Justice Tempered With Mercy


I have been a student of the Hebrew Scriptures for over 10 years and of the Seven Universal Commandments known as the Noahide Laws found within the Hebrew Scriptures for 2 years.

The Universal Commandments can be found before and after the great Flood. They were laws that the Creator gave mankind to obey to live on this earth, through them and their obedience they would give one a harmonious walk with the Creator and with fellow man.

I must admit I did not understand how the laws were part of the covenant The Creator made with Noah in Genesis chapter 9. From its first reading it looks like a covenant with all flesh and earth that there would not be another flood to destroy all living things again.

So I set out to examine closer the verses in Genesis 9 through the making of the everlasting covenant the Creator made with all living things forever. I wanted to find how the Seven Laws tied to the rainbow and the covenant.

In my search I used the Artscroll Tanach Series Breishis (ATSB) and The Living Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan. The ATSB contains a lot of commentary by the Sages and Torah scholars of old. By going through them I learned a lot about the rainbow itself as a chosen sign of the covenant.

When I looked at all the evidence before me I saw the answer and then latter on in my meditation over the subject I noticed that I had the answer all a long but it was an answer to another question I had dealt with in the past. In coming to the answer of how the Seven Commandments are under the rainbow covenant, I had to ask the right questions to come to the right answer.

In the past talking with others I shared that I learned that the Flood and destruction of all flesh except what was on the Ark was not an arbitrary decision by the Creator. The sins of the flood was told to us, they were robbery and all kinds of injustice done to each other. It got to the point that the Creator had to wipe them out, it had evan affected the animal world so thy had to go as well.

So after the Flood, we find the Creator giving Noah and sons the same instructions He gave Adam with the additional commandment of how to eat meat taken from an animal.

When the Creator made the covenant He include all of humanity throughout all of humanities generations forever. He said He would no longer use a flood against all flesh and the earth again.

So one of the questions was, why the details of not destroying all flesh and the earth again with flood waters was at the end of giving the commandments to Noah? – it seemed a separate issue to me.

I found the answer in why there was a flood to begin with. It was because man had chose not to obey the six commandments to begin with. They had gone so far away from them that it effected the animal kingdom and the earth.

This time beginning with Noah the Creator made a pact with man; between the lines He was telling us that man’s sins against Him involving the Seven Commandments given to Noah, that He would look at the sign, the rainbow and not let His anger get to the point to wipe all humanity out with the waters of a worldwide flood. The Heavenly Court could still send regional flooding but not a worldwide flood impacting all life on the planet. So the covenant and its sign naturally had to come at the end of the giving of the commandments.

The Sages and Torah scholars of old in their knowledge gave forth some very interesting views on the rainbow.

One of them said that the rainbow was the reaction of two elements, fire and water. Another one said that it confected earth and heaven and another brought out that it was an inverted warriors bow. My thoughts on that tells me that the arrows in the form of a flood was not going to be shot back at all humanity.

But back to the fire and water view. The scholar points out that the fire i.e. the light from the sun, as it past through the water in the atmosphere produces the rainbow and this happens all the time all over the earth, even if every man cannot see it, the Creator sees it before Him forever reminding Him of His covenant with man and the earth.

As I pondered this what I find interesting is that one of the nicknames of the Torah given to us by the Sages of Israel is ‘water’. Contained in the Torah is the Creators commandments – The sun is a ball of fire, judgement can be likened unto fire but water is used to put it out, contain it or control it – so apropos that the rainbow be chosen as a sign of the covenant with mankind it and the Torah is justice tempered by mercy.

So from our view point when we see a bow it is like a warriors bow drawn back toward heaven. We should see it that we deserve strict justice for coming against the Creator in our sins (Leviticus 5:21-22 tells us that our sins against the Creator is our sins against one another) but the presence of water in the bow and Torah offers us the opportunity to make things right. Again this is not only a picture for us but it is also our relationship with the Creator, He is the one who tempered His justice with mercy and through the sign of the covenant for all time He has shown us the way to live.

So to answer my question, the Seven Universal Commandments of the Creator are tied to the rainbow and the covenant. They are what makes the other possible. If there was no commandments there would be no need of a covenant and its sign – there would not have been no need of a flood to begin with – thus they become the basis of the covenant to begin with.

Some of you this will be old news but I had to work it out for myself and now I put it out there for those who may have similar questions.

Terry W. Hayes

Photo Credit: Stas Kulesh on Unsplash

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