Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible, by John Wesley, [1754-65], at sacred-texts.com
gen 8:1And God remembered Noah and every living thing - This is an expression after the manner of men, for not any of his creatures, much less any of his people are forgotten of God. But the whole race of mankind, except Noah and his family, was now extinguished, and gone into the land of forgetfulness, so that God's remembering Noah was the return of his mercy to mankind, of whom he would not make a full end. Noah himself, tho' one that had found grace in the eyes of the Lord, yet seemed to be forgotten in the ark; but at length God returned in mercy to him, and that is expressed by his remembering him.
gen 8:3The waters returned from off the earth continually - Heb. they were going and returning; a gradual departure. The heat of the sun exhaled much, and perhaps the subterraneous caverns soaked in more.
gen 8:4And the ark rested - upon the mountains of Ararat - Or, Armenia, whether it was directed, not by Noah's prudence, but the wise providence of God.
gen 8:5The tops of the mountains were seen - Like little islands appearing above water. They felt ground above forty days before they saw it, according to Dr. Lightfoots's computation, whence he infers that if the waters decreased proportionably, the ark drew eleven cubits in water.
gen 8:7Noah sent forth a raven through the window of the ark, which went forth, as the Hebrew phrase is, going forth and returning, that is, flying about, but returning to the ark for rest; probably not in it, but upon it. This gave Noah little satisfaction: therefore,
gen 8:8He sent forth a dove - Which returned the first time with no good news, but probably wet and dirty; but the second time she brought an olive leaf in her bill, which appeared to be fresh plucked off; a plain indication that now the trees began to appear above water. Note here, that Noah set forth the dove the second time, seven days after the first time, and the third time was after seven days too: and probably the first sending of her out was seven days after the sending forth of the raven. The olive branch is an emblem of peace.
gen 8:13Noah removed the covering of the ark - Not the whole covering, but so much as would suffice to give him a prospect of the earth about it: and behold the face of the ground was dry.
gen 8:14The earth was dried - So as to be a fit habitation for Noah.
gen 8:20And Noah builded an altar - Hitherto he had done nothing without particular instructions and commands from God but altars and sacrifices being already of Divine institution, he did not stay for a particular command thus to express his thankfulness. And he offered on the altar, of every clean beast and of every clean fowl - One, the odd seventh that we read of, Gen 7:2-3.
gen 8:21And God smelled a sweet savour - Or a savour of rest from it, as it is in the Hebrew. He was well pleased with Noah's pious zeal, and these hopeful beginnings of the new world, as men are with fragrant and agreeable smells. I will not again curse the ground, Heb. I will not add to curse the ground any more - God had cursed the ground upon the first entrance of sin, Gen 3:17, when he drowned it he added to that curse: but now he determines not to add to it any more. Neither will I again smite any more every living thing - That is, it was determined that whatever ruin God might bring upon particular persons, families or countries, he would never again destroy the whole world, 'till the day when time shall be no more. But the reason of this resolve is surprising; for it seems the same with the reason given for the destruction of the world, Gen 6:5. Because the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth. But there is this difference: there it is said, the imagination of man's heart is evil continually, that is, his actual transgressions continually cry against him; here it is said, that it is evil from his youth or childhood; he brought it into the world with him, he was shapen and conceived in it. Now one would think it should follow, therefore that guilty race shall be wholly extinguished: No; therefore I will no more take this severe method; for he is rather to be pitied: and it is but what might be expected from such a degenerate race. So that if he be dealt with according to his deserts, one flood must succeed another 'till all be destroyed. God also promises, that the course of nature should never be discontinued. While the earth remaineth, and man upon it, there shall be summer and winter, not all winter, as had been this last year; day and night, not all night, as probably it was while the rain was descending. Here it is plainly intimated that this earth is not to remain always; it and all the works therein must shortly be burnt up. But as long as it doth remain, God's providence will carefully preserve the regular succession of times and seasons. To this we owe it, that the world stands, and the wheel of nature keeps its tack. See here how changeable the times are, and yet how unchangeable! 1. The course of nature always changing. As it is with the times, so it is with the events of time, they are subject to vicissitudes, day and night, summer and winter counterchanged. In heaven and hell it is not so; but on earth God hath set the one over against the other. 2. Yet never changed; it is constant in this inconstancy; these seasons have never ceased, nor shall cease while the sun continues such a steady measurer of time, and the moon such a faithful witness in heaven. This is God's covenant of the day and of the night, the stability of which is mentioned for the confirming our faith in the covenant of grace, which is no less inviolable, Jer 33:20. We see God's promises to the creatures made good, and thence may infer that his promises to believers shall be so.