Rainbows in the Bible

D L Henderson
6 min readSep 13, 2023

September 13, 2023

My efforts to tear down the walls between Understanding and Misinformation regarding the Bible is a continuing work. Words have been misinterpreted by people actually trying to get it right. Much worse, there are — and have been over the centuries — people purposely twisting the Scriptures into stating something they do not say. What their motives are is beyond me. So, I, notwithstanding, defend the accuracy of the Bible as a meat and potatoes record of the interactive History, Literature in the Humanities, and Prophetic Revelations of God’s life-giving purposes for Mankind.

Words and phrases have been the basis for doctrinal building blocks in Christian denominations for centuries. However, if the translated words are lacking in the fullness of the ideas intended, or if phrases and paragraphs are broken into pieces, losing the fullness of ideas within them, if the foundation for belief is shakey, how can a house built on such weakness stand the test of time?

Therefore, I sometimes question the words and phrases used in the various English translations of the Bible, especially when I have an instinctive twinge that says, “That doesn’t sound right.” It might be that the “shoe doesn’t fit’’ the context, or “science may disagree.” So, I go online to research the original languages used. (Note, when I say “science,” I don’t mean the pseudoscience’s philosophy, the school of the Big Bang Theory, which puts the conclusion first and the scientific method last.)

For instance, yesterday, I had a prompt in my brain that got me to research a word in Genesis 9:13. The differences found in the early King James version of the 17th Century versus the 20th Century’s New KIng James Version, and the two illustrate my point exactly:

  • KJV — “I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.”
  • NKJV — “I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth.”

Okay. So what’s the big deal?

The big deal is that the newer version has succumbed to the influences of popular denominational opinion. It may fit better into Children’s Bible Story Books, but children build their beliefs on that shaky foundation. Do we really think hiding the actual in a fantasy is a good idea?

So, I did some research, and at first, I could only find enhancements for what a rainbow is and some nice stories about what it means in the Bible. I rejected them all as inapplicable for answering my question. Yet, the Science of rainbows piqued my inquisitiveness.

One site described the Science about what causes rainbows: scijinks.gov/rainbow — “A rainbow is caused by sunlight and atmospheric conditions. Light enters a water droplet, slowing down and bending as it goes from air to denser water. The light reflects off the inside of the droplet, separating into its component wavelengths — or colors. When light exits the droplet, it makes a rainbow.”

So, … Let’s review…

God created the Earth. God created the clouds, the rain, the sunlight…and the Physics of them all… and rainbows were thus a natural weather occurrence from the very start.

Yes. Rainbows are the result of what God did. He did it at the Beginning, as recorded in the first chapter of Genesis. It was already in existence. So, rainbows could not have first originated, centuries later, after Noah’s Flood!

They always had existed.

So, onward and upward…

I found this incredibly applicable word study: https://weekly.israelbiblecenter.com/rainbow-or-archIn — Genesis 9:13, God tells Noah, “I set my bow (קשׁתי; qashti) in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and between the earth.” The Hebrew term for “bow” (קשת; qeshet) can refer to either a rainbow or an archer’s bow used in hunting or warfare. We often learn as children that God set, or hung, His bow in the sky as a sign that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. The term is often used of the rainbow in the sky, but it should also be equally considered as an instrument of God’s judgment. Israel’s Scriptures use militaristic terminology often, and this word is no different. God’s sign of a bow in the clouds could have signified the end of war between Himself and humanity.” **

Now, that made complete sense. The “bow” was a weapon. The idea of a pretty “rainbow” doesn’t fit. I now realize that the bow in the account is a metaphor rather than an actual bow. It is about the oppositional relations between God and Mankind: “For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.” — Romans 8:7. NLT. God hung the bow on a hook. He put the weapon down. He put it away. Genesis 9:11, NLT… “And 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.”

This principle is repeated in the storied purposes of Jesus:

Ephesians 2:13(b)-18, New Living Translation… “Once you were far away from God…

…For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now, all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. ‘

* *— For the bonafides, here is the “About Us” depiction of the site:

Israel Bible Center

An independent institution of higher learning located in Israel.

We offer academic perspectives on a variety of topics around Jewish history, culture, and Scripture. A proud member of the eTeacherGroup family of educational institutes, IBC is not supported by, sponsored by, or affiliated with any religious group, denomination, or movement. (All of our teachings, activities, and resources are financed by student tuition.)

Our Goals & Mission

With a diverse faculty coming from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives, our primary goal is to provide students with cognitive tools to approach text and tradition both socio-historically and academically. Sometimes our interpretations of history and text happen to dovetail with traditional Jewish and/or Christian views, while at other times we challenge traditional views based on our studies of history, language, culture, and context.

I hope this writing helps to persuade the readers, giving more confidence in the Biblical accounts which can be the solid foundation for making a decision to consider the place in your life for God, Jesus, and the Bible. The Bible truly is a solid source for research for the Choice everyone has to make — the choice to accept or to reject Jesus as one’s personal Rescuer, Redeemer, and Friend… What a difference Jesus will make in your life!

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D L Henderson

Born 1950; HS 1968; Born again 1972; Cornell ILR; Steward, Local President/Business Agent; Husband, father, grandfather; winner/loser/everything in between