Michael D. Coogan: The Significance of the Rainbow in Genesis

Michael D. Coogan, The Old Testament: A Literary and Historical Introduction to the Hebrew Scriptures, third edition (OUP, 2014), 69.

The sign of the covenant between God and Noah and every living creature is “the bow in the clouds” (Gen 9.13). This refers to the rainbow, which will remind God of his promise. But the bow also has mythological significance. The word for “bow” is the same as the one used for the weapon that propels arrows. The storm-god, whose wind blew over the earth after the Flood as at the first creation, has set his terrible weapon in the clouds – he has, as it were, permanently stored it there so that it will not be used again. The conclusion of the Flood story thus reminds us of the beginning of Genesis 1, with its allusion to the battle between the storm-god and the primeval chaotic sea.

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