Noah’s Grateful Response: Genesis 8:20

Noah's grateful response (2)

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1) Gen 8:20: Within the over-arching chiasm of the flood account (Gen 6:9–9:19), this section concerning the Lord’s resolve to preserve the creation order matches his earlier determination to destroy it (Gen 6:13–22; Gen 8:20–22).[1]

Prior to the flood, the Lord promised to establish a covenant with Noah (Gen 6:18).[2]

Although God would not formally pronounce his covenant oath until Gen 9:8–17, here Noah offered the customary sacrifice to ratify an oath (cf. Gen 15). This may reflect the smaller chiasm embedded in Gen 8:20–9:17:[3]

A    God’s resolve to never destroy the earth or humanity again (Gen 8:20–22)

B   Mandate to be fruitful (Gen 9:1)

C     Legislation concerning blood (Gen 9:2–6)

B́   Command to be fruitful (Gen 9:7)

Á    God’s covenant and sign to never destroy all flesh again (Gen 9:8–17)[4]



Moses began this passage by writing, “Then Noah built an altar to Yahweh. And he took from all  the clean cattle and from all the clean birds, and he offered whole burnt offerings on the altar.”

Noah’s very first recorded act upon disembarking involved worship.[5] For the first time in Genesis, the text explicitly states that someone built an altar and offered burnt sacrifices (Cf. Gen 4:3–5).[6]

In the time of Moses, God designed altars for making burnt offerings (Exod 27:1–8; Exod 29:38–42). In fact, the Hebrew phrase “altar of burnt offerings” (oloth bamizbeakh) occurs 19 times in the Old Testament.[7]

Noah’s activity reflects his conviction that Lord delivered him safely through the flood (Gen 8:1–3).[8]



Since Noah brought seven pairs of every clean animal on board, God appears to have intended and, perhaps, commanded this type of sacrifice (Gen 7:2–3).[9]

Noah’s act does not seem spontaneous,[10] especially since the ritual meets the requirements for sacrifice which God revealed to Moses’s original audience (Lev 11:1–8, 13–19).[11]

Among the various types of sacrifices stipulated in the Mosaic law, priests offered a whole burnt offering more frequently than the other types.[12]

Fire consumed the entire animal, except for the excrement and often the hide (Exod 29:10–18; Lev 8:21; Lev 9:7–11).[13]

Although the text does not explicitly state the purpose of Noah’s offering, people associated such sacrifices with making requests of the Lord (1 Sam 7:7–11).[14]

These offerings could atone for sin and represent complete dedication to God (Lev 1:3–9).[15]

Also called a “freewill offering,” this worship occurred with expectant joy or heartfelt petition. Thus, people made these sacrifices with a wide range of emotion (Lev 22:17–19; Num 15:1–3; 1 Sam 13:11–12).[16]

After surviving the flood and living on the ark for a year (Gen 7:11; Gen 8:13–14), Noah made the offering to ratify his covenant with God. Those who traveled out of Egypt with Moses did the same at Mount Sinai (Exod 24:3–8).[17]

Image via Wikimedia Commons


a) Read Gen 8:20. How did the numbers of clean birds and animals brought onto the ark presuppose that they would be used for sacrifices? What were the purposes of a whole burnt offering? How would you describe Noah’s emotions after surviving the flood and living on the ark for a year?




Go to A Rest-Inducing Aroma (Gen 8:21)

[Related posts include A Servant of the Ground and a Shepherd of a Flock (Gen 4:2‒5); The End was Near (Gen 6:13); Specifications for an Ark (Gen 6:14–16); A Deluge to Ruin All Flesh (Gen 6:17); God Establishes a Covenant (Gen 6:18); Two of Every Kind (Gen 6:19–22); By Twos and Sevens (Gen 7:1–4); A Reversal of Creation (Gen 7:5–16); God Remembered Noah (Gen 8:1); God Reverses the Flood (Gen 8:2–5); Renewal of the Earth (Gen 8:6–14); A Promise of Stability (Gen 8:22);  A Covenant with All Living Things (Gen 9:8–11); A Bow Set in a Cloud (Gen 9:12–17); and Author and Date of Genesis]

[Click here to go to Chapter 9: A Covenant with Noah (Genesis 8:20–9:17)]


[1]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 156.

[2]Paul R. Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose (ed. D. A. Carson; NSBT; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2007), 59.

[3]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 61–2.

[4]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 127.

[5]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 307.

[6]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 189.

[7]D. Kellermann, “עֹלָה/עוֹלָה” (olah), TDOT 11:96–113, 107.

[8]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 307.

[9]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 189.

[10]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 62.

[11]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 189.

[12]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 307.

[13]Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 142.

[14]Matthews, Chavalas, and Walton, IVPBBCOT, Gen 8:22.

[15]Wenham, Genesis 1–15, 189.

[16]Hamilton, The Book of Genesis, Chapters 1–17, 307–8.

[17]Williamson, Sealed with an Oath: Covenant in God’s Unfolding Purpose, 62.