What is the meaning of the bow which God put in the clouds when He made a covenant with Noah after the flood?
God himself explains the meaning of the bow He placed in the clouds after the flood. God says to Noah and his sons: “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you…it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant,…and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Gen. 9:12-15 KJV). The bow is a sign of God’s covenant with earth.
However, what God meant by the term bow itself, is not as clear. A popular misconception is that this was the first rainbow. Despite the fact translators have since interpreted it as such; the original passage in Genesis does not say it is a rainbow. Critics of the Bible have condemned this account on the grounds that it is ridiculous to believe that this was the origin of the rainbow, when the simplest understanding of light refraction explains how a rainbow occurs when sunlight shines through rain. Even if one does assume a literal rainbow is meant, it doesn’t imply that this is the first occurrence and thus, origin of the rainbow; regardless, the fact that the Bible does not make such a claim certainly weakens the critic’s argument.
What then is meant by the term bow as used in Gen. 9:13? Liddell and Scott’s Hebrew and English Lexicon says the original word, often used to refer to an archer’s bow, is sometimes “used metaphorically for strength and power.” This would seem to make sense, except if it is not a literal bow, can there be a literal cloud? Of course not, and the Lexicon explains that the term cloud is sometimes used “figuratively…always used of God as protecting men; see 2 Kings 19:34.” Indeed, the Bible often uses the term cloud to refer to heavenly protection and service.
Take for example Exodus 23:20-21. The Lord, leading His children out of Egypt, says “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared.” Then in Numbers 9:16-22 we read that a cloud hovering over the tabernacle indicated when the people were to rest and when they were to move. Was this “cloud of the Lord” (Ex. 40:38) a literal cloud? No, the cloud was God’s angel, or a company of angels.
Additionally, in Matthew 17, when the disciples saw Jesus as He would appear in His glory, verse 5 tells us that while Jesus spoke, “a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud.” This bright cloud was not a literal cloud, but a company of angels encircling Jesus.
Have we not been told that “the angel of the Lord encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them” (Psalm 34:7)?
Angels have served the people of God in all ages, protecting, guiding, guarding. Angels led the Israelites through the wilderness (Ex. 23: 20-21). The angels guarded the water of the river of life during the dark night of the apostasy, so that the Bible was preserved (Dan. 12: 6-7). God has promised to protect and assist all who will be heirs of salvation (Heb 1:14). God’s strength, visible in His angels is God’s bow in the cloud, a symbol of an everlasting covenant between Him and His human family