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Psalm 8

 

STROPHE DIVISIONS OF MODERN TRANSLATIONS

NASB NKJV NRSV TEV NJB
The Lord's Glory and Man's Dignity
MT Intro
"For the choir director; on the Gittith. A Psalm of David"
The Glory of the Lord in Creation Hymn Celebrating God's Glory and the God-given Dignity of Human Beings God's Glory and Human Dignity The Power of God's Name
8:1-2 8:1 8:1a 8:1-2 8:1a
    8:1b-2   8:1b-2
  8:2      
8:3-8 8:3-5 8:3-4 8:3-4 8:3-4
    8:5-8 8:5-8 8:5-6
  8:6-8      
        8:7-8
8:9 8:9 8:9 8:9 8:9

READING CYCLE THREE (see "Guide to Good Bible Reading")

FOLLOWING THE ORIGINAL AUTHOR'S INTENT AT PARAGRAPH LEVEL

This is a study guide commentary which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects (reading cycle #3). Compare your subject divisions with the five translations above. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.

 

WORD AND PHRASE STUDY

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 8:1-2
 1O Lord, our Lord,
How majestic is Your name in all the earth,
Who have displayed Your splendor above the heavens!
 2From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength
Because of Your adversaries,
To make the enemy and the revengeful cease.

8:1 "O Lord, our Lord" This is a combination of

1. YHWH — the covenant name (BDB 217) for God (see Special Topic at Ps. 1:1)

2. Adon — the term (BDB 10) means "owner," "husband," "master," or "lord." Here it is plural. Everywhere else this title is used in the Psalms it is singular (cf. Ps. 45:12; 57:5; 105:21; 110:1; 114:7, except in 136:3, where the construct "Lord of Lords" is used. This, then, must be an example of the "plural of majesty."

They are used together here of one God, but in Ps. 110:1 they are used separately of YHWH and His Messiah (cf. Matt. 22:44; Mark 12:36; Luke 20:42,43; Acts 2:34,35; Heb. 1:13).

Also notice that in English translations the two terms are identified by the capitalization.

YHWH = Lord

Adon = Lord

 

NASB, NRSV,
NJB, JPSOA"majestic"
NKJV"excellent"
TEV"greatness"
REB"glorious"
NET Bible"magnificent"

This Hebrew adjective (BDB 12) is used of things, people, and God. When used of God it is an attempt to describe His incomprehensible grandeur (cf. Ps. 76:4; 93:4).

The noun form (no verb) is regularly used of clothing.

1. Esau's hair like a hairy mantle — Gen. 25:25

2. expensive mantle stolen from Jericho by Achan — Jos. 7:21,24

3. Elijah's mantle (symbol of YHWH's enabling) — 1 Kgs. 19:13,19; 2 Kgs. 2:8,13,14

4. a prophet's hairy mantle (a symbol of his prophetic office) — Zech. 13:4

It can also mean

1. glory — Zech. 11:3

2. noble — Ezek. 17:8

This phrase may be linked by subject (God's place in creation) and the noun "majesty" (clothing) to Isaiah 6:1-4.

▣ "name" This stands for YHWH Himself. See Special Topic: The Name of YHWH at Ps. 5:11-12.

▣ "In all the earth" this refers to the entire creation (cf. Psalm 104; see Special Topic at Ps. 1:2). YHWH is the only true creator, redeemer God (see SPECIAL TOPIC: MONOTHEISM at Ps. 2:7).

▣ "Who has displayed your splendor above the heavens" There are several issues with the Hebrew text of this phrase.

1. The MT has an imperative of the verb "give" (BDB 678, KB 733, Qal imperative), "set Your splendor above the heavens" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVEN at Ps. 2:4).

2. The UBS Text Project (p. 169, see NIV) changes it to an infinitive of the same verb, "You have set Your splendor above the heavens" (the UBS rates this change as "D," i.e., "highly doubtful").

3. NET Bible takes it as perfect or imperfect form, "You who place Your majesty upon the heavens" (p. 857).

4. Anchor Bible (vol. 16, p. 45) takes it as "I will adore Your majesty above the heavens," by relating the verb to Ugaritic usages.

5. UBS Handbook on Psalms (pp. 78-79, cf. REB) revocalizes it to "to tell" or "to praise," "whose glory is told/praised above the heavens" (see SPECIAL TOPIC: HEAVENs at Ps. 2:4).

Just a personal note, I love this Psalm and the song "The Majesty and Glory of Your Name." I feel God's presence in a wonderful way when I think of this message about the incomprehensible grandeur of our God. I do not want an academic issue to take away from this worshipful message. But at the same time, I want to be true to the message of the inspired author! May the Spirit of God help us to know Him, proclaim Him, and live in the light of His presence!

▣ "above the heavens" This can be understood in several ways.

1. the whole verse is extolling the God of creation

2. God's praises reach as high as the heavens

3. creation tells/reveals the glory/majesty of its Creator (i.e., the night sky, Ps. 8:3)

See Special Topics: "Heaven" and "Heavens and the Third Heaven" at Ps. 2:4.

8:2 "from the mouth of infants and nursing babes" This is obviously hyperbole. These infants cannot speak, yet their very presence shows the glory and majesty of God and His creation. This is the natural revelation of Ps. 19:1-6. Through the things of this creation God is known (cf. Rom. 1:19-20; 2:14-16).

This verse from the LXX is quoted by Jesus to the Pharisees watching His "Triumphal Entry" into Jerusalem in Matt. 21:16.

NASB, JPSOA"You have established strength"
NKJV"You have ordained strength"
NRSV, REB"You have founded a bulwark"
NJB"You make him a fortress"

The verb (BDB 413, KB 417, Piel perfect, cf. Ps. 89:11, Qal perfect) means "establish" (cf. 1 Chr. 9:22) or "founded" (cf. Jos. 6:26; 1 Kgs. 16:34; Ezra 3:10; Isa. 14:32; 28:16).

The word "strength" (BDB 738) normally means "strength," but in this context it refers to "a stronghold for defense."

There is a word play between "nursing babes" (BDB 413) and "establish" (BDB 413).

YHWH, the Creator, is revealed in the heavens and in the little ones. All creation shouts His presence and purpose!

The exact meaning of this verse is uncertain, but apparently the little ones who reveal God's majesty are under attack and God defends and protects them, as He does all who reveal His truths!

8:2b Notice the participles that express the evil opponents.

1. adversaries — BDB 865 II, KB 1058, Qal participle

2. enemy — BDB 33, KB 38, Qal participle

3. revengeful — BDB 667, KB 721, Hithpael participle

See full note on the names of the psalmist's opponents at Ps. 1:5 and 5:10.

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 8:3-8
 3When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers,
 The moon and the stars, which You have ordained;
 4What is man that You take thought of him,
 And the son of man that You care for him?
 5Yet You have made him a little lower than God,
 And You crown him with glory and majesty!
 6You make him to rule over the works of Your hands;
 You have put all things under his feet,
 7All sheep and oxen,
 And also the beasts of the field,
 8The birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea,
 Whatever passes through the paths of the seas.

8:3 This verse expresses the wonder of humans as they view the night sky. For many in the ANE it was a source of superstition and fear. But for the Israelites it was the canvas of YHWH (cf. Gen. 1:14-19).

The verb "ordained" (BDB 465, KB 464, Polel perfect) is also used of God's creation in Ps. 24:2; 119:90. The next verse focuses on God's creation of humans (cf. Deut. 32:6). Creation, beautiful creation, had a purpose—a platform for God and mankind to fellowship (see full note at Ps. 2:8). Everything in the Bible between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20 is God restoring the fellowship lost in Eden. It is not by accident that Genesis 1-2 parallel Revelation 21-22!

▣ "the work of Your fingers" This is anthropomorphic language. See Special Topic at Ps. 2:4-6.

I recommend reading John H. Walton, ANE Thought and the OT, chapter 7, "Cosmic Geography," pp. 165-178, as a way to orient the modern reader to the worldview of the ANE, so different from our own!

The worship of the sun and moon were common in the ANE. Genesis 1 is a polemic against Babylonian astral worship, as the plagues of Egypt were a polemic against the nature gods of Egypt.

God creates the heavenly bodies (cf. Gen. 1:14-19) and controls them.

SPECIAL TOPIC: MOON WORSHIP

8:4 Note the synonymous parallelism between the two lines of poetry and especially "man" (BDB 60, enosh, cf. Ps. 9:20, also note Ps. 103:14) and "son of man" (BDB 119 construct BDB 9, "son of man," "ben Adam," cf. Ps. 144:3).

The first term, enosh, has two meanings.

1. BDB 60 I — weak, sick, frail (from the Hebrew verb; Niphal, 2 Sam. 12:15; Qal passive, Isa. 17:11; Jer. 15:18; 17:9)

2. BDB 60 II — mankind, as used here without the connotation of weak, quite the opposite

The second term/phrase, "son of man," is a Hebrew idiom for a human person (i.e., Ps. 146:3; Ezek. 2:1). YHWH gives special attention to His highest creation, made in His image (cf. Gen. 1:26-27), for fellowship (cf. Gen. 3:8). Humans are significant creatures, uniquely related to God. We are part of this creation, yet more than the physical! Once created, we are eternal, spiritual creatures.

Humans are a higher spiritual order than angels. I know that sounds ridiculous, but think with me.

1. no angel is ever said to be made in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen. 1:26-27)

2. Jesus did not die to redeem angels (cf. Heb. 2:14-16)

3. believers will judge the angels (cf. 1 Cor. 6:3)

4. angels are to serve mankind (cf. Heb. 1:14)

In the creation myth of Sumer and later Babylon, humans were noisy, bothersome, and expendable (see intro. notes to Genesis 1-11), but in the Bible it is just the opposite. They are the focus of YHWH's creative activity.

NASB"take thought of him"
NKJV, NRSV,
JPSOA, REB,
LXX"mindful of him"
TEV"think of them"
NJB"spare a thought for them"

The verb (BDB 269, KB 269, Qal imperfect) means "remember," in the sense of "think about kindly" (cf. Ps. 9:12; 78:39; 98:3; 103:14; 105:8,42; 106:45; 111:5; 115:12; 136:23). Usually in the Bible, God is called on to "forget" human sin and humans are called on to "remember" God, but here the psalmist is awestruck with the vastness and beauty of creation and the thought that its Creator has time and concern for one special creature on this one planet! But, this is the intellectual/theological question, isn't it (i.e., naturalism vs. purposeful creator)?

8:5 The dignity and worth of humans are clearly seen in this verse. We were "made" is a verb (BDB 341, KB 338, Piel imperfect, cf. Eccl. 4:8) which means "cause to lack" or "made him inferior" to only God Himself (Elohim). The LXX interprets this as "angels" (cf. Heb. 2:7), but the context of Psalm 8 demands "God" because this psalm reflects God's creation in Genesis. Although it is possible that the plural "us" in Gen. 1:26; 3:22; 11:7, reflects God's heavenly council (cf. 1 Kgs. 22:19-23; Job 1:6; 2:1; Ps. 82:1,6; 86:8; 89:6,8; Dan. 7:10), and thereby, refers to angels in leadership (cf. Gen. 3:5). However, I think contextually "God" is best.

Notice that enosh/ben Adam is crowned with

1. glory — BDB 458

2. majesty — BDB 214

Humanity is the highest creation of God. They were created for fellowship with God. They function as His supervisors on earth (cf. Gen. 1:28). All physical creation is a stage for God and mankind to meet and come to know each other (cf. Gen. 3:8).

8:6-8 As Ps. 8:3 surely has a Genesis 1 orientation, so too, verse 6 (cf. Gen. 1:28). Humans were God's stewards in the Garden (and by implication, all creation). Humans rule (BDB 605, KB 647, Hiphil imperfect), subdue (BDB 461, KB 460, Qal imperative, cf. Gen. 1:28), and have dominion (BDB 921, KB 1190, Qal imperative, cf. Gen. 1:28) only in their connection with God! We are stewards!

8:6 "the works of Your hands" This is referring to Genesis 1 (cf. Job 14:15; Ps. 92:4; 138:8; 143:5), as is "the work of Your fingers" in Ps. 8:3 (cf. Ps. 102:25). It is interesting that in Genesis 1 God's creative activities are by the spoken word. Only mankind is made/fashioned by personal attention in Gen. 2:7. See SPECIAL TOPIC: GOD DESCRIBED AS HUMAN (ANTHROPOMORPHISM) (anthropomorphism) at Ps. 2:4-6.

8:7 The order of the creation of these creatures is parallel to Genesis 1. This Psalm (like Psalm 104) must be read in light of Genesis 1! If Genesis 1-2 were in the Psalms, we would not be debating their genre or literalness!

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: PSALM 8:9
 9O Lord, our Lord,
 How majestic is Your name in all the earth!

8:9 This Psalm ends as it began (Ps. 8:1b). The theme and major character of the Bible is God!

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought-provoking, not definitive.

1. How are "the heavens" and "infants" related?

2. Does YHWH have "fingers"?

3. Why is it theologically significant that YHWH creates the sun and moon?

4. How is "man" in verse 4a related to "son of man" in verse 4b?

5. Is man a little lower than the angels or God? Why?