The Significance of the Rainbow

You’re driving down the road in the rain, but then all of a sudden the clouds clear, the sun shines – and you spot a rainbow in the sky! Though some may look at rainbows as simply a matter of light, density, and atmospheric conditions, there is something about rainbows that feels special. And rainbows are special, because they are a sign of God’s promise.

In Genesis 9:14, after the Flood, God tells Noah, “When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the water shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh.” So we know from Scripture that the rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant and His promise of peace.

Recently on The Faith ExplainedCale Clarke explained the significance of the rainbow, and how it can not only be a reminder of God’s promise, but also a symbol and reminder of our life in Christ.

Cale explained, “The rainbow is, in a sense, meant to evoke an archer’s bow. Just like in warfare in the ancient world archery was very important. God has made war against sin in the world with the Flood. And what He’s doing now is laying down His weapon, laying down His arms.”

Cale pointed out that, in fact, the Hebrew word for rainbow is the exact same word that is used for an archer’s bow. The next time you see a rainbow after a storm you can think of how God hung his bow upon the clouds, just as an archer might hang his bow on the wall after a battle.

“This is exactly what we see God doing, whenever we see a rainbow after a storm,” Cale said. “God is basically saying, ‘Yes, I could wipe out the entire world again with a flood or a disaster. But I’m not going to do that. Because I have committed that I am never again going to do that. Despite the fact that human beings are weak and sinful, I’m going to deal with this in a different way. I am going to make all things new.'”

And how did God make all things new? Cale noted that one can see a rainbow as an image of Christ. After all, there are several parallels.

  • The rainbow is a sign of God’s covenant with Noah, a sign of peace between God and man. And Christ in the Eucharistic is the sign of the ultimate and eternal covenant of peace between God and man. (Luke 22:20)
  • God sent a Flood to destroy the world and marked new life with the return of a dove to Noah on the Ark. Similarly, in the waters of baptism sin and death are destroyed through Christ, and we are given new life in the Holy Spirit, who is often portrayed as a dove.

Rupert of Deutz, a theologian from the 12th century, also explained another way that the rainbow can remind us of Christ.

He wrote, “Therefore, the rainbow that appears in the clouds is a sign of the Son of God. It is the sign that God will never again destroy all flesh by the waters of the Flood. The Son of God Himself, who was taken out of sight by a cloud and was lifted up beyond the clouds, above all the heavens, is forever a sign that reminds God the Father. He is an eternal memorial of our peace.”

“That’s a powerful image,” said Cale. “Just as Jesus ascended above the clouds, like the rainbow is above the clouds, He presents Himself to God the Father. He is our covenant of peace. God does not want to destroy. He wants to make all things new.”

So the next time you see a rainbow, take a moment to thank God for His love, His mercy, and His power to make all things new, no matter what storms life throws at us.

Learn more by listening to the full episode of The Faith Explained with Cale Clarke.

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Stephanie Foley serves as a Digital Media Producer at Relevant Radio®. She is a graduate of Franciscan University of Steubenville, where she studied journalism, and she has worked in Catholic radio for 12 years. Stephanie is a wife, a mother of three boys, and in her free time she enjoys reading, running, and really good coffee. You can find more of Stephanie’s writing at relevantradio.com and on the free Relevant Radio mobile app.