What is a rainbow? Now, I realize most — if not all! — of us should be able to identify a rainbow by sight, and most of us could probably explain that the rainbow is the result of water droplets acting as a prism, splitting the sunlight up into oh-so-pretty colors. I even recently learned that viewers in different positions will see a rainbow slightly differently due to the angles that the different wavelengths of light are split into (I admit I should have been able to deduce that on my own).
For a more strict definition, we can defer to the ever handy Answers.com: “An arc of spectral colors, usually identified as red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet, that appears in the sky opposite the sun as a result of the refractive dispersion of sunlight in drops of rain or mist.”
Now, given all of that — and I’m not trying to dispute a word of it! — what are we then to make of our biblical introduction to the rainbow?
And 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 successive generations; 13I set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a sign of a covenant between Me and the earth.
14“And it shall come about, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud, 15and 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. Genesis 9:12-15, NASB
Sunlight & clouds existed prior to this discussion between Noah & the Almighty, so are we to believe, then, that before these events, rainbows did not appear?
Supernaturalism & Science
Why even bother with an explanation steeped in supernaturalism when science has proven the mechanics behind the formation of rainbows?
It’s important to note here that, by definition, science cannot prove or disprove the supernatural aspects of the Scriptures. If it could, then the events wouldn’t be supernatural at all but would instead be subject to the physical laws & constraints of nature.
Think of reality as a computer game or a virtual reality. Everything within that reality is bound to its programming. Outside of the game, though, those with access to the code — or even a console, as in many computer games — are able to change the reality of the world within the game. Players may be made invincible, ammunition may be made infinite, or solid objects themselves may be made incorporeal.
What I believe happened in Genesis 9 is that God changed reality. Perhaps up until that point, there were no rainbows. But the Almighty refined the laws of physics, making it possible for rainbows to appear under precise circumstances.
This by no means is meant to imply that reality was in any way defective, that the original creative acts were not perfect. Rather, God’s creation — or perhaps “institution” is a better word — of the rainbow is representative of the covenant He had just made with Noah.
I’ve never heard this idea before, so I certainly invite feedback regarding it: The rainbow is more than a simple monument of the covenant; rather, it is a physical representation of the introduction to the covenant: “And God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth'” (Genesis 9:1, NASB).
Just as the creatures disembarking onto newly dried land were to multiply throughout the earth, so to is a ray of light “multiplied” and scattered in a rainbow.
Is the analogy perfect? Well, few are, but I think that this one works: God chose a rainbow to represent this covenant to emphasize that man is to multiply, filling the earth.
Perhaps also it could be pointed out that from one ray of light can come all colors of the spectrum, just as from one family (Noah’s), we have a multitude of ethnicities, but that’s another discussion entirely!
Whatever the purpose behind choosing a rainbow to represent His covenant, what I would want you to take away from this is that reality — the laws of physics, the theories of quantum mechanics, and everything else — isn’t static. There exists a Creator who transcends the confines, the rules of nature, and yet He is able to reach into nature, changing things when necessary.
He has the freedom to cause light to begin splitting when passing through prisms just as He has the freedom to reach down and bring the dead back to life.
These things may defy scientific explanation, but they do so simply by virtue of the fact that they are miraculous, supernatural events that by nature defy natural explanation.
So while Genesis 9 may seem to defy scientific explanation, that is not necessarily a mark against the Scriptures; rather, it is due to the limited scope of science.
When you encounter scientists arguing against how “unscientific” the miracles of the Scriptures are and how we cannot trust the Scriptures as a result, you are encouraged to ignore such vain ramblings, for such are evidence that the scientists do not understand the Scriptures but that they also fail to understand the limits of their own precious scientific method.
Post image by Cessna 206.