I am not, by any means, an Old Testament scholar. However, there are some stories in the Old Testament that I love to think about. A few days ago, a beautiful rainbow graced the sky over Rochester, Minnesota, where I live. As any rainbow always does, it got me thinking about the Old Testament account of the great flood and its aftermath. Specifically, I’m thinking about what God told Noah afterward: “I set my bow in the clouds to serve as a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will recall the covenant I have made between me and you and all living beings, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all mortal beings.” (Gen 9:13-1)
What is a rainbow anyway? Now this question I believe I can answer with some authority, because I have, in my life, been a scholar of science, specifically chemistry, and this question has come up in classes that I have taught and in the textbooks I have authored. It is difficult to do in this short space, but let me try without going into full detail. Light coming to us from the sun consists of a broad array of wavelengths, which include the wavelengths of visible light. Different wavelengths of light travel through various media (vacuum, air, water, glass, etc.) at slightly different speeds. Because of this, they can separate, or disperse. When the earth’s atmosphere is saturated with water vapor, this dispersion becomes visible as a rainbow. Violet light, indigo light, blue light, green light, yellow light, orange light, and red light all travel at different speeds through the atmosphere under these conditions, and so a rainbow appears. It is one of those natural phenomena that is part of God’s beautiful creation.
I could not mention God’s role in my courses and textbooks, though I often wanted to. In this case, a discussion might have included how the human eye functions and how the eye and the brain work together and what marvelous things God has done for us. In my opinion, to combine the laws of science with the human body so that we can see God’s creation in its magnificent colorful splendor is, to me, clear evidence that God exists and that He has made all of this possible. It is but one phenomenon among a whole slew of phenomena that are just mind-blowing.
But back to Noah, the flood, and the covenant between God and man. According to the Genesis account, God said: “I will establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all bodily creatures be destroyed by the waters of a flood; there shall not be another flood to devastate the earth.” (Gen 9:11). Rainbows are the sign that this covenant has been established. So whenever I see a rainbow, I think of God … in more ways than one.