Psalm 8

Notes (NET Translation)

For the music director, according to the gittith style; a psalm of David.

1 O Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth! You reveal your majesty in the heavens above!

In Hebrew, the first “Lord” is the divine name Yahweh, while the second “Lord” is Yahweh’s title. Yahweh is the ruler of all creation, both of the earth and of the heavens.

2 From the mouths of children and nursing babies you have ordained praise on account of your adversaries, so that you might put an end to the vindictive enemy.

The translation and meaning of v. 2 seems to be a matter of dispute among scholars.

Following Goldingay to an extant [1], the children and babies could be seen as the victims of the adversaries and the vindictive enemy because the terms “children” and “nursing babies” are often used in the OT in reference to victims [2]. The adversaries of children and babies are, by extension, the adversaries of God. Instead of “ordained praise” a more literal translation might be “founded strength”. This verb is linked to God’s creative act, including the boundaries established [3]. On this interpretation, v. 2 is looking forward to the eventual end of the enemies. At that time, the children and nursing babies who were victimized can praise God for his justice and enforcement of moral boundaries.

Craigie offers an alternative (he uses the Hebrew verse numbers) [4]:

God uses the mouth of “babes and sucklings,” in some manner, to establish (his) “strength,” on account of the presence, or existence, of enemies. It is probable that the verse should be interpreted with specific reference to the divine “name” (v 2). Enemies symbolize human strength; they are arrogant in their self-assertion. The essence of the enemies of God is that they do not recognize the name of God or the revelation that came through that name, for if they had come to such full recognition, they would have desisted from their enmity. Babes, on the other hand, symbolize human weakness and humility, but they have a strength greater than that of God’s enemies when they take the name of God on their lips; that is, in speaking the name, they acknowledge and in some sense understand the majesty and revelation of God which are implicit in that name. Thus God may utilize the weak of this world, even the child, both to establish his strength, reflected in his nature and in his creation, and at the same time “to put at rest” (or quiet) the opposition of enemies. Understood in this manner, v 3 sets the stage for what is to follow. Though the universe is vast and imparts to mankind a sense of smallness and insignificance (vv 4-5), nevertheless God has given to mankind a position of extraordinary strength within the universe (vv 6-9). But that position of strength is not a natural human right (persons who think that it is are enemies), but something God-given and God-revealed through the divine name. The psalmist, who will soon speak of the extraordinary honor and power bestowed upon mankind by God, first establishes in v 3 that it is not human arrogance that asserts such power, but the childlike recognition and enunciation of God’s name.

3 When I look up at the heavens, which your fingers made, and see the moon and the stars, which you set in place,

4 Of what importance is the human race, that you should notice them? Of what importance is mankind, that you should pay attention to them,

The verbs “notice” and “pay attention” imply action towards humanity [5]. In other words, the psalmist is asking, “Why does God care about mankind?” The succeding verses indicate that it is because man has a role to play in creation.

5 and make them a little less than the heavenly beings? You grant mankind honor and majesty;

The Hebrew for “heavenly beings” is elohim, which could refer to God, gods, or angels [6]. As can be seen in the following verses, the honor and majesty given to mankind is its role as rulers over the earth.

6 you appoint them to rule over your creation; you have placed everything under their authority,

Mankind was granted dominion over creation in Gen. 1:28.

7 including all the sheep and cattle, as well as the wild animals,

8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea and everything that moves through the currents of the seas.

9 O Lord, our Lord, how magnificent is your reputation throughout the earth!

Man’s dominion over nature takes second place to God’s dominion over creation.

Footnotes

[1] Goldingay 2006, loc. 3128ff.

[2] Deut. 32:25; Ps. 137:9; Lam. 1:5; 2:11, 19, 20; 4:4

[3] Pss. 74; 89; 93

[4] Craigie 2004, p. 107-108

[5] Kidner 2008, p. 84

[6] VanGemeren 2008, p. 141

Bibliography

Craigie, Peter C., and Marvin E. Tate. Psalms 1-50. Nashville: Nelson Reference & Electronic, 2004.

Goldingay, John. Psalms: Volume 1: Psalms 1-41. Kindle Edition. Baker Academic, 2006.

Kidner, Derek. Psalms 1-72: An Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove, Ill.: Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.

VanGemeren, Willem. Psalms. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2008.

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