God is now going to make a covenant with Noah. We will see this new beginning as we get into the next chapter. This covenant is a very important one. When God made it with Noah, He made it with the human family that is on the earth today.
Genesis 8:20-22 KJV
 And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
 And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
 While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
And Noah builded an altar unto the LORD; and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Literally, “a high place” – probably a mound of earth, on which a sacrifice was offered. There is something exceedingly beautiful and interesting to know that the first care of this devout patriarch was to return thanks for the signal instance of mercy and goodness which he and his family had experienced.
This is the first altar mentioned in Scripture—though it is not the first blood sacrifice, see Genesis 4:4. When Noah was commanded to save pairs of animals in the ark, more clean animals were spared than unclean ones, as found in Genesis 6:19, 20; 7:2, 3.
Perhaps the act of sacrifice noted in the verse before us has been intended from the beginning, provision for it having been made by keeping more of the appropriate animals alive.
We are not told what differentiates clean animals from unclean ones at this point in history, but Noah somehow knows the difference.
Now do you see why Noah took seven of the clean beasts and only two of the unclean?
He is now offering the clean beasts as sacrifices. The first thing that Noah did when he came out of the ark was to build an altar to the Lord and offer a sacrifice, a burnt offering, to Him.
That burnt offering speaks of the person of Jesus Christ. It was offered on the basis of acceptance before God and of praise to God in recognition of Him.
Without doubt, this was one of the things that caused God to be pleased with Noah at this particular time.
Noah’s first recorded act after leaving the ark is one of worship. He builds an altar to the Lord and offers animal sacrifices on it. This is the first time Scripture refers to building an altar to God.
In the previous chapter, God sent seven pairs each of every kind of clean bird and animal. That was the first hint that God regards some animals as clean and others as unclean.
Only clean animals could be used as sacrificial offerings to God (Leviticus 11; Deuteronomy 14).
Noah’s act here corresponds with the most common form of offering to God, which Israel would later practice while following God’s Law. In that offering, the whole animal is burned and fully consumed by fire on the altar.
This offering would have been a truly faith-based sacrifice, even if it was commanded directly by God. So few of each kind of animal existed in the world that to purposely kill any of them, even the more plentiful clean animals, was very costly to Noah and his family.
It was clearly an act of faith in God’s ability to provide.
This act of worship to God reveals that Noah continued to be faithful to God, even after the flood. Noah proves that he is motivated by allegiance to God.
As far as Noah was concerned, this new world remade by the flood would be built on a foundation of obedience and submission to the Creator.
And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done.
The writer, Moses, uses figurative language to describe God’s response to the sacrifice.
Since God is a Spirit, as we read in John 4:24, we need not assume that God smells things the same way we do or has a literal, physical heart.
Nevertheless, we understand such language. The same manner of figurative language is used when Scripture speaks of the, hand and arm, of the Lord found in Deuteronomy 4:34, 5:15, 7:19, etc.
This kind of figurative language is known as anthropomorphic. The point being made is that God accepts the offering.
Moses will use the same kind of language later to describe the sacrifices and burnt offerings that the new nation of Israel will be commanded to present to the Lord.
But we may wonder to what end God accepts Noah’s offerings.
In later times, burnt offerings will atone for sin found in Leviticus 1:1–9, and to ordain the Aaronic priesthood found in Exodus 29. Some suggest that Noah’s offerings are for atonement for the sins of all who perished in the flood, but that is not likely.
Ordinarily an offering of atonement is made in lieu of punishment, but those who have perished have already been punished.
More likely, Noah’s sacrifice is to purify the earth. Aaron and his sons will offer burnt offerings to purify themselves for the new priesthood centuries later; similarly, Noah offers sacrifices to cleanse the earth as home to new generations.
Up to this point in the Bible, the ground has been spoken of as being under a curse only twice. The ground was cursed in Genesis 3:17 because of sin. Only with difficulty would humanity be able to make a living from it.
Much later, Noah’s father, Lamech, prophesied Noah to be the one to bring relief from the burdensome toil because of the ground which the Lord hath cursed.
The question that arises, then, is whether the statement I will not again curse the ground here in 8:21 refers to the flood itself or to the original curse of 3:17.
If the latter, then the prophecy of 5:29 is fulfilled—but then we have to ask why thorns and thistles still interfere found in 3:18, and why agriculture still involves sweat-producing labor found in 3:19.
If the reference is to the punishment of the flood, then the promise to not again curse the ground is another way of stating the promise never again to flood the earth.
The reason given, because the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth, fits better with the concept that the flood itself was the curse of the ground that will not be repeated.
Time will reveal that the flood is not the permanent solution to sin, so repeating it will serve no purpose. The sacrifice of Christ will be needed to address the heart need and sin guilt of people. You can just write it down that that is true.
What about your youth?
Was your imagination evil or not?
In our contemporary society we can see the rebellion of youth, and isn’t it interesting to note the direction they have gone?
They have gone in the same direction. Every imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth—and it does not improve.
The previous verse recorded Noah’s first act after leaving the ark: to build an altar and offer animal sacrifices to God. Now God responds to this humble act of worship.
We’re told that God smells the pleasing or soothing aroma of the sacrifice and, apparently greatly pleased, makes a new commitment.
This is the only time Scripture shows God explicitly smelling the aroma from a sacrifice, though that is the direct intention of many sacrifices described later in the Bible.
This is not meant to be read as if God is literally inhaling smoke. Rather, the reference to smoke, and its scent, is a common Scriptural metaphor involving prayer, and how our sacrifices are received by God.
God’s commitment is to never again curse the ground or the earth as He has done through the flood. This should not be read as God lifting the original curse on the ground in response to Adam’s sin.
The curse of weeds and frustrating toil and the work required to bring crops from the ground remains to this day. Instead, God’s commitment here should be seen as a decision not to annihilate life on the ground as He did with the flood.
The flood brought destruction on the whole earth, on all the ground. God is declaring that He won’t do that again.
God seems to make this commitment while acknowledging that human nature has not been changed by the flood. Human beings will continue to harbor evil intentions from youth and throughout their lives.
God knows this and decides not to respond to human sinfulness in the same way again by cursing the earth with a flood. In addition, God promises to never again strike down every living thing.
He will not wipe out humanity and animal-kind with a global and fully life-ending catastrophe as He has done with the flood.
We are meant to be comforted by these promises and to be intrigued about how God might respond to human sinfulness, instead.
While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.
It has been suggested that the Flood was so extensive that it tilted the earth. As you know, the earth is not straight on its axis. We are off center, if you please.
The magnetic center is different from the center on which we are revolving. Something happened somewhere along the line, and it is the belief of many that this is when it took place.
Because the earth revolves like that. that gives us our seasons. It is sort of going around like a wobbly top. You remember that when you were young and would spin a top, the top would run down and get wobbly.
That is the way the earth revolves today, and as a result we have the seasons. Prior to the Flood, man learned the three R’s:
(1) Rebellion against God was realized—it came right out in the open.
(2) Revelation from God was rejected by man. Noah’s witness did not reach them.
(3) Repentance was absolutely repudiated; there was no return to God at all. Men refused the refuge that God provided, and for 120 years Noah had no converts. These are the three R’s.
Men led in rebellion, they rejected the revelation, and there was no repentance on their part.
Now, as this man Noah comes forth from the ark, he stands in a most unique position. He stands in the position of being the head of the human race again—the same position Adam had.
It is said that we are all related to Adam, but we are closer kin than that: we are all related in Noah. In one sense, Noah is the father of all of us today.
Days and years and seasons come about by the rotation of the earth and the tilt of its axis as the planet moves around the sun. These are constant and unchanging.
But sometimes weather can block awareness of those constants. In a strong storm, the sun can be obscured to such an extent that daytime seems like night.
One can imagine that the 40 days of rain Noah experienced were difficult to count. The cloud cover needed to produce such rain probably blocked sunlight almost totally during much of that time.
In addition, the months that passed with water high enough to cover the mountains, found in Genesis 7:20, 24, surely resulted in climate change. Evaporation of the floodwaters would have caused significant cloud cover once again.
The earth would have cooled during this time. Perhaps Noah and his family were able to discern a significant change in climate by the end of their time on the ark.
This could have caused concern about where such climate change would lead. This promise in the verse before us allays any such fears.
Even when storms are strong enough to obscure the sun for a time, day and night shall not cease. Climate change may occur, but there will still be summer and winter.
In one area the winter may bring snow, but in others the winter is more of a rainy season. Still the seasons change with regularity as the earth continues on its course around the sun.
Even so, the Lord does allow for cataclysmic change—even outright destruction. The constant change of seasons that allows seedtime and harvest will continue only as long as the earth itself does so.
Peter refers to the Noahic flood as an illustration that God is able to judge the world and that there is coming another destruction, one by fire, found in 2 Peter 3:6, 7. But until that time of judgment, the cycles of the seasons will continue.
Perhaps we should spend more time warning of the coming judgment because of sin rather than worrying about predictions of climate change because of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere!
After the previous verse revealed God’s commitment to never again curse the earth as He had through the flood or to wipe out humanity and animal-kind in that way, this verse completes God’s promise.
From this point, throughout the planet’s history, the patterns of nature will remain as God has created them. The cycles will continue. Day will follow night. One season will follow another.
The world will continue to function predictably according to God’s design. This is the grace of God upon all His creation.
It is important to notice that this promise begins with “while the earth remains.” God doesn’t guarantee that the planet in its current form will exist eternally.
In fact, at some point in the future, God will re-make the heavens and the earth (Revelation 21:1). But while it does, those who live on earth will enjoy the goodness of the repetition of the days and seasons by God’s great mercy on sinful humanity.
I hope that you have really enjoyed this post,
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