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Monday, June 17th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 8

Old & New Testament Restoration CommentaryRestoration Commentary

Verses 1-2

Psa 8:1-2

Psalms 8:1-2



"Set to the Gittith." Only three Psalms have this instruction in the superscription, namely, this one, Psalms 81 and Psalms 82. Dummelow gave the meaning as, "perhaps an instrument or a tune, of Gath.” At best, however, such scholarly opinions are merely educated guesses. There is much uncertainty with regard to all of these superscriptions.

"A Psalm of David." There is nothing whatever in the Psalm itself that is contrary to the ancient opinion that David wrote it, and we find a few things that support such a view. For example, the mention of the night sky with the moon and the stars might indeed be expected from one who often kept watch at night over his father Jesse’s flock.

"O Lord, our Lord How Excellent is thy Name in all the Earth." We have chosen a part of this opening line as the title of the Psalm itself. Many other titles have been suggested, as a glance at the various versions will indicate; but I have followed Maclaren’s declaration that:

"The exclamation that begins and ends this Psalm, enclosing it as a jewel in a setting, determines its theme as being neither the nightly heaven with its moon and stars, nor the dignity of man, but the Name of the Lord a proclaimed by both.”

Psalms 8:1-2

"O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth,

Who hast set thy glory upon the heavens!

Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou established strength,

Because of thine adversaries,

That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger."

It will be noted that we went back to the KJV in the first line of Psalms 8:1. As I have grown older, I have found my respect for the word "Jehovah" as used in place of "God" or ’Lord" more and more difficult to maintain. In no sense whatever is it an inspired word. It is a scholarly guess at what the word actually was; and there are more and more variations of it available in the scholarly writings continually demanding our attention. Another "guess" is "Yahweh"; but neither of these is as glorious, meaningful, or acceptable as "Lord."

Furthermore, the American Standard Version of 1901 made no improvement at all in the second line of Psalms 8:1, when they substituted the word "upon" for "above," but retained the latter in the margin. The KJV is the superior rendition, because the glory of the Creator is not merely upon the heavens, it is likewise above them.

"Out of the mouth of babes, etc." Jesus Christ himself quoted from this passage in Matthew 21:16, where we find the account of the Pharisees’ objection that the children in the temple were chanting Hosannas to Christ, singing of him as "The Son of David." Christ responded, saying, Yea, have ye not read that, "Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings hast thou perfected praise." This, of course is a verbatim quotation from the LXX; and, by reason of Jesus’ acceptance of that rendition, it may be considered superior to other translations of the passage.

Regarding the "babes and sucklings," the passage may be a metaphor for all mankind, who in their frailty and weakness are as "babes and sucklings" in the eyes of God. Jesus’ application of the words to children singing his praises in the temple falls far short of a contradiction of that view.

There is another view also which more strongly commends itself to us, namely, that -

(1) when God decided to rescue Israel from Egyptian slavery, it was a babe, indeed a suckling, that was placed in the little ark of bulrushes and cast upon the boundless waters of the Nile river. That "babe" was Moses, and through him, God destroyed the enemy and the avenger.

(2) Once more, when the third judicial hardening of humanity had taken place, and the whole world lay "in the evil one," as an apostle expressed it, "a babe," "a suckling," indeed THE BABE of Bethlehem entered our earth life in a stable, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. He did indeed destroy Satan himself, "the great enemy." The Prince of this world was cast out by the Christ; and, it seems to us, that in such examples as those of Moses and of our Lord, we have the true and eternal fulfillment of this second verse.

Dummelow noted that "God’s employment of such feeble instruments to display his glory (and to achieve his purposes on earth, J.B.C.) puts his adversaries to silence.” Paul made mention of this very principle in 1 Corinthians 1:27-29.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 8:1. Lord occurs twice and is from different originals. The first is from YEHOVAH and Strong defines it, "(the) self-Existent or Eternal; Jehovah, Jewish national name of God." The second is from ADOWN and defined, "sovereign, i.e. controller (human or divine." The phrase means that the Being who always existed was acknowledged as the one to rule over David and his brethren. No wonder, then, that His name was praised above everything else in the universe.

Psalms 8:2. This verse states a general fact, but was especially meant as a prediction that was fulfilled in Matthew 21:16. Babes and sucklings was used figuratively, meaning that praise would come from those who were least expected to be able or inclined to do so. To still means to overcome another. By bringing praises from such humble sources, the enemy would be put to shame.

Verses 3-4

Psa 8:3-4

Psalms 8:3-4

"When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers,

The moon, and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

What is man that thou art mindful of him?

And the son of man, that thou visitest him?"

"The work of thy fingers." The use of "fingers" here instead of hands, which we might have expected, suggests that it was no great difficulty whatever for God to have created the heavens and the earth and everything within them. God merely spoke the Word; and it was done!

"The moon, and the stars." These words surely originated with one who was familiar with the night sky, as David most certainly was. It is inconceivable that any man in full possession of his mental faculties can look upon the magnificent glory of the night sky without being conscious of the existence of God and of man’s constant need of his love and favor.

Our English word "consider" comes from two Latin words, "con," meaning "with" and "sideris" meaning "stars." Surely a careful look at the starry heavens is an awe inspiring and challenging experience.

"What is man that thou art mindful of him?" "The word here rendered "man" means "frail man," Humanity in all of its weakness and limitations.”

The infinite contrast between man’s smallness, his unspeakable insignificance in a physical sense and the glory that God has lavished upon him is the burden of this incredibly beautiful Psalm. What is man in a physical sense?

"Amidst the vastness around me, I am lost, and can be of no more consequence than a mote in a sunbeam. If I and all my generation were swept away in the twinkling of an eye, we should be no more missed than a grain of dust blown into the crater of a volcano.”

However that is only part of the story; and the far more important part of it is explained this way:

"In man’s insignificance is lodged a Divine spark; and, lowly as is his head as he stands beneath the midnight sky blazing with inaccessible lights, that head is crowned with a halo reflecting the glory of God even more than the luster of those billions of stars!”

"The son of man." This is only a variant for "man" in the preceding line; but the reason for human dignity begins to appear in these lines. (1) God indeed is mindful of him; (2) God has actually visited him. What an incredible honor is this? "The Dayspring from on High has visited us"! (Luke 1:78), shining upon us who sit in darkness and the shadow of death! But that is far from being all of it. The very next verse stresses other incredibly tremendous reasons why God is mindful of his human creation.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 8:3. David was here meditating on the same subject he wrote about in the noted 19th Psalm. He was filled with admiration at the greatness of a Creator who could make such wonderful things by the power of his hand.

Psalms 8:4. David was overwhelmed at the thought that human beings like him would be given such great attention from the Lord of all creation.

Verses 5-6

Psa 8:5-6

Psalms 8:5-6

"For thou has made him but little lower than God,

And crowned him with glory and honor.

Thou makest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;

Thou hast put all things under his feet:"

"A little lower than God." We mention what we considered errors in the English Revised Version (1885) and American Standard Version renditions of the first verse; but here we must confess the superiority of those later versions over older renditions. Those older translations were unduly influenced by the Septuagint (LXX) which mistranslated "Elohim," reading it as "angels" instead of "God." More on this below.

Look at some of the other reasons for man’s unique place in the Creation of God: (3) God created him but a little lower than Himself and in his very image! (4) He crowned him with glory and honor, and (5) He put all things under man’s feet, giving him dominion over God’s works!

"But a little lower than God ..." The Septuagint (LXX) mistranslated this passage, making it read, "But a little lower than the angels"; and, as the Septuagint (LXX) was the common Bible known by many in Jesus’ ministry, it is thus quoted in Hebrews 2:6-8 f. However, "The Hebrew word which the Septuagint (LXX) renders as "angels" is actually "[~’Elohiym]," meaning "God"; and there can be no doubt of the correct rendition. This error, however, has not been a damaging one, because angels themselves are very high beings, and it is also true that we "for a little while" are made lower than the angels also, being at the same time lower than God.

The author of Hebrews 2:6-8 gives a temporal sense to verse 5a, making 5b a contrast rather than a parallel, expressing man’s lordship of the world to come, not as yet realized, it is true, but guaranteed to us by the fact that Jesus is already crowned!

It must be realized, of course, that all of the great honors and privileges with which man was endowed by the Creator are not at all fully realized in our present world because of the consequence of the fall of the Adamic race in Eden and the continued rebellion and wickedness of Adam’s foolish posterity. All of the promises and glories mentioned here were for man, as God created him, not as he became when he repudiated the benign government of God and chose to become a servant of the devil.

Jesus Christ, however, entered our earth life, overcame all sin and wickedness, brought the prospect of eternal life to as many as would receive him, love him, and obey him. He has now sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on High in full possession of "all authority in heaven and upon earth" (Matthew 28:18-20).

It would seem that the Psalmist here had no intention of writing a Psalm depicting the Coming of God’s Messiah to bless humanity; but in Hebrews 2:6-8 it is categorically stated that all that was intended in the creation of man was fulfilled only in Jesus Christ our Lord. He was the only human ever born who was in every way and at all times exactly what God created man to be.

Whatever fulfillment of this marvelous Psalm for our human race that may lie in the future, must come though Jesus Christ and through him alone. Even then, mortal men will be saved eternally and share the glory of Christ himself only as they consent to be his followers and obey him.

But for those who do indeed accept the available salvation, they shall actually partake of the glory of Christ himself in the very throne of God.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 8:5. Little lower than the angels referred to man’s nature being subject to death while the angels could not die. Notwithstanding his mortal body, man had been given glory and honor above that of the angels. It will be described in the following paragraph.

Psalms 8:6-8. This refers to the time when God placed mankind over the works of creation. Please read Genesis 1:26-28.

Verses 7-9

Psa 8:7-9

Psalms 8:7-9

"All sheep and oxen,

Yea, and all beasts of the field,

The birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,

Whatsoever passes through the paths of the seas.

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!"

These words are merely an elaboration of the promise that God would put all things under the feet of men. This enumeration begins with animals that men have tamed, goes on to include the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fishes of the seas.

The Psalm closes with that magnificent exclamation with which it began and which we believe serves as an accurate title of the Psalm.

E.M. Zerr:

Psalms 8:6-8. This refers to the time when God placed mankind over the works of creation. Please read Genesis 1:26-28.

Psalms 8:9. This is identically like the first verse of the chapter. For that reason Dr. Marion Hull calls this an envelope psalm. That means the verses between the first and last ones describe the truth expressed by the first and last ones.

Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on Psalms 8". "Old & New Testament Restoration Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/onr/psalms-8.html.
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