Genesis 8:21 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Genesis 8:21, NIV: "The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: 'Never again will I curse the ground because of humans, even though every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done."

Genesis 8:21, ESV: "And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done."

Genesis 8:21, KJV: "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."

Genesis 8:21, NASB: "The LORD smelled the soothing aroma, and the LORD said to Himself, 'I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man’s heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done."

Genesis 8:21, NLT: "And the LORD was pleased with the aroma of the sacrifice and said to himself, 'I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things."

Genesis 8:21, CSB: "When the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, he said to himself, "I will never again curse the ground because of human beings, even though the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth onward. And I will never again strike down every living thing as I have done."

What does Genesis 8:21 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

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.