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Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at

Psalms Chapter 8


psa 8:0

The Praise of the Creator's Glory Sung by the Starry Heavens to Puny Man

Ps. 7 closed with a similar prospect of his enemies being undeceived by the execution of the divine judgments to Psa 6:1-10. The former is the pendant or companion to the latter, and enters into detail, illustrating it by examples. Now if at the same time we call to mind the fact, that Psa 6:1-10, if it be not a morning hymn, at any rate looks back upon sleepless nights of weeping, then the idea of the arrangement becomes at once clear, when we find a hymn of the night following Psa 6:1-10 with its pendant, Ps 7. David composes even at night; Jahve's song, as a Korahite psalmist says of himself in Psa 42:9, was his companionship even in the loneliness of the night. The omission of any reference to the sun in Psa 8:4 shows that Psa 8:1-9 is a hymn of this kind composed in the night, or at least one in which the writer transfers himself in thought to the night season. The poet has the starry heavens before him, he begins with the glorious revelation of Jahve's power on earth and in the heavens, and then pauses at man, comparatively puny man, to whom Jahve condescends in love and whom He has made lord over His creation. Ewald calls it a flash of lightning cast into the darkness of the creation.

Even Hitzig acknowledges David's authorship here; whereas Hupfeld is silent, and Olshausen says that nothing can be said about it. The idea, that David composed it when a shepherd boy on the plains of Judah, is rightly rejected again by Hitzig after he has been at the pains to support it. (This thought is pleasingly worked out by Nachtigal, Psalmen gesungen vor David's Thronbesteigung, 1797, after the opinion of E. G. von Bengel, cum magna veri specie.) For, just as the Gospels do not contain any discourses of our Lord belonging to the time prior to His baptism, and just as the New Testament canon does not contain any writings of the Apostles from the time prior to Pentecost, so the Old Testament canon contains no Psalms of David belonging to the time prior to his anointing. It is only from that time, when he is the anointed one of the God of Jacob, that he becomes the sweet singer of Israel, on whose tongue is the word of Jahve, Sa2 23:1.

The inscription runs: To the Precentor, on the Gittith, a Psalm of David. The Targum translates it super cithara, quam David de Gath attulit. According to which it is a Philistine cithern, just as there was (according to Athenaeus and Pollux) a peculiar Phoenician and Carian flute played at the festivals of Adonis, called γίγγρας, and also an Egyptian flute and a Doric lyre. All the Psalms bearing the inscription על־הגּתּית (Psa 8:1-9, 81, Psa 84:1-12) are of a laudatory character. The gittith was, therefore, an instrument giving forth a joyous sound, or (what better accords with its occurring exclusively in the inscriptions of the Psalms), a joyous melody, perhaps a march of the Gittite guard, Sa2 15:18 (Hitzig).

Kurtz makes this Psalm into four tetrastichic strophes, by taking Psa 8:2 and v. 10 by themselves as the opening and close of the hymn, and putting Psa 8:2 (Thou whose majesty...) to the first strophe. But אשׁר is not rightly adapted to begin a strophe; the poet, we think, would in this case have written אתה אשׁר תנה הודו.

Psalms 8:1

psa 8:1

(Heb.: 8:2-3) Here, for the first time, the subject speaking in the Psalm is not one individual, but a number of persons; and who should they be but the church of Jahve, which (as in Neh 10:30) can call Jahve its Lord (אדנינוּ, like אדני from אדנים plur. excellentiae, Ges. ֗108, 2); but knowing also at the same time that what it has become by grace it is called to be for the good of the whole earth? The שׁם of God is the impress (cognate Arabic wasm, a sign, Greek σῆμα) of His nature, which we see in His works of creation and His acts of salvation, a nature which can only be known from this visible and comprehensible representation (nomen = gnomen).

(Note: Cf. Oehler's art. Name in Herzog's Real-Encyklopdie.)

This name of God is certainly not yet so known and praised everywhere, as the church to which it has been made known by a positive revelation can know and praise it; but, nevertheless, it, viz., the divine name uttered in creation and its works, by which God has made Himself known and capable of being recognised and named, ifs אדּיר amplum et gloriosum, everywhere through out the earth, even if it were entirely without any echo. The clause with אשׁר must not be rendered: Who, do Thou be pleased to put Thy glory upon the heavens (Gesenius even: quam tuam magnificentiam pone in caelis), for such a use of the imperat. after אשׁר is unheard of; and, moreover, although it is true a thought admissible in its connection with the redemptive history (Psa 57:6, 12) is thus obtained, it is here, however, one that runs counter to the fundamental tone, and to the circumstances, of the Psalm. For the primary thought of the Psalm is this, that the God, whose glory the heavens reflect, has also glorified Himself in the earth and in man; and the situation of the poet is this, that he has the moon and stars before his eyes: how then could he wish that heaven to be made glorious whose glory is shining into his eyes! It is just as impracticable to take תּנה as a contraction of נתנה, like תּתּה Sa2 22:41, = נתתּה, as Ammonius and others, and last of all Bhl, have done, or with Thenius (Stud. u. Krit. 1860 S. 712f.) to read it so at once. For even if the thought: "which (the earth) gives (announces) Thy glory all over the heavens" is not contrary to the connection, and if נתן עז, Psa 68:34, and נתן כבוד, Jer 13:16, can be compared with this נתן הוד, still the phrase נתן הוד על means nothing but to lay majesty on any one, to clothe him with it, Num 27:20; Ch1 29:25; Dan 11:21, cf. Psa 21:6; and this is just the thought one looks for, viz., that the name of the God, who has put His glory upon the heavens (Psa 148:13) is also glorious here below. We must, therefore, take תּנה, although it is always the form of the imper. elsewhere, as infin., just as רדה occurs once in Gen 46:3 as infin. (like the Arab. rı̆da a giving to drink, lı̆da a bringing forth - forms to which לדה and the like in Hebrew certainly more exactly correspond).

תּנה הודך signifies the setting of Thy glory (prop. τὸ τιθέναι τὴν δόξαν σου) just like דּעה את־ה the knowledge of Jahve, and Obad. Psa 8:5, שׂים קנּך, probably the setting of thy nest, Ges. 133. 1. It may be interpreted: O Thou whose laying of Thy glory is upon the heavens, i.e., Thou who hast chosen this as the place on which Thou hast laid Thy glory (Hengst.). In accordance with this Jerome translates it: qui posuisti gloriam tuam super caelos. Thus also the Syriac version with the Targum: dejabt (דיהבת) shubhoch 'al shemajo, and Symmachus: ὃς ἔταξας τὸν ἔπαινόν σου ὑπεράνω τῶν οὐρανῶν. This use of the nomen verbale and the genitival relation of אשׁר to תּנה הודך, which is taken as one notion, is still remarkable. Hitzig considers that no reasonable man would think and write thus: but thereby at the same time utterly condemns his own conjecture תּן ההודך (whose extending of glory over the heavens). This, moreover, goes beyond the limits of the language, which is only acquainted with תּן as the name of an animal. All difficulty would vanish if one might, with Hupfeld, read נתתּה. But תנה has not the slightest appearance of being a corruption of נתתה. It might be more readily supposed that תּנה is an erroneous pointing for תּנה (to stretch or extend, cf. Hos 8:10 to stretch forth, distribute): Thou whose glory stretches over the heavens, - an interpretation which is more probable than that it is, with Paulus and Kurtz, to be read תּנּה: Thou whose glory is praised (pass. of the תּנּה in Jdg 5:11; Jdg 11:40, which belongs to the dialect of Northern Palestine), instead of which one would more readily expect יתנּה. The verbal notion, which is tacitly implied in Psa 113:4; Psa 148:13, would then be expressed here. But perhaps the author wrote תּנה הודך instead of נתתּ הודך, because he wishes to describe the setting out of the heavens with divine splendour

(Note: In the first Sidonian inscription אדּיר occurs as a by-name of the heavens (שמם אדרם).)

as being constantly repeated and not as done once for all. There now follows, in Psa 8:3, the confirmation of Psa 8:2: also all over the earth, despite its distance from the heavens above, Jahve's name is glorious; for even children, yea even sucklings glorify him there, and in fact not mutely and passively by their mere existence, but with their mouth. עולל (= מעולל), or עולל is a child that is more mature and capable of spontaneous action, from עולל (Poel of עלל ludere),

(Note: According to this derivation עולל (cf. Beduin עאלול, ‛âlûl a young ox) is related to תּעלוּל; whereas עוּל as a synonym of יונק signifies one who is supported, sustained. For the radical signification of עוּל according to the Arabic ‛âl, fut. o. is "to weigh heavy, to be heavy, to lie upon; to have anything incumbent upon one's self, to carry, support, preserve," whence ‛ajjil the maintained child of the house, and (ajjila (Damascene ‛êla) he who is dependent upon one for support and the family depending upon the paterfamilias for sustenance. Neither Arab. ‛âl, fut. o., nor gâl, fut. i. usually applied to a pregnant woman who still suckles, has the direct signification to suckle. Moreover, the demon Ghul does not receive its name from swallowing up or sucking out (Ges.), but from destroying (Arab. gâl, fut. o.).)

according to Sa1 22:19; Psa 15:3, distinct from יונק, i.e., a suckling, not, however, infans, but, - since the Hebrew women were accustomed to suckle their children for a long period, - a little child which is able to lisp and speak (vid., 2 Macc. 7:27). Out of the mouth of beings such as these Jahve has founded for Himself עז. The lxx translates it the utterance of praise, αἶνον; and עז certainly sometimes has the meaning of power ascribed to God in praise, and so a laudatory acknowledgment of His might; but this is only when connected with verbs of giving, Psa 29:1; Psa 68:35; Psa 96:7. In itself, when standing alone, it cannot mean this. It is in this passage: might, or victorious power, which God creates for Himself out of the mouths of children that confess Him. This offensive and defensive power, as Luther has observed on this passage, is conceived of as a strong building, עז as מעוז (Jer 16:19) i.e., a fortress, refuge, bulwark, fortification, for the foundation of which He has taken the mouth, i.e., the stammering of children; and this He has done because of His enemies, to restrain (השׁבּית to cause any one to sit or lie down, rest, to put him to silence, e.g., Isa 16:10; Eze 7:24) such as are enraged against Him and His, and are inspired with a thirst for vengeance which expresses itself in curses (the same combination is found in Psa 44:17). Those meant, are the fierce and calumniating opponents of revelation. Jahve has placed the mouth of children in opposition to these, as a strong defensive controversive power. He has chosen that which is foolish and weak in the eyes of the world to put to shame the wise and that which is strong (Co1 1:27). It is by obscure and naturally feeble instruments that He makes His name glorious here below. and overcomes whatsoever is opposed to this glorifying.

Psalms 8:3

psa 8:3

(Heb.: 8:4-6) Stier wrongly translates: For I shall behold. The principal thought towards which the rest tends is Psa 8:5 (parallel are Psa 8:2 a, 3), and consequently Psa 8:4 is the protasis (par., Psa 8:2), and כּי accordingly is = quum, quando, in the sense of quoties. As often as he gazes at the heavens which bear upon themselves the name of God in characters of light (wherefore he says שׁמיך), the heavens with their boundless spaces (an idea which lies in the plur. שׁמים) extending beyond the reach of mortal eye, the moon (ירח, dialectic ורח, perhaps, as Maurer derives it, from ירח = ירק subflavum esse), and beyond this the innumerable stars which are lost in infinite space (כּוכבים = כּבכּבים prop. round, ball-shaped, spherical bodies) to which Jahve appointed their fixed place on the vault of heaven which He has formed with all the skill of His creative wisdom (כּונן to place and set up, in the sense of existence and duration): so often does the thought "what is mortal man...?" increase in power and intensity. The most natural thought would be: frail, puny man is as nothing before all this; but this thought is passed over in order to celebrate, with grateful emotion and astonished adoration, the divine love which appears in all the more glorious light, - a love which condescends to poor man, the dust of earth. Even if אנושׁ does not come from אנשׁ to be fragile, nevertheless, according to the usage of the language, it describes man from the side of his impotence, frailty, and mortality (vid., Psa 103:15; Isa 51:12, and on Gen 4:26). בּן־אדם, also, is not without a similar collateral reference. With retrospective reference to עוללים וינקים, בּן־אדם is equivalent to ילוּד־אשּׁה in Job 14:1 : man, who is not, like the stars, God's directly creative work, but comes into being through human agency born of woman. From both designations it follows that it is the existing generation of man that is spoken of. Man, as we see him in ourselves and others, this weak and dependent being is, nevertheless, not forgotten by God, God remembers him and looks about after him (פּקד of observing attentively, especially visitation, and with the accus. it is generally used of lovingly provident visitation, e.g., Jer 15:15). He does not leave him to himself, but enters into personal intercourse with him, he is the special and favoured object whither His eye turns (cf. Psa 144:3, and the parody of the tempted one in Job 7:17.).

It is not until Psa 8:6 that the writer glances back at creation. ותּחסּרהוּ (differing from the fut. consec. Job 7:18) describes that which happened formerly. חסּר מן signifies to cause to be short of, wanting in something, to deprive any one of something (cf. Ecc 4:8). מן is here neither comparative (paullo inferiorem eum fecisti Deo), nor negative (paullum derogasti ei, ne esset Deus), but partitive (paullum derogasti ei divinae naturae); and, without אלהים being on that account an abstract plural, paullum Deorum, = Dei (vid., Genesis S. 66f.), is equivalent to paullum numinis Deorum. According to Gen 1:27 man is created בּצלם אלהים, he is a being in the image of God, and, therefore, nearly a divine being. But when God says: "let us make man in our image after our likeness," He there connects Himself with the angels. The translation of the lxx ἠλάττωσας αὐτὸν βραχύ τι παρ ̓ ἀγγέλους, with which the Targum and the prevailing Jewish interpretations also harmonize, is, therefore, not unwarranted. Because in the biblical mode of conception the angels are so closely connected with God as the nearest creaturely effulgence of His nature, it is really possible that in מאלהים David may have thought of God including the angels. Since man is in the image of God, he is at the same time in the likeness of an angel, and since he is only a little less than divine, he is also only a little less than angelic. The position, somewhat exalted above the angels, which he occupies by being the bond between all created things, in so far as mind and matter are united in him, is here left out of consideration. The writer has only this one thing in his mind, that man is inferior to God, who is רוּח, and to the angels who are רוּחות (Isa 31:3; Heb 1:14) in this respect, that he is a material being, and on this very account a finite and mortal being; as Theodoret well and briefly observes: τῷ θνητῷ τῶν ἀγγέλων ἠλάττωται. This is the מעט in which whatever is wanting to him to make him a divine being is concentrated. But it is nothing more than מעט. The assertion in Psa 8:6 refers to the fact of the nature of man being in the image of God, and especially to the spirit breathed into him from God; Psa 8:6, to his godlike position as ruler in accordance with this his participation in the divine nature: honore ac decore coronasti eum. כּבוד is the manifestation of glory described from the side of its weightiness and fulness; הוד (cf. הד, הידד) from the side of its far resounding announcement of itself (vid., on Job 39:20); הדר from the side of its brilliancy, majesty, and beauty. הוד והדר, Psa 96:6, or also הדר כּבור הוד ה, Psa 145:5, is the appellation of the divine doxa, with the image of which man is adorned as with a regal crown. The preceding fut. consec. also stamps תּעטּרהוּ and תּמשׁילהוּ as historical retrospects. The next strophe unfolds the regal glory of man: he is the lord of all things, the lord of all earthly creatures.

Psalms 8:6

psa 8:6

(Heb.: 8:7-9) Man is a king, and not a king without territory; the world around, with the works of creative wisdom which fill it, is his kingdom. The words "put under his feet" sound like a paraphrase of the רדה in Gen 1:26, Gen 1:28, כּל is unlimited, as in Job 13:1; Job 42:2; Isa 44:24. But the expansion of the expression in Psa 8:8, Psa 8:9 extends only to the earth, and is limited even there to the different classes of creatures in the regions of land, air, and water. The poet is enthusiastic in his survey of this province of man's dominion. And his lofty poetic language corresponds to this enthusiasm. The enumeration begins with the domestic animals and passes on from these to the wild beasts-together the creatures that dwell on terra firma. צנה (צנא Num 32:24) from צנה (צנא) Arab. dnâ (dn'), as also Arab. dân, fut. o., proliferum esse is, in poetry, equivalent to צאן, which is otherwise the usual name for small cattle. אלפים (in Aramaic, as the name of the letter shows, a prose word) is in Hebrew poetically equivalent to בּקר; the oxen which willingly accommodate themselves to the service of man, especially of the husbandman, are so called from אלף to yield to. Wild animals, which in prose are called חיּת הארץ, (השּׂדה) here bear the poetical name בּהמות שׂדי, as in Joe 2:22, cf. Joe 1:20, Sa1 17:44. שׂדי (in pause שׂדי) is the primitive form of שׂדה, which is not declined, and has thereby obtained a collective signification. From the land animals the description passes on to the fowls of the air and the fishes of the water. צפּור is the softer word, instead of עוף; and שׁמים is water. צפּור is the softer word, instead of עוף; and שׁמים is used without the art. according to poetical usage, whereas היּם without the art. would have sounded too scanty and not sufficiently measured. In connection with ימּים the article may be again omitted, just as with שׁמים. עבר is a collective participle. If the following were intended: he (or: since he), viz., man, passes through the paths of the sea (Bttcher, Cassel, and even Aben-Ezra and Kimchi), then it would not have been expressed in such a monostich, and in a form so liable to lead one astray. The words may be a comprehensive designation of that portion of the animal kingdom which is found in the sea; and this also intended to include all from the smallest worm to the gigantic leviathan: ὁππόσα ποντοπόρους παρεπιστείβουσι κελεύθους (Apollinaris). If man thus rules over every living thing that is round about him from the nearest to the most remote, even that which is apparently the most untameable: then it is clear that every lifeless created thing in his vicinity must serve him as its king. The poet regards man in the light of the purpose for which he was created.

Psalms 8:9

psa 8:9

(Heb.: 8:10) 8:10. He has now demonstrated what he expressed in Psa 8:2, that the name of Jahve whose glory is reflected by the heavens, is also glorious on earth. Thus, then, he can as a conclusion repeat the thought with which he began, in a wider and more comprehensive meaning, and weave his Psalm together, as it were, into a wreath.

It is just this Psalm, of which one would have least expected it, that is frequently quoted in the New Testament and applied to the Messiah. Indeed Jesus' designation of Himself by ὁ υἱὸς τοῦ ἀνθρώπου, however far it may refer back to the Old Testament Scriptures, leans no less upon this Psalm than upon Dan 7:13. The use the writer of the Epistle to the Hebrews (Heb 2:6-8) makes of Psa 8:5 of this Psalm shows us how the New Testament application to the Messiah is effected. The psalmist regards man as one who glorifies God and as a prince created of God. The deformation of this position by sin he leaves unheeded. But both sides of the mode of regarding it are warranted. On the one hand, we see that which man has become by creation still in operation even in his present state; on the other hand, we see it distorted and stunted. If we compare what the Psalm says with this shady side of the reality, from which side it is incongruous with the end of man's creation, then the song which treats of the man of the present becomes a prophecy of the man of the future. The Psalm undergoes this metamorphosis in the New Testament consciousness, which looks more to the loss than to that which remains of the original. In fact, the centre of the New Testament consciousness is Jesus the Restorer of that which is lost. The dominion of the world lost to fallen man, and only retained by him in a ruined condition, is allotted to mankind, when redeemed by Him, in fuller and more perfect reality. This dominion is not yet in the actual possession of mankind, but in the person of Jesus it now sits enthroned at the right hand of God. In Him the idea of humanity is transcendently realised, i.e., according to a very much higher standard than that laid down when the world was founded. He has entered into the state-only a little (βραχύ τι) beneath the angels - of created humanity for a little while (βραχύ τι), in order to raise redeemed humanity above the angels. Everything (כּל) is really put under Him with just as little limitation as is expressed in this Psalm: not merely the animal kingdom, not merely the world itself, but the universe with all the ruling powers in it, whether they be in subjection or in hostility to God, yea even the power of death (Co1 15:27, cf. Eph 1:22). Moreover, by redemption, more than heretofore, the confession which comes from the mouth of little children is become a bulwark founded of God, in order that against it the resistance of the opponents of revelation may be broken. We have an example of this in Mat 21:16, where our Lord points the pharisees and scribes, who are enraged at the Hosanna of the children, to Psa 8:3. Redemption demands of man, before everything else, that he should become as a little child, and reveals its mysteries to infants, which are hidden from the wise and intelligent. Thus, therefore, it is μικροὶ καὶ νήπιοι, whose tongue is loosed by the Spirit of God, who are to put to shame the unbelieving; and all that this Psalm says of the man of the present becomes in the light of the New Testament in its relation to the history of redemption, a prophecy of the Son of man κατ ̓ ἐξοχήν, and of the new humanity.

Next: Psalms Chapter 9