The Noachic Bridge
I’ve always found the Noachic covenant a bit of an outlier. It’s the only covenant in the primeval history and the only one to be made not just with a specific group of people but with all humans and all other living creatures (Genesis 9:9-10). The universality of the covenant is what makes it stick out so prominently. I think I have also struggled to see how it fits within the progression of other covenant in the Bible, apart from as part of the cycle of human sin and divine grace in Genesis 3-12 which is eventually answered in the Abrahamic Covenant. So I was really helped when I came across this recently from Old Testament scholar Mark Boda:
[The term בְּרִית (covenant)] appears in the OT when a relationship is formalized between one kinship cluster (family) and another kinship cluster (family). A בְּרִית (covenant) is not necessary within a family unit, that is, a parent does not need a covenant with a child, nor a sibling with another sibling. These are natural, trustworthy relationships. No covenant is necessary in the original creation since Yahweh God is identified as a parent producing children, as the “image/likeness of God” language makes clear (see Gen. 5:1-3). Once the human couple is banished from the garden in Gen. 3, this family status is annulled, and a covenant is now necessary to structure the relationship between humanity and God, and this covenant makes possible a renewal of the kinship relationship.
The Noachic covenant forms an important bridge between creation and redemption, as God reestablishes kinship relationship with humanity and all of creation. By placing the Noachic covenant in canonical position before Israel’s redemptive story and its relationship agreements (with Abraham/Sarah, Israel at Sinai, priestly, royal), we are reminded that the redemptive agreements with Israel were part of a much larger story of redemption that would impact not just all nations (Gen. 10) but also all creation. The relational agreement with Noah thus is key to understanding humanity’s function as vice-regents over all creation and God’s desire through a redeemed humanity to see creation realize its full potential.
Mark J. Boda, The Heartbeat of Old Testament Theology: Three Creedal Expressions, p.100