Covenant to the Patriarchs

7 God’s Covenant with Noah

by Hubert F. Sturges, , December 2013

Before the Flood
The Flood of Noah
Covenant given to Noah
After the Flood
The Commands of Noah

God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the Lord that he had made man upon the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the Lord said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air, for it repenteth me that I have made them. Genesis 6:5-7.

Many people today cannot believe that judgment is coming. While we should not be obsessed about judgment, it is essential that we be prepared for it. Judgment has been poured out in the past. Take, for example, the worldwide flood of Noah, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the captivity of Israel and Judah, and the destruction of Pompey and Herculaneum. Other cataclysmic events have seemed to have a natural cause, but behind the scenes may be the hand of God. Prophets have spoken of an end-time judgment for centuries. After a long delay, people tend to forget that these long foretold events eventually happen. Not knowing when this judgment will occur, we need to commit ourselves to God now, and on a daily basis.

Before the Flood?

God drove Adam and Eve from Eden after they sinned. As the human race expanded, people soon forgot God. Eden was still present, but barring the way were “Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life” (Genesis 3:24). With this daily reminder, how could they forget that there is a God, that He is the Creator, and that only by sin was he separated from His people? God cursed the earth after sin entered the world (Genesis 3:17-19), but the curse as yet rested lightly. There was still incredible beauty everywhere. Living was easy. Wealth was well nigh universal. Vigorous and living over 900 years, men had time for art, science, and for wickedness of every imaginable kind, until God saw that it had to stop (Genesis 6:5-7).

As God looked over the earth, He saw “that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5).

It is difficult to see how men could be more wicked than this. Yet God is patient, and He gave men time. Noah was called, and as he built the ark, he preached for 120 years (2 Peter 2:5). Noah illustrated his faith by building the ark. Yet the people had never seen a flood, in fact had never seen it rain (Genesis 2:5, 6). What Noah said was unscientific, unbelievable!

In contrast with the people generally, God found Noah, “a just man and perfect in his generations” (Genesis 6:9). Noah was to build an ark with detailed specifications given by God Himself. Noah wasted no time, doing “... according to all that God commanded him” (Genesis 6:22). God made a covenant with Noah (3) to save him and his family even as the flood destroyed all else. His family had faith that Noah spoke God’s message.

Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5). Hundreds listened to Noah preach. Thousands knew of the ark, it was a monument to all. But only Noah and his family made a choice to be saved. A sampling of all the animals were also saved.

Was God unreasonable in bringing the flood upon the earth? Genesis 6:3 indicates that the Spirit of God “strove” with man for 120 years. They had the example and also the preaching of Noah (2 Peter 2:5) as he built the ark. Did no one else notice the wickedness and violence in the earth? Did no one else cry to God to bring an end to evil? Maybe yes, but men do not notice gradual changes, and they became all too accustomed to what was occurring. One hundred twenty years is a long time, but if history teaches us anything, it is that events long foretold will eventually come to pass. The time to make preparations is always now (2)!

The Flood of Noah:

The flood of Noah:      The Day by Day Happenings of the Flood

Noah and all the beasts entered the ark and wait for 7 days Genesis 7:1-16   Wait 7 days
The flood began on the 17th day of the 2nd month Genesis 7:11 2nd mo. 17th day
There was rain for 40 days and 40 nights Genesis 7:12,17   40 days
Waters “prevailed upon earth” 150 days. Ark rested on Ararat Genesis 8:4 7th mo. 17th day 150 days
The tops of the mountains were seen on the 10th Mo. 1st Day Genesis 8:5 10th mo. 1st day 223 days
Noah sent forth a raven and a dove after forty days . vs 6-9   263 days
After 7 days, the dove sent again and returned with an olive leaf    vs 10,11   270 days
The dove sent a third time and did not return after seven days . vs 12   277 days
The earth is dry. All the inhabitants of the ark go forth      
Noah builds an altar and offers sacrifice.  vs 14-20 2nd mo. 27th day 370 days

Covenant with Noah

After the flood, Noah built an altar, and offered of every clean beast, a burnt offering to the Lord. Considering the severely limited supply of clean animals, many of which would be needed for food, this was most remarkable. Wouldn’t one lamb be enough? Weren’t the rest of the animals needed to sustain the family? In this remarkable event, Noah demonstrated his trust in God. The earth and everything on it belonged to God. He would trust God too, for his life (Genesis 8:21, 22).

God renewed His covenant with Noah. The wording of the verses is important. God is remembering the covenant He made with Noah before the flood (Genesis 6:17, 18). He makes with Noah an everlasting covenant; God regards His creation and will preserve life (4). The rainbow is given as the special sign of this covenant.

– God saved the family of Noah (Genesis 6:18)... the word "covenant" is used for the first time.
– Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth (Genesis 9:1, 7).
– Diet is changed, they may now eat animals, but may not eat/drink their blood (Genesis 9:3,4).
– Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed (Genesis 9:6).
– God promised not to destroy the human race again by a flood (Genesis 9:8-11).
– The rainbow is the "sign" of this covenant (Genesis 9:12-17).
– Noah offered a sacrifice of animals on an altar (Genesis 8:20).

After the Flood

The covenant with Noah promised seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night would return to their normal cycles. Life would be safe. Animals which were large and unmanageable would be restrained by fear of man. The diet was liberalized, giving permission to eat flesh and green herbs which were easier to raise. The people were reassured that there would be no more flood and no more curse. God gave them the rainbow as a token of His promise (4) as an everlasting covenant that He would continue to support life and all His creation.

The Everlasting Covenant reaches back to the covenant made before Creation, between Father and Son. It was first given to Adam and Eve after they sinned. It was the everlasting covenant of saving grace.

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. (Genesis 3:15).

The Redeemer prophesied in this verse made possible all blessings that God has bestowed. It was in this covenant that promised blessings were given to Noah.

The Commands Given to Noah

Some people believe that God only intended the commandments that He gave to Noah for the whole of humanity, and not the Ten Commandments, which they believe He gave only to the Hebrews. God’s explicit commands to Noah included:

1. “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.” Genesis 9:1.
2. “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat (food) for you,” Genesis 9:3.
3. “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” Genesis 9:4.
4. “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” Genesis 9:6

These four commands are clearly outlined in Genesis 9. In the thinking of some, there were six additional commands given to Noah, including proscriptions against idolatry, blasphemy, sexual misconduct, theft, eating the limb of a live animal, and the positive command to set up courts of justice. The list varies according to the source. To arrive at this additional list of commands, Genesis chapters 1-6 must be included, and some of these are merely implied.

As good as the additional commands are, it is highly unlikely that the principles of the Ten Commandments were unknown before Sinai, or that God only intended the Noatic commands “for everyone in the world” while the Ten Commandments were just for the Jews. The commands given Noah have only limited scope and are of a different character from the principles of the Ten Commandments given at Sinai.


1. There comes a time in the affairs of men and nations that evil reaches such a level that God brings judgment. The Bible uses the metaphor of “the cup” to symbolize either God’s limit for wickedness or the maximum blessing a person can enjoy. (Ps. 11:6; 75:8; Isa. 51:17, 22; Jer. 25:15, 17; Ezek. 23:31-33; Rev. 14:10; 16:19; 18:6). The cup may be full of suffering (Matt. 20:22, 23; 26:39, 42; Mark 10:39; 14:36; John 18:11) or of false doctrines (Rev. 17:4). The righteous may receive a cup that is full or overflowing (Ps 16:5; 23:5; 116:13) with blessing (1 Cor: 10:16) or with consolation (Jer. 16:7).

2. The time to accept God is now (Acts 17:30; 22:16; Rom. 13:11; 2 Cor. 6:2; Heb. 3:7, 13, 15; 4:7)

3. Some take the statement, “Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.” (Gen. 9:3), as permission to eat unclean animals, however, had Noah and his family eaten any one of the pairs of unclean animals coming out of the ark, it would have defeated the very purpose that God brought them into the ark – “To keep them alive.” (Gen. 6:19).

4. The record of the patriarchal age gives evidence that the ten precepts listed in the Ten Commandments, though not codified, were understood. Even in insisting that the Ten Commandments not given to the patriarchs, D. M. Canright wrote: “That the main principles and requirements of this code were taught to the fathers in some way no one can doubt” (Dudley M. Canright, Seventh-day Adventism Renounced (New York, Fleming H. Revell, 1889), 14 ed., p. 320).

1.) “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Abram was made to know the one true God, and he abandoned the gods of Ur of the Chaldees (Gen. 12:1; 13:4). Melchizedek blessed the name of the “most high God” and Abram acknowledged “the most high God” as “the possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:20, 2). False gods were not mentioned until Abraham’s grandson Jacob was confronted about the “gods” of his father-in-law, and he buried the “strange gods” carried by his family under the oak of Shechem (Gen. 31:32, 34:4).

2.) “Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven images ...” We recognize that the patriarchs knew that there is only one God to be worshiped by Jacob’s command to “put away the strange gods that are among you” (Gen. 35:2-4).

3.) “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.” Abraham required his servant to fulfill his pledge to find Isaac a wife, as he swore “by the LORD God of heaven” (Gen. 24:2, 3).

4.) “Remember the Sabbath-day to keep it holy ...” Evidence for the existence of the Sabbath from the creation include

(a) the Lord God’s predication of the holiness and blessedness of the Sabbath upon His resting and blessing the Sabbath at creation, as is described in the Genesis account.
(b) The natural sense of the parallel wording between Genesis 2:3 and Exodus 20:11 is that the Sabbath was considered holy and blessed from the creation on.
(c) It is not reasonable to postulate that God alone rested while Adam worked on the seventh day. That Adam observed the Sabbath is acknowledged by Martin Luther (Martin Luther, George V. Schick (trans.), Jaroslav Pelikan (ed.), Luther’s Works, vol. 1, “Lectures on Genesis,” Chapters 1-5, [Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1958], pp. 79, 80).
(d) That God was assuming the holiness of the Sabbath in Exodus 16 rather than declaring it holy on that occasion is evidence that the holiness of the Sabbath originated before Sinai (Exod. 16:23).
(e) Another evidence that the patriarchs were aware of the creation account and the significance of the seventh-day, indirect though it may be, is the prominence in Genesis of both the number seven and the seven day unit of time. The two most frequent groupings of days in Genesis are three and seven, they are both used six times. The groupings of seven-day periods in the account of Noah is noteworthy (Gen. 7:4, 10; 8:10, 12).
(f) Also the story of Jacob and Rachel uses the term “week” metaphorically for a period of seven years, implying that the people of this era were aware of the seven-day weekly cycle, which ends with the seventh-day Sabbath, or at least had been aware of it.

9.) “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” God exposed Cain’s lie to cover up the death of his brother (Gen. 4:9). Jacob’s lie about being Esau ended up in alienation from his brother and separation from his mother (Gen 27:24, 42, 43).

10.) “Thou shalt not covet.” Eve’s coveting of the forbidden fruit, caused the fall of the human race (Gen. 3:6). Abram magnanimously forwent taking spoils so others would know that his blessings are from God and not from mercenary actions (Gen. 14:21).