Let’s begin by reading Genesis 6:5-8, “And 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 on 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. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” 

How it grieved the heart of the Lord to see His creation in such a sinful state.  “His heart was only evil continually.”  It came to the point that the Lord decided He must “destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth.”  However, there was one man who “found grace in the eyes of the Lord.”   That man was Noah. Beginning in Genesis 6:13, the Lord gave Noah instructions to build a great ark because He was going to send a great flood upon the earth. We read in verses 17-20, “And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female. Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind, of every creeping thing of the earth after his kind, two of every sort shall come unto thee, to keep them alive.” 

Genesis 7:1-10 tells how the Lord called Noah and his family into the ark.  All the ‘clean beasts’ gathered into the ark by seven and all the other animals gathered into the ark by two.  After seven days in the ark, the Lord brought the flood upon the earth.  Verse 12 tells us, “And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.”  If we compare Genesis 7:11-13 with Genesis 8:14-16, we can see that Noah and his family were on the ark for about one year. In Genesis 8:16-19, we read how Noah and his family, and all the animals exited the ark. 

Genesis 9:8-11 shows how the Lord made a covenant with Noah and his family.  Now, let’s read Genesis 9:12-16, “God said, “This is the sign of the covenant which I am making between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations; I have set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall serve as a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth. It shall come about, when I make a cloud appear over the earth, that the rainbow will be seen in the cloud, and I will remember My covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and never again shall the water become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the rainbow is in the cloud, then I will look at it, to remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.” (NASB).

The Lord established the rainbow to be a reminder of the covenant He made with Noah.  It is a reminder of the Lord’s promise to never again use water to destroy the earth.  Every time we see that rainbow, we should be reminded of the Lord’s promise. 

We do see the use of the rainbow in a couple more portions in the Bible.

For example, Ezekiel 1:28 says, “Like the appearance of the rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the appearance of the surrounding radiance. Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face and heard a voice speaking.” (NASB).  The rainbow here speaks of the glory of God.

We can see that the rainbow was established by the Lord to represent the solemnity and permanence of His promise and to speak to us of His immutable glory.  (CC)  (535.6)