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When the Bow is in the Clouds
Genesis 9
Dr. Tony Chute, Lead Pastor

Overview: In the immediate aftermath of the flood, the sanctity of human life and the sinfulness of the human heart come to the fore once again. God affirms the sanctity of life by reissuing the cultural mandate, prohibiting the unlawful taking of life, and promising never to destroy the earth again by flood. This covenant which God establishes with Noah and all future generations, is symbolized by the presence of the rainbow in the clouds and serves as a reminder that God Himself values human life even in a sinful world. Sadly, Noah fails to capitalize on God’s goodness when instead of mastering God’s creation, he is mastered by it. Ham complicates matters further by exposing Noah’s shame, thus incurring a curse from his father that affects future generations. These twin realities—the sanctity of human life and the sinfulness of the human heart—thus prompt us to consider how we should live, as it were, with the “bow in the clouds.”

01. Respecting the sanctity of life in a sinful world promotes flourishing for all people from different walks of life in every stage of life.

02. Respecting the sanctity of life in a sinful world requires a reckoning for sin regardless of past performance or current position in life.

03. Respecting the sanctity of life in a sinful world includes exercising restraint in our own lives and refusing to wreck the lives of others.


1. Note the parallels between Genesis 9:1-7 and Genesis 1:26-31. What does this cultural mandate indicate about God’s desire for human flourishing? What barriers (i.e., political, economic) can you think of that work against or prevent human flourishing today?

2. How does the institution of capital punishment in Genesis 9:6 serve to enhance the value of human life? Given the concern for life in this chapter and the fact that humans are made in the image of God, why is it important to exhaust every means available to ensure that no innocent person is executed? What biblical arguments might be used to suggest capital punishment is no longer necessary to value life?

3. What is the content of God’s covenant in Genesis 9:8-17? What is the significance of God alone initiating this covenant? Who are the initial recipients, and who are the eventual recipients? Are there any stipulations for this covenant from a human standpoint? What other covenants are found in Scripture?

4. How does Noah’s behavior change from Genesis 6:9 to 7:21? Do you think the trauma of the flood had any impact on Noah’s change of behavior? What does this episode suggest about people whose reputations are otherwise spotless and how they are ultimately remembered?

5. What does Ham’s response to Noah’s drunkenness suggest about his character? How does Shem and Japheth’s response indicate a natural concern for their father? Why is it important for us to guard our hearts from rejoicing in the downfall of others? What would you say to someone who suggests that covering up for the sins of others is biblical? How should we deal with the public sins of famous figures?

For Further Reading: Wayne Grudem, Christian Ethics (Crossway, 2018)