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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 8

Benson's Commentary of the Old and New TestamentsBenson's Commentary


A.M. 2942. B.C. 1062.

This Psalm contains a solemn and instructive meditation on the majesty, greatness, and grace of God. David extols God’s glory, as appearing in his works, especially in the heavens and heavenly bodies, and in his producing great and wonderful effects by weak and contemptible instruments, Psalms 8:1-3 . His condescension and loving-kindness to mankind, in being mindful of, and visiting them, in grace and mercy, Psalms 8:4 , Psalms 8:5 . In giving them dominion over this lower world, Psalms 8:6-9 . It has been a great question among interpreters, whether this Psalm speaks of man in general, and of the honour which God put upon him in his creation; or only of the man Christ Jesus. But is it not evident, upon comparing it with Hebrews 2:6 , that both are included? for the design of the Psalm seems plainly to have been to display and celebrate the great love and kindness of God to mankind, not only in their creation, but also in their redemption by Christ Jesus; whom, as he was man, God advanced to the honour here mentioned, that he might carry on that great and glorious work. Some parts of the Psalm, however, relate more eminently to Christ than to man in general, and accordingly are so interpreted, both by our Lord himself, and by his apostles, Matthew 21:16 ; 1 Corinthians 15:27 ; Hebrews 2:6-7 .

Title of the Psalm The word גתית , gittith, means a wine-press, and accordingly is rendered by the LXX., υπερ των ληνων , for, or, concerning the wine-presses. And some think, which certainly is not improbable, that the reason why this title was given to this Psalm was, its being appointed to be sung at the time of the vintage. And if so, it is probable the eighty-first and eighty-fourth were intended to be sung at that season also, the same title being likewise given to them. Others, however, think it more probable that a musical instrument brought from Gath is intended, because the Chaldee interprets it, “On the harp which David brought from Gath.” Dr. Hammond renders it, “Upon the Gittite,” that is, Goliath the Gittite; whom David vanquished and slew, and thereby stilled that enemy and avenger, though, in comparison of him, he was as a babe or suckling. And he conjectures, that it was on the occasion of that victory that this triumphant Psalm was composed. But this is a matter of little importance, and the reader is at liberty to use his own judgment concerning it.

Verse 1

Psalms 8:1 . How excellent is thy name That is, thy glory, as it is explained in the next clause; in all the earth The works of creation and providence evince and proclaim to all the world that there is an infinite Being, the fountain of all being, power, and perfection; the sovereign Ruler, powerful Protector, and bountiful Benefactor of all creatures. How great, how illustrious, how magnificent is the glory of this Being in all the earth! The light of it shines in men’s faces everywhere, Romans 1:20; if they shut their eyes against it, that is their fault. There is no speech nor language, but the voice of God’s glory is heard, or may be heard in it. The psalmist, however, seems to look forward to the times of the gospel, when the name of God, which was before great in Israel only, should be made known by divine revelation to all the earth, the very ends of which are to see his great salvation. Who hast set thy glory above the heavens Why do I speak of the earth? Thy glory or praise reacheth to the heavens, and indeed above all the visible heavens, even to the heaven of heavens; where thy throne of glory is established, where the blessed angels celebrate thy praises, where Christ sitteth at thy right hand in glorious majesty, from whence he poureth down excellent gifts upon babes, as it follows.

Verse 2

Psalms 8:2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings Children in age, and children in power and knowledge, persons comparatively ignorant and foolish, weak and contemptible, but simple, humble, and teachable; thou hast ordained strength Hebrew, יסדת עז , jissadta gnoz, literally, hast founded, or constituted strength, hast laid a foundation for effecting, and hast actually effected, great and important purposes. Bishop Patrick, Dr. Hammond, Dr. Dodd, and some others think that there is an allusion in these words to the case of David himself, who, though but a mere child, in comparison of Goliath, yet, being assisted by the power of God, gained a complete victory over that gigantic champion; which was not only a proper punishment of his proud boastings, and defiance of the armies of the living God, but likewise sufficient to make the whole army of the Philistines acknowledge and adore the omnipotence of the God of Israel in reverential silence, at the same time that it discomfited and put them to flight. Our Lord, however, applies the words to little children in the temple, and to the poor and the illiterate people, who, being simple, teachable, and unprejudiced, acknowledged Jesus for the Messiah, and cried, “Hosannah to the son of David,” when the learned scribes, and self-righteous, self- sufficient Pharisees, despised and rejected him. The passage may also be applied, and, probably, was primarily intended to be applied, to the apostles and first preachers of the gospel, who, though looked upon but as babes, unlearned and ignorant men, Acts 4:13, mean and despicable, destitute both of power and interest; yet triumphed over all the wisdom of the wise and the power of the mighty; and overthrew the devil’s kingdom, as the walls of Jericho were thrown down by the sounding of rams’ horns. Thus the gospel, called the arm of the Lord, and the rod of his strength, has wrought wonders in different ages, not out of the mouths of philosophers or orators, or by means of politicians or statesmen, but by persons viewed by the world as babes in literature and human attainments, and who actually lay under very great disadvantages. And the power of God still brings to pass great things in his church by very weak and unlikely instruments; and confounds the noble, wise, and mighty, by the base, and weak, and foolish things of the world, that no flesh may glory in his presence, but the excellence of the power may the more evidently appear to be of God, and not of man, 1 Corinthians 1:27-28. Because of thine enemies Because they are insolent and haughty; that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger Mightest put them to silence and put them to shame; and so be justly avenged on the avengers: see Acts 4:14; Acts 6:10. The devil is the great enemy and avenger, and by the preaching of the gospel he was in a great measure stilled, his oracles were silenced, the advocates of his cause were confounded, and unclean spirits themselves not suffered to speak.

Verses 3-4

Psalms 8:3-4. When I consider thy heavens Thine by creation, as it follows; the work of thy fingers Of thy hands, as it is expressed Psalms 102:25, a part being here put for the whole, and God’s hand and finger being indifferently used to denote his power, Exodus 8:19; Luke 11:20. The moon and stars which thou hast ordained Hebrew כוננתה , chonantah, hast established, directed, or disposed; that is, placed in such admirable and unalterable order, and directed to their several motions, courses, and uses. At the time of enditing this Psalm, David seems to have had before his eyes the heavens, as they appear by night, and therefore does not notice the sun, but only mentions the moon and stars, which, though not altogether so serviceable to man as the sun, yet are no less demonstrations of the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Creator. What is man! How mean and inconsiderable a thing is man if compared with these thy other works, and especially with thy own glorious majesty, whose infinite wisdom and power thus shine forth from the structure of the heavens! when we consider how the glory of God shines in the upper world, we may well wonder he should regard or take any notice of so mean a creature as man; that he who is resident in, and president over, that bright and blessed part of the creation, should so much humble himself as to behold the things done on earth, Psalms 113:5-6. Again, when we consider of what great use the heavens are to men on earth, and how the lights of heaven are divided unto all nations, we may well say, Lord, what is man, that thou shouldst settle the ordinances of heaven with an eye to him and to his benefit; and that his comfort and convenience should be so much consulted in the making of the lights of heaven, and directing their motions?

But the Hebrew מה אנושׁ , mah enosh, means, What is infirm, or miserable man! By which it is apparent that he speaks of man, not according to his condition when first created, but as fallen into a state of sin, and misery, and mortality. That thou art mindful of him Takest cognizance of him and of his actions and affairs, and carest for him, and conferrest such favours upon him. And the son of man Hebrew, אדם בן , ben Adam, the son of Adam, that great apostate from, and rebel against thee, the sinful son of a sinful father, his son by likeness of disposition and manners, no less than by procreation. All which tends to magnify the following mercy. That thou visitest him Not in anger, as that word is sometimes used but in and with thy grace and mercy? dost not only feed and clothe him, protect and provide for him, in common with other creatures, but even visitest him as one friend visits another, conversest with him, and showest thyself to be infinitely concerned for his salvation and happiness, and providest so richly and graciously for his attainment of these blessings. What is man, so mean a creature, that he should be thus honoured; so sinful a creature, that he should be thus countenanced and favoured? Thus the psalmist, having before his eyes “the awful magnificence of the wide extended firmament, adorned by the moon walking in brightness, and rendered brilliant by the vivid lustre of a multitude of shining orbs, differing from each other in magnitude and splendour;” and turning from the survey of this beauty of the heavens with their glorious show, “to take a view of the creature man, is still more affected by the mercy than he had before been by the majesty of the Lord; since far less wonderful it is that God should make such a world as this than that he who made such a world should be mindful of man in his fallen estate, and should visit human nature with his salvation.” Horne.

Verse 5

Psalms 8:5 . Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels Such was man as he came out of the hands of his Maker, in his primeval state. He was lower than the angels, because, by his body, he was allied to the earth, and to the beasts that perish; but as by his soul, which was spiritual and immortal, he was near akin to the angels; he might be truly said to be but a little lower than they, and was in order next to them. And hast crowned him with glory and honour Endued him with noble faculties and capacities. He that gave man his being, distinguished him from the inferior creatures, and qualified him for dominion over them, by making him wiser than the beasts of the earth and the fowls of the heaven, Job 35:1. Man’s reason is his crown of glory, and he should take care not to profane that crown by perverting the use of it, nor forfeit it by acting contrary to its dictates.

Verses 6-8

Psalms 8:6-8. Thou madest him to have dominion over the work of thy hands Didst constitute him lord of the inferior creatures, and invest him with a sovereign dominion over them. The charter whereby man was to hold this royalty bore date with his creation, Genesis 1:28; and though it was forfeited by his fall, it was, in a great degree, renewed after the flood; since which time man has had all things, in such a sense, under his feet, that he can not only serve himself of the labour, but also of the products and lives of the inferior creatures, which are delivered into his hands for that purpose. All sheep and oxen, &c. Thus he instances in some of the inferior creatures, and among others, names even the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fishes of the sea. For, though many of them are much stronger, and many of them much swifter than man; yet, man’s superior knowledge enables him, one way or other, to reduce them under his power, and to exercise dominion over them. It must be carefully observed, however, that this refers, in a special manner, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and has its perfect accomplishment only in him. For, as the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews argues, Hebrews 2:6-8, “We see not yet all things put under” man in that complete and absolute sense which the psalmist’s words seem to imply; but we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, or was made lower for a little while, as the Hebrew may be rendered, for the suffering of death, that is, that he might be capable of suffering death; we see him crowned with the glory and honour of having all things, yea, and persons, put under him, in the completest and most absolute sense; exalted to the Father’s right hand, far above all principality and power, and every name that is named; invested with all power in heaven and on earth; constituted not only the head of the church but head over all things to the church, and intrusted with the administration of the kingdom of providence, in conjunction with, and subserviency to, the kingdom of grace. Now we must remember that, as it was our common human nature that Christ assumed; so our common human nature is thus exalted in him to that glory and honour, and complete dominion over the creatures, which Adam possessed in paradise, but which he lost for himself, and all his race, by the fall. Nay, in Christ our nature is raised to the possession of dignity and glory, power and dominion, riches and felicity, incomparably greater than was conferred on man at his creation. And through Christ the fallen children of men may rise; and all believers in Christ, and members of his mystical body, shall rise to a participation of this honour and happiness, and not only be made but a little lower than the angels, but as our blessed Lord testifies, ισαγγελοι , equal to the angels, if not even superior to them.

Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Psalms 8". Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/rbc/psalms-8.html. 1857.
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