Psalm 8 Study Notes


Ps 8 title Some propose that Gittith is some kind of musical instrument such as a lyre. The LXX translates it “for the winepress,” relating it to a Hebrew root for grapes; in this sense, it could have been a song to be sung during the grape harvest.

8:1 This hymn of praise is more specifically identified as a creation hymn (along with 19:1-6; 33; 104) in its focus on earth and the heavens, terms describing the whole of creation (Gn 1:1; Ex 20:11; Neh 9:6). Majesty, a synonym for “honor” or “glory,” and name, representing the person and not just the designation, are parallel. They demonstrate that God and his glory fill all of creation. This language distinguishes God from his creation (he is transcendent) but also shows that he is present (he is immanent) within it.

8:2 Even the feeblest of humanity, with their sometimes-inarticulate speech (mouths), function as firm testimonies (a stronghold) of God’s glory and silence the enemy and the avenger. According to Jesus, children and their simple faith are the best representatives of God’s kingdom (Mt 18:4). Paul also made a similar argument when he described God’s use of weakness and foolishness to “shame the wise” of this world (1Co 1:26-29).

8:3-4 The vastness of creation is contrasted with the smallness and insignificance of a human being. This is in the form of a question: How is it that God would remember and look after (both words mean “pay attention to and care for”) people? This is perplexing in light of the difference between the size and scope of the cosmos and the relative puniness of humanity. The terms “human being and son of man are parallel and are used to describe humankind as a collective whole (146:3; Nm 23:19; Is 51:12).

8:5-8 The answer to the perplexing question in v. 4 is found in these verses, which are essentially a commentary on Gn 1:26-28. While the perception is that humans are insignificant in the grand scheme of things, the reality is found in God’s purpose for creating humanity. The word translated as God (Hb ’elohim) is plural here and could be understood as indicating “gods” or “heavenly beings” instead of its usual sense of a plural of majesty emphasizing God’s greatness. Therefore the LXX, which is quoted in Heb 2:7, translates it as “angels.” The point is the same in both cases, even if the referent is different: because of their divinely given purpose, humans are functionally closer to God and the angels than to the animals. We have been made . . . ruler over creation, expressing humanity’s function of dominion (Gn 1:26). The image of everything under his feet is developed in the rest of Scripture as a picture of the reign of God’s King, Jesus Christ (the second Adam), over his kingdom (1Co 15:25,27; Eph 1:22; Heb 2:8).

8:9 The psalm ends as it began, forming an inclusio (essentially “bookends”) for its content.