From BiblePortal Wikipedia

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament [1]


The rainbow which the writer of the Revelation saw around the throne of God was ‘like an emerald to look upon’ ( Revelation 4:3). Flinders Petrie (Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible (5 vols)iv. 620) argues from this passage that σμάραγδος was not an emerald but a rock-crystal, as only a colourless stone can show a rainbow of prismatic colours. But while the glory encircling the throne was like a rainbow in shape, it may well have been conceived, not as prismatic, but as having the soft green colour of an emerald. Any nimbus round another body, as the halo of the moon or a candle, was called an ἶρις (Arist. Meteor. III. iv. 9). What the prophet depicts is a startling contrast: the very throne from which proceed lightnings and thunders ( Revelation 4:5) is yet arched with emerald. In other words, mercy tempers justice: ‘Deus in judiciis semper foederis sui meminit’ (Grotius, quoted by H. Alford, Greek Testament5, Cambridge, 1875, p. 596). Noah’s rainbow and its traditional (mythological) explanation ( Genesis 9:12-17) were doubtless in the background of the Seer’s mind. When the dread storm, in which the lightnings were Jahweh’s arrows and the thunder His voice, was passing, His bow appeared in the clouds as a sign that His anger was appeased. ‘The brilliant spectacle of the upturned bow against the dark background of the retreating storm naturally appeals to man as a token of peace and good-will from the god who has placed it there’ (J. Skinner, International Critical Commentary, ‘Genesis,’ Edinburgh, 1910, p. 172). The Jewish Rabbis would have agreed with the English pcet who apostrophizes the rainbow:

‘I ask not proud Philosophy

To teach me what thou art’

(T. Campbell, To the Rainbow, 3 f.).

They discouraged (Ḥagiga, 16a) the study of a mysterious phenomenon which was to them a sacrament or covenant of Divine grace.

James Strahan.

Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible [2]

Rainbow . In   Genesis 9:11-17 (P [Note: Priestly Narrative.] ) the rainbow appears as the token of the covenant between God and Noah. As the covenant is universal, so is its sign. The Heb. of   Genesis 9:13 is ambiguous as to whether the rainbow is conceived of as created for the first time (see RVm [Note: Revised Version margin.] ). Though from a scientific point of view this is absurd, it may well have been part of the primitive tradition. Perhaps, however, all that is meant is that the rainbow received a new significance as the symbol of mercy. Its appropriateness is obvious: the storm passes, and the sun casts its beams over the still clouded sky, marking its return by one of the most beautiful phenomena of nature. So God renews His favour after He has hidden His face for a season. But there may be a further mythological significance. The rainbow may be J″ [Note: Jahweh.] ’s war-bow (  Psalms 7:12 ,   Habakkuk 3:9;   Habakkuk 3:11 ) which He has laid aside; the Heb. word is the same. So ‘it is to the Hindu the bow of Rama, and to the Finn the bow of Tiermes the Thunderer, who slays with it the sorcerers who hunt after men’s lives’ (Tylor, Primitive Culture 3 , i. p. 298). It is, indeed, prominent in all mythology. To the Greek it is a portent, or Iris, the messenger of the gods; in the Icelandic Edda it is the bridge connecting heaven and earth (cf. Wagner, Rheingold ). It is uncertain whether it is alluded to in the Babylonian narrative of the Flood (see Driver, ad loc ). In Sir 43:11 the rainbow is one of the wonderful works of God; in Sir 50:7 it is a type of the glory of Simon. In   Ezekiel 1:28 it surrounds the throne of God; so   Revelation 4:3 . If there is a reference to the Genesis narrative, it will be the symbol of mercy, possibly typified also by the ‘emerald’ to which it is compared, assuming that a green stone is meant (see Swete, ad loc. ). But instead of the word for ‘bow’ found in the LXX [Note: Septuagint.] , ‘Iris’ is substituted in   Revelation 4:3 , as in   Revelation 10:1 . Here evidently it is simply part of the picture, unless there is an allusion to the Greek conception of Iris as the messenger of the gods.

C. W. Emmet.

Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary [3]

I know not how it is, but so it is, as if by natural instinct, as often as I see that beautiful arch in the heavens called the rainbow, I call to mind what Jehovah once said after the deluge: "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth and it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud. And I will remember my covenant which is between me and you, and every living creature of all flesh: and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the, earth." ( Genesis 9:13-16) As oft therefore as I behold the rain bow, I consider the graciousness of the Lord's renewed token of this covenant; and I consider also the high privilege in looking in one and the same moment to the same object to which my God is looking. There is somewhat in this peculiarly blessed. And moreover, when I call to mind, what the beloved apostle John saw when heaven was opened to his view, "the rainbow round about the throne," ( Revelation 4:3) and also that mighty, angel whom he saw with a "rainbow upon his head," ( Revelation 10:1) I confess I feel great delight. For I cannot but conclude, that the bow JEHOVAH set in the cloud after the deluge, and the rainbow John saw in heaven round about the throne, and encircling or covering the head of the mighty angel, were all to the same purport, and all representing Christ. For surely Jesus is himself the covenant JEHOVAH hath made with our nature in the person of his dear Son. Notwithstanding, therefore, what some men tell us of the physical causes by which the rainbow, they say, is produced, yet still I desire to look at it as the result of higher purposes in grace, and to behold it in every renewed view as the sweet and glorious token JEHOVAH hangs out in the heavens of JEHOVAH'S covenant in Christ. Men who study nature may see God in the works of nature; and they who study providences may see God in the works of his providences; but they who study the works of grace; when taught of God, will discover Christ in the whole of those great designs, and behold the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ!

Vine's Expository Dictionary of NT Words [4]

1: Ἶρις (Strong'S #2463 — Noun Feminine — iris — ee'-ris )

whence Eng., "iris," the flower, describes the "rainbow" seen in the heavenly vision, "round about the throne, like an emerald to look upon,"  Revelation 4:3 , emblematic of the fact that, in the exercise of God's absolute sovereignty and perfect counsels, He will remember His covenant concerning the earth ( Genesis 9:9-17 ); in  Revelation 10:1 , "the rainbow," RV, the definite article suggests a connection with the scene in  Revelation 4:3; here it rests upon the head of an angel who declares that "there shall be delay no longer" (ver. 6, RV marg., the actual meaning); the mercy to be shown to the earth must be preceded by the execution of Divine judgments upon the nations who defy God and His Christ. Cp.  Ezekiel 1:28 .

Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types [5]

 Genesis 9:13 (a) Our Lord gives this emblem as a proof of His grace and mercy. It is a sign of the immutability of His Word. Now we never see a complete rainbow. It is always broken at the bottom, and there is a space there where there is no color. So none of us ever see all the grace of GOD for our lives, all His goodness and mercy, and all the perfect plan He has for us.

 Revelation 4:3 (a) The bow in this Scripture is a complete one. There is no break in it. All the colors have disappeared, except the green. Green is the color that represents praise and worship. The complete bow tells us that in the next life we shall see and understand all the goodness of GOD to us, all His grace in dealing with us, all His measureless mercy which preserved us. Because of this we shall spend eternity in adoring praise and worship.

 Revelation 10:1 (a) Since the rainbow appears around the head of this mighty angel just before the judgments begin, it is to tell us that grace always appears before wrath, and GOD's goodness provides a remedy from the dire results of rebellion.

Morrish Bible Dictionary [6]

The 'bow set in the clouds' was given by God to Noah as a token that He would not again destroy the world by a flood.  Genesis 9:13-16 . That the rainbow, as is now known, is caused by the refraction of light on drops of rain, need not cause any difficulty. The rainbow may have appeared to Noah before, but it was not appointed by God as a token until after the flood. The word translated 'set' ( nathan ) is sometimes translated 'appoint,' as in  Joshua 20:2 . Others judge it to be more probable that the rainbow had not been seen prior to the flood, the state of the atmosphere being different from what it became after the deluge.

The rainbow is mentioned in  Revelation 4:3;  Revelation 10:1 , as a symbol that, notwithstanding all the sin of man, God has been faithful to His promise respecting the earth. The beautiful bow in the cloud should ever call to mind His abiding faithfulness.

Smith's Bible Dictionary [7]

Rainbow. The token of the covenant, which God made with Noah, when he came forth from the ark, that the waters should no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. The right interpretation of  Genesis 9:13, seems to be that God took the rainbow, which had, hitherto, been, but a beautiful object shining in the heavens, when the sun's rays fell on falling rain, and consecrated it as the sign of his love, and the witness of his promise.  Sirach 43:11.

The rainbow is a symbol of God's faithfulness and mercy. In the "rainbow around the throne,"  Revelation 4:3, it is seen as the symbol of hope and the bright emblem of mercy and love, all the more true as a symbol, because it is reflected from the storm itself.

American Tract Society Bible Dictionary [8]

 Genesis 9:13-15 . This beautiful phenomenon is owing to the refraction of the beams of the sun in passing the drops of falling rain; the rays are separated into the prismatic colors, and then reflected from the cloud opposite to the sun and the spectator. We need not suppose that the rainbow was unknown before the flood; but God then appointed it to be the cheering seal of his covenant with the earth, which is as steadfast as the natural laws from which the rainbow springs.

King James Dictionary [9]

RA'INBOW, n. A bow, or an arch of a circle, consisting of all the colors formed by the refraction and reflection of rays of light from drops of rain or vapor, appearing in the part of the hemisphere opposite to the sun. When the sun is at the horizon, the rainbow is a semicircle. The rainbow is called also iris.

The moon sometimes forms a bow or arch of light, more faint than that formed by the sun, and called lunar rainbow. Similar bows at sea are called marine rainbows or sea bows.

Holman Bible Dictionary [10]

 Genesis 9:8-17 Genesis 1:28 Genesis 3:9 Genesis 4:3 Revelation 10:1

Easton's Bible Dictionary [11]

 Genesis 9:12-17 Ezekiel 1:27,28 Revelation 4:1-3 10:1

Webster's Dictionary [12]

(n.) A bow or arch exhibiting, in concentric bands, the several colors of the spectrum, and formed in the part of the hemisphere opposite to the sun by the refraction and reflection of the sun's rays in drops of falling rain.

Fausset's Bible Dictionary [13]

(See Bow .)

Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature [14]

(Heb. קֶשֶׁת , Kesheth , i.e. a Bow with which to shoot arrows,  Genesis 9:13-16; Ezekiel i, 28; Sept. Τόξον , so  Sirach 43:11; Vulg. Arcus. In the New Test. [ Revelation 4:3;  Revelation 10:11, Ιρις ), the token of the covenant which God made with Noah when he came forth from the ark that the waters should no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. With respect to the covenant itself, as a charter of Natural blessings and mercies (" the world's covenant, not the Church's"), re-establishing the peace and order of physical nature, which in the flood had undergone so great a convulsion, see Davidson, On Prophecy, lect. iii, p. 76-80. With respect to the token of the covenant, the right interpretation of  Genesis 9:13 seems to be that God took the rainbow, which had hitherto been but a beautiful object shining in the heavens when the sun's rays fell on falling rain, and consecrated it as the sign of his love and the witness of his promise. The bow in the cloud, seen by every nation under heaven, is an un failing witness to the truth of God. Was the rainbow, then, we ask, never seen before the flood? Was this "sign in the heavens" beheld for the first time bv the eight dwellers in the ark when, after their long imprisonment, they stood again upon the green earth, and saw the clark, humid clouds spanned by its glorious arch? Such seems to be the meaning of the narrator. Yet this implies that there was no rain before the flood, and that the laws of nature were changed, at least in that part of the globe, by that event. There is no reason to suppose that in the world at large there has been such a change in meteorological phenomena as here implied. That a certain portion of the earth should never have been visited by rain is quite conceivable. Egypt, though not absolutely without rain, very rarely sees it. But the country of Noah and the ark was a mountainous country; and the ordinary atmospherical conditions must have been suspended, or a new law must have come into operation after the flood, if the rain then first fell, and if the rainbow had consequently never before been painted on the clouds. Hence, many writers have supposed that the meaning of the passage is, not that the rainbow now appeared for the first time, but that it was now for the first time invested with the sanctity of a sign; that not a new phenomenon was visible, but that a new meaning was given to a phenomenon already existing. The following passages,  Numbers 14:4; 1 Samuel 12 :l0;  1 Kings 2:35, are instances in which נָתִן , Nathan , literally "give" the word used in  Genesis 9:13, "I do Set My bow in the cloud" is employed in the sense off "constitute," "appoint." Accordingly there is no reason for concluding that ignorance of the natural cause of the rainbow occasioned the account given of its institution in the book of Genesis. (See Noah).

The rainbow is frequently seen in Palestine in the rainy season, and thus it furnishes a common image to the sacred writers. There is a reference to the rainbow, though not named, in  Isaiah 54:10; and it is mentioned in other passages. "As the appearance of the bow which is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about" ( Ezekiel 1:28). "And there was a rainbow round about the throne in sight like unto an emerald" ( Revelation 4:3). "And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud, and a rainbow was upon his head" ( Revelation 10:1). These three passages correspond with and reflect light upon each other. The rainbow in all of them is the designed token of God's covenant and mercy, and of his faithful remembrance of his promise. "Look upon the rainbow," says the son of Sirach ( Sirach 43:11-12), "and praise him that made it: very beautiful it is in the brightness thereof; it compasseth the heaven about with a glorious circle, and the hands of the Most High have bended it." Among the Greeks and Romans, the personified rainbow, Iris, became the messenger of the gods, and the natural rainbow seems to have been conceived as the passage-way on which Iris came down to men (Serv. on Virgil's Aen. v, 610). The Indian mythology made a yet nearer approach to the Biblical view (Von Bohlen, India , i, 237); but the Edda represents the rainbow as a bridge connecting heaven and earth (see, in general, Menzel, Mythol. Forsch. p. 235 sq.). On the physical views of the ancients with regard to the rainbow. see Forbiger, Handb. D. Alt. Geog. i, 596 sq. See Schlichter, Lie Iride Ejusque Emblem. (Hal. 1739); Ausfeld, De Iride Diluvii Non Redituri Signo (Giess. 1756). (See Bow).

Scientifically considered, the rainbow is a natural phenomenon which is formed by rays of light from the sun (occasionally the moon) striking drops of falling rain, being refracted in entering them, reflected back, in part, from the opposite side of the drops, and refracted again on leaving them, so as to produce prismatic colors, some of which meet the eye. In the inner or primary bow, the light is refracted downwards, and undergoes but one reflection; while in the outer or secondary bow the light, striking the lower side of the drop, is first refracted upwards, and reflected twice within the drop before leaving it; hence its light is fainter. Both present the colors of the prismatic spectrum; but in the primary bow the tints gradually ascend from the violet to the red, while in the outer the violet is more elevated. The colors of the rainbow are the result of the decomposition of white light in its passage through the globular drops of water forming a shower of rain.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia [15]

ran̄´bō ( קשת , ḳesheth , translated "a bow"; ἶρις , ı́ris , "rainbow"): As most of the rainfall in Palestine is in the form of short heavy showers it is often accompanied by the rainbow. Most beautiful double bows are often seen, and occasionally the moon is bright enough to produce the bow. It is rather remarkable that there are so few references to the rainbow in the Bible. The Hebrew ḳesheth is the ordinary word for a bow, there being no special word for rainbow.

The interpretation of the significance of the bow in the sky is given at the close of the story of the flood, where it is called "the token of the covenant" of Yahweh with Noah that there should be no more flood: "I do set my bow in the cloud,... and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh" ( Genesis 9:13 ,  Genesis 9:15 ). This addition to the story of the flood is not found in other mythical accounts. The foundation for the interpretation of the bow in this way seems to be that while His bow is hung in the sky God must be at peace with His people. The glory of God is likened to "the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain" ( Ezekiel 1:28 ). The rainbow forms a striking part of the vision in  Revelation 4:3 : "And there was a rainbow round about the throne."