Does the rainbow have a meaning? What is the biblical significance of the rainbow?
The rainbow has gained popularity in recent years as certain ideological groups have adopted it as their logo. However, God has already assigned meaning to this atmospheric beauty. In Scripture, the presence of a rainbow was a message from God; in fact, God says it is "my bow" (Genesis 9:13)—it belongs to Him.
The first rainbow appears after the flood. God was speaking to Noah, giving him some commands and promises. God said, "I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth" (Genesis 9:13). The covenant God refers to is that He would never again flood the whole earth as He had done. He told Noah that, every time he saw a rainbow, he could know that God had established a covenant with "all flesh that is on the earth" (verse 17).
The wording of Genesis 9 is interesting in that God says the rainbow will be a reminder for Himself to remember His covenant: "When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth" (Genesis 9:14–16). This does not imply that God "needs" reminding; it is simply a way of saying that God will faithfully keep His covenant. He is ever mindful of His promise.
In some places in Scripture, clouds are a metaphor for trouble and disaster: "For the day is near, the day of the Lord is near; it will be a day of clouds, a time of doom for the nations" (Ezekiel 30:3; cf. Ezekiel 32:7). Of course, in the days of Noah, clouds brought about the destruction of the world. So it is significant that God places the sign of His promise in the clouds. When the storm clouds gather in a threatening sky and our thoughts turn toward judgment, God places a reminder that this is not Judgment Day yet: a rainbow shows the presence of Light in the midst of Darkness.
Other references to rainbows in the Bible are in relation to the glory of God. Ezekiel 1:28 describes the majesty of the Lord this way: " Like the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud on the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness all around…" In Revelation 4:2–3, John describes the beauty surrounding the throne of God: "At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. And he who sat there had the appearance of jasper and carnelian, and around the throne was a rainbow that had the appearance of an emerald." The glory of the Lord is a splendid, beautiful sight.
Revelation 10:1 references a rainbow in a description of an angel: "Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, wrapped in a cloud, with a rainbow over his head, and his face was like the sun, and his legs like pillars of fire." All mention of rainbows in Scripture have a direct connection to the power and glory of God.
The sign of the rainbow was meant to be "for all future generations" (Genesis 9:12). When we see a rainbow now, we can let it be a reminder of our covenant-keeping God and His indescribable beauty.
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