This is part two in a three part series; click here to go to part one.
There are two different curses on the ground mentioned in Scripture prior to the flood. One of these curses was implemented when Cain murdered his own brother (Genesis 4:8). But this curse, since it was only applied to Cain (Genesis 4:11), cannot be the curse referred to in Genesis 8:21 (Genesis 8:21 refers to a general curse which impacted all of humanity).
The other curse mentioned prior to the flood was a curse that was applied to all of humanity. In Genesis 3, because of the very first sin in the garden, God said to Adam:
Cursed is the ground because of you;This must be the curse referred to in Genesis 8:21, when God said, "I will never again curse the ground on account of man". After the flood, God did not remove the curse on the ground, but neither did He add to it. Praise God for His mercy! Praise God that he did not add to the curse of the ground after the flood!
In toil you will eat of it
All the days of your life.
Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you;
And you will eat the plants of the field
But at the same time: Praise God that He did not take away the curse on the ground (see Merciful Curses). Even modern man, with technology that previous generations could only have dreamed of, cannot completely eliminate the curse on the ground. And so, even today, man continues hoping that someone will bring lasting rest from the curse on the ground. In some ways, this hope is similar (if not identical) to Lamech's hope many millennia ago:
This one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands arising from the ground which the LORD has cursed. (Genesis 5:29)How often does modern man echo out the same yearning cry as Lamech? Unfortunately, many ignore the ultimate reason for why the earth is still cursed: to remind man that he lives on a fallen planet.
Lamech's desire for rest from the curse on the ground, in some sense, was fulfilled through Noah. Starting with Noah, the length of human life began declining. Such a dramatic drop in life expectancy shortened the amount of time men would have to toil on the cursed ground. The steady improvements in technology since Noah have also made the curse on the ground less noticeable. But most importantly, it was through Noah that Christ came— who gives eternal rest to those who suffer in faith for a few years on this cursed planet.
Noah's Name: Its Meaning and Significance - Genesis 5:29
State of the World (3130 BC): Noah's Father (Lamech) Is Born - Genesis 5:25
The Lord Smelled The Soothing Aroma - Genesis 8:21
The Fall: Merciful Curses - The Christian Worldview