Genesis 8:22 (ESV) … “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”
Instead of destruction, the earth will be blessed with the regularity of predictable environmental patterns that are undergirded by the directive hand of God (v. 22). This promise is dependent upon the goodness of God and not the righteousness of humanity, for humanity will always languish in sin. The only condition established is temporal, “as long as the earth endures” (v. 22). The survivors of the flood had known storm and wind as their adversaries and had witnessed their power. By this promise, the Lord restored their confidence in a subdued world, subjected to the divine promise, where they could once again thrive. “However irregular the human heart may be (8:21b), there will be regularity in God’s world and its cycles.” Our passage shows God’s persistent allegiance to the earth and earth’s inhabitants with the intent of blessing.
Verse 22 also echoes the language of creation: “as long as” (lit., “all the days of”; “day,” 1:5ff.); “seed” (“seedtime,” 1:11–12, 29); “day” and “night” (1:5); and “cease/rest” (šābat, 2:2–3). The Lord in recreating the earth reestablishes its order and boundaries as at the beginning (1:14) and “as long as the world exists” (GNB). This shows a permanency for the world, but it also infers that the present heavens and earth will someday cease. Countering those who scoffed at the anticipation of a coming Christ, Peter pointed to Noah’s flood as evidence that God had already shown the will and capacity to bring about a worldwide cataclysm. The apostle forewarns there is yet a great conflagration that at the Lord’s command will close the final chapter of Noah’s new world (2 Pet 3:3–7). Ours is not a “world without end” (AV, Eph 3:21).
The NIV’s rendering (as most English versions) arranges v. 22 in poetic stanza. The figure of merismus (opposites) dominates, indicating the inclusiveness of all seasons and times. The agrarian seasons, necessary for the sustenance of life, are represented by “seedtime and harvest.” The fertility religions of the ancient Near East, with their dying and rising deities, attributed the seasons to the actions of the gods. Canaanite religion, for example, depicted the fruition of spring as the result of Baal’s liberation from the underworld ruled by Mot (Death). Biblical religion explained that the seasonal cycle was the consequence of Yahweh’s pronouncement and, moreover, evidence of a divine dominion that transcends the elements of the earth. There is no place for Mother-earth in biblical ideology. Earth owes its powers (not her powers!) to the divine command.
“Cold and heat” with “summer and winter” are chiastic and essentially parallel to the seasons of seed and harvest, which are marked by these changes in climatic conditions. “Day and night” is the concluding pair and show that they too are at the command of the Lord, who here guarantees their punctual arrival (cf. 1:3–5). Nature will not act capriciously but will be timely and predictable (“will never cease”), giving security to the world and its inhabitants. For Moses’ audience this made the marshaling of such forces for Israel’s exodus and sojourn all the more impressive, as the plague of darkness showed (Exod 10:21–23). More important for later Israel the seasons of plenty were tied to God’s covenant blessing for a faithful people, but the opposite was true as well (e.g., Deut 27–28). Israel rightly expressed its homage to the Governor of the seasons through its annual ritual of firstfruits (e.g., Lev 23:9–14).