The Value of Human Life

Genesis 8:21-9:7

Today we see how God accepts Noah’s sacrifice and promises to never again punish human beings in this way. Saint Ephrem the Syrian writes,

‘The Lord smelled’ not the smell of the flesh or the smoke of wood, but rather He looked out and saw the simplicity of heart with which Noah offered the sacrifice from all and on behalf of all. And the Lord spoke to him as He desired that Noah hear, ‘Because of your righteousness, a remnant was preserved and did not perish in that flood that took place. And because of your sacrifice that was from all flesh and on behalf of all flesh, I will never again bring a flood upon the earth.’ God thus bound Himself beforehand by this promise so that even if mankind were constantly to follow the evil thought of their inclination, He would never again bring a flood upon them.

However, God continues to be concerned about human behaviour, and the violent corruption of our nature that led to the flood. He gives the earth to human beings for their own needs, encouraging them to be responsible for it. But He is concerned above all, that they recognise and respect the sanctity of human life. Saint John Chrysostom comments,

He is saying that even if you are not restrained from murderous hands by kinship or by a sense of fellowship of nature, and even if you thrust aside all brotherly feeling and become completely committed to a blood murder, you must think twice. Consider the fact that the person has been created in God’s image. Mark the degree of honour accorded him by God! Think on the fact that he has received authority over all creation. Then you will give up your murderous intent.

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A Reading from the Book of Genesis 8:21-9:7:
And when the LORD smelled the pleasing odor, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything. Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image. And you, be fruitful and multiply, bring forth abundantly on the earth and multiply in it.”