Genesis chapter 8

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What does Genesis chapter 8 mean?

After the global devastation caused by the flood as described in chapter 7, Genesis 8 opens with quietness, waiting for the floodwaters to recede. This passage begins with a comforting idea: God remembered Noah (Genesis 8:1). God also remembered the animals. He would fulfill His promise to keep them safe and begin creation over again, in a sense, on a world made new by the flood.

God turns off the water, both from below and from above. He sends a great wind to begin to evaporate the water and dry out the earth. After 150 days, the ark comes to rest on the mountains of Ararat (Genesis 8:4). Modern maps may know the area as eastern Turkey and its surroundings, but no specific location is given.

The floodwaters continued to recede. The tops of the mountains became visible. Noah sent out birds as a test to see if any dry land was nearby (Genesis 8:6–7). If the birds returned, the assumption would be that they found no place to land and/or make a home. After trying a raven, Noah turned to doves. First, one returns empty handed. Next, one returns with a freshly plucked olive leaf. The third dove doesn't return, at all. Noah removed the covering of the ark and confirmed that the land was, indeed, dry (Genesis 8:14).

Still, Noah waited to hear from God that it was time to leave the ark. Nearly two months later, God gave Noah the command to leave, along with his family and every living thing aboard. After a full year on the ark of their salvation, the remnants of life disembarked to begin again (Genesis 8:16–17).

Noah's first action after leaving the ark is to build an altar to God. This is the first recorded altar in Scripture. Noah used it to offer sacrifices to God from the clean animals. Apparently, this was the purpose God had in mind for Noah to take extra pairs of the clean animals (Genesis 7:2). Using a common metaphor, this passage says that God "smells" the aroma of the offering, and He is pleased. He makes a commitment to never again curse the earth through a flood (Genesis 8:21). He also commits to never wipe out all the living creatures on the planet again, though He recognizes that humanity will continue to carry evil intentions in their heart.

Though human nature has not changed, God shows a measure of common grace and mercy on all life on the planet. God commits to continuing the cycles of life according to His original design. Day will follow night, one season will follow another, as long as the earth remains (Genesis 8:22).
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