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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 8

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verse 1

This psalm begins and ends with the same expression of wonder (inclusio) as David reflected on the splendor and magnificence of God as Creator. He addressed God as LORD (Yahweh, the covenant keeping God of Israel) our Lord (Adonai, the sovereign over all His creation including His people). In the second line (Gr. stich; Lat. colon) David meant God’s revealed character ("name," cf. Psalms 7:17) is high above all creation; He is much greater than anything He has made. The third line expresses a parallel thought. Not only is God above the heavens, but His splendor exceeds that of the heavens.

Verses 1-2

1. Introductory reflection on God’s majesty 8:1-2

Verses 1-9

Psalms 8

In this psalm of creation praise (cf. Psalms 33, 104, 145) David marveled at the fact that God had committed the dominion of the earth to man, and he reflected on the dignity of man. Other commonly recognized psalms of praise are 19, 29, 33, 47, 65-66, 68, 93, 96-100, 104-106, 111, 113-114, 117, 134-136, and 145-150. Some students of this psalm have called it a nature psalm, and some see it as messianic. The poet commented on Genesis 1:26-28 by clarifying the importance and role of humanity in creation. [Note: Merrill, "Psalms," p. 411.]

"These psalms of creation provide a sure and bold beginning point for the full world of psalmic faith." [Note: Brueggemann, p. 38.]

"This psalm is an unsurpassed example of what a hymn should be, celebrating as it does the glory and grace of God, rehearsing who He is and what He has done, and relating us and our world to Him; all with a masterly economy of words, and in a spirit of mingled joy and awe." [Note: Kidner, pp. 65-66.]

Verse 2

In addition to the earth and the heavens, even the weakest human beings bring praise to their Creator. David’s point was that even small children acknowledge and honor God, whereas older, more sophisticated adults often deny Him (cf. Matthew 21:16). God has chosen to use the weak things of this world to correct the strong (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:27). Reportedly the young child of an atheist couple once asked his parents, "Do you think God knows we don’t believe in Him?"

Verses 3-4

In view of the insignificance of mankind compared with the rest of creation, especially the heavenly bodies, David marveled that God would even think about human beings (cf. Psalms 144:3-4; Job 7:17; Job 25:4-6).

"The Creator has established two spheres of rule: heaven and earth. He has established the celestial bodies in the firmament and has given them the rule over day and night (Genesis 1:17-18), whereas he appointed man to govern the earth (Genesis 1:28)." [Note: VanGemeren, p. 112.]

The psalmist spoke of the starry host as God’s finger work. This figure stresses God’s care and skill, comparing Him to a sculptor. It was as easy for God to create the universe with His fingers, as it is for a human being to make something with his fingers, rather than by using his arms and whole body-it required so little effort. Genesis 1 describes God as creating the whole material universe with just a few words.

"In contrast to God, the heavens are tiny, pushed and prodded into shape by the divine digits; but in contrast to the heavens, which seem so vast in the human perception, it is mankind that is tiny." [Note: Craigie, p. 108.]

The Hebrew word translated "man" is ’enosh that elsewhere describes man as a weak mortal being.

"God’s remembering always implies his movement toward the object of his memory." [Note: B. S. Childs, Memory and Tradition in Israel, p. 34.]

Verses 3-8

2. Man’s place in God’s creation 8:3-8

In view of God’s greatness and man’s relative lowliness, it was marvelous to the psalmist that God would entrust His creation to humankind.

Verse 5

The NIV and AV versions have interpreted the Hebrew word elohim as meaning "heavenly beings" or "angels." However, this word usually refers to God Himself, and we should probably understand it in this sense here, too. [Note: Donald R. Glenn, "Psalms 8 and Hebrews 2 : A Case Study in Biblical Hermeneutics and Biblical Theology," in Walvoord: A Tribute, pp. 41-42.] God made man a little lower than Himself, in His own image that no other created beings bear. David did not say that God made man a little higher than the animals. Many scholars believe the image of God includes what God has enabled man to do, as well as what he is essentially. This includes ruling over lower forms of life (Genesis 1:26) as God rules over all. God has crowned man with glory and majesty by giving him the authority to rule over creation as His agent. Of course, man has failed to do what God created him to do (Hebrews 2:6-8). Jesus Christ, the last Adam (1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 Corinthians 15:47), will fulfill mankind’s destiny when He returns to earth and brings all creation under His control (1 Corinthians 15:27-28).

Verses 6-8

God placed all living creatures under the control of Adam and Eve before the Fall, and when they fell He did not withdraw this privilege (cf. Genesis 9:1-3; Genesis 9:7). But because they sinned, man has never been able to fulfill the destiny for which God created him, namely, to be king of the earth. Man’s responsibility is to maintain order in creation, not to let it control him. Man may use any animals, domesticated or wild, for his purposes, including food (Genesis 9:3; 1 Timothy 4:3-5). Man has tamed and even domesticated many kinds of animals, but he finds it impossible to control himself without divine assistance (James 3:7-8).

"In Psalms 2 Christ is seen as God’s Son and King, rejected and crucified but yet to reign in Zion. In Psalms 8, while His Deity is fully recognized (Psalms 8:1; Psalms 110 with Matthew 22:41-46), He is seen as Son of man (Psalms 8:4-6) who, ’made [for] a little [while] lower than the angels,’ is to have dominion over the redeemed creation (Hebrews 2:6-11). Thus this Psalm speaks primarily of what God bestowed upon the human race as represented in Adam (Genesis 1:26; Genesis 1:28). That which the first man lost, the second Man and ’last Adam’ more than regained. Hebrews 2:6-11, in connection with Psalms 8 and Romans 8:17-21, shows that the ’many sons’ whom He is bringing to glory are joint heirs with Him in both the royal right of Psalms 2 and the human right of Hebrews 2." [Note: The New Scofield . . ., p. 604.]

Verse 9

3. Concluding reflection on God’s majesty 8:9

The psalm closes with a repetition of the psalmist’s amazement at God’s marvelous ways in entrusting so much responsibility to insignificant humans (cf. Psalms 8:1).

"The universe testifies to the power and glory of God but somewhat as a foil against which to measure the centrality of humankind in the divine design. But beyond this is the perfect One of whom men and women at their best are only a dim foreshadow-Jesus Christ the Savior and Lord." [Note: Merrill, "Psalms," p. 411.]

The whole psalm extols the majesty of God. He is a remarkable sovereign because He has entrusted His magnificent creation to feeble humankind. While this psalm points out the frailty and failures of man as God’s vice-regent, it also glorifies man as being the capstone of creation and God’s chief concern in creation. It is one of the greatest revelations of the dignity of man. [Note: See Swindoll, pp. 27-36, and Ronald B. Allen, The Majesty of Man: The Dignity of Being Human.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Psalms 8". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/psalms-8.html. 2012.
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