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After the Flood abates, God reassures Noah that it was a one time event:

Genesis 9:13 (ESV)

I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth.

The most obvious interpretation is that this is a rainbow, and that it was something new. But rainbows are a physical consequence of having rain and sun.

God spells out the significance of the sight: the earth will not be flooded again. But should we interpret this as an already-familiar sight being used as a reminder, or did He somehow change things then, and rainbows had not appeared before the Flood? Or was it not actually a rainbow at all, but some other phenomenon with which we are no longer familiar?

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4 Answers 4

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Jesus spoke in parables that were full of very familiar imagery to his hearers, turning them into spiritual lessons.

The Lord commanded Abraham to circumcise all his male descendants, a custom which was already being practiced before the time of Abraham, but God made it a token of his covenant with Abraham.

Likewise, there's no reason to believe that rainbows, being a natural phenomenon, did not exist before the Flood. But as a part of God's covenant with Noah, he gave them a new, special significance.

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This seems like the most parsimonious answer, and therefore likely the correct one. –  Rex Kerr Oct 9 '11 at 4:24
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Hadn't it never rained before The Flood? If so, then the rainbow would be a new phenomena –  warren Oct 10 '12 at 15:50
    
@Warren: That's a highly twisted and rather nonsensical concept that some YEC came up with to try to explain the idea of the rainbow being a new phenomenon, so you're essentially presenting a circular argument. What Genesis says is that it hadn't rained yet at the point where Adam and Eve showed up on the scene, but the Flood was over a thousand years later. –  Mason Wheeler Oct 10 '12 at 16:14
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@MasonWheeler - it's neither "highly twisted" nor "nonsensical". You may disagree, but name-calling isn't necessary. –  warren Oct 10 '12 at 18:41
    
@Warren: I'm familiar with the theory, and it requires atmospheric conditions such that no living creature capable of living before the Flood would be able to sustain life after the Flood, or vice versa. And IMO that's nonsensical, and moreover it's completely without scriptural support. The Bible says that there was a great change in the nature of mankind at the Fall, but it says nothing about an equally significant fundamental change, affecting not only man but all life on Earth, at the time of the Flood. –  Mason Wheeler Oct 10 '12 at 18:45

There are several theories about major differences in climate pre and post flood. There is some reason to believe that our atmosphere had a rather different makeup before the flood: perhaps along the lines of perpetual heavy cloud cover.

In these scenarios it is entirely possible that a natural phenomenon like a rainbow had actually never been observed before and that it was burned across the sky in all its glory when they climbed out of the ark.

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I wish people would leave comments when downvoting answers instead of leaving us to guess what the problem was. This view does seem to be consistent with Genesis 1-8 in that there are no descriptions of sunlight or shadows as far as I can tell, and you need directed sunlight to see rainbows. –  Rex Kerr Sep 30 '11 at 14:39
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@RexKerr: I know this isn't the only view out there but I tried to present it as a possible explanation. If there is an objection to this being a possible explanation I'd love to hear it. (The downvote might just be part of a revenge downvote streak I got today. Life as a moderator :-/ ) –  Caleb Sep 30 '11 at 14:44
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I didn't downvote this, but I've heard a pretty good objection to that theory: in order for the air to be able to support such heavy cloud cover and high humidity, the atmospheric pressure would have to be several times higher than it is now, different enough that whatever life (especially higher life forms such as mammals) that could survive in one environment would not be able to live in the other. That would pretty much screw up the entire point of the Ark... –  Mason Wheeler Sep 30 '11 at 16:11
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@Mason Wheeler - That's a good objection to "all the waters of the flood were in the air". This answer only requires a thin gauzy layer of clouds, enough to make sunlight somewhat diffuse; I'm not sure that's physically plausible either (how do you maintain the cloud cover without sun striking the land/oceans to evaporate water?) but at least it could avoid the air pressure problem. But this is sounding like extended discussion, so I should stop. –  Rex Kerr Sep 30 '11 at 17:43
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It wouldn't make much sense to rescue all those animals, than change the climate, so that most of them die. –  user unknown Oct 3 '11 at 6:06

He (God) was referring to the milky way arch. It arches over the earth. Notice in the King James bible it clearly said "set My bow in the cloud; not clouds but cloud. Also that this was over the earth and not in the earth. This was purposely hidden because when you find the milky way you also find Orion which was mentioned twice in the book of Job. 9:9 & 38:28 I think. Definately in Job 38 though. A rainbow is seen when water drops meet the sunlight and again clearly the word in Genesis chp 3 says the rains had stopped and the ground was dry.

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Im sorry that was chapters 8 & 9 not chapter 3. It clearly says "over the earth" & not in the earth. God clearly verified that this was NOT a rainbow. Another form of the serpent in Revelations with the wave of water coming out of its mouth. (dillusion) God bless –  lee morgan Oct 10 '12 at 9:31
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Welcome to the site. that's a perspective I hadn't heard before. Have you got any citations for groups or organizations that take that interpretation? Generally, providing external support makes for better answers, as it eliminates the ability to accuse people of merely stating their own opinion. (For more, check the FAQ.) –  David Stratton Oct 10 '12 at 13:53
    
These would be good for a new visitor, too. meta.christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/tagged/… (And please DON'T take this as criticism or discouragement to participate. It's not meant that way at all. –  David Stratton Oct 10 '12 at 14:00
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Are you suggesting that the Milky Way--that is, the rest of our galaxy--didn't exist (or its light could not be seen) until after the Flood? Or do you also take the it-was-always-there-but-this-is-what-it-means interpretation? –  Rex Kerr Oct 10 '12 at 18:02
    
@ Rex it God knows the truth but which do you believe.? The rainbow or the milkyway. Go to you tube and type in milky way arch under search and watch I believe a 5 minute video. It will show you the bow over the earth. King James version was written before these new translations aand they misinterpreted it because maybe they didnt know. Alot of truth is supressed. New living translation and some of those others are the devils work. For instance. Godhead was mentioned three times in king james. New living translation doesnt mentiion it at all... –  lee morgan Oct 11 '12 at 9:42

The King James version stipulates a rainbow on an angel's head; as well as another having the seal of the Living God on the forehead.Is this not one and the same ? I bear " the set bow in the cloud" on my head; though it was not put there by my choice, I have come to recognize it for what it is. Jesus says of the Holy Spirit, even the Spirit of truth, He shall testify of me. When reviewing this passage, the words: Spirit, truth, and even; spelled out my name. Coincidence, I don't think so. What 'Christianity' has done to the God of Abraham is truly a sin; Jesus came to fulfill the Law, not to destroy it.

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Welcome to the site. However, it seems you've mistaken the purpose of this site. I hope you choose to participate further, but before you do, you should read How we are different than other sites? and then the help page and What makes a good supported answer? –  David Stratton Feb 2 at 14:29
    
To be fair, this is an old question and is not exactly asked within today's site guidelines. –  fredsbend Feb 2 at 16:40

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