1 For the leader; “upon the gittith.” A psalm of David.
2 O LORD, our Lord,
how awesome is your name through all the earth!
I will sing of your majesty above the heavens
3 with the mouths of babes and infants.
You have established a bulwark against your foes,
to silence enemy and avenger.
4 When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and stars that you set in place—
5 What is man that you are mindful of him,
and a son of man that you care for him?
6 Yet you have made him little less than a god,
crowned him with glory and honor.
7 You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
put all things at his feet:
8 All sheep and oxen,
even the beasts of the field,
9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,
and whatever swims the paths of the seas.
10 O LORD, our Lord,
how awesome is your name through all the earth!
This is a hymn of praise featuring direct address to God, the only one that is completely so.
P. 18: “…affirms not only the majesty of God but also the exalted status of mankind.”
Psalms 3 to 7 pictured the human condition as depraved, suffering, violent – and now this ! Why?
“Gittith” is transliterated Hebrew, not a translation since we are not sure what it is. May be an instrument or possibly an ancient melody or tune that folks knew.
73 psalms are inscribed as “A psalm of David”. Not likely at all. Honoring or dedicated to David more likely.
The Tanach summarizes this psalm: “One with clarity of vision perceives God’s handiwork everywhere and realizes that all man’s accomplishments are His gifts.”
The Jewish Study Bible points out that God as Creator of the Universe means that all things are in His power.
Schaeffer p. 23: “Like other psalms which treat of creation (Psalms 19, 65, 93, 104), this one starts from God, traverses earth and sky (a merism embracing all creation), enters human territory, and finishes its course in God, the source and the goal.” Merism: using one or two terms to represent a larger whole. Example: rich or poor = everyone.
(McCann uses a version with differing verse structure than we have here, with the NAB. NAB counts the ‘header’ as the beginning of the psalm, other translations don’t.)
Krauss p. 179: “…Psalm 8 is a song of praise of an individual framed by choral verses (refrain).” The “our” in verses 2 and 10, “I” in the middle verses. In English it is there but less noticeable.
Notes Verse 2 and 10
LORD = Hebrew tetragrammaton, sacred name of God that is not pronounced by Jews (and no longer by us).
Notes Verse 3
Babes and infants – not a cry of praise but the cries of victims of violence and injustice. Interesting! This links well with “enemies and avenger” but less so with the half verse (praise) that comes before.
Tanach footnote: “with uncorrupted intelligence, even children perceive God’s hand in creation.” This intelligence is what we use to refute the scoffers.
OR – the “enemy and avenger” are the sea-monsters defeated in creation (leftover from the pagan creation stories).
Notes Verse 4 and 5
The question – “What is man…?” is the physical, emotional, spiritual center of the psalm.
What is man: could also be translated “son of Adam” or “mortals”. Roots of the word include earth, dirt (adamah)
Both 4 and 5 have a characteristic of Hebrew poetry – repetition in a second line of the main idea of the first line. Not two different things, an exploration and use of alternate images. Rabbis would differ however – looking to find the slight differences and their import for us, no verse, no letter is excess.
Notes for Verses 6 to 9
Despite our “smallness” in the vast universe, God has “crowned us”, laid things at our feet, given us “dominion” (implied)
Notes for Verse 10
p. 23: McCann points out that this repeats verse 2 exactly, letter for letter. Yet we hear it a bit differently since we have heard the intervening verses. God’s rule and power and man’s rule and power are intimately related – properly understood!!!
Psalm 8 for Today
The question, then and now, has to do with how to balance and live out our human sovereignty within / under / as part of the divine sovereignty. On page 25: God exercises power with us by sharing it, yet we have a hard time doing that ourselves.
With God as our example – exercise dominion with care and love, sharing power. Not our own will (or the will of the wealthy and the corporations) by force.
P. 27: “Putting all this together, to live out the royal identity that God has bestowed upon us (Ps. 8: 5-8) means to image God by the practice of dominion as self-giving love, a vocation that means inevitably we will suffer for the sake of others, just as God is willing to do and, in fact, does.”
BIBLIOGRAPHY FOR THE PSALMS
Alter, Robert. The Book of Psalms: A Translation with Commentary. (W. W. Norton, New York, 2007).
Brown, William P. Psalms. Part of the Interpreting Biblical Texts series edited by Gene Tucker. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2010).
Clifford, Richard J. Psalms 73-150. Part of the Abingdon Old Testament Commentaries edited by Patrick Miller. (Abingdon Press, Nashville, 2003).
Dahood, Mitchell. Psalms I – 1-50: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Volume 16 of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman. (Doubleday, Garden City NY, 1965).
———————– Psalms Ii – 51-100: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Volume 17 of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman. (Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 1968).
———————– Psalms III – 101-150: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary. Volume 17A of the Anchor Bible Commentary series edited by W. F. Allbright and David Noel Freedman. (Yale University Press, New Haven CT, 1970).
Krauss, Hans~Joachim. Theology of the Psalms. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Keith Crim. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1992).
———————– Psalms 1 ~ 59. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Hilton C. Oswald. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993).
———————– Psalms 60 ~ 150. Part of the Continental Commentary series. Translated by Hilton C. Oswald. (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, 1993).
Mays, James. L. Psalms. Part of the Interpretation Bible Commentary series edited by James L. Mays, Patrick D. Miller and Paul J. Achtemeier. (John Knox Press, Louisville, 1994).
McCann Jr., J. Clinton. Great Psalms of the Bible. Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, 2009).
Schaefer, Konrad. Psalms. Part of the Berit Olam Studies in Hebrew Narrative & Poetry edited by David W. Cotter. (Liturgical Press, Collegeville: MN, 2001)
Webster, Brian L. and David R. Beach. The Essential Bible Companion to the Psalms: Key Insights for Reading God’s Word. (Zondervan, Grand Rapids: MI, 2010).