God striving with humanity
In the period that followed the first Covenant by God with Adam being broken, each person followed their own conscience and thus they were a law unto themselves. Although Adam and Eve had broken the conditional aspects of God’s Covenant with Adam such that Adam and his descendents incurred penalties, the Adamic Covenant itself was not revoked, withdrawn or rescinded. God did not say: ‘Well let’s forget that Covenant now and try something else.’ You and I, as descendants of Adam, are under the Adamic Covenant purely because we were born as members of humanity.
By the period of Genesis chapter 7, human beings had categorized animals as ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ (Genesis 7 v 2) and God had already punished a number of people for murder. People tended to think that they were full of wisdom, but in fact they were foolish, because they followed the passions, drives and impulses of their human nature. It seems that at this time the Spirit of God was striving with humankind – struggling, contending and making effort with people – so that although God was not ‘walking with mankind’, He was nevertheless still very present and active concerning His creation.
But there came a rare moment in the history of creation during which God almost turned his back on humanity – an occasion when God, in His Righteous anger nearly destroyed humanity, because mankind had become so wayward and ungodly. ‘The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled. So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created – and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground – for I regret that I have made them’ (Genesis 6 v 5 – 7). In Judgment, God sent a devastating flood and most of will be familiar to some degree with the story of Noah and ark. I am not so concerned with the events regarding the flood itself in this post, but rather I am concerned with the Covenant that God made with Noah after the flood.
A Covenant with Noah and the inhabitants of the earth
I have found in my own Christian experience that the Covenant that God made with Noah does not receive anything like the attention that the Covenant that God made with Adam receives. It is the events of the flood itself that tend to draw the attention of Christians. But the Covenant made by God with Noah is very important. As far as the bible is concerned, this Covenant, like the one made with Adam, is a universal Covenant – it is a Covenant made by God with all of humanity through Noah. Just as the bible presents all of humanity as being descended from Adam, so in the same way, all of humanity is seen as being descended from Noah because as far as the bible is concerned, the flood destroyed the rest of humanity. Traditional Jewish interpretations concur with this interpretation (Genesis 6 v 13 – 7 v 4; 9 v 8 – 17). As I have already indicated, you and I are under the Adamic Covenant because we were born as members of humanity. For exactly the same reasons, you and I are under the Covenant made by God with Noah.
In many ways, the Covenant that God made with Noah is an elaboration, an extension, of the Covenant that God made with Adam. The aspects of this Noahic Covenant include instructions that:
God was still to be honoured. Implicit in this is a rejection of the practice of worshipping other gods or idolatry
Offerings of blood sacrifice were still to continue
Humans were still encouraged to have children
God promised not to destroy all living creatures by a flood again
God promised not to curse the ground any further
The rainbow was given as the sign of this Covenant
All creatures and animals would be afraid of humans from now on
All animals and creatures are in the hands of humans for food whereas previous generations were vegetarians
Humans were not to eat raw meat, or the meat of an animal that is still alive
Human life was considered as precious because humans are made in the image of God and therefore God will demand an account of it from:
Animals that attack or kill human beings
Human beings that attack or kill another human being
A judicial principle of ‘measure for measure’ was established
The beginning of a judicial system was established – a system of law, courts, judges and so on was added on to the principle of each person following their own conscience. Instead of being a ‘law unto themselves’, external, objective civil and religious laws began to be introduced.
The Noahic Covenant and us today
I do not think that Noahic Covenant is rescinded or withdrawn in any passage in the Bible. As with the Adamic Covenant, it is a Covenant made by God with all of humanity, nut this time through Noah and God’s expectations of humanity as stated in this Covenant still remain. But of course it is also a broken Covenant – people fail to maintain a clear conscience; they fail to honour God properly or adequately; they fail to offer adequate blood sacrifices; they sometimes fail id dietary obligations; and they sometimes fail to obey civil laws. This Covenant is broken by each of us at some point in our day-to-day lives. We have all, in our own lives, broken this Covenant, yet its obligations and privileges remain in force.