the ordering of creation roots deeply in the covenanting word to Noah.  By the provisions of
the Noahic covenant God committed himself to a course of universal testimony.  Creation's witness of grace toward
sinful man still provides the platform from which the universal proclamation of the gospel should be launched.

Fourthly, the seal of the covenant with Noah emphasizes the gracious character of this covenant.  In a context of
threatening judgment symbolized by the bloated rain-clouds, God designates the overarching beauty of the rainbow to
depict his grace-in-judgment.  Having once destroyed the world, thereby depicting the immutability of his righteous
decrees, the Lord God now couples the clouds with his rainbow to manifest his free and unmerited purpose of grace.

It is no accident that the throne of the righteous Judge of heaven and earth is depicted as having "a rainbow round
about the throne, like an emerald to look upon" (Revelation 4:3).  What a joy it should be to the true sharer of God's
covenantal grace in Christ that the sign and seal of God's good purposes arches the place of his final disposition.


In conclusion, some attempt may be made to evaluate the definition of the term "covenant" previously suggested as it
related to the covenant with Noah.  May the covenant with Noah be described as a "bond-in-blood sovereignly

In one sense  the covenant with Noah offers the greatest tension-point for the suggested definition of the term
"covenant."  The covenant with Noah is a "bond"; it is a bond "sovereignly administered."  But in what sense may the
covenant of Noah be described as a "bond-in blood"?  How is pledge-to-death involved in the Noahic covenant?

Two factors in the covenant with Noah indicate the presence of this aspect of the covenant idea.  First, notice the
alternatives involved in the period anticipating the formal ratification of the covenant with Noah.  God will destroy man
from the face of the earth; but Noah will find grace in the eyes of the Lord.  Life and death indeed are the underlying
motifs of the Noahic epoch, as seen in the dramatic representation of God's attitude toward the seed of the woman
and the seed of Satan.  Secondly, note the solemn provision concerning capital punishment; "Whosoever sheddeth
man's blood, by man shall his blood be shed..."  Genesis 9:6.  Undoubtedly life and death are involved in these words.  
Death shall come to the covenant-breaker who takes the life of man, while preservation will be the result of proper
observance of these stipulations.

To summarize, the covenant with Noah provides the historical framework in which the Immanuel principle may receive
its full realization. God has come in judgment; but he also has provided a context of preservation in which the grace of
redemption may operate.  From the covenant with Noah it becomes quite obvious that God's being "with us" involves
not only an outpouring of his grace on his people; it involves also an outpouring of his wrath on the seed of Satan.


The Christ of the Covenants, by O. Palmer Robertson, Copyright 1980, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing

The Covenant, by Keith J. Conner and Ken Malmin, Copyright 1983, Bible Temple Publishing.