And the LORD smelled a sweet odor; and the LORD said in his heart,
I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more everything living, as I have done.
Read Chapter 8
Ambrose of Milan
Let us examine with greater attention the meaning of the words “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.” He will not add that he intends to destroy again, as he had already done, every living creature for the entire duration of earth. Even though he had punished the whole of mankind, he knew that the punishment of the law is more suitable to raise fear and to teach the doctrine than to change the nature that can be corrected in some people but not changed in everybody. Therefore God punished so that we might fear and forgave so that we might be preserved. He punished once in order to give an example that would have raised fear, but he forgave for the future, so that the bitterness of sin would have not prevailed. One who is intent upon punishing sins too often is considered to be more obstinate than strict. Therefore God says, “I will never again curse the ground because of man,” that is,...
“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 his 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. .
Smelled A figurative expression, denoting that God was pleased with the sacrifices which his servant offered, (Challoner) and in this sense it is expressed in the Chaldee, "God received his offering gratefully. "God requires sacrifices of us, to testify his dominion, and not for any advantage he derives from them; but rather to bless us, if we perform our duty with fervour.
For the sake of, or on account of men's sins. They are so prone to evil, that, if I were to punish them as often as they deserve, new deluges might be sent every day. I take pity on their weakness. I will punish the most criminal, but not as I have done, by cursing the earth. These words of God, are by some addressed to Noe, by others to God the Son. Hebrew, "he said to his heart "Onkelos, "he said in his word "Septuagint, "he said with reflection. "(Calmet)
Noe was beloved by God, and therefore may be called his heart. To speak to the heart, often means to comfort. (Haydock)
The Scripture says, “And the Lord smelled a sweet odor,” that is, he accepted the offerings. But do not imagine that God has nostrils, since God is invisible spirit. Yet what is carried up from the altar is the odor and smoke from burning bodies, and nothing is more malodorous than such a savor. But that you may learn that God attends to the intention of the one offering the sacrifice and then accepts or rejects it, Scripture calls the odor and smoke a sweet savor. .