Genesis 8:21
When the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, He said in His heart, "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from his youth. And never again will I destroy all living creatures as I have done.
Human Depravity and Divine MercySpurgeon, Charles HaddonGenesis 8:21
Man's Natural ImaginationsPerkins, WilliamGenesis 8:21
Man's Tendency to Go WrongT. Arnold, D. D.Genesis 8:21
Punishment not ReformativeJ. Parker, D. D.Genesis 8:21
The End Answered by the DelugeH. Melvill, B. D.Genesis 8:21
The Sweet SavourDean Law.Genesis 8:21
The Unchangeable OneCharles KingsleyGenesis 8:21
What Does God See in the Sacrifice of His Son to Please HW. S. Smith, B. D.Genesis 8:21
The Sanctification of the EarthR.A. Redford Genesis 8:20-22
The sweet savor of man's burnt offerings -

(1) not the offerings of caprice, but the fulfillment of Divine commands,

(2) the reciprocation of Heaven's communications -

(3) ascends from the earth-built altar and fills the Lord with satisfaction. In return for that obedience and devotion the curse is removed, the earth is sealed with the saving strength of God in a covenant of peace.


(1) grateful acknowledgment of his mercy;

(2) humble obedience to his own revealed will;

(3) consecration of place, time, life, possessions to him.

II. UNION and COMMUNION between God and man is the foundation on which all earthly happiness and security rest.

III. The FORBEARANCE AND MERCY OF GOD in his relation to those whose hearts are yet full of evil is at once probation and grace. The ground is not cursed any more for man's sake, but, the more evidently, that which falls upon the ground may fall upon man himself. The higher revelations of God in the post-Noachic period were-certainly larger bestowments of grace, but at the same time they involved a larger responsibility. So the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews reasons as to the punishment of those who trample underfoot the covenant of the gospel. The progressive covenants which make up the history of God's grace recorded in the Scriptures are progressive separations of the evil and the good, therefore they point to that complete and final separation in which God's righteousness shall be eternally glorified. - R.

The Lord smelled a sweet savour.
How important is it, that this truth shall be as a sun without a speck before us! Hence the Spirit records that, when Noah shed the blood which represented Christ, "The Lord smelled a sweet savour." Thus the curtains of God's pavilion are thrown back; and each attribute appears rejoicing in redemption. The Lamb is offered, and there is fragrance throughout heaven. First, let Justice speak. Its claim strikes terror. It has a right to one unbroken series of uninterrupted obedience through all life's term. Each straying of a thought from perfect love incurs a countless debt. Here Jesus pays down a death, the worth of which no tongue can reckon. Justice holds scales, which groan indeed under mountains upon mountains of iniquity: but this one sacrifice more than outweighs the pile. Thus Justice rejoices, because it is infinitely honoured. Next, there is a sweet savour here to the Truth of God. If Justice is unyielding, so too is Truth. Its yea is yea; its nay is nay. It speaks, and the word must be. Heaven and earth may pass away, but it cannot recede. Now its voice is gone forth, denouncing eternal wrath on every sin. Thus it bars heaven's gates with bars of adamant. In vain are tears, and penitence, and prayers. Truth becomes untrue, if sin escapes. But Jesus comes to drink the cup of vengeance. Every threat falls on His head. Truth needs no more. It claps the wings of rapturous delight, and speeds to heaven to tell that not one word has failed. Need I add that Jesus is a sweet savour to the holiness of God. Sweet too is the savour which mercy here inhales. Mercy weeps over misery. In all afflictions it is afflicted. Is tastes the bitterest drop in each cup of woe. But when anguish is averted, the guilty spared, the perishing rescued, and all tears wiped from the eyes of the redeemed, then is its holiest triumph.

(Dean Law.)


1. The reflection of His own love.

2. The vindication of His righteousness. God prescribes the sacrifice in order that He may be just when He justifies (Romans 3:25, 26).

3. The willingness of the self-devotion.

4. The prospect of pure service. Human nature, in Christ's obedience and death, is purified and restored. Noah's sacrifice might be compared to a morning prayer at the dawn of a new epoch in human history. It was a dedication of restored humanity to the service of God, the Deliverer. The hope of the human race consists in possessing acceptable access unto God. This we have in Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 2:18; Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 10:19-22).

(W. S. Smith, B. D.)

The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth.

I. These words were said by our Maker more than four thousand years ago, and they have been true ever since down to this very hour. There is so much more bad than good in us that we should certainly go wrong if left to ourselves, and the bias of our nature to evil is so strong that it can only be corrected by changing the very nature itself; or, in the words of Scripture, by being born again of the Spirit. Everything is properly called good or evil according as it answers or defeats the purpose for which it was made. We were made for our Maker's glory, after His own image, that we should make His will the rule of our lives, and His love and anger the great objects of our hope and fear; that we should live in Him, and for Him, and to Him, as our constant Guide and Master and Father. If we answer these ends, then we are good creatures; if we do not, we are bad creatures. Nor does it matter how many good or amiable qualities we may possess; like the blossoms or leaves of a barren fruit tree, we are bad of our kind if we do not bring forth fruit.

II. Now, instead of living to God, we by nature care nothing about God; we live as if we had made ourselves, not as if God had made us. This is the corruption of our nature, which makes us evil in the sight of God. Christ alone can make us sound from head to foot. He alone can give us a new and healthy nature; He alone can teach us so to live as to make this world a school for heaven. All that is wanted is that we should see our need of Him, and fly to Him for aid.

(T. Arnold, D. D.)

I. A MOST PAINFUL FACT. Man's nature is incurable. The statement of Scripture is corroborated by —

1. The confessions of God's people.

2. Our own observation.

II. GOD'S EXTRAORDINARY REASONING. Good reasoning, but most extraordinary. He says, "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." Strange logic! In the sixth chapter, He said man was evil, and therefore He destroyed him. In the eighth chapter, He says man is evil from his youth, and therefore He will not destroy him. Strange reasoning! to be accounted for by the little circumstance in the beginning of the verse, "The Lord smelled a sweet savour." There was a sacrifice there; that makes all the difference. When God looks on sin apart from sacrifice, Justice says, Smite! Smite! Curse! Destroy!" But when there is a sacrifice God looks on us with eyes of mercy, and though Justice says, "Smite!" He says, "No, I have smitten My dear Son; I have smitten Him, and will spare the sinner." Rightly upon the terms of Justice, there is no conceivable reason why He should have mercy upon us, but grace makes and invents a reason.

III. INFERENCES. If the heart be so evil, then it is impossible for us to enter heaven as we are. Another step; then it is quite clear that if I am to enter heaven no outward reform will ever do it, for if I wash my face, that does not change my heart.

( C. H. Spurgeon.)


1. Of this thought there is no God.

2. That the word of God is foolishness.

3. I will not obey God's word.

4. It is a vain thing to worship God.

5. Of man's thought of distrust — God will not regard, or be merciful to me.


1. Thoughts of dishonour.

2. Thoughts of murder.

3. Thoughts of adultery.


1. Man's proud thoughts of his own excellency.

2. Man's proud thoughts of his own righteousness.

3. Man's thought of security in the day of peace.


1. Good thoughts about temporal things are much wanting.

2. In spiritual things they are much wanting.

3. The fruits of this want of good thoughts.

4. The timely preventing of evil thoughts by good parents and teachers.

5. The repentance of evil thoughts.


1. They must be brought into obedience to God.

2. The guarding of our hearts.

3. The consideration of God's presence.

4. The consideration of God's judgments.

( W. Perkins..)

The first thing we learn after this solemn declaration is that there is to be no more smiting of every living thing, plainly showing that mere destruction is a failure. I do not say that destruction is undeserved or unrighteous, but that it is, as a reformative arrangement, a failure as regards the salvation of survivors. We can see men slain for doing wrong, and can in a day or two after the event do the very things which cost them their lives! It might be thought that one such flood as this would have kept the world in order forever, whereas men now doubt whether there ever was such a flood, and repeat all the sins of which the age of Noah was guilty. You would think that to see a man hanged would put an end to ruffianism forever; whereas, history goes to show that within the very shadow of the gallows men hatch the most detestable and alarming crimes. Set it down as a fact that punishment, though necessary even in its severest forms, can never regenerate the heart of man. From this point, then, we have to deal with a history the fundamental fact of which is that all the actors are as bad as they can possibly be. "There is none righteous, no not one." "There is not a just man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not."

(J. Parker, D. D.)

It must have been a day of intense solemnity; and if ever men could be struck with awe, if ever men could feel their spirits bowed down and overwhelmed by the tremendousness of God — those who now presented that sacrifice, the lonely wreck of an unnumbered population, must have crouched, and trembled, and been full of the most earnest humility. And possibly they might have thought that, since the wicked were removed, a moral renovation would pass over mankind, and that themselves and their posterity would differ altogether from the ungodly race which had perished in the waters. It could not have seemed improbable that, after removing the multitude which had provoked Him by their impieties, God would raise up a people who should love Him and honour Him, seeing that, if there was to be the same provocation of wickedness, there was nothing to be looked for but a recurrence of the deluge; and if this earth were to be again and again the theatre of the same provocations and the same vengeance, it would be hard to say why God spared a remnant, or why He allowed the rebellious race to be continued and multiplied. Yet, however natural it might have been for Noah and his sons to calculate on a moral improvement in the species, it is certain that after the flood, men were just the same fallen creatures that they had been before the flood. There had been effected no change whatever on human nature, neither had God destroyed the wicked, expecting the new tenantry would be more obedient and more righteous than the old. And it is every way remarkable, that the reason which is given why God sent one deluge is given as the reason why God sent not a second deluge. He sent one flood because "the imagination of man's thoughts was only evil continually"; and He resolved that He would not send another flood because — or, at least, though — this evil imagination remained unsubdued. Now, it is scarcely necessary for us to remark that wickedness must at all times be equal in God's sight; and that however various the modes by which He sees fit to oppose it, He is alike earnest in punishing it. Why, then, did He not follow the same plan throughout? Or why did He administer once that punishment which He thought fit not to repeat? Such questions, you observe, are not merely speculative. If God Himself had not given the same reason for sparing as for smiting, we might have thought that the flood had made a change in the moral circumstances of our race, and there was not again the same intense provocation; but when we hear from the lips of Jehovah Himself, that there was precisely as much after the deluge as before, yea, that He refrained from cursing in the face of that very wickedness, we are only endeavouring to be wise up to what is written in searching out the reason for the change in God's conduct.

I. SINCE A FLOOD WAS AS MUCH CALLED FOR TWICE AS ONCE, WHY SHOULD IT HAVE BEEN SENT ONCE, THE PROVOCATION BEING JUST THE SAME, AND YET THE DEALING MOST DIFFERENT? WAS ANY END ANSWERED BY THE DELUGE? Now, our first thought on finding that there was just the same reason for destroying the world twice as for destroying it once is, that no end was answered by the deluge which might not have been answered without a deluge. But though it is most certain that there was as much provocation after as before the deluge, it is a most unwarranted conclusion that no great ends were answered by the deluge. The deluge was God's sermon against sin, whose echoes will be heard until the consummation of all things. We give no harbourage for a moment — we know there could be nothing more false than the opinion — that the antediluvians must have been more wicked than ourselves because visited with signal and unequivocal punishment: but if you infer from this that the flood was unnecessary, that the antediluvians might as well have been spared as their successors, we at once deny the conclusion. Had there never been a flood, we should have wanted our most striking attestation to the truth of the Bible. We are prepared to contend that, in bringing water upon the earth, God was wondrously providing for the faith of every coming generation, and was writing in characters which no time can efface, and no ingenuity prove to be forgeries, that He hates sin with perfect hatred, and will punish it with rigid punishment. But it is important to bear in mind that, when God visibly interferes for the punishment of wickedness, there are some ends of His moral government to be answered, over and above that of the chastisement of the unrighteous. Ordinarily God delays taking vengeance till the last day of account; and we judge erroneously if we judge from God's dealings with man on this side eternity. When there is a direct interposition, such as the deluge, we may be sure it answers other designs besides that of punishing unrighteousness: and before, therefore, we can show that there was the same reason for a second deluge as for one, we must not only show there was the same amount of wickedness, and the same evil in the imagination of the heart — we must show there was the same end of moral government to be answered, over and above that of the punishment of the rebellious. And here it is you will feel established in the belief that a great lesson was recorded as to God's hatred of sin, and His determination to destroy, sooner or later, the impenitent. And God furnished this lesson, so that ages have obliterated no letter of the record, by bringing a flood on the earth, and burying in the womb of waters the unnumbered tribes that crowded its continents. But the lesson required not to be repeated; it was sufficient that it should be given once — sufficient, seeing that it is still so powerful and persuasive that it leaves inexcusable all who persist in rejecting it.

II. We propose to seek an answer to the inquiry, WHETHER LONG SUFFERING CAN PRODUCE THE SAME RESULTS AS PUNISHING. And this, after all, is the question most forcibly presented in our text. Whether God smites, or whether He spares, we know He must have the same objects in view — the promotion of His own glory and the well-being of the universe. But how comes it, then, to pass that it was best at one time to smite, and at another time to spare? We have given a reason for one deluge, which could not be given for a second. The lesson of the deluge was to be spread over the whole surface of time; and thus the one act of punishment was to have its effect throughout the season of long suffering. Punishment was a necessary preliminary to long suffering, to prevent the abuse of long suffering. God is only taking consecutive steps in one and the same design; and if we are right in saying that punishment was necessarily preliminary to long suffering, than even a child can perceive that God was only acting out the same arrangement when He said, "I will not spare," and when He said, "I will spare, for the imagination of man's heart is evil." It is as though He said, "I might send flood after flood, and leave again only an insignificant fraction of the population; but the evil lies deep in the heart, and would not be swept away by the immensity of waters. I might deal with succeeding generations as I have with this very one; and as soon as the earth sent up new harvests of wickedness, I might come forth, and put in the scythe of My vengeance; but after all there would be no renovation, and evil would still be predominant in this section of the creation. Therefore I will be long suffering; nothing but long. suffering can affect My purpose, for nothing but an atonement can reconcile the fallen; and long suffering is nothing but the atonement anticipated. I will not, then, again curse the ground, for man's imaginations are evil. I will not curse — the evil will not be grappled with by the curse — the evil would not go away before the curse. If the evil were not in the very heart, it might be eradicated by judgment; if it were not engraven into the very. bone and sinew and spirit, it might be washed out by the torrent; and I would again curse. But it is an evil for which there must be expiation; it is an evil which can only be done away by sacrifice, it is an evil which can only be exterminated by the entering in of Deity into that nature." It is thus that, so far as we can judge, without overstraining the passage, the corruption of human nature will furnish a reason why there was no repetition of the deluge. God's object was not to destroy, but to reconcile the world: and the reconciliation could not be effected by judgments; the machinery must be made up of mercies. Judgments might make way for mercies, but they could not do the work of mercies. Punishment was preliminary to sparing, but punishment continued would not have effected the object of the Almighty. So that long suffering was the only engine by which the machinery could be mastered. The whole of Christ's work was gathered, so to speak, into long suffering.

III. But who can give himself to an inquiry which has to do with the cause or reason of the deluge, and not feel his attention drawn to the TYPICAL CHARACTER of that tremendous event? The history of the world before the flood is nothing but the epitome of the history of the world up to that grand consummation, the second coming of the Lord. And if we wanted additional reasons why one deluge should be sent and not a second, we might find it in the fact that all the affairs of time shall be wound up by a single visitation. The antediluvian world had been dealt with by the machinery of the most extensive loving kindness: the Almighty had long borne with the wickedness of the earth; and it was not till every overture had been despised that He allowed Himself to strike. Shall it not be thus with the world of the unrighteous? Wonderful has been the long suffering of the Almighty: and as there has gone on the building of the ark — as the Church of Christ has been gathered and cemented and enlarged, the voice and entreaties of ministers and missionaries have circulated through Christianity; and the despiser has been continually told, sternly, and reproachfully, and affectionately, that a day will yet burst upon the creation, when all who are not included in the ark shall be tossed on the surges and buried in the depths of a fiery sea. But as the time of the end draws near, the warning will grow louder, and the entreaty more urgent, that all men put away their wickedness, and prepare themselves for meeting their Judge.

(H. Melvill, B. D.)

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