The Pastor's Class

A Rainbow Reminder

Genesis 8:15 - 9:17

Noah, his family and all the animals were boarded on the ark and God closed the door. It rained for forty days and forty nights. In addition to the rain that fell from the sky waters rose up from the deep. Even though some would argue that this was a local flood the bible states plainly (Genesis 7:20) that "the water rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than twenty feet."

The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days. However, it would still be quite a while before Noah and his family could exit the ark.

Five months after the flood began the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat. It would be another two months before the tops of the mountains became visible. From start to finish Noah and his family was on the ark for just over a year.

Genesis 8: 15-22

15 Then God said to Noah, 16 “Come out of the ark, you and your wife and your sons and their wives. 17 Bring out every kind of living creature that is with you—the birds, the animals, and all the creatures that move along the ground—so they can multiply on the earth and be fruitful and increase in number upon it.”

18 So Noah came out, together with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives. 19 All the animals and all the creatures that move along the ground and all the birds—everything that moves on the earth—came out of the ark, one kind after another.

20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.

22 “As long as the earth endures,

seedtime and harvest,

cold and heat,

summer and winter,

day and night

will never cease.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

1. How many people survived the Flood?

There were only eight people saved. (I Peter 3:20). Noah and his wife; Noah's three sons and their wives.

Even thought the text does not say so, one would believe that Noah had other relatives, aunts, uncles, cousins, brothers or sisters. Possibly this is why the text plainly states that God closed the door. The decision was not up to Noah. If Noah did have additional family we can imagine how difficult it would be for him to stand on the deck of the ark and hear their cries.

2. What is the first thing that Noah did when he left the ark?

Noah built an alter to the Lord and he sacrificed burnt offerings on it. Noah was a godly man, "He walked with God" (Gen. 6:9). It is only reasonable that at the end of such an ordeal he would desire to worship. He and his family certainly had reason to worship.

In this passage we have the continuation of sacrificial worship. Remember, sacrifice can be traced all the way back to the garden of Eden. God made a covering of animal skins for Adam and Eve.

In this passage we have the introduction of the altar.


Hebrew: "mizbe'ah," "mizbeach" (prononced: miz-bay'-akh), meaning "an altar" from a word meaning "to slay;" Greek: "thusiasterion," (pronounced: thoo-see-as-tay'-ree-on") meaning a place of sacrifice, i.e., an altar.

Biblical altars were generally structures of earth (Ex. 20:24) or of stones that had not been hewn (20:25). Sacrifices were offered on them. Altars were generally erected in conspicuous places (Gen. 22:9; Ezek. 6:3; 2 Kings 23:12; 16:4; 23:8; Acts 14:13). The word altar is used in Heb. 13:10 for the sacrifice offered upon it--the sacrifice Christ offered.

Paul found among the many altars erected in Athens one bearing the inscription, "To the unknown God" (Acts 17:23), or rather "to an [i.e., some] unknown God." The reason for this inscription cannot now be accurately determined. However, it offered the apostle the opportunity to proclaim the gospel to the "men of Athens."

The first altar specifically mentioned in the Bible is the one erected by Noah (Gen. 8:20), although we assume that Adam and the pre-Flood patriarchs also used altars for their sacrifices. The first blood sacrifices are mentioned in connection with Adam and Eve (God's shedding of animal blood to make coverings for them) and their son Able's offerings (Gen. 3-4). Altars were erected by Abraham (Gen. 12:7; 13:4; 22:9), by Isaac (Gen. 26:25), by Jacob (33:20; 35:1,3), and by Moses (Ex. 17:15, "Jehovah-nissi").

In the tabernacle, and afterwards in the temple, two altars were erected.

(1) THE ALTAR OF BURNT OFFERING (Ex. 30:28), called also the "brazen altar" (Ex. 39:39) and "the table of the Lord" (Mal. 1:7).

This altar, as erected in the tabernacle, is described in Ex. 27:1-8. It was a hollow square, 5 cubits in length and in breadth, and 3 cubits in height. It was made of shittim wood, and was overlaid with plates of brass. Its corners were ornamented with "horns" (Ex. 29:12; Lev. 4:18).

ALTAR UTENSILS - In Ex. 27:3 the various utensils used at the altar are listed. They were made of brass. (Compare 1 Sam. 2:13,14; Lev. 16:12; Num. 16:6,7.)

TEMPLE ALTAR - In Solomon's temple the altar was larger (2 Chr. 4:1. Compare 1 Kings 8:22, 64; 9:25), and was made completely of brass, covering a structure of stone or earth.

This altar was renewed by Asa (2 Chr. 15:8). It was removed by Ahaz (2 Kings 16:14), and "cleansed" by Hezekiah, in the latter part of whose reign it was rebuilt. It was finally broken up and carried away by the Babylonians (Jer. 52:17).

After the return from captivity it was re-erected (Ezra 3:3,6) on the same place where it had formerly stood. When Antiochus Epiphanes pillaged Jerusalem the altar of burnt offering was taken away.

Again the altar was erected by Herod, and remained in its place till the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans (70 A.D.).

FIRE - The fire on the altar was not permitted to go out (Lev. 6:9).

ALTAR'S LOCATION TODAY? - In the Mosque of Omar, immediately underneath the great dome, which occupies the site of the old temple, there is a rough projection of the natural rock, of about 60 feet in its extreme length, and 50 in its greatest breadth, and in its highest part about 4 feet above the general pavement. This rock seems to have been left intact when Solomon's temple was built. Some believe this is the site of the altar of burnt offering. Underneath this rock is a cave, which may could have been the granary of Araunah's threshing-floor (1 Chr. 21:22).

(2) THE ALTAR OF INCENSE (Ex. 30:1-10), called also "the golden altar" (39:38; Num. 4:11), stood in the holy place "before the vail that is by the ark of the testimony."

INCENSE - On this altar sweet spices were continually burned with fire taken from the brass altar. The morning and the evening services were begun by the high priest offering incense on this altar. The burning of the incense was a type of prayer (Ps. 141:2; Rev. 5:8; 8:3,4).

SIZE AND CONSTRUCTION - This altar was a small movable table, made of acacia wood overlaid with gold (Ex. 37:25,26). It was 1 cubit in length and breadth, and 2 cubits in height.

In Solomon's temple the altar was similar in size, but was made of cedarwood (1 Kings 6:20; 7:48) overlaid with gold. In Ezek. 41:22 it is called "the altar of wood." (Compare Ex. 30:1-6.)

In the temple built after the Exile the altar was restored. Antiochus Epiphanes took it away, but it was later restored by Judas Maccabaeus (1 Macc. 1:23; 4:49). Among the trophies carried away by Titus on the destruction of Jerusalem the altar of incense is not found, nor is any mention made of it in Heb. 9.

It was at this altar Zacharias ministered when an angel appeared to him (Luke 1:11). It is the only altar which appears in the heavenly temple (Isa. 6:6; Rev. 8:3,4).

Author: Matthew G. Easton, edited by Paul S. Taylor

3. What is the significance of a burnt offering?

Burnt offering

Hebrew olah; i.e., "ascending"

A burnt offering is one that is consumed by fire, and regarded as ascending to God while being consumed.

Part of every offering was burnt in the sacred fire, but this was wholly burnt, a "whole burnt offering." It was the most frequent form of sacrifice, and apparently the only one mentioned in the book of Genesis. Such were the sacrifices offered by Abel (Gen. 4:3, 4, here called minhah; i.e., "a gift"), Noah (Gen. 8:20), Abraham (Gen. 22:2, 7, 8, 13), and by the Hebrews in Egypt (Ex. 10:25).

The law of Moses afterwards prescribed the occasions and the manner in which burnt sacrifices were to be offered. There were "the continual burnt offering" (Ex. 29:38-42; Lev. 6:9-13), "the burnt offering of every sabbath," which was double the daily one (Num. 28:9, 10), "the burnt offering of every month" (28:11-15), the offerings at the Passover (19-23), at Pentecost (Lev. 23:16), the feast of Trumpets (23:23-25), and on the day of Atonement (Lev. 16).

On other occasions special sacrifices were offered, as at the consecration of Aaron (Ex. 29) and the dedication of the temple (1 Kings 8:5, 62-64).

Free-will burnt offerings were also permitted (Lev. 1:13), and were offered at the accession of Solomon to the throne (1 Chr. 29:21), and at the reformation brought about by Hezekiah (2 Chr. 29: 31-35).

These offerings signified the complete dedication of the offerers unto God. This is referred to in Rom. 12:1. (See ALTAR, SACRIFICE.)

Genesis 9: 1-6

Then God blessed Noah and his sons, saying to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth. 2 The fear and dread of you will fall upon all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air, upon every creature that moves along the ground, and upon all the fish of the sea; they are given into your hands. 3 Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

4 “But you must not eat meat that has its lifeblood still in it. 5 And for your lifeblood I will surely demand an accounting. I will demand an accounting from every animal. And from each man, too, I will demand an accounting for the life of his fellow man.

6 “Whoever sheds the blood of man,

by man shall his blood be shed;

for in the image of God

has God made man.

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

4. What did God say to Noah and his Sons that He had previously said to Adam and Eve?

God began his blessing of Noah and his family by telling them to be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. It was God's desire that the earth be replenished. Noah's family began a new era in world history. The period before the flood is known as the "antediluvian era". the period before the flood is called the "postdiluvian era." God allowed the world to start over again using Noah and his family. A new start shows God's grace. (In much the same way God allows us to start over again or to be born again as new creations in Christ.)

5. How did the relationship between man and animals change after the flood?

Verse 3 seems to indicate that there was no fear between man and beast before the flood. Man and animals lived in harmony one with the other. We know that animals were occasionally killed by humans before the flood because Abel sacrificed from the firstlings of his flock. However, it is not entirely clear whether man consumed animal flesh before the flood. Some have even suggested that there were no carnivorous animals before the flood.

6. Why did God prohibit man from eating flesh that still contained blood?

In the Old Testament blood was equated with life. This fact gave special meaning to the shedding of an animal's blood for sacrifice. The life was being given in place of the life of the worshiper. (Lev. 17: 10-14)

Whereas the killing of animals were a part of worship and was permitted for food, one should kill with a sense of reverence. Life is sacred both human and sacred.

Eddie Rickenbacker

It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, in October, 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour which would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.

Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean. For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his companions would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark...ten feet long. But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred.

In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry," that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, "read the service that afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off."

Now this is still Captian Rickenbacker talking..."Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don't know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food...if I could catch it."

And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. You know that Captain Eddie made it.

And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness.

"The Old Man and the Gulls" from Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story by Paul Aurandt, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, pp. 79-80.

Who's Who: Eddie Rickenbacker

Updated - Sunday, 2 June, 2002

Eddie Rickenbacker (1890-1973) was America's top-scoring fighter pilot of World War One, with 26 victories (including four observation balloons).

Rickenbacker, then one of the world's top racing car drivers, immediately enlisted with the U.S. Army upon America's entrance into the war in April 1917. Consequently he found himself a driver with U.S. Commander-in-Chief General John 'Black Jack' Pershing's staff in France.

Fortunately for Rickenbacker he met with U.S. air pioneer Billy Mitchell (then a Colonel), which ended with the latter arranging for Rickenbacker to transfer to the U.S. air service in August 1917.

Technically too old to fly with the air service Rickenbacker was nevertheless given permission to join the 94th Aero Pursuit Squadron in March 1918. With under nine months to pass until the armistice Rickenbacker lost no time in attaining for himself a reputation as a fearsome air ace: he earned his fifth (qualifying) victory on 30 May.

By the close of the war Rickenbacker had collected a set of 26 'kills', making him America's most successful fighter pilot of the war. His notable attack upon no fewer than seven German aircraft on 25 September 1918, during which he shot down two, subsequently gained him the U.S. Medal of Honor (1930).

With the end of the war Rickenbacker elected to leave the air service. He established his own automotive company before, in 1935, becoming General Manager of Eastern Airlines (later American Airlines).

The advent of World War Two brought Rickenbacker renewed service, this time as Representative to the Secretary of War in the survey of aircraft installations. After the war he returned to his former position at Eastern Airlines.

He died in 1973, the same year he published Fighting the Flying Circus.

7. What are God's feelings toward murder? (verse 6)

The first murderer, Cain, killed his brother, Since we all are related as sons of Noah, in a sense every murder is of every man's brother. The penalty for murder was the life of man. Capital punishment becomes the responsibility of society.

Later the Lord would specify that society as a whole, not a vigilante, was responsible for the application of the sentence. In the image of God He made man explains the reason for the severity of the punishment for murder. Capital punishment is not a devaluation of human life; it is a statement about human life being so valuable that the one who takes it must pay the highest price, thereby discouraging any additional murders.

Genesis 9: 7-11: The Noahic Covenant

7 As for you, be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth and increase upon it.”

8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

In this covenant, God required no special behavior of Noah and his descendants, but He made a promise about His future actions.

The Lord emphasized this covenant was to be universal, not just for Noah's family or for the Jews. It will last as long as humankind remains on the earth.

Genesis 9: 12-17

12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant I am making between me and you and every living creature with you, a covenant for all generations to come: 13 I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 Whenever I bring clouds over the earth and the rainbow appears in the clouds, 15 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. 16 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.”

17 So God said to Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant I have established between me and all life on the earth.”

The New International Version, (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House) 1984.

8. Why do you feel it was important for God to place a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of His covenant?

Visual reminders are a wonderful way to help us remember. Road signs are visual reminders of driving laws. Even though we know we are supposed to stop at a certain place it helps to have a visual reminder.

Probably, most of you knew something of the story of Noah and the flood long before you ever read it in the bible. A rainbow in the sky always gives opportunity to tell the story.

Isn't it amazing that after all these years rainbows have never become commonplace? Everytime I see one I always pause to look with a sense of awe and wonder.


9. What have you learned about God from this study?

God's purpose and desire for mankind did not change.

God is a God of grace and second chances.

God's promises are certain.

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