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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Psalms 8

 

 


Verse 1

Psalms 8:1 « To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David. » O LORD our Lord, how excellent [is] thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

To the chief Musician upon Gittith] Upon the cittern, or gittern, brought from Gath, saith the Chaldee paraphrast; or, that was used by the sons of Obed Edom, the Gittite, 2 Samuel 6:10; or, that was sung at the wine presses, as the Greek hath it, for a thanksgiving in time of vintage: This last Aben Ezra disliketh, though I see no reason why he should, Vani heroines exponunt de torculari (Aben-Ezra).

Ver. 1. O Lord our Lord, &c.] The scope of this whole psalm is, to set us a wondering at and magnifying the majesty and magnificence of the Almighty; together with his inexpressible goodness to mankind; 1. In our creation in Adam. 2. In our restoration by Christ; which last is the true end of this psalm, as appeareth, Matthew 21:15, 1 Corinthians 15:27, Hebrews 2:8.

How excellent is thy name] This David speaketh as one swallowed up with admiration at that Nomen illud Magnificum et Maiestativum, that glory, honour, power, wisdom, goodness, &c., that being invested in God, and manifested in the creature (God’s handywork), should make us both wonder and inquire into God’s excellencies, according to that of Aristotle, to admire and learn at once is a pleasant thing; and sure that which is admirable stirreth up desire to see further into it, το θαυμαστον ετοθυμητον (Arist. Rhet. 1. i. c. 11). Admiratio peperit Philosophiam, saith another, Admiration brought forth philosophy: let it breed devotion in us, and a desire to praise God, who hath therefore displayed his excellencies in his works, that we might give him his due glory. The angels shouted at the creation, Job 38:4-6, and shall we be dull and dumb? God tells Job of his own great works (the elephant and whale especially), and thereby brings him to a right temper. The elephant is in Chaldee called pil, of a word that signifieth wonderful; because the wonders of God’s glory do so marvellously appear in him. See Job 40:15-16, &c., {See Trap on "Job 40:15"} {See Trap on "Job 40:16"} The philosophers make Iris, or the rainbow, the daughter of Thaumas, or admiration (Plato); but because that when they knew God, sc. per species Creaturarum, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful, but became vain in their imaginations - therefore were they given up to a reprobate sense, Romans 1:21; Romans 1:28.

In all the earth!] Where a man cannot look beside a miracle, so full of God are all places.

Who hath set thy glory above the heavens] Nam in eis robur Dei maxime apparet; for in the heavens (how much more above them) doth the glory of God chiefly appear. The earth is a small point in comparison to the heavens, and is governed by them, as R. David here noteth.


Verse 2

Psalms 8:2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

Ver. 2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings] For whom God hath filled two bottles of milk against they come into the world; and in whose birth sustenance, and wonderful protection (for Puerilitas est periculorum pelagus), but especially in their holy and religious education, much of God’s providence, power, and goodness is clearly seen and set forth to the conviction of the vilest atheists. So that, besides the earth and the heavens, we have very infants preachers of God’s praises, and more effectual orators than ever were Isocrates, Demosthenes, Pericles, &c.; so our Saviour understands it, Matthew 21:9, where the children sang hosanna when the Pharisees were silent. It is sometimes seen, that

Ipsa Deo blandos fundant cunabula flores.

John Baptist sprang in the womb for joy of Jesus. Jerome writeth of Paula, that noble matron, that she rejoiced in nothing more than this, That she heard her niece Paula sing Hallelujah in her cradle, In cunis balbutienti lingua Halleluiah cantare (Hier.). Bellarmine tells us, out of Theodoret, that the children of Samosatena, playing with at tennis in the midst of the market, did solemnly cast it into the fire, because it had but touched the foot of the ass whereon Lucius the heretical bishop rode. The children of Merindal so posed and answered one another, in matters of religion, before the persecuting bishop of Cavaillon, that a religious man that stood by said unto the bishop, I must needs confess that I have often been at the disputation of the doctors in Sorbon, but yet I never learned so much as I have done by hearing these young children (Acts and Mon. fol. 865). When Mr Blecter, the bishop’s chaplain, told Mr Wiseheart, the Scotch martyr, that he had a devil in him, and the spirit of error; a child that stood by answered him, saying, A devil cannot speak such words as yonder man speaketh. At the burning of John Laurence at Colchester, as he was sitting in the fire (for stand he could not, he had been so hardly used in the prison), the young children came about the fire, and cried, Lord, strengthen thy servant, and keep thy promise. Here was strength out of the mouths of little ones, taught early to speak the language of Canaan. Sed vae, vae parentibus illis (saith Polanus on the text), But woe, woe to those parents who make their children (whom God would have to be witnesses of his majesty) witnesses of their impiety, pride, and vanity.

That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger] i.e. Silence atheists and persecutors.


Verse 3

Psalms 8:3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

Ver. 3. When I consider thy heavens] And that men should be much in this consideration, both the bolt-upright figure of their bodies may admonish them, and also that fifth muscle which God hath set in man’s eye (whereas other creatures have but four) to draw it upward, Ut eius auxilio coelum intueremur, saith the anatomist, that by the help thereof we might consider the heavens (Columb. de re Anatom. l. 5, c. 9). This, those Christians that do not, shall have those heathens rising up in judgment against them: Anaxagoras Clazomenius, who used to say that he was therefore born that he might contemplate the heavens; and Ennius, who blameth Epicurus for that dum palato quid sit optimum iudicaret, coeli palatium non suspexerit, he did so purvey for his palace, that he looked not up to heaven’s palace. Certain it is, that many men have so much to do upon earth that they cannot have while to cast an eye towards heaven, as the Duke of Alva told a great prince, who asked him if he had taken notice of the last eclipse. That wonderful globe of silver sent by King Ferdinand to Soliman, the Great Turk, lively expressing the wonderful motions and conversions of the celestial frame, the hourly passing of the time, the change and full of the moon, &c., was much more beheld and admired than heaven itself is by most people. True it is, that that globe was a most curious and strange piece of work, devised and perfected by the most cunning astronomers, for Maximilian the emperor, whose noble mind never spared for any cost to obtain things of rare and strange device. But what was all this to the heavens? that

Work of thy fingers] That is, most elaborate and accurate; a metaphor from embroiderers, or from them that make tapestry. Aben Ezra’s note here is, Digiti sunt decem, et sphaerae sunt decem, As there are ten fingers, so there are ten spheres, &c.

The moon and the stars] No mention of the sun, because included in this word heaven; wherein by day the sun is most conspicuous, as by night, the moon and stars.

Which thou hast ordained] That was a witty speech of Cyril, They were Aθεοι κατα νυκτος, atheists by night, who worshipped the sun, and atheists by day, who worshipped the moon and stars.


Verse 4

Psalms 8:4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

Ver. 4. What is man, that thou art mindful of him?] Sorry, sickly man, a mass of mortalities, a map of miseries, a mixture or compound of dirt and sin? And yet God is mindful of him; he not only takes care of him in an ordinary way, as he doth other creatures, but singularly attendeth and affecteth him, as a father doth his dearest child. He is Divini irigenii cura, saith one; he is the end of all in a semi-circle, saith another philosopher; meaning, that all things in the world were made for man, and man made for God; neither is there so much of the glory of God in all his works of wonder as in one gracious performance of a godly person. But if we understand the text (as the apostle doth, Hebrews 2:6) of tbe man Christ Jesus, Hic homo et filius hominis qualis et quantus est, Deus bone! saith Junius.

And the son of man] Heb. of earthly men; for what is the greatest potentate but πηλος κομφως πεφυραμενος, a piece of clay neatly made up? (Arrian in Epictet.)

That thou visitest him?] That thou mindest him more than other creatures, and makest him Lord of all? Thy visitation preserveth his spirit, Job 10:12.


Verse 5

Psalms 8:5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.

Ver. 5. For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels] Compare here with Hebrews 2:6-7, and it will appear that whatsoever is spoken here of man is applied to Christ, and so is proper to the saints, by virtue of their union with Christ; in which respect they are more glorious, saith one, than heaven, angels, or any creature. This is their dignity; and for their duty, they must therefore give the more earnest heed to the doctrine of the gospel, lest at any time they should leak, or let slip the same, but retain and obey it. This is the apostle’s own inference, Hebrews 2:5-7, for thus he argueth: Unto the angels God hath not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak; but to man (for whose sake the Son of God came in the flesh, for whose sake the gospel was preached, for whose sake we speak of that world to come) he hath; therefore it behoveth man to observe and obey the gospel.

And hast crowned him with glory and honour] Some refer this to the reasonable soul, whereby he not only differeth from beasts, but draweth nigh to the heavenly nature. As Rome was an epitome of the world; as Athens was the Greece of Greece; and as one said to his friend who desired to see Athens, Viso Selene vidisti onmia, When thou hast seen Solon thou hast seen all Athens; so man is a little world, and is therefore called every creature, Mark 16:15; and the saints (in whom God’s image is repaired) are called all things, Colossians 1:20, Christ being unto them All, and in all.


Verse 6

Psalms 8:6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all [things] under his feet:

Ver. 6. Thou madest him to have dominion, &c.] He had so at first, Genesis 1:26, shall have again, Zechariah 8:12, Revelation 21:7; meanwhile (though Rebellis facta est creatura homnini, quia homo numini, the creature rebelleth against man, because man doth against God; yet) we cannot but see some footsteps remaining of that ancient sovereignty, which the very heathens also acknowledged, and therehence fetched excellent arguments for a providence (Cicero, Plutarch, Ennius). Lions hate apes, but tear men; though Simia quam similis, turpissima bestia, nobis. Hereof no probable reason be given but this, that God hath put all things under man’s feet; insomuch as that the most timorous men dare kick and beat the largest elephants. Indeed, by reason of sin, as was said, we see not all things subdued, Hebrews 12:8. But why hath Nature denied to horses, asses, camels, elephants, deer, &c., a gall, which it hath given to lions, wolves, and other fierce creatures? (Bodin. Theat. Nat. p. 405). Surely herein appeareth the wonderful wisdom and goodness of God, who hath done this, that those so serviceable creatures might be the better tamed and subdued by man. Let man consider (saith one well) what excellency he hath lost through Adam’s fall, and bewail his misery. Let him also, on the other side, well weigh the grace bestowed on him in Christ, and be joyful and thankful for mercy; knowing this, that if the creatures be not now subjected unto us, it is by reason of the body and relics of sin that yet remain in us; and that therefore if we would have a conquest over the creatures, we must begin first to get a victory upon sin, or else we shall never profit that way.

Thou hast put all things under his feet] The earth hath its name from treading upon it, Terra a terendo, teaching us, 1. To trample upon earthly things, as base and bootless; not to dote upon them without hearts, nor grasp them over greedily with our hands; as that covetous Cardinal Sylberperger, who took so great felicity in money, that when he was grievously tormented with the gout, his only remedy to ease his pain was, to have a bason full of gold set before him, into which he would put his lame hands, turning the gold upside down. But if silver and gold be a man’s happiness, then it is in the earth, and so (which is strange) nearer hell than heaven, and so nearer the devil than God. The ancient Romans had for a difference in their nobility, a little ornament in the form of a moon, to show that all worldly things were mutable; and they wore it upon their shoes, to show that they trod all under their feet. 2. By this posture of all things under man’s feet, God would teach him to use them as a stirrup, for the raising of his heart to those things above. A sanctified fancy can make every creature a ladder to heaven, and say, with that Father, Si tanti vitreum quanti rerum margaritum! If this trash be so highly esteemed, how much more the true treasure!


Verse 7

Psalms 8:7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;

Ver. 7. All sheep and oxen, &c.] There are beasts ad esum et ad usum, saith one. Some are profitable dead, not alive, as the hog; some alive, not dead, as the dog, horse, &c.; some both, as the ox; yet none so profitable as the sheep, who hath wool for raiment, skin for parchment, flesh for meat, guts for music, and was, therefore, in sacrifice so frequently offered.


Verse 8

Psalms 8:8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, [and whatsoever] passeth through the paths of the seas.

Ver. 8. The fowl of the air] These Moses seemeth to have forgotten, in that discontented speech of his, Numbers 11:22, but God sent those murmmurers such a drift of quails (meat of kings, with their bread of angels) as he could not have imagined or hoped for.

And the fish of the sea] Piscis of Pasco. Many islands are maintained and people fed by fish. In the Hebrew the same word signifieth a pond, or fish pool, and a blessing. And surely it is a blessing to any country that they have plenty and dainty of these good creatures.

And whatsoever passeth, &c.] As whales, and other great fishes, which make a smooth path in a calm sea, as a ship or a boat doth, Job 41:32, &c. {See Trapp on "Job 41:32"}


Verse 9

Psalms 8:9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent [is] thy name in all the earth!

Ver. 9. O Lord our Lord, &c.] Prius incipit Propheta mirari quam loqui, et desinit loqui non mirari. The psalmist endeth as he began, transported with an ecstasy of admiration. So he begins and ends many of his psalms with Hallelujah. Between God and us the distance is infinite; and, if it were possible, our love and thankfulness should fill up that distance, and extend itself to infiniteness, saith a grave divine.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Psalms 8:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/psalms-8.html. 1865-1868.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 26th, 2020
the Week of Christ the King / Proper 29 / Ordinary 34
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