BOW or RAINBOW. God, after the flood, took the rainbow, previously but a natural object of sight shining beautifully in the sky, when the sun's rays are refracted through failing rain at different angles and so produce different prismatic colors, and elevated it to spiritual significance, to be to Noah and the world the sign of His love and pledge of His sparing mercy, that He would no more destroy the earth with waters. The language in Genesis gives no reason for supposing the writer ignorant of the natural cause of the rainbow, as if he made God then for the first time setting it in the sky. So naathan, "give," means appoint in Numbers 14:4; 1 Samuel 12:13; 1 Kings 2:35.
It is the pledge of "the world's covenant, not the church's, a charter of natural blessings." "Set" means simply, "I do appoint My bow in the cloud" (Genesis 9:13-16). In Ezekiel 1:28 and Revelation 4:3 the rainbow round about the throne of Jehovah is the symbol of mercy to God's children amidst coming judgments on the wicked. Though the divine righteousness requires a deluge of wrath on the faithless, God's faithfulness will only shine forth on the elect remnant the brighter for the tribulation that necessarily precedes (compare Isaiah 54:8-10). The complete circle typifies God's perfection and eternity, not broken into a half, as the earthly rainbow. As the various prismatic colors unite to form one pure ray, so God's varied providence combine in one harmonious whole.
As the rainbow was reflected on the waters of the world's ruin, and is seen only when a cloud is over the earth, so another deluge of fire shall precede the new heavens and earth" granted to redeemed man, as the earth after the flood was restored to Noah. The cloud was the token of God's presence in Israel's wilderness journey and in the holiest place of the temple; and on Mount Sinai at the giving of the law; and at the Lord's ascension (Acts 1:9), and at His coming again (Revelation 1:7). The bow represents calm sunshine after the world's shipwreck through sin. It is the emblem of God's loving faithfulness to His covenant with His people, and the pledge of sure hope to them.