God’s Curious Remark
In Genesis 8:20-22 God makes a very curious remark:
- 20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking some of all the clean animals and clean birds, he sacrificed burnt offerings on it.
- 21 The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done.
- 22 “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” (NIV)
Why would God say, “even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood”? The Flood is now over. God had destroyed the evil beings from upon the earth, hadn’t He? Apparently not, or He wouldn’t be making this remark in the present tense. Some Bible commentators see this as a contradiction: God contradicting Himself, or the writer and editors contradicting each other. I personally don’t believe there is any contradiction. God expressed what was true before the Flood, and He is expressing what is true now.
Then why did God speak about the evilness of mankind’s heart? And, why did He say this immediately after supposedly accepting the sacrifices from Noah? I believe this is because God doesn’t desire sacrifice. Man, in his pagan ways, desires them as a means of appeasement. God desires obedience, for with obedience there is never any need for repentance or appeasement or sacrifice. Pagan cultures throughout history, even to this very day, sacrifice to their gods (demons) as a way of appeasing them.
Then, since this is true, why does God accept Noah’s sacrifice, and even specify the ritualistic manner in which it is to be performed in the Temple? God seems to have allowed this because of the hardness of man’s heart, which stems from the Fall (Genesis 3).
But God is also a God of grace, and His acceptance of Noah’s sacrifice is part of this extension of His grace. Noah was truly repentant, and the pleasing aroma was not the smell of blood, burnt flesh and fat, but the repentance rising to Him as the smoke. God is not carnal; we are. To me, the very fact that Noah felt it necessary to sacrifice animals is proof that God considered this desire to appease through sacrifice as part of the inherent evil nature then and now present in all of mankind.
I also believe that when God told Noah to bring upon the ark seven of all clean animals, instead of two as with the other animals, (Genesis 7:2-3), He anticipated Noah’s desire to continue to sacrifice, and thus wanted to preserve the various species.
Additionally, we should not forget God’s indictment of Israel for their ritualistic slaughter and sacrifices, and His call for true repentance and Godly living (Isaiah 1:2-23). Of particular interest is the fact that God refers to these people as murderers, which I believe contextually refers to those who kill either people or animals (v. 21).