God is to be glorified, for making known himself to us. (1,2) And for making even the heavenly bodies useful to man, thereby placing him but little lower than the angels. (3-9)
Verses 1-2 The psalmist seeks to give unto God the glory due to his name. How bright this glory shines even in this lower world! He is ours, for he made us, protects us, and takes special care of us. The birth, life, preaching, miracles, suffering, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus are known through the world. No name is so universal, no power and influence so generally felt, as those of the Saviour of mankind. But how much brighter it shines in the upper world! We, on this earth, only hear God's excellent name, and praise that; the angels and blessed spirits above, see his glory, and praise that; yet he is exalted far above even their blessing and praise. Sometimes the grace of God appears wonderfully in young children. Sometimes the power of God brings to pass great things in his church, by very weak and unlikely instruments, that the excellency of the power might the more evidently appear to be of God, and not of man. This he does, because of his enemies, that he may put them to silence.
Verses 3-9 We are to consider the heavens, that man thus may be directed to set his affections on things above. What is man, so mean a creature, that he should be thus honoured! so sinful a creature, that he should be thus favoured! Man has sovereign dominion over the inferior creatures, under God, and is appointed their lord. This refers to Christ. In ( Hebrews 2:6-8 ) , the apostle, to prove the sovereign dominion of Christ, shows he is that Man, that Son of man, here spoken of, whom God has made to have dominion over the works of his hands. The greatest favour ever showed to the human race, and the greatest honour ever put upon human nature, were exemplified in the Lord Jesus. With good reason does the psalmist conclude as he began, Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, which has been honoured with the presence of the Redeemer, and is still enlightened by his gospel, and governed by his wisdom and power! What words can reach his praises, who has a right to our obedience as our Redeemer?
Psalms 8:1-9 . Upon [or according to the] Gittith, probably means that the musical performance was directed to be according to a tune of that name; which, derived from Gath, a "wine-press," denotes a tune (used in connection with gathering the vintage) of a joyous character. All the Psalms to which this term is prefixed [ Psalms 8:1 , 81:1 , 84:1 ] are of such a character. The Psalmist gives vent to his admiration of God's manifested perfections, by celebrating His condescending and beneficent providence to man as evinced by the position of the race, as originally created and assigned a dominion over the works of His hands.
1. thy name--perfections ( Psalms 5:11 , 7:17 ).
who hast set--literally, "which set Thou Thy glory," &c. or "which glory of Thine set Thou," &c. that is, make it more conspicuous as if earth were too small a theater for its display. A similar exposition suits the usual rendering.
2. So manifest are God's perfections, that by very weak instruments He conclusively sets forth His praise. Infants are not only wonderful illustrations of God's power and skill, in their physical constitution, instincts, and early developed intelligence, but also in their spontaneous admiration of God's works, by which they put to shame--
still--or, silence men who rail and cavil against God. A special illustration of the passage is afforded in Matthew 21:16 , when our Saviour stilled the cavillers by quoting these words; for the glories with which God invested His incarnate Son, even in His humiliation, constitute a most wonderful display of the perfections of His wisdom, love, and power. In view of the scope of Psalms 8:4-8 (see below), this quotation by our Saviour may be regarded as an exposition of the prophetical character of the words.
sucklings--among the Hebrews were probably of an age to speak (compare 1 Samuel 1:22-24 7:27 ).
ordained--founded, or prepared, and perfected, which occurs in Matthew 21:16 ; taken from the Septuagint, has the same meaning.
strength--In the quotation in the New Testament, praise occurs as the consequence or effect put for the cause (compare Psalms 118:14 ).
avenger--as in Psalms 44:16 ; one desirous of revenge, disposed to be quarrelsome, and so apt to cavil against God's government.
3, 4. The allusion to the magnificence of the visible heavens is introduced for the purpose of illustrating God's condescension, who, though the mighty Creator of these glorious worlds of light, makes man the object of regard and recipient of favor.
4. man--literally, "frail man," an allusion to his essential infirmity.
son of man--only varies the form of speech.
visitest--in favor ( Psalms 65:10 ). This favor is now more fully illustrated.
5-8. God has placed man next in dignity to angels, and but a little lower, and has crowned him with the empire of the world.
glory and honour--are the attributes of royal dignity ( Psalms 21:5 , 45:3 ). The position assigned man is that described ( Genesis 1:26-28 ) as belonging to Adam, in his original condition, the terms employed in detailing the subjects of man's dominion corresponding with those there used. In a modified sense, in his present fallen state, man is still invested with some remains of this original dominion. It is very evident, however, by the apostle's inspired expositions ( Hebrews 2:6-8 , 1 Corinthians 15:27 1 Corinthians 15:28 ) that the language here employed finds its fulfilment only in the final exaltation of Christ's human nature. There is no limit to the "all things" mentioned, God only excepted, who "puts all things under." Man, in the person and glorious destiny of Jesus of Nazareth, the second Adam, the head and representative of the race, will not only be restored to his original position, but exalted far beyond it. "The last enemy, death," through fear of which, man, in his present estate, is "all his lifetime in bondage" [ Hebrews 2:15 ], "shall be destroyed" [ 1 Corinthians 15:26 ]. Then all things will have been put under his feet, "principalities and powers being made subject to him" [ 1 Peter 3:22 ]. This view, so far from being alien from the scope of the passage, is more consistent than any other; for man as a race cannot well be conceived to have a higher honor put upon him than to be thus exalted in the person and destiny of Jesus of Nazareth. And at the same time, by no other of His glorious manifestations has God more illustriously declared those attributes which distinguish His name than in the scheme of redemption, of which this economy forms such an important and essential feature. In the generic import of the language, as describing man's present relation to the works of God's hands, it may be regarded as typical, thus allowing not only the usual application, but also this higher sense which the inspired writers of the New Testament have assigned it.
9. Appropriately, the writer closes this brief but pregnant and sublime song of praise with the terms of admiration with which it was opened.