Psalm 8 — The Majesty of God and Dominion of Man
O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
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.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Man thinks more highly of himself than he ought (Rom 12:3). His reflection upon himself is void of perspective from God (Gen 6:5; Jer 17:9; Rom 3:10–12; Eph 2:1–3; 4:17; Jude 1:19). Man is paradoxically brilliant and a fool (Ps 14:1; 53:1). The astronomer stares through his telescope, deep into the expansive handiwork of God, and yet, he is blind to the Maker of the heavens. The biologist stares through his microscope into the deep minutiae of life, and yet, he is blind to the Maker of every elemental thing. The Psalmist in Psalm 8 rescues us from the foolish theories of short-sighted men and gives us God’s view of creation and His surprising, pinnacle work…man.
David performs Psalm 8 on an instrument from Gath, specially designed for the harvest of the vineyard (title). Gittith appears three times in Pss. 8, 81, and 84. The harp-like instrument seems to be played especially at vintage. David plays his harp as the choir director is appointed to bless the congregation of Israel with a mighty hymn of praise to God, the Creator of the heavens and earth (Gen 1–2; Col 1:16–17).
David argued that creation exalted the name of God, the Creator (v. 1). “O Lord our Lord” is seen as repetitious in English, but in Hebrew it is, “O YHWH our Adonai.” YHWH is the revealed name of the God of Israel. It was revealed to Moses in anticipation of having to answer the inquiry of who delivers people from bondage. YHWH who saves is the Lord of everyone who submits himself to deliverance. Every knee and every tongue provide the future scope of submission (Is 45:23; Rom 14:11), some in glad adoration and some in miserable hell.
The exclamation of God’s majesty is a worshipful response to His general revelation in creation. David is asking his readers to consider the magnificent earth. “Who made this place?” is the implied question. David knows who made the earth, and his hymn begs us to join in his exuberant consideration. A merism, words denoting poles of contrast, is produced in v. 1 as David differentiates the telling glory of the earth with the even more extravagant glory of the heavens. What does man have say about all this?
David set newborns and infants against the machinations of those who war against God’s reputation (v. 2). In mocking distinction, infants proclaim their childish praises, through unhindered dependence, contrary to the arrogant palaver of self-sufficient enemies, who rage against God and His anointed by suppressing the truth (Ps 2; Rom. 1:18–32). They are ever learning but never able to come to the knowledge of the revealed truth of God, in creation, and in the specific revelation of God’s Word to man (2 Tim 3:7). Jesus used this argument against His opponents in Matthew 21:16 on the day of His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
David observed in the night sky, from the fields near Bethlehem, the magnificent celestial bodies in the heavens (v. 3). God ordained the moons and stars to bear witness of His fingerwork. David’s phrasing is highly exalting. YHWH is clearly Lord over all (Acts 10:36). Jesus is seen as creator and sustainer in Colossians 1:16–17. One can look to the Southern Cross and see the story of God written in the stars. Conveniently, the story is laid out for viewing from the face of the earth. The story is distorted by astrologers, who read the message of demons, thus perverting the telling of the heavens.
David asked parallel rhetorical questions in wonder of God’s attention focused on miniscule man (v. 4). From his lowly position and perspective, David is confounded by divine interest in man. He knows of the dominion given to man (Gen. 1:26–28) at creation (4143 B.C.), but he also knows man has fallen far from the honor given to him by God.
Structurally, we are now at the middle point of a chiasm beginning in 8:1 and ending in 8:9. This highlights the transition from a low view of man to an exalted view in v. 5. The catalyst for restoring dominion to man, hence, the juxtaposition, can only be found in the redemptive work of Jesus Christ.
Obviously, this fact makes Psalm 8 messianic prophecy, as interpreted by the writer in Hebrews 2:6–8. In speaking of Jesus Christ, dominion is attributed to Him but not yet fully manifested. In a future day, our worst enemies, sin and death will be no more. For now, Jesus is bringing many sons of man to glory; thereby, adding the title, “sons of God.”
David acknowledged God’s elevated favor of man to the pinnacle of creation (v. 5). The Christian is permitted to read Christ back into the text here because of the explicit interpretation of Hebrews.
What the first Adam lost, the second Adam has secured (Rom 5:12–21). Jesus Christ is head over the church (Col 1:18), a new nation of people being transformed back into a more perfect image of God (Rom 8:29; 12:2; 1 Pet 2:9), in which we were made to worship God by original design (Jn 4:24).
Jesus lived in perfect obedience (Heb 4:15; 7:26), and we are being conformed to His image by His Spirit’s salvific work (Rom 15:16; 1 Thess 5:23; 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2). Sanctification belongs to the Spirit of the Lord (Ps 3:8; Jon 2:9; Rev 19:1).
David recalled the dominion God gave to man to rule over the earth (v. 6). The rule of God over the earth was seen in the conflict of 8:2–3. “…all things under his feet” points to the Ancient Near East tradition of the humiliating subjection of an inferior to a superior, demonstrated by the latter stepping on the neck of the former while he is prostrate before him. Man has been restored to rule.
Who can rule in righteousness except Jesus Christ, the righteous (Mt 28:18; 1 Tim 6:15; 1 Jn 2:1)? The doctrine of the humanity of the Messiah is important here in seeing the restoration of paradise lost. One man lost dominion, and one man regained dominion (Col 1:13). What all other men failed to accomplish, Jesus Christ, the God/man has finished; and He has taken his seat on the throne of God (Rev 4:2; 7:17).
David listed some of the creatures God placed under the dominion of man (v. 7). Man is clothed by the animals under him (sheep & oxen). He has harnessed the power of the beasts of the field. Man has taken his food from the birds and the fish (v. 8). These are but samples of dominion, but “whatever passes through the paths of the seas” is subject to human rule and mandate to subdue.
Noah may be the best picture of human dominion in action, next to Adam’s naming of the animals (Gen 6–9). There is more to rule than the scope of Adam and Noah; and this is the realm of Jesus Christ, ruler of the nations and King of the universe. Our future participation in dominion is captured succinctly in John’s apocalyptic vision, “We will reign with Him (Rev. 22:5).”
David repeated his praise of the Name of Creator God, YHWH Adonai (v. 9). The inclusio begun in v. 1 is now closed. The opening refrain is complemented in the repetition of benediction. The chiasm is completed in praise again to God the Creator, but now more fully seen as God, the Redeemer, too.
The expulsive power of praise is felt in the reverberation of exulting through the Psalm, if not the universe. David, masterfully scribed poetry, pregnant with the promise of a glorious future, crowned with glory and majesty.
God will be with man, and man will be restored to God. Children will sing songs of dependent praise, while the universe will be void of the violence of villainous rhetoric against God and His anointed leader and people.
Let the nations be glad! Let the dolphins jump for joy! Let the trees clap their hands and raise their branches in praise! Let everything that has breath, praise the Lord! Majestic is His Name!
Spokane Valley, Washington
May 26, 2021