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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 8

Whedon's Commentary on the BibleWhedon's Commentary


To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David.

This psalm is one of a class (see Psalms 19, 29, 104) which contemplates the phenomena of nature religiously, as cause of praise to the Creator. It celebrates the greatness of God, and the greatness of man in the image of God, and has been called the “lyric echo” of the first chapter of Genesis. The Messianic notices of it in the New Testament are not considered to be directly, but by way of accommodation illustratively, applied to Christ. Still, man, who is here contemplated abstractly, according to the original purpose of God, is to attain the dignity of his birthright only through the God-man, who took on him our nature. (See the notes.) No occasion of writing is recorded of this beautiful lyric, but the second verse intimates a somewhat mature acquaintance with the bitter enemies of true religion, and with God’s methods of confounding them; and the whole bears too much the stamp of a religious philosopheme to allow us to assign it to the early life of David, who was unquestionably its author.


Upon Gittith Taken as a Gentile name, the word means Gathite, and Furst thinks it is a name proper of a musical body of Levites who had their chief seat in the Levitical city Gath-Rimmon. Others take it as the name of an instrument for lively airs, as if it were an επιληνιος , ( epilenios,) or joyful air, used at the vintage, as the radical word גת , ( gath,) winepress, would indicate. The other psalms bearing this inscription are also of a joyful character. See Psalms 81, 84.

Verse 1

1. Our Lord Equal to the New Testament “Our Father.” David speaks not as a private individual, but for the human race.

Thy name The manifestations of Thyself, by which thou art known.

In all the earth Whether men perceive and respond to it or not, thy name is excellent.

Set thy glory above… heavens “Set” is here used in the royal sense, Thou hast enthroned thy majesty above the heavens. The doctrine is against polytheism, which makes the heavenly bodies the abodes of the gods; and the idea is, that the heavens are, to all the earth, the reflection of the divine glory, even though it awakens no echo in millions of hearts. See Psalms 19:1-3; Romans 1:20

Verse 2

2. Out of the mouth of babes The Hebrew denotes a child in general, whether infant proper, or, more commonly, one that can “ask bread,” (Lamentations 4:4,) or play in the street, (Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 9:21.)

Sucklings A child under three years, the period of nursing by Hebrew mothers. 2Ma 7:27 .

Ordained Literally, laid the foundation, shows clearly the children here meant are able to speak, and receive some elemental knowledge. Compare Matthew 11:25.

Strength We must retain the sense of power, might, and not praise, as some interpreters, but which the Hebrew will not bear. The antithesis, the apparent paradox, lies between the proverbial impotence of children and their being chosen of God to oppose and overthrow the powers of this world. See Matthew 21:16. This is not to be taken figuratively, as in 1 Corinthians 1:27, but literally; childhood’s faith and piety shall confound infidelity.

That thou mightest still That thou mightest cause to cease, or put to silence.

Enemy and the avenger “Those meant are the fierce and calumniating opponents of revelation.” Delitzsch. The “avenger” is one that is inspirited to cursing and vengeance. This verse implies a knowledge of human enmity against God, and of the divine ways with men, which indicate an experienced age in the author.

Verse 3

3. When I consider As often as I behold.

Heavens… moon… stars Imagine a gorgeous oriental night, not necessarily a knowledge of scientific astronomy.

Ordained Established; made firm, and abiding. The stability of the heavenly bodies, no less than their creation and magnificence, depends upon the will of God.

Verse 4

4. What is man This connects with the first hemistich of Psalms 8:3, thus As often as I see thy heavens, I ask with wonder, What is man? The Hebrew words for “man,” and “son of man,” according to their radical sense, contemplate man from the frail and perishable side of his nature, and in this view the comparison is against him. But this is momentary and in appearance only. Suddenly the poet rises to the comprehension of man’s true rank and greatness in creation.

Art mindful… visitest him Two words denoting special thought and oversight.

Verse 5

5. Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels Hebrew, Thou hast made him less, a little from, or than, God. Man, physically compared, is inferior to the wide creation; but another point of comparison restores him to his true rank. The Septuagint translates אלהים , ( God,) by αγγελους , angels; so, also, the Chaldee, Vulgate, the ancient Jewish, and some modern interpreters. So, also, our English Version. But this is a gloss and not a translation, and is not satisfactorily sustained by Hebrew usage. Elohim is used to denote kings, judges, princes, as representing God in dominion and authority. See Exodus 21:6; Exodus 22:8-9; Exodus 22:28; Psalms 82:1; Psalms 82:6; Psalms 95:3; Psalms 97:7; Psalms 97:9; Psalms 138:1. In Psalms 96:4-5, it means false gods, “gods of the nations.” In Genesis 3:5, it means the true God, not “gods.” In 1 Samuel 28:13, it seems to be used for a godlike form: “I saw a godlike form ascending,” etc. The rendering, “Thou hast made him little less than a god,” gives no sense, or, if any, a false one. “Remove him little from divinity; that is, from a divine and heavenly, or at least from a superhuman state,” (Alexander,) is too vague for satisfaction. Whatever may be the interpretation, Elohim must be rendered God, and the comparison must lie between man and God. Nor is this without authority. The statement of the psalmist is based directly on Genesis 1:27: “God created man in his own image.” Here is the foundation of the comparison, and of the asserted dignity of man. The idea is, not that man is only a little removed from the absolute Godhead, but that, in the original idea and purpose of God, he is the closest resemblance of God in endowments, the first in rank of created beings. Besides, מעשׂ , Septuagint βραχυ τι , ( a little,) may signify for a little time, as the quotation of the apostle, Hebrews 2:9, certainly does mean. In Hebrews 2:7 this passage is quoted from the Septuagint, not the Hebrew. It is a free quotation, ad sensum, without an attempt at verbal accuracy, the Greek version being used because at that time more widely read and better understood than the Hebrew text. Professor Stuart thinks, that the placing of man below the angels sufficed for the apostle’s argument without raising a question on the Greek text, though in doing so he claimed less for the argument than would have been claimed by insisting that the word Elohim should be interpreted God,” as in the Hebrew. To this it must be added that the apostle, in Psalms 8:7, ranks not the original dignity of man below that of angels, but only his earthly state. So Christ ranks “ βραχυ τι , for a little while, lower than the angels for the suffering of death.” But the sequel of the argument shows that by his resurrection, ascension, and regal enthronement at the right hand of God, he carries our human nature above the rank of angels, and thus illustrates the ultimate dignity of man, according to our text.

Glory and honour Two words nearly synonymous, and united for emphasis, expressive here, as often, of kingly majesty. Psalms 21:5. See note on Psalms 97:7.

Verse 6

6. Dominion A strictly regal prerogative, belonging not to angels, but is part of God’s image in man.

Works of thy hands A Hebraism for thy works.

All things under his feet In complete subjection to him. The word is absolute and universal, but the enumeration of Psalms 8:7-8, limit it to this earth, as also Genesis 1:26. On the restitution of human nature in Christ see on Psalms 8:5, and compare Revelation 2:26-27; Revelation 3:21; 1 Corinthians 6:2; Hebrews 2:7-9; and notes.

Verse 9

9. How excellent is thy name A suitable refrain, in echo of Psalms 8:1, after so lofty a tribute of honour to man and praise to God.

Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Psalms 8". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/whe/psalms-8.html. 1874-1909.
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