A New beginning (Again)
8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar. 21 And the Lord smelled a soothing aroma. Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.
22 “While the earth remains,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Winter and summer,
And day and night
Shall not cease.”
9:1 So God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth 2 And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be on every beast of the earth, on every bird of the air, on all that move on the earth, and on all the fish of the sea. They are given into your hand. 3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you. I have given you all things, even as the green herbs. 4 But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. 5 Surely for your lifeblood I will demand a reckoning; from the hand of every beast I will require it, and from the hand of man. From the hand of every man’s brother I will require the life of man.
6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood,
By man his blood shall be shed;
For in the image of God
He made man.
7 And as for you, be fruitful and multiply;
Bring forth abundantly in the earth
And multiply in it.” (Gen. 8:20 – 9:7)
A year and 17 days after entering the ark, Noah and the other passengers disembark. So what does Noah do first? He builds an altar to God. He sacrifices one of every clean animal.
Noah and family go out into a silent world – there is no animal or human life beyond that which was on the ark. The world is very different, and we have no indication that God assured Noah of anything except the knowledge already held by Noah: God will take care of the colony.
In faith, Noah first builds an altar to God and makes his sacrifices.
Noah does not build his family a place to live. He does not explore this foreign land to learn what assurance it offers for his well-being. He does not organize his family to handle the tasks of survival.
We look at the certainty of our surroundings and wonder if we could be so generous toward our Creator.
Noah’s first act is worship. He does not withhold what is due to God. We have a tendency to look at the sacrificial system of the Old Testament and view the act as the almost meaningless ritual it had become by Jesus’ day. We see the sacrifices as equalizing the scales against the weight of mankind’s sin, a transaction bringing the God-man relationship into balance. This is not how it was meant to be.
In the courtyard of the wilderness tabernacle, the daily sacrifices were made both morning and evening. The smoke rising above the center of the camp was a constant reminder to all in the camp. Men of the world saw the sacrificial smoke as symbolic of sin. This required man’s pursuit of relationship with God by submission to the rites of cleansing. Men of the spirit saw the sacrificial smoke as symbolic of redemption, God’s pursuit of man and restoration to oneness with Him.
Verse 8:20 says the Lord smelled a soothing aroma, a sweet savour in the KJV. The Hebrew word translated as soothing or sweet is Strong’s H5207: “From H5117; properly restful, that is, pleasant; abstractly delight: - sweet (odour).” This is Noah’s savour of rest, reminiscent of the seventh day of Creation. This is mankind’s seeking first the Kingdom of God.
The comment of God concerning mankind must give us pause to think: Then the Lord said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.”
In Genesis 3:17, God had cursed the ground for mankind’s sake. In Genesis 6:6, God had repented that He had made mankind. He now sounds almost apologetic that He has nearly destroyed mankind. God has not changed, but He now speaks to Noah, His servant and faithful friend.
The words of Jeremiah come to mind. The prophet also speaks the thoughts of God: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,” says the Lord, “thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
These are the thoughts of God, even as He pronounces in His heart that He knows of the evil within the heart of His created beings, the very ones originally fashioned in His image, in His character. His heart can be heard only by those with a similar heart, by His own, by His prophets.
His thoughts toward us are of peace, the Hebrew shalom. This peace is more than the absence of battle. It is health, prosperity, and happiness. We might compare it to the term blessed in the Beatitudes.
This is how God begins His covenant with humanity through Noah, with an acknowledgment of mankind’s unchanged nature and His own grace. He still gives mankind a future and a hope.
God blesses Noah and his sons, telling them to increase in number and to fill the earth. He does not want densely populated urban areas where men yield their freedom, and where the powerful among men assume God’s role. He wants them to spread over the whole world. As God’s representatives on earth, they are to bring the whole world under God’s dominion
He had given loving dominion of the earth to mankind at Creation (Gen. 1:26), and now He modifies the original command. Because men have abused their delegated authority, God releases “all (non-human life) that move on the earth” from their Creation command. Rather than unquestioning obedience, every beast, bird, and fish now will feel fear and dread of mankind.
Fear and dread are multiplied as every animal that moves is given to mankind for food. There are no stipulations here about clean and unclean. This is understood from the original distinction about the number of clean and unclean animals to enter the ark. God does not guide His people in this detail. He merely stipulates not to eat the blood, the life of the animal.
The life is in the blood, and God here establishes a new penalty for murder. Cain suffered only exile for the death of Abel. Now a murderer will lose his own life. The penalty will match the crime.
Mankind has deteriorated from the original state of Adam and Eve. The pardon of Cain, marking him as a murderer but allowing him to return to the world, proved too lenient for hearts that are continually evil, for people who lack the basic understanding of living in a civil society. As with the Hebrew slaves escaping from Egypt, a clearly stated “eye for an eye” justice is required. This is training up a child in the way he or she must go. This is Justice 101: Obedience without understanding.
All of this is preparation for the covenant between God and the earth as given to Noah. God has chastised mankind, but He has not forsaken those who are His.