XXVII. The Ark Was Evacuated
19. ? m??shpa?chah , "kind, clan, family." ? sh??pcha?h , "maid-servant; related: spread."
20. m??zbe?ach , "altar; related: slay animals, sacrifice."
21. 'ola?h , "whole burnt-offering." That which goes up. "Step; related: go up."
The command to leave the ark is given and obeyed. As Noah did not enter, so neither does he leave the ark, without divine direction. "The fowl, the cattle, and the creeper." Here, again, these three classes are specified under the general head of every living tiring. They are again to multiply on the earth. "Every living thing." This evidently takes the place of the cattle mentioned before. "After their families." This word denotes their tribes. It is usually applied to families or clans.
The offering of Noah accepted. The return to the dry land, through the special mercy of God to Noah and his house, is celebrated by an offering of thanksgiving and faith. "Builded an altar." This is the first mention of the altar, or structure for the purpose of sacrifice. The Lord is now on high, having swept away the garden, and withdrawn his visible presence at the same time from the earth. The altar is therefore erected to point toward his dwelling-place on high. "Unto the Lord." The personal name of God is especially appropriate here, as he has proved himself a covenant keeper and a deliverer to Noah. "Of all clean cattle, and every clean fowl." The mention of clean birds renders it probable that these only were taken into the ark by seven pairs Genesis 7:3. Every fit animal is included in this sacrifice, as it is expressive of thanksgiving for a complete deliverance. We have also here the first mention of the burnt-offering 'ola?h ; the whole victim, except the skin, being burned on the altar. Sacrifice is an act in which the transgressor slays an animal and offers it in whole, or in part as representative of the whole, to God. In this act he acknowledges his guilt, the claim of the offended law upon his life, and the mercy of the Lord in accepting a substitute to satisfy this claim for the returning penitent. He at the same time actually accepts the mercy of the Most High, and comes forward to plead it in the appointed way of reconciliation. The burnt-offering is the most perfect symbol of this substitution, and most befitting the present occasion, when life has been granted to the inmates of the ark amidst the universal death.
The effect of this plea is here described. The Lord smelled the sweet savor. He accepted the typical substitute, and, on account of the sacrifice, the offerers, the surviving ancestors of the post-diluvian race. Thus, the re-entrance of the remnant of mankind upon the joys and tasks of life is inaugurated by an articulate confession of sin, a well-understood foreshadowing of the coming victim for human guilt, and a gracious acceptance of this act of faith. "The Lord said in his heart." It is the inward resolve of his will. The purpose of mercy is then expressed in a definite form, suited to the present circumstances of the delivered family. "I will not again curse the soil any more on account of man." This seems at first sight to imply a mitigation of the hardship and toil which man was to experience in cultivating the ground Genesis 3:17. At all events, this very toil is turned into a blessing to him who returns from his sin and guilt, to accept the mercy, and live to the glory of his Maker and Saviour. But the main reference of the passage is doubtless to the curse of a deluge such as what was now past. This will not be renewed. "Because the imagination of his heart is evil from his youth." This is the reason for the past judgment, the curse upon the soil: not for the present promise of a respite for the future. Accordingly, it is to be taken in close connection with the cursing of the soil, of which it assigns the judicial cause. It is explanatory of the preceding phrase, on account of man. The reason for the promise of escape from the fear of a deluge for the future is the sacrifice of Noah, the priest and representative of the race, with which the Lord is well pleased. The closing sentence of this verse is a reiteration in a more explicit form of the same promise. "Neither will I again smite all living as I have done." There will be no repetition of the deluge that had just overswept the land and destroyed the inhabitants.
Henceforth all the days of the earth. - After these negative assurances come the positive blessings to be permanently enjoyed while the present constitution of the earth continues. These are summed up in the following terms:
HEAT Sowing, beginning in October
Reaping, ending in June
COLD Early fruit, in July
Fruit harvest, ending in September
The cold properly occupies the interval between sowing and reaping, or the months of January and February. From July to September is the period of heat. In Palestine, the seedtime began in October or November, when the wheat was sown. Barley was not generally sown until January. The grain harvest began early in May, and continued in June. The early fruits, such as grapes and figs, made their appearance in July and August; the full ingathering, in September and October. But the passage before us is not limited to the seasons of any particular country. Besides the seasons, it guarantees the continuance of the agreeable vicissitudes of day and night. It is probable that even these could not be distinguished during part of the deluge of waters. At all events, they did not present any sensible change when darkness reigned over the primeval abyss.
The term of this continuance is here defined. It is to last as long as the order of things introduced by the six days' creation endures. This order is not to be sempiternal. When the race of man has been filled up, it is here hinted that the present system of nature on the earth may be expected to give place to another and a higher order of things.
Here it is proper to observe the mode of Scripture in the promise of blessing. In the infancy of mankind, when the eye gazed on the present, and did not penetrate into the future, the Lord promised the immediate and the sensible blessings of life, because these alone are as yet intelligible to the childlike race, and they are, at the same time, the immediate earnest of endless blessings. As the mind developes, and the observable universe becomes more fully comprehended, these present and sensible sources of creature happiness correspondingly expand, and higher and more ethereal blessings begin to dawn upon the mind. When the prospect of death opens to the believer a new and hitherto unknown world of reality, then the temporal and corporeal give way to the eternal and spiritual. And as with the individual, so is it with the race. The present boon is the earnest in hand, fully satisfying the existing aspirations of the infantile desire. But it is soon found that the present is always the bud of the future; and as the volume of promise is unrolled, piece by piece, before the eye of the growing race, while the present and the sensible lose nothing of their intrinsic value, the opening glories of intellectual and spiritual enjoyment add an indescribable zest to the blessedness of a perpetuated life. Let not us, then, who flow in the full tide of the latter day, despise the rudiment of blessing in the first form in which it was conferred on Noah and his descendants; but rather remember that is not the whole content of the divine good-will, but only the present shape of an ever-expanding felicity, which is limited neither by time nor sense.
Other Barnes' Notes entries containing Genesis 8:21:
2 Corinthians 2:15
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