In 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.
If we interpret God’s “bow” as a weapon rather than a rainbow, then Scripture suggests that God sets aside the divine implements of war that had just ravaged the earth with a flood. God sets His hunting bow in the sky to show Noah that never again will global diluvian destruction come to humanity from heaven. However, while this bow rests in the clouds at present, it will make another appearance at the final judgment. According to Psalm 7, for instance, God “bends His bow (קשׁתו; qashto) and makes it ready. He also prepares for Himself instruments of death; He makes His arrows into fiery shafts” (Ps 7:12-13). Another description of God as an archer appears in Moses’ song about the Lord’s ultimate judgment: “I will heap disasters upon them; I will spend my arrows against them” (32:23).
God judged the earth with a flood in the days of Noah, but hung up His bow as a sign that there would be lasting peace between heaven and earth. Yet that implement of judgment will make an appearance again, in a different time and place. When the divine bow is set aside, however, God reminds humanity of his covenant faithfulness and the promise never to destroy the whole earth again with floodwaters. As the Lord says through Isaiah, “As I swore that the waters of Noah (מי-נח; mey Noach) should no more go over the earth, so I have sworn that I will not be angry with you, and will not rebuke you” (Isa 54:9).