Texts for the Day
This week, we will begin a five-week series on covenants in the Bible. With one exception, the studies will follow the Old Testament readings from Year B of the lectionary. This week, we will learn about the covenant God made with Noah after the flood.
Covenant is a term that comes from the ancient Near Eastern cultural tradition in which the Bible developed. It refers to what our society would refer to as a treaty or a contract. The most similar pattern to the Biblical covenants is a treaty in which a vassal pledges fealty to a more powerful ruler. The nation of Israel was a party on both sides to several such covenants over the course of its history. This would have been a familiar pattern and have several features that are usually present.
- Suzerain – The more powerful party to the covenant.
- Vassal – The lesser party who is pledging fealty to the suzerain.
- Provisions – What the suzerain will provide to the vassal (e.g. military protection)
- Stipulations – What the vassal will provide to the suzerain (e.g. tribute)
- Sign – What the parties will do to ratify and remember the covenant (e.g. copies deposited into the temples of both parties)
In the Noah story, the suzerain is God. The vassal is all of creation. The provision is God’s continued providence. There are no stipulations. The sign is the rainbow.
What do you think of the fact that there are no stipulations in the covenant with Noah? What does this say about God’s relationship to creation? What hints does it give about the meaning of the flood story?