There are so many myths that try to explain the supernatural aspects of the rainbow. Depending on the natural setting or ethnic extraction from which you draw the lessons, you could have so many meanings assigned to the rainbow. The Bible also mentions the rainbow in about 7 verses in scripture.
Overall, the rainbow illustrates the theme of redemption and grace. Every time the rainbow is mentioned in the Bible, humanity is given another chance to start again. This article will look at the various mentions of the rainbow in the Bible and what they mean.
What You'll Learn Today
A Symbol of God’s Promise Never to Destroy the Earth with Water
In Genesis Chapter 9, the Bible first mentions the rainbow. This is in the midst of the story about Noah and the flood. God sets a rainbow as a covenant between himself and the people of the earth.
The covenant was that God would not destroy ever again the earth with a flood. It is a powerful reminder and whenever we see the rainbow, we get the reassurance that God still remembers his promise.
In Genesis 9:15-17, the Bible says:
“I will remember my covenant between me and you and all living creatures of every kind. Never again will the waters become a flood to destroy all life. Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth. So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”
In the event of the flood, other details about God emerged. For instance, it became explicit that God has power over the elements. He also controls the constancy of earth rotations, temperatures, seasons, and many other phenomena.
Symbol of God’s Glory
In the Book of Ezekiel, the Bible talks of rainbows again. Ezekiel the prophet has a vision of the guardians of the Holiness of God – the cherubim and other angelic beings. Ezekiel 1:28 records the following:
“Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking.”
Ezekiel is one of the few privileged to have a vision of God in His throne. The brightness of the Glory of God took the form of a rainbow. If you read this verse of scripture concurrently with Revelation 4:3 which says:
“And the one who sat there had the appearance of jasper and ruby. A rainbow that shone like an emerald encircled the throne”,
you get the meaning of the rainbow as a part of the manifestation of God.
Whenever God is described in the Bible, He is spoken of as being surrounded by a bright blinding light. The same light shone on Paul on his way to Damascus which would be his redemption. In Revelation 10:1, the Bible talks of a mighty angel robbed in a cloud with a rainbow.
“Then I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven. He was robed in a cloud, with a rainbow above his head; his face was like the sun, and his legs were like fiery pillars.”
Symbol of God’s Mercy
In Hebrew, the word used for rainbow is Qeshet. This means a war bow. Thinking through the bow as used in wars, it is normally accompanied by an arrow. Without the arrow, the bow is not considered a weapon. Therefore, the symbol of the rainbow without an arrow denotes the mercy of God.
While God is able to destroy the earth, he has chosen not to and instead display a beautiful bow without an arrow. God is merciful and doesn’t punish us as we deserve. It is not because we are righteous but because he is righteous.
The Character of God
In the Book of Exodus 34:6-7, the Bible says “Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed,
“The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth; who keeps loving kindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations.”
Even though this passage of scripture doesn’t explicitly mention the rainbow, it discusses the various character traits of God. It is more like discussing the spectrum of light one color at a time.
Even science maintains that white or bright light is a mixture of all the colors of the universe much in the same way as the different character traits that make a person.
The Symbol of New Beginnings
Depending on how you read the story of the great flood, the rainbow can also be used as a sign of a new beginning between man and God. The flood was most certainly a worldwide tragedy and the appearance of the rainbow at the end of the flood serves to demarcate the destructive past and the promising future.
In our lives, rainbows could be spiritual symbols of new beginnings especially after tragedies. This sign also carries the hope and promise of a better tomorrow.
The rainbow is also seen as a bridge between the heaven and the earth. Think of the time when God was creating the world, he placed a firmament that separated the waters above and the waters below and he called this firmament the sky.
The rainbow appears in the firmament as a symbol of the bridge or link between heaven and earth. The colors of the rainbow make it such a beautiful sight to behold. However, depending on the context, the rainbow may take additional meanings as discussed in this article.
Looking for more symbols in the Bible and their meanings? Here’s our guide to twins in the Bible.