The Establishment of the Noahic Covenant

Establishment of the Noahic Covenant

Francis Roberts (1609-1675)
Mysterium & Medulla Bibliorum
The Mystery and Marrow of the Bible
Book 3, Chapter 2, part 1.

Of the Discovery and Administration of the Covenants of Promise in the Second Period of Time—From Noah till Abraham.

The second remarkable period of time wherein the Lord God pleased to renew the Covenant of Faith, in reference to Christ promised, was From Noah till Abraham, namely, from the a 480th year of Noah’s life, or thereabouts, being the 1536th year from the world’s creation till about the 71st year of Abrams life, when the promise of Christ was first made to Abram (as the author of sacred chronology clears it), which was in the 2079th year of the world. This period was very short, being but about 542 years. Yet it was enlarged somewhat by the repetition of this Covenant when Abram was 99 years old, and so it was extended to 571 years.

As this period of the Covenant’s administration was very short, so I shall proportionably contract myself in opening of it with all convenient brevity. And for clearness sake I shall insist upon these three aphorisms especially:

1. That the Lord God, having determined to destroy the old world for its extreme wickedness, established his Covenant with righteous Noah, to save him, his family, and a seed of the creatures in the Ark, from the common destruction.

2. That God having destroyed the wicked old world by a flood of waters, not only resolved with himself, but also established his Covenant with Noah, with his seed, and with the creatures, never to destroy the Earth any more by a flood. Annexing the Rainbow as a token of the Covenant.

3. That these Covenants of God with Noah, were a renewed discovery of the Covenant of Faith, touching sinners’ salvation by Jesus Christ.

Some writers who purposely handle the subject of God’s Covenants of Promise, yet omit this period of the Covenant’s discovery. Why? I know not, unless upon opinion that this Covenant of God with Noah was not the Covenant of Faith. Thus therefore I shall in this third aphorism endeavour to evince, after I have first briefly opened the two former aphorisms to make way thereunto.


The Lord God, having determined to destroy the Old World for its extreme wickedness, established his Covenant with righteous Noah, to save him, his family, and a seed of living creatures in the Ark, from the common destruction.

This Aphorism may be briefly, 1. Confirmed; 2. Explained; and 3. Applied in certain corollaries or inferences thence resulting.

I. For Confirmation.

It is clear, that thus the Lord covenanted with Noah, from the historical narrative that Moses made hereof.

“And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth. Make thee an ark of gopher wood, etc… And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die. But with thee will I establish my covenant; and thou shalt come into the ark, thou, and thy sons, and thy wife, and thy sons’ wives with thee. And of every living thing of all flesh, two of every sort shalt thou bring into the ark, to keep them alive with thee; they shall be male and female.” (Genesis 6:13-14, 17-19).

These words clearly and fully prove the truth of the whole Aphorism. And this is the very first place wherein the word בְּרִית (berith), or covenant, is used in the whole Bible. Let us the more heedfully mind the meaning of it.

II. For Explication.

For Explication of this federal transaction of God with Noah, consider:
1. What this word Covenant meaneth.
2. How God stablished his Covenant with Noah.
3. Who were the Parties to this Covenant.
4. What were the matters covenanted betwixt them.
5. What the Occasion and end of this Covenant.

1. The meaning of Covenant.

What this word berith, or Covenant, meaneth, hath been formerly at large explained in opening the General Nature of the Covenant. Here therefore no more needs to be super-added.

2. How God established his Covenant with Noah.

How God stablished his Covenant with Noah—seeing he saith, “with thee will I establish my Covenant” (Gen. 6:18). Here he only promised to establish his Covenant with Noah, but when or how did he perform this promise?

1. The Hebrew phrase Hakimothi Eth-Berithi, that is, I will stablish (or make firm, or make firmly to stand) my Covenant, is very emphatical. The word “I will establish,” is derived from quwm, which signifies either to rise up, or, firmly to stand. According to the former signification, it may be rendered, I will lift up my Covenant, or, I will make my Covenant rise up; that is, I will make a Covenant with thee. An allusion to the customary manner of covenanting, wherein a statue, or a stone, or heap of stones, etc. was wont to be lifted up by the parties covenanting, to testify their agreement, as [Hieronymus] Oleaster hath observed. According to the later signification, it may be translated “I will firmly stablish my Covenant;” or, “I will firmly ensure my Covenant,” or “make it stand sure.” For when a Covenant is kept, it is said to stand, when it is broken, it is said to fall. This latter signification is herein thought more apposite and fit—denoting the firmness, sureness, and faithfulness of God’s Covenant.

2. Though God promised to Noah, “I will establish my Covenant with thee”—yet this Promise of God was his establishment of his Covenant. Here (saith that learned [André] Rivet) the Hebrews enquire how God saith he would stablish his Covenant, which he had not yet made. But both are in one and the same moment. For when it is entered into, it is established. So then God’s publishing his Covenant to Noah, was his establishing his Covenant with him.

3. Who were the Parties to this Covenant?

The Text and the Aphorism express them, namely, God and Noah.

God was the Author of this Covenant, and the party promising and covenanting with Noah, to save him, when the whole world should be drowned. And God revealed this Covenant expressly, and formally, styling it a Covenant. Not only implicitly, nor did he express and declare this Covenant to Noah, mediately by the ministry of man, angel, or creature, but immediately by his own lively voice, and this of mere Grace. So that this Covenant was Divine, in regard of the foundation of it. Eminent, excellent, and sure, in respect of the publication of it.

Noah was the party restipulating certain duties to God, as God promised certain benefits to him. Noah’s restipulation was partly explicit, partly implicit, as after will appear. Consider a little who this Noah was whom God thus honoured with his Covenant.

I. For his pedigree, or natural descent. He was the son of Lamech, etc. the 10th from Adam, in a direct line. And by Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, was the whole earth overspread and planted.

II. For his name. Noah signifies rest proceeding from comfort, or comforter, or restorer. His father Lamech gave him this name, saying, “This same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed” (Gen. 5:29). A prophetical denomination of him, who was to be a type of Christ the true Noah, in building the Ark, and offering Sacrifices, whereupon the Lord smelled a savour of rest, and promised no more to curse the Earth for man’s sake. In this name given to his son, Lamech’s faith is observable, not only touching the comfortable restoring of the drowned world by Noah, but also touching the restoring of ruined mankind by Jesus Christ—the Seed of the woman.

III. For his religion. God himself gives him high and ample commendation, both in the Old and New Testament. For,

1. He was a just and righteous person before God in his generations. A righteous man in the midst of the unrighteous world, yea an heir of righteousness which is by Faith. The Scripture names three persons, eminent for righteousness, and Noah was one of those three, yea the first of them three (Ezekiel 14:14-20), not only righteous in himself, but also “a preacher of righteousness” to the world (2 Peter 2:5).

2. He was a perfect and upright man, without hypocrisy, guile, or deceit in his religion. He had the power as well as the form of godliness in him.

3. He walked with God. His habitual course of life and conversation was with his God, when the world walked in wickedness. God was his God reconciled in Jesus Christ. For can two walk together unless they be agreed? The guide of his actions; the center of his motions; the load-stone of his affections; the companion of his life; and the chief end of all his aims and undertakings. Blessed Noah thus walking with God, thus having sweet communion with God in a wicked world, had an Heaven on Earth, yea as it were an Heaven in Hell.

4. He excelled in Faith, believing things revealed of God, though unseen.

5. He had an holy awe and fear of God and his judgments.

6. He was notably obedient to all God’s commands, though against greatest difficulties and discouragements, especially in that stupendous act of making the Ark.

IV. For his privileges. God invested him with many, and those most remarkable. For,

1. He was singularly preserved by divine grace from the general corruption that in his times had overrun the whole world.

2. He alone with his family was saved in the Ark which he made at God’s appointment, when the the whole world besides was universally drowned with a deluge of waters.

3. He alone is accepted in Covenant with God touching his and his family’s salvation from the Flood, 120 years before the Flood came.

4. He was the period of the Old World, and the beginner of the New World. The Omega of that, the Alpha of this. Having lived before the Flood, 600 years, and living 350 years after the Flood. So that he was compared to Janus with two faces. And in respect of this New World, replenished by him and his family, he was as another Adam—all mankind being reduced to him, and flowing from him.

5. He, in making the Ark, and therein saving his family with himself from the dreadful Flood, which destroyed the world of the ungodly, was a special type of Christ, as after shall appear.

6. Finally, of him according to the flesh Jesus Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. (Rom. 9:5). This was that Noah, with whom God established his Covenant.

4. What were the Matters, or Things Covenanted betwixt God and Noah?

Answer. The subject matter of this Covenant is twofold. 1. Promised on God’s part. 2. Restipulated on Noah’s part.

On God’s part the Matter promised, was: The preservation and salvation of Noah and his family with a seed of living creatures in the Ark, from the destructive Flood of waters, wherewith the whole world should be drowned. This God promised, and this he punctually performed to Noah, and to them that were with him in the Ark, according to his Covenant.

On Noah’s part the Matters restipulated by him, and which God required of him, were:

1. Faith, to believe God, warning him of things not seen as yet. Namely, that God would destroy the whole world with a Flood, at the end of 120 years. That God notwithstanding would save him, his family, and a seed of the creatures in an Ark, for replenishing the world anew. The Apostle ascribes this to his faith. And without both the assenting, and applying act of faith, Noah could never have entertained or depended upon this divine revelation: nor have done what God prescribed.

2. Obedience, to God’s will and warning:

(1) In preparing an Ark for the saving of his house. A strange, a difficult, a chargeable, a wearisome, and tedious work for 120 years together.

(2) In providing and laying up food in the Ark for himself, and for all in the Ark with him, for the space of a whole year: for so long time they were in the Ark.

(3) In entering into the Ark, he, his house, and the creatures, as God had commanded him.

(4) In persisting in his righteousness, integrity, and walking with God—for which God so commended him, and rewarded him. God’s commending and rewarding him for these excellencies, was an implicit commanding and indenting [i.e. contracting] with him to continue therein. Nor can it be reasonably thought, but that Noah thus understood the Lord, and implicitly resolved and contracted with him, to persevere in these acceptable virtues and practices.

5. What was the Occasion and End of the Lord’s making this Covenant with Noah?

The occasion of God’s establishing this Covenant with Noah was double.

I. The extreme wickedness of the Old World, for which God determined to destroy it with a Flood. Hereupon God took occasion to reveal his Covenant to Noah. The wickedness of the Old World was extreme. For,

1. Piety and true religion was overgrown with wickedness and great ungodliness. The preaching of Enoch and Noah, the patience and long-suffering of God, and the striving of God’s Spirit with them, little or nothing availing to bring them to repentance and reformation.

2. Equity and righteousness to man was swallowed up with tyranny, violence, and oppression. Giants became great tyrants, and the Earth was filled with violence.

3. Sobriety and temperance were overthrown. Partly by their intemperate eating and drinking to excess, not for necessity. Partly by their intemperate and disordered marriages, for satisfaction of their lusts, rather than for procreation of an holy seed. “The sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose” (Gen. 6:2; Luke 17:27). The godly families in the Church matched promiscuously with the wicked posterity of Cain out of the Church. For Cain departed from the presence of the Lord. This brought a wicked confusion into godly families.

4. All this sinfulness of the Old World was exceedingly heightened by these heinous aggravations:

(1) The extensiveness and universality thereof. Not only Cain’s family had degenerated, but the whole Earth was corrupt, all flesh had corrupted his way upon the Earth.

(2) The intensiveness of this general corruption, wholly and continually depraving all their inward principles. “God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the Earth, and that every imagination (Heb. figment) of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Heb. every day)” (Gen. 6:5). What? Not only works and words, but the very thoughts of mans heart—yea the figment or imagination of his thoughts—yea, every imagination—was evil, only evil, continually evil. How emphatically! Again the Earth was filled with violence.

(3) Their deep security in all their wickedness until the very day that Noah entered into the Ark, and they knew not until the Flood came and took them all away.

(4) Their final impenitency. God’s patience and long-suffering, the preaching of Noah, and the striving of God’s Spirit with them, nothing at all prevailing with them to reclaim them; but they were then drowned, and now remain spirits in prison (1 Peter 3:19).

II. The singular godliness of Noah in the midst of all the worlds wickedness. This was the other occasion of God’s covenanting with him to save him, when the world should be destroyed.

The End or intent of God, in making this Covenant with Noah, seems especially to be fourfold.

1. Thereby to signify his peculiar love, grace, and mercy to righteous Noah, and that familiarly in a covenantal way: when his justice, severity and wrath should be so dreadfully revealed from Heaven against the unrighteous world.

2. Thereby to encourage Noah the more effectually to undertake and accomplish that chargeable, difficult, dangerous, and tedious task of framing the Ark: seeing in that Ark God assured him, and his, of preservation, as Calvin well observeth.

3. Thereby, to instruct Noah and his family in the mystery of the Covenant of Faith, touching the salvation of God’s elect family by the true Noah, Jesus Christ, and by the streams of his blood: as we shall see afterward.

4. Thereby, to let all in after ages see, that God knoweth how to deliver the righteous, but to reserve the unjust to exemplary punishment.

III. Corollaries, or Inferences hence resulting.

1. The sin of the Old World was exceeding great, and reached up to Heaven: seeing that it was plagued with so great a judgment. The earth was filled with violence: and it was filled with vengeance. The sin was universal, and the judgment universal. All flesh had corrupted his way on earth: and all flesh is swept away from off the earth. Heavy punishment! Oh heinous sinfulness!

2. The fruit of sin is bitter, woeful, and deadly—though the acting of sin seem never so sweet and delightful. The eating of the forbidden fruit was pleasing to Adam and Eve, but the curse that followed upon them, all mankind, and the whole Creation, was gall and wormwood. The Old World’s impiety, unrighteousness, intemperance, mixed marriages, security, etc. were delightfully acted, but when the Flood took them all away for these things, the dead carcasses of man and beast being spread like dung upon the face of all the habited earth, they were dismally plagued. Beware of the first and smallest beginnings of sin, it will be bitterness in the end!

3. The wrath of God, after means of grace and long waiting of his patience without fruit, is most severe against the ungodly. To the Old World Enoch prophesied, Noah preached righteousness, and God’s long-suffering waited 120 years in his time for the world’s reformation, but all were utterly disappointed and ineffectual, therefore God swallowed them up at once with a flood—husbands and wives, parents and children, masters and servants, young and old, male and female, bond and free, man and fowl and beast—they were all drowned together, not one of them was left, but those with Noah in the Ark. Had not Noah preached, and God waited so long for them, their judgments had been more tolerable. But when they despised all means of grace, and tired out all God’s patience, then the wrath of God came upon them to the uttermost. Oh it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God, in this case! The greater God’s patience, and means of grace on earth, if fruitless, the greater will be the damnation and torments of the wicked in Hell. The longer God is in drawing his bow of patience, the deeper will be the wounds of the arrows of his vengeance. Though he hath leaden heels, yet he hath iron hands. When he is long before he strike, he strikes home when the blow comes. It shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon, than for thee Chorazin, and Bethsaida—for Sodom and Gomorrah than for Capernaum (that was lifted up to heaven in the means of grace) at the Day of Judgment. Why? Because they had more means of grace than these. What city was honoured like Jerusalem with means of salvation? And what city was ever laid so low in judgments for despising those means? If England abuse all God’s patience, be incurable under all God’s means and medicines; where shall England appear?

4. Oh how precious treasures are piety and integrity that preserve from public judgments and common calamities. Upright Noah is alive and safe in the Ark, when the wicked are rolling, gasping, and dying in the merciless waves. The giants of those times with all their power, greatness, violence, tyranny, and wealth, could not save themselves from drowning. But Noah’s righteousness delivered him from death. Who would not be in love with piety and integrity! These will bring us into God’s Ark, these will preserve us, when the transgression of the ungodly shall destroy them.

5. The Lord knows how to preserve the righteous when the wicked are destroyed. He had an Ark for Noah: when the Old World is choked in the Flood. He had a Zoar for Lot: when Sodom and Gomorrah are consumed with fire and brimstone. He had a safe refuge for Jeremiah, even in prison, when Jerusalem is taken. Let us therefore sincerely walk with him, and depend upon him in greatest extremities; for none can deliver in this sort.

6. The Lord preserves his people by means ordinarily. Noah, by an Ark. Lot by flight from Sodom, etc. Yet sometimes those means are strange means. Noah saved from drowning, by the same waters that drowned the world. Israel preserved from the Egyptians, by the same waves that overwhelmed the Egyptians. Jonah is delivered from the belly of the sea, by being swallowed up by the belly of the whale. Therefore use we means, but trust we God. To depend upon God without use of means is to tempt God and endanger ourselves. To depend upon means and not upon God is to despise God and idolize means.

7. God’s Covenant is his people’s evidence or security for their salvation. By the Fall of Adam we have forfeited all, both temporal and spiritual. Without a new contract or agreement with God, we are outlaws, and can claim nothing. God, by Covenant, interests us in Christ; and through Christ, in all things. Noah himself had no security for his salvation from the Flood, til God secured him by Covenant. Nor have Noah’s posterity any protection from a second deluge but by God’s other Covenant with him and them. Nay, without God’s Covenant, what evidence or security could lapsed sinners have for their spiritual recovery or eternal salvation? God’s Covenant then is the great charter of our salvation. By this we have and hold all. How should we then study and value God’s Covenant: and labour to be federate parties with God therein?


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