Genesis chapter 8 recalls chapter 1:
‘But God remembered Noah and all the wild animals and all the domestic animals that were with him in the ark.’ (8:1)
‘In the beginning [when] God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was [or became] a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep’ (1:1, 2)
‘And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided;’ (8:1)
‘while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.’ (1:2)
‘the fountains of the deep and the windows of the heavens were closed, the rain from the heavens was restrained, and the waters gradually receded from the earth.’ (8:2, 3)
‘And God said, “Let there be a dome in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters” … God called the dome Sky … And God said, “Let the waters under the sky be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.’ (1:6-9)
When we hear chapter 8, we are meant to recall chapter 1.
Once again, life is set free from chaos. (And another question won’t go away: did God send the first flood, in order to limit something even more catastrophic?)
And something has survived the flood, outside of the ark, outside of Noah’s obedience: an olive tree. This might be of significance, should we come across an olive tree again later in the story. For now, we record the detail.
Noah’s response to being saved is to build an altar and on it to offer up to God representatives of the clean animals. This act recalls the blood of Abel.
And God’s response is to revoke the curse on the ground, the life-limiting restriction that had been placed on the earth in chapter 3, as part of God’s dealing with the aftermath of the humans’ action. We have already seen that a curse is a particular form of blessing. The ground has been cursed, to protect it from unrestrained action – from its own over-abundance, from human exploitation – after the humans, called to care for the earth’s productivity, instead themselves contributed to a chaos that already threatened the world.
Without taking back from the human beings the call to partner in liberating life from chaos, God gives a personal undertaking to guarantee what the human beings would never be able to guarantee: that as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.
God will personally guarantee that these things shall not over-run one another. That boundaries will not be trespassed against.
And with that guarantee in place, the curse has served its purpose, and can be dismissed from service. In its place, in chapter 9 God will extend another blessing (though to us, it might sound like a curse).