Ground and earth terms recur in verses 1-14 with an emphasis on the need for the ground to dry before disembarkation from the Ark can occur. In verses 15-19 the emphasis is on earth as the place where humans and animals live. The importance of earth in this chapter is as the sphere for living life.
The account of the Noahic covenant begins in Genesis 8:20-22 with Noah’s sacrifice. The sacrifice elicits God’s purpose to covenant with Noah.
In 8:21, God purposes to not again curse the ground (ESV, HCSB, NASB, etc.) or to not add to the curse of Genesis 3:17 (Wenham). This verse cannot be saying that God lifted the curse of Genesis 3:17. Romans 8 teaches that the earth still groans, waiting for its redemption. Obviously painful labor and labor pains persist after the Flood. In addition the ground [אֲדָמָה] referred to here is likely world-wide in reference. Clearly Israel will face ground-related covenant curses in the future.
Given that that God is proposing a real limits on the curse in this verse, and given the canonical confinement to what these limits cannot mean, this verse may teach that God will not keep adding to the curse of Genesis 3:17 on a worldwide scale despite mankind continuing to sin on a worldwide scale.
The immediate context of Genesis lends credence to this understanding. The case of Cain demonstrates that God did curse the ground with a curse that went beyond that given in Genesis 3. The Flood was obviously a curse upon the earth that went beyond the curse given in Eden. Lamech’s comment in 5:28 may indicate that these were not the only instances in which the curse on the earth was intensified. In conjunction with 8:21, 5:29 may hint at a large scale intensification of the curse as human sin spread and intensified. In this understanding, the covenant with Noah brought relief from the intensification of the curse that mankind experienced in the antediluvian world and promises that such intensification will not take place again on a worldwide scale. The advantage of this view is the way it coherently connects 8:21 and 5:29; the disadvantage is the necessity to infer an increase on the Genesis 3:17 curse. An alternative view understands the fulfillment of 5:29 in the preservation of the earth promised in the Noahic covenant which finds its ultimate redemptive fulfillment in the removal of the curse in the redemption of the earth in the last day.
Second, God purposes to never again kill every living thing as he did in the Flood (8:21).
Third, God purposes that the world will be a stable place. The regular seasons and daily cycles will continue. In addition the vocabulary of this verse is packed with vocabulary from Genesis 1. God’s original purposes for his good creation are preserved by the Noahic Covenant.
The reason for this covenant is also made clear in these verses: “for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Isaac Backus explains: “The great Ruler of the universe directly after the flood, gave this as one reason why he would not bring such another with the earth remains, namely, For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; so that if he was to drown them as often as they deserved it, one deluge must follow another continually.”
 Wenham notes that God does truly respond to Noah’s sacrifice in this passage. So in a sense the covenant is a response to the sacrifice. Yet it must also be understood, says Wenham, God appointed sacrifices for this purpose. Wenham, WBC, 1:190. In other words, Noah is not meriting a covenant by his religious observance.
 Wenham proposes the translation “I shall not curse the soil any further.” Wenham argues, “It is important to note the position of עוד in this sentence, coming after לקלל to ‘curse,’ not after אסף ‘do again’ as in the parallel clause ‘Never again shall I smite.’ This shows that God is not lifting the curse on the ground pronounced in 3:17 for man’s disobedience, but promising not to add to it.”
 Wenham, 1:190; Mathews, 1:394.
 In his list of the covenant curses found in the Pentateuch, Douglas Stuart includes the following categories: drought, crop pests, other agricultural disasters, famine, desolation of the land, and exile. He is draws primarily on Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28. For a full listing with verse citations, see Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, Word Biblical Commentary, ed. Bruce M. Metzger (Nashville: Nelson, 1987), xxxiv-xxxvii.
 “Prior to the flood the shedding of innocent blood polluted the ground, decreasing significantly its fertility. In 9:1-7 God issues certain instructions which are intended to prevent the earth from being contaminated in the future. These focus of the ‘lifeblood’ of both animal and humans which must be treated with due respect.” Alexander, From Paradise to Promised Land, 135.
 Matthews, NAC, 1:396-97.
 Isaac Backus, An Appeal to the Public for Religious Liberty against the Oppressions of the Present Day, 6. Geerhardus Vos explains why there is no contradiction for this statement as a reason for staying future curses while the similar statement in Genesis 6:5 is given as reason for judgment. “Before the deluge almost identical words were spoken by God to motive the necessity of the judgment, 6.5. How can the same statement explain, first, that the judgment is unavoidable, and then that there will be no repetition of the judgment henceforth? The solution of the difficulty lies in the addition of the words ‘from his youth; in the second case. What was described in Gen. 6.5, was the historical culmination of a process of degeneration; that called for judgment. What is here described is the natural state of evil in the human heart as such, altogether apart from historical issues. Because the evil is thus deep-seated, no judgment can cure it. Therefore other means must be resorted to, and these other means would become impossible of execution, if repeated, catastrophic judgments of this nature in the sequel interfered with the ordinary unfolding of history.” Vos, Biblical Theology, 52.