Genesis 8:21
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.
Jump to: BarnesBensonBICalvinCambridgeClarkeDarbyEllicottExpositor'sExp DctGaebeleinGSBGillGrayGuzikHaydockHastingsHomileticsJFBKDKingLangeMacLarenMHCMHCWParkerPoolePulpitSermonSCOTTBWESTSK
(21) A sweet savour.—Heb., a smell of satisfaction. The idea is not so much that the sacrifice gave God pleasure as that it caused Him to regard man with complacency. The anger at sin which had caused the flood was now over, and there was peace between heaven and earth.

Said in his heart.—Heb., to his heart: that is, Jehovah determined with himself, came to the settled purpose. (Comp. Genesis 17:17.)

For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.—See Genesis 6:5. There seems at first sight to be an inconsistency between the two passages, and the Jehovist is accused of here contradicting the Elohist. For in the former place man’s inborn sinfulness is described as an aggravation of his offence, while here it is used as a reason for mercy. But it is a characteristic of the Bible that it states the two sides of every principle with abrupt simplicity, and most heresies have arisen from seizing upon one side only, and omitting the other from view. Man is one whose every imagination of the heart is only evil continually. (Comp. Matthew 15:19.) In the antediluvian world, with death indefinitely postponed, these imaginations had been unrestrained, and had therefore led to habitual and inveterate sin; and so justice at last had smitten it. But when man strives against them, and sin is the result of infirmity. then mercy heals and grace strengthens the penitent. When man, therefore, began his renewed life by hallowing it with religion, God saw therein the pledge of a struggle on his part after holiness, and the proof that the world would never again become totally corrupt. In this changed state of things human weakness was a reason only for mercy, and God gave the promise that so long as the world shall last, so total a destruction of man and his works upon it shall never again take place by the same agency.

Genesis 8:21. God smelled a sweet savour — In the Hebrew it is a savour of rest: that is, he accepted the person, and faith, and thank-offering of Noah, and was well pleased therewith, and with these hopeful beginnings of the new world, as men are with agreeable and fragrant smells. I will not again curse the ground — Hebrews I will not add to curse the ground any more. God had cursed the ground upon the first entrance of sin, Genesis 3:17; when he drowned it he added to that curse: but now he determines not to add to it any more. For the imagination of man’s heart is evil — The original word, rendered for, may properly be rendered although. And then the meaning will be, I will not any more destroy the earth, although I have just cause so to do. But the sense given in our translation is confirmed by the Septuagint, and is probably the true meaning of the passage. But what a surprising reason it is for God’s resolving no more to curse the earth! It seems to be the same with the reason given for its destruction, Genesis 6:5. There is, however, this difference: there it is said, The imagination of man’s heart is evil continually, which implies, his actual transgressions continually cry against him. Here it is said, his heart is evil from his youth, or childhood: he brought it into the world with him, he was shapen and conceived in it. Therefore I will no more take this severe method; for he is rather to be pitied than punished, and it is only what might be expected from such a degenerate race.

8:20-22 Noah was now gone out into a desolate world, where, one might have thought, his first care would have been to build a house for himself, but he begins with an alter for God. He begins well, that begins with God. Though Noah's stock of cattle was small, and that saved at great care and pains, yet he did not grudge to serve God out of it. Serving God with our little is the way to make it more; we must never think that is wasted with which God is honoured. The first thing done in the new world was an act of worship. We are now to express our thankfulness, not by burnt-offerings, but by praise, and pious devotions and conversation. God was well pleased with what was done. But the burning flesh could no more please God, than the blood of bulls and goats, except as typical of the sacrifice of Christ, and expressing Noah's humble faith and devotedness to God. The flood washed away the race of wicked men, but it did not remove sin from man's nature, who being conceived and born in sin, thinks, devises, and loves wickedness, even from his youth, and that as much since the flood as before. But God graciously declared he never would drown the world again. While the earth remains, and man upon it, there shall be summer and winter. It is plain that this earth is not to remain always. It, and all the works in it, must shortly be burned up; and we look for new heavens and a new earth, when all these things shall be dissolved. But as long as it does remain, God's providence will cause the course of times and seasons to go on, and makes each to know its place. And on this word we depend, that thus it shall be. We see God's promises to the creatures made good, and may infer that his promises to all believers shall be so.The effect of this plea is here described. The Lord smelled the sweet savor. He accepted the typical substitute, and, on account of the sacrifice, the offerers, the surviving ancestors of the post-diluvian race. Thus, the re-entrance of the remnant of mankind upon the joys and tasks of life is inaugurated by an articulate confession of sin, a well-understood foreshadowing of the coming victim for human guilt, and a gracious acceptance of this act of faith. "The Lord said in his heart." It is the inward resolve of his will. The purpose of mercy is then expressed in a definite form, suited to the present circumstances of the delivered family. "I will not again curse the soil any more on account of man." This seems at first sight to imply a mitigation of the hardship and toil which man was to experience in cultivating the ground Genesis 3:17. At all events, this very toil is turned into a blessing to him who returns from his sin and guilt, to accept the mercy, and live to the glory of his Maker and Saviour. But the main reference of the passage is doubtless to the curse of a deluge such as what was now past. This will not be renewed. "Because the imagination of his heart is evil from his youth." This is the reason for the past judgment, the curse upon the soil: not for the present promise of a respite for the future. Accordingly, it is to be taken in close connection with the cursing of the soil, of which it assigns the judicial cause. It is explanatory of the preceding phrase, on account of man. The reason for the promise of escape from the fear of a deluge for the future is the sacrifice of Noah, the priest and representative of the race, with which the Lord is well pleased. The closing sentence of this verse is a reiteration in a more explicit form of the same promise. "Neither will I again smite all living as I have done." There will be no repetition of the deluge that had just overswept the land and destroyed the inhabitants.21. And the Lord smelled a sweet savour—The sacrifice offered by a righteous man like Noah in faith was acceptable as the most fragrant incense.

Lord said in his heart—same as "I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth" (Isa 54:9).

for—that is, "though the imagination is evil"; instead of inflicting another destructive flood, I shall spare them—to enjoy the blessings of grace, through a Saviour.

The Lord smelled a sweet savour, i.e. graciously accepted the person and faith and praise offering of Noah, and was as well pleased therewith as men use to be with a sweet smell;

and the Lord said in his heart, i.e. determined within himself, and expressed so much to Noah. The Hebrew preposition el sometimes signifies in, as Genesis 21:6 1 Samuel 27:1. Others, said to his heart, i.e. spoke to the heart of Noah, who is mentioned, Genesis 8:20.

To speak to the heart, in Scripture use, signifies to comfort.

Will not again curse the ground, i.e. the whole earth, with this kind of curse, with another deluge. Otherwise God doth not hereby tie his hands, that he may not either destroy a particular land by a deluge, which hath been done since, or destroy the world by fire when he sees fit, as he hath declared he will do.

For the imagination of man’s heart is evil. The reason contained in these words is this: Since all men’s hearts are naturally corrupt, and from that filthy spring wicked actions will be continually flowing forth into the world; and consequently, if I should be severe to punish men according to their sins, I should do nothing but send one deluge after another. Or these words may be joined with the former, and the sense may be this: I will not again destroy the earth with a deluge

for man’s sake, or for man’s sin, or because of the imagination, & c., i.e. because his heart is corrupt, and his actions are agreeable to it, which was the cause of the last deluge. Or the particle chi may be rendered although, as it is frequently taken, as Exodus 5:11, Exodus 13:17, Exodus 34:9, Joshua 17:13 Psalm 25:11, Psalm 41:5; and so the sense is plain, I will not again destroy the earth, although the imagination, & c., i.e. although I have just cause to do so. Or, from his very childhood and infancy, as the Chaldee and Greek interpreters translate it.

Neither will I again smite, i.e. kill or destroy, as the word smiting is taken, Exodus 21:18 Numbers 14:12, Numbers 35:16, Deu 28:22, Deu 28:27, Amos 4:9.

And the Lord smelled a sweet savour,.... Or a "savour of rest" (e); he was delighted and well pleased with his sacrifice, which was offered up in the faith of the sacrifice of Christ; the apostle says, "is for a sweetsmelling savour", Ephesians 5:2 referring to this passage; that being a satisfaction to the justice of God, an appeasing of his wrath, and a propitiation for the sins of men:

and the Lord said in his heart; within himself; it was awhile a secret there, but Noah being a prophet, as Aben Ezra observes, he revealed it to him, or "to his heart" (f), that is, to the heart of Noah, as some interpret it, he spoke comfortably to him, as follows, when the Jewish writers (g) say he stretched out his right hand and swore, agreeably to Isaiah 54:9.

I will not again curse the ground for man's sake, or drown it for the sin of man, as he had cursed it for the sin of Adam, and which continued till this time; but now was taken off, and it became more fruitful, and very probably by means of the waters which had been so long upon it, and had left a fructifying virtue in it, as the waters of the Nile do in Egypt. Some interpret the phrase, "for man's sake", for the man Christ's sake, for the sake of his sacrifice, of which Noah's was a type, and the sense be, that God would no more curse the earth; for by his sacrifice the curse of the law is removed, with respect to his people; they are redeemed from it, and shall inherit that new earth, of which this earth, renewed after the flood, was a type, in which there will be no more curse, Revelation 21:1 which sense, though evangelical, cannot be admitted, because of the reason following, unless the first word be rendered "though", as it may:

for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; his nature is depraved, his heart is corrupt, the thoughts of it evil, yea, the imagination of it, and of them, is sinful, and that originally, even from his birth; from the time he is shook out of his mother's womb, as Jarchi interprets the phrase: man is conceived in sin, and shapen in iniquity, and is a transgressor from the womb, and so a child of wrath, and deserving of the curse of the law upon himself, and all that belong to him; and yet this is given as a reason why God will not any more curse the ground for his sake: that which was a reason for destroying the earth, is now one against it, see Genesis 6:5 which may be reconciled thus, God for this reason destroyed the earth once, for an example, and to display his justice; but such is his clemency and mercy, that he will do it no more to the end of the world; considering that man has brought himself into such a condition, that he cannot but sin, it is natural to him from his birth; his nature is tainted with it, his heart is full of it, and all his thoughts and imaginations are wicked and sinful, from whence continually flow a train of actual sins and transgressions; so that if God was to curse and drown the world as often as man sins, he must be continually doing it; for the words may be rendered, "though the imagination of man's heart is evil", &c. (h); yet I will not do it; and so they are expressive of the super abounding grace of God over abounding sin:

neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done; this hinders not but that there might be, as has been since, partial calamities, or particular judgments on individual persons, towns, and cities, as those of Sodom and Gomorrah, or partial inundations, but not a general deluge, or an universal destruction of the world and creatures in it, at least not by water, as has been, but by fire, as will be; for that the earth will have an end, at least as to its present nature, form, and use, may be concluded from the following words.

(e) "odorem quietis", Pagninus, Montanus, Munster, &c. (f) "ad cor suum", Montanus, Tigurine version; "prophetae suo", Arab. (g) Jarchi in loc. Pirke Eliezer, c. 23. (h) "quamvis", Piscator; so Ainsworth.

And the LORD smelled a {k} 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.

(k) That is, by it he showed himself appeased and his anger at rest.

21. smelled the sweet savour] A very strong anthropomorphism which only occurs here. “Sweet savour” is a technical expression in the language of Levitical sacrifice. Cf. Leviticus 1:9; Leviticus 1:13; Leviticus 1:17. Literally, it meant “the smell of complacence” or “satisfaction,” with the idea of restfulness and calm produced. “Sweet savour” is, therefore, somewhat of a paraphrase based on the LXX ὀσμὴ εὐωδίας, Lat. odor suavitatis.

The technical term is employed to express that the offering is acceptable to God. The heart of the offerer is acceptable (the converse of Genesis 4:5). See the use made of the phrase “sweet savour” by St Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:15-16.

The Babylonian version describes how “the gods smelt the goodly savour of the sacrifice, and swarmed like flies over the sacrifice.”

in his heart] Lit. “to his heart” = “to himself,” an anthropomorphism similar to that in Genesis 6:6. LXX, in order to avoid the term, renders by διανοηθείς; Targum of Onkelos, “by his word.”

curse] i.e. do injury to by a sentence, or decree, of evil.

for man’s sake, for that] Better, as R. V. marg., sake; for the. The difference of the two renderings is obvious: (a) that of the text gives the reason for which God’s curse had been inflicted upon the ground, i.e. man’s sinfulness: (b) that of the margin gives the reason why God will not again curse the ground, i.e. man is essentially sinful; he must not be expected to be otherwise. Perhaps the rendering of the margin which emphasizes the element of mercy is in better harmony with the context. The sentence already pronounced upon the earth in Genesis 3:17 (cf. Genesis 4:11-12) had rendered life arduous and distressing.

the imagination of man’s heart] Cf. Genesis 6:5.

Verse 21 - And the Lord (Jehovah) smelled - as is done by drawing the air in and out through the nostrils; from the root ruach, to breathe; high., to smell - a sweet savor. Reach hannichoach literally, an odor of satisfaction, acquiescence, or rest; from nuach, to rest, with an allusion to Noah's name (vide Genesis 5:29); ὀσμὴν εὐωδίας (LXX.); (cf. Leviticus 2:12; Leviticus 26:31; Numbers 15:3; Ezekiel 6:13). The meaning is that the sacrifice of the patriarch was as acceptable to God as refreshing odors are to the senses of a man; and that which rendered it acceptable was

(1) the feeling from which it sprang, whether gratitude or obedience;

(2) the truths which it expressed - it was tantamount to an acknowledgment of personal guilt, a devout recognition of the Divine mercy, an explicit declaration that he had been saved or could only be saved through the offering up of the life of another, and a cheerful consecration of his redeemed life to God;

(3) the great sacrifice of which it was a type. Paul, by using the language of the LXX. (Ephesians 5:2), shows that he regarded the two as connected. And the Lord said in his heart. I.e. resolved within himself. It is not certain that this determination on the part of Jehovah was at this time communicated to the patriarch (cf. Genesis 6:3, 7 for Divine inward resolves which were not at the moment made known), unless the correct reading be to his (Noah's) heart, meaning the Lord comforted him (cf. Judges 19:3; Ruth 2:13; Isaiah 40:2; Hosea 2:14), which is barely probable. I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake. Literally, I will not add to curse. Not a revocation of the curse of Genesis 3:17, nor a pledge that such curse would not be duplicated. The language refers solely to the visitation of the Deluge, and promises not that God may not some. times visit particular localities with a flood, but that another such world-wide catastrophe should never overtake the human race. For the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. Genesis 6:5 assigns this as the reason for man's destruction; a proof of inconsistency between the Elohistic author and his Jehovistic editor (Bleek). "Hie inconstantiae videtur Deus accusari posse" (Luther). "God seems to contradict himself by having previously declared that the world must be destroyed because its iniquity was desperate" (Calvin). Some endeavor to remove the incongruity by translating כִּי as although (Bush, Inglis), but "there are few (if any) places were כִּי can be rendered although" (T. Lewis). Others connect it with "for man's sake," as explanatory not of the promise, but of the past judgment (Murphy), or as stating that any future cursing of the ground would not be for man's sake (Jacobus). The true solution of the difficulty appears to lie in the clause "from his youth," as if God meant to say that whereas formerly he had visited man with judicial extermination on account of his absolute moral corruption, he would now have regard to the circumstance that man inherited his depravity through his birth, and, instead of smiting man with punitive destruction, would visit him with compassionate forbearance (Keil, 'Speaker's Commentary'). Tayler Lewis regards the expression as strongly anthropopathic, like Genesis 6:6, and indicative of the Divine regret at so calamitous an act as the Deluge, although that act was absolutely just and necessary. Neither will I again smite any more every living thing, as I have done. There should be no more deluge, but - Genesis 8:21The first thing which Noah did, was to build an altar for burnt sacrifice, to thank the Lord for gracious protection, and pray for His mercy in time to come. This altar - מזבּח, lit., a place for the offering of slain animals, from זבח, like θυσιαστήριον from θύειν - is the first altar mentioned in history. The sons of Adam had built no altar for their offerings, because God was still present on the earth in paradise, so that they could turn their offerings and hearts towards that abode. But with the flood God had swept paradise away, withdrawn the place of His presence, and set up His throne in heaven, from which He would henceforth reveal Himself to man (cf. Genesis 9:5, Genesis 9:7). In future, therefore, the hearts of the pious had to be turned towards heaven, and their offerings and prayers needed to ascend on high if they were to reach the throne of God. To give this direction to their offerings, heights or elevated places were erected, from which they ascended towards heaven in fire. From this the offerings received the name of עלת from עולה, the ascending, not so much because the sacrificial animals ascended or were raised upon the altar, as because they rose from the altar to haven (cf. Judges 20:40; Jeremiah 48:15; Amos 4:10). Noah took his offerings from every clean beast and every clean fowl - from those animals, therefore, which were destined for man's food; probably the seventh of every kind, which he had taken into the ark. "And Jehovah smelled the smell of satisfaction," i.e., He graciously accepted the feelings of the offerer which rose to Him in the odour of the sacrificial flame. In the sacrificial flame the essence of the animal was resolved into vapour; so that when man presented a sacrifice in his own stead, his inmost being, his spirit, and his heart ascended to God in the vapour, and the sacrifice brought the feeling of his heart before God. This feeling of gratitude for gracious protection, and of desire for further communications of grace, was well-pleasing to God. He "said to His heart' (to, or in Himself; i.e., He resolved), "I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake, because the image (i.e., the thought and desire) of man's heart is evil from his youth up (i.e., from the very time when he begins to act with consciousness)." This hardly seems an appropriate reason. As Luther says: "Hic inconstantiae videtur Deus accusari posse. Supra puniturus hominem causam consilii dicit, quia figmentum cordis humani malum est. Hic promissurus homini gratiam, quod posthac tali ira uti nolit, eandem causam allegat." Both Luther and Calvin express the same thought, though without really solving the apparent discrepancy. It was not because the thoughts and desires of the human heart are evil that God would not smite any more every living thing, that is to say, would not exterminate it judicially; but because they are evil from his youth up, because evil is innate in man, and for that reason he needs the forbearance of God; and also (and here lies the principal motive for the divine resolution) because in the offering of the righteous Noah, not only were thanks presented for past protection, and entreaty for further care, but the desire of man was expressed, to remain in fellowship with God, and to procure the divine favour. "All the days of the earth;" i.e., so long as the earth shall continue, the regular alternation of day and night and of the seasons of the year, so indispensable to the continuance of the human race, would never be interrupted again.
Genesis 8:21 Interlinear
Genesis 8:21 Parallel Texts

Genesis 8:21 NIV
Genesis 8:21 NLT
Genesis 8:21 ESV
Genesis 8:21 NASB
Genesis 8:21 KJV

Genesis 8:21 Bible Apps
Genesis 8:21 Parallel
Genesis 8:21 Biblia Paralela
Genesis 8:21 Chinese Bible
Genesis 8:21 French Bible
Genesis 8:21 German Bible

Bible Hub

Genesis 8:20
Top of Page
Top of Page