God smells

In the Bible, there are several places in which God mocks idols. One interesting facet of this mocking is that “idols cannot smell”. This is evidence they are a false god. In Deuteronomy:

Deu 4:27 And the LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will be left few in number among the nations where the LORD will drive you.
Deu 4:28 And there you will serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.

God is mocking the fake gods because they cannot “hear, eat, or smell.” Presumably, God can do all these things and in this manner God is superior to the false gods. For God eating, see Genesis 18.

In Psalms, we see this claim again:

Psa 115:3 But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases.
Psa 115:4 Their idols are silver and gold, The work of men’s hands.
Psa 115:5 They have mouths, but they do not speak; Eyes they have, but they do not see;
Psa 115:6 They have ears, but they do not hear; Noses they have, but they do not smell;
Psa 115:7 They have hands, but they do not handle; Feet they have, but they do not walk; Nor do they mutter through their throat.
Psa 115:8 Those who make them are like them; So is everyone who trusts in them.
Psa 115:9 O Israel, trust in the LORD; He is their help and their shield.

God is the true God. The false gods cannot speak, see, hear, smell, or handle. These traits seems to be part of what it means to be “in the image of God”. When God is mocking the idols in both the above passages, the message is that “these idols cannot even do basic things that human beings can do.” Those worshiping idols are more powerful than the idols themselves. The true God can do all these things and more.

And this makes sense, smelling is a major human capability. For God not to be able to smell, God would be losing a valuable attribute. Smelling can even cause intense pleasure. God exercises smelling for pleasure in the Bible:

Gen 8:20 Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.
Gen 8:21 And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma. Then the LORD said in His heart, “I will never again curse the ground for man’s sake, although the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done.

God smells the aroma. The aroma is soothing to God. This may be figurative, but the text in no way hints at it. In fact, the smell of sacrifices is later described again in the same manner:

Exo 29:18 And you shall burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the LORD; it is a sweet aroma, an offering made by fire to the LORD.

And again:

Lev 26:31 I will lay your cities waste and bring your sanctuaries to desolation, and I will not smell the fragrance of your sweet aromas.

The Bible shows that God is able to smell. This goes against the Augustinian concept of God’s attributes. When listing them off, no American pastor will say God is omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, and able to smell. But the Bible is clear: gods that cannot smell are false gods.

About christopher fisher

The blog is meant for educational/entertainment purposes. All material can be used and reproduced in any length for any purpose as long as I am cited as the source.
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