The Agora
Bible Commentary

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Psalm 8

Psa 8:1


PSALM 8: David's rejoicing after his victory; cp Psa 144: his prayer in anticipation of his encounter with Goliath.

O LORD, OUR LORD, HOW MAJESTIC ("excellent": AV) IS YOUR NAME IN ALL THE EARTH!: Strictly true only in Messiah's kingdom. The sword (1Sa 17:51) and praise together, as in Psa 149:5,9: This honor will ultimately belong to all the saints!

ABOVE THE HEAVENS: Why such an emphasis on the heavens? Was this psalm composed on the evening of David's great victory, when returning from pursuing the Philistines, he pauses over the corpse of Goliath (1Sa 17:51-53)? Cp 1Ki 8:27. Does this mean that the glory of God is more remote than the moon or the stars (v 3)? A poss allusion to the theophany in Exo 24:10.

Psa 8:2

FROM THE LIPS OF CHILDREN AND INFANTS YOU HAVE ORDAINED PRAISE [OR STRENGTH]: The immature strength of young David, ct with the massive brute force of Goliath. (Also ct with the great but deceptive stature of King Saul, the would-be "savior": 1Sa 9:2; 1Co 1:27.) Antitype: the children crying out, "Hosannah to the Son of David" (Mat 21:15,16). So Jesus authenticates the "praise" reading (from the LXX). And the Kingdom, where all speak with "one lip": Zep 3:9; Zec 14:9.

FROM THE LIPS: The wonderful declaration of faith by David: 1Sa 17:45-47.

CHILDREN AND INFANTS: Not lit, but because they are seen in this derogatory light by the "enemies" (cp 1Sa 17:42; also Isa 28:9). See the example in 1Ch 25:3-7.

TO SILENCE THE FOE AND THE AVENGER: Goliath himself, who intended to avenge the previous Philistine defeats by Samuel, Saul, and Jonathan (1Sa 7:11; 13:3; 14:31). Antitype: the serpent and its enmity (Gen 3:15). In Psa 44:16, these words describe the Assyrian reviler at the gate of Jerusalem (could v 2 be a Hezekiah addition?).

Psa 8:3

WHEN I CONSIDER YOUR HEAVENS: Modern astronomical knowledge only reinforces the natural awe with which ancient man surveyed the heavens.

THE MOON AND THE STARS: Cp Job 25:4-6, with several contacts to the psalm. "Stars" sym glorified saints in Dan 12:3; Mat 13:43.

Psa 8:4

WHAT IS MAN?: "Enosh" = frail, mortal man. Ref to Christ, and thus to his mortality.

THAT YOU ARE MINDFUL OF HIM: That is, that you remember him. Are death and resurrection implied here? Cp Psa 88:5.

THE SON OF MAN: In Dan 7:13,14, the Son of man has higher status than angels (ref to ascension of Jesus).

Psa 8:5

The three great phases of Christ's work: (1) the days of his flesh (v 5a); (2) his priesthood (v 5b); and (3) his royal majesty (v 6a).

A LITTLE LOWER: The Heb may mean (1) a little lower in status or (2) a little while lower (as in Heb 2:9, RV mg and RSV). But the marked difference in Greek phrasing between Heb 2:9 and Heb 10:37 surely shows that here the former reading is correct. Jesus was made a little lower esp at the end of his ministry, "for the suffering of death" (Heb 2:14,15).

THAN THE HEAVENLY BEINGS: "Elohim". "Angels" is correct translation (confirmed by Heb 2:7,9; cp also Heb 1:6 with Deu 32:43 LXX; Gen 1:26; 3:22; 19:29?). Generally, however, "angels" is not a good translation of "Elohim" -- is Hebrews simply following the LXX of Psa 8?

AND CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR: The promotion, praise and privilege lavished on David after his success (1Sa 18:1-7). As for Jesus: see Heb 5:4,5; Exo 28:2,36 (priesthood: Jesus as a high priest forever).

Psa 8:6

RULER OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS: Messiah's royal majesty. But in v 3 "the works of your fingers" = moon and stars. This suggests that Messiah's kingdom will extend beyond this earth. Space travel in the Kingdom of God? But, if "moon and stars" are to be read symbolically (as in Gen 37:9,10; Jer 31:35,36), then vv 3,6 together cover the people of the Old Covenant and those of the New (Psa 145:10).

YOU PUT: Heb 2:8 adds "not yet", thus insisting on ref to Messiah in his kingdom.

EVERYTHING UNDER HIS FEET: " 'You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor and put everything under his feet.' In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him" (Heb 2:7,8).

Psa 8:7

BEASTS OF THE FIELD: Mar 1:13; 5:13.

Psa 8:8

THE BIRDS OF THE AIR, AND THE FISH OF THE SEA: Refs to Gentiles, a great multitude who at last come under the dominion of Christ: Mar 11:15; Mat 17:27; Gen 48:16,19 (= Rom 11:25); Act 10:12. Cp also Eze 39:17.

THE FISH: Dagon, the fish-headed god of the Philistines, who falls upon his face before the glory of God -- like Goliath, with his head cut off (1Sa 5:3,4).

ALL THAT SWIM THE PATHS OF THE SEA: The AV has "whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea". Ref to men, the only ones who journey on "paths": the Egyptian enemy of Israel, seeking to pass through the sea to recapture the Israelites (for "sea" as "death" cp Isa 63:11 with Heb 13:20, Passover allusions). Like Goliath, the Egyptians were destroyed by God.

THE PATHS OF THE SEA: Matthew Maury served as a US naval officer before suffering an injury which forced his retirement. He was then placed in charge of the Depot of Charts and Instruments of the Hydrographic Office of the Navy from 1841 to 1861. He was a Christian who loved the Word of God. One day, reading Psa 8, he was struck by an important truth in v 8. There he read that God had given man dominion over "the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas." He immediately saw the great practical significance of that verse, recognizing that there must be currents of waster in the oceans, just like vast rivers, as well as in the atmosphere (Ecc 1:6).

Maury, with confidence in the accuracy of the Bible, determined to discover the paths in the seas and the wind circuits, utilizing the charts and log books he had at his disposal. He did discover and plot many of the wind circuits and currents, such as the great Gulf Current, 40 miles wide and 2,000 feet deep that comes out of the Gulf of Mexico into the Atlantic; the Japanese Current, the California Current, and others. Utilizing this information, the sailing ships of his day plied these currents and wind circuits, reducing by as much as three weeks, the time required to cross some oceans.

On a monument erected by the state of Virginia to his memory is found a plaque that reads as follows: "Matthew Fontaine Maury, Pathfinder of the Seas, the genius who first snatched from the oceans and atmosphere the secret of their laws. His inspiration, Holy Writ, Psalm 8:8, Ecclesiastes 1:6." A genius? No. Just a simple Bible-believing Christian who trusted the inerrancy of the Word of God.

Psa 8:9

SUBSCRIPTION: "FOR THE DIRECTOR OF MUSIC. TO THE TUNE OF 'THE DEATH OF THE SON' ": "Upon Muthlabben" (AV). Perhaps "death to the champion" (Thirtle): ie Goliath ["ish-habbenaim", "a man between the two (camps)": 1Sa 17:4,23). Or perhaps "al muthlabben" = "alamoth labben" -- ie the "virgins" (choir: Psa 45 sub; 1Ch 15:20; 1Sa 18:6) / "concerning the son" (prophetic allusion to the Messiah). Or perhaps "the death of the son" (cp Psa 8 with Heb 2): Jesus, not Goliath, being the true "champion" or mediator, who stood between the 2 camps and won the victory!

HOW MAJESTIC IS YOUR NAME IN ALL THE EARTH: "God all in all" (1Co 15:28), after His Son has put all things under his feet (v 25; Psa 8:2,6).

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