Most people think of the covenant G-d made with Noah as G-d’s promise to not bring a world flood again. Is there something more? Or is that it?
A promise is just that that, its a promise, it can be given in just a statement. If Hashem was just issuing a promise, He could have just said, “I promise to never flood the entire world again”. But that’s not what He did. He presented a Covenant. A covenant is different, it isn’t a one liner. Upon studying all the covenants in the Tanach, they all have five common threads. They are:
1. From and To.
2. What I will do for you.
3. What I expect from you.
The receiver of the Covenant either receives and accepts the covenant or rejects it. The covenant with Noah contains these five elements, thus making it a covenant and not just a promise.
Lets review the Covenant G-d presented to Noah, referred to as the Noahic Covenant. Genesis chapter 9, verses 1 – 17. (KJV)
1 And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth. 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. 3 Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things. 4 But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. 5 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. 6 Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man. 7 And you, be ye fruitful, and multiply; bring forth abundantly in the earth, and multiply therein. 8 And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, 9 And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; 10 And with every living creature that is with you, of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you; from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. 11 And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth. 12 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: 13 I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. 14 And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15 And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh.16 And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. 17 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.
A review of verses 1 to 17 broken down into our five components looks like this:
- G-d To: Noah
2 I will:
- neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood;
- neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.
3. I expect from you:
- Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth.
- But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat
- Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.
4. The Time Period is:
- for perpetual generations:
- I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth
5. The Seal is:
- I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.
- And the bow shall be in the cloud;
The Covenant established from G-d to Noah and his sons wasn’t only with them, but the covenant says that it is an everlasting covenant, for “perpetual” generations. It is for all of the descendants of Noah. This includes everybody. Hashem later establishes a covenant with Abraham that affects his descendants, and then with Moses affecting the Israelites leaving Egypt. But this covenant is for everyone that desires to accept it.
At face value Hashem is establishing three mitzvahs (commandments). First we are to replenish the earth, by having children, planting gardens, taking care of the animals, etc. The second one pertains to a practice that was very cruel to the animals, by removing a limb from an animal and having that limb for dinner. And then perhaps removing another limb on some other day, an repeating this practice until you decide to consume the remainder of the animal. We are not to be cruel to the animals. If you desire to have meat meat then, you are to kill the animal humanly before consumption. The third commandment tells us not shed another persons blood, if you do you will be judged and pay the penalty, and that we were made in G-d’s image.
The Noahic Covenant and these mitzvahs are referred to as the Seven Laws of Noah. They are considered the “laws for all of mankind”. But we only listed three commandments, where are the other four? The following is a commonly accepted list of the Seven Commandments. This list is copied from the Chabad web site. As you search you will find a variety of different wording for this list. I prefer Chabad as my reference.
1. Do not profane G‑d’s Oneness in any way.
- 1. Acknowledge that there is a single G‑d who cares about what we are doing and desires that we take care of His world.
2. Do not curse your Creator.
- 1. No matter how angry you may be, do not take it out verbally against your Creator.
3. Do not murder.
- 1. The value of human life cannot be measured. To destroy a single human life is to destroy the entire world—because, for that person, the world has ceased to exist. It follows that by sustaining a single human life, you are sustaining an entire universe.
4. Do not eat a limb of a living animal.
- 1. Respect the life of all G‑d’s creatures. As intelligent beings, we have a duty not to cause undue pain to other creatures.
5. Do not steal.
- 1. Whatever benefits you receive in this world, make sure that none of them are at the unfair expense of someone else.
6. Harness and channel the human libido.
- 1. Incest, adultery, rape and homosexual relations are forbidden.
- 2. The family unit is the foundation of human society. Sexuality is the fountain of life and so nothing is more holy than the sexual act. So, too, when abused, nothing can be more debasing and destructive to the human being.
7. Establish courts of law and ensure justice in our world.
- 1. With every small act of justice, we are restoring harmony to our world, synchronizing it with a supernal order. That is why we must keep the laws established by our government for the country’s stability and harmony.
As demonstrated in this list of seven commandments, we can see how it grew from the three we began with. However these seven laws or commandments are actually seven categories of commandments. Later in the Mosaic covenant there are several commandments for both the Israeli and those sojourning with them.
Hashem assures us that the commandments He has given us are all obtainable and that He hasn’t given us anything we cannot do…
Deuteronomy 30:11 – 14
11 For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away.
12 It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?”
13 Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?” 14 Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.
The Almighty is telling us that we can fulfill His commandments that He has given us.
Note pertaining to verse 14: Where else do we see a similar statement. Check out Jeremiah 31:33, “I will put my Torah on there inward parts, and write it upon their hearts”, compare to last half of verse 14 above.
by, Jim Behnke.