This is a psalm of David written to be played on the Gittith which was some form of stringed instrument. But what really was a Gittith? Stedman has the most interesting idea if its true. Gittith was the original Hebrew word for a stringed instrument. Stedman suggests that the Greeks took the word and called it a kithara. From that came the Spanish guitarra, and from that came our English guitar.
Since I am a guitar player, I like this idea. I can imagine David sitting under the stars late one evening with his ancient version of the guitar composing this beautiful psalm.
Barnes comments, "If we may judge from the Psalm itself, it would seem probable that it was composed by night in the contemplation of the starry heavens naturally suggesting, in view of the vastness and beauty of the celestial luminaries, the littleness of man. This also filled the mind of the psalmist with wonder that the God who marshalls all these hosts should condescend to regard the condition and wants of a being so feeble and frail as man, and should have exalted him as he has done over his works."
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth! Thou whose glory above the heavens is chanted.
David opens the psalm with a huge rush of praise. How majestic is Gods name how noble, how excellent. It is a name above all names. A name so revered by the Hebrews that they would not even pronounce it in public readings but would substitute the word Lord. The world does not hold the name of God in high regard only those who call him their Lord as David does here in this verse, "Yahweh, my Lord."
Only we who serve him can begin to understand his majesty. Others may intellectually be able to have some idea of the scope of his greatness, but only those who experience him with their heart as well as their mind can begin to feel the immenseness of his nobility.
God may be above all and lifted high above our understanding, but he shows his love to us by giving us the gift of his glory displayed in the heavens.
MacDonald comments, "The majesty of the Lord is evident in all creation, if a person only has eyes to see it. Every area of natural science teems with evidences of the wisdom and power of the Creator. Gods glory is higher. ...the heavens, the planets, the stars, the limitless universe give only a partial view of how very great God really is."
By the mouth of babes and infants, thou hast founded a bulwark because of thy foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.
Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28, "For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth; but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong, God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are."
God is no respector of persons. He does not only choose the rich, the powerful, the brilliant, the strong, the beautiful. He also uses babies and children the weak, the disadvantaged, the destitute. From their words he establishes a stronghold. What does this mean? Do our words have strength? We have power in prayer and have been given authority in Jesus. So much so that God will use us to defeat the enemy we who are nothing in ourselves, are everything in him.
Matthew Henry wrote in 1710, "It is here foretold that by the apostles who were looked upon but as babes, unlearned and ignorant men (Acts 4:13), mean and despicable, and by the foolishness of their preaching, the devils kingdom should be thrown down, as Jerichos walls were.... The gospel is called the arm of the Lord and the rod of his strength; this was ordained to work wonders, not out of the mouth of philosophers or orators, politicians or statesmen, but of a company of poor fishermen, who lay under the greatest external disadvantages.... Sometimes the power of God brings to pass great things in his church by very weak and unlikely instruments, and confounds the noble, wise, and mighty, by the base, and weak, and foolish things of the world, that no flesh may glory in his presence, but the excellency of the power may the more evidently appear to be of God, and not of man...."
When I look at thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast established.
God has given us a visible reminder of his divine power. We see the universe in all its complexity the moon, the stars. We are in awe how they all function according to his natural laws. They are all established, they are all ordained by the fingers of God.
Stedman comments, "The interesting thing is that 30 centuries after David wrote these words we feel the same impression when we consider the starry heavens. Though we are now able to go to the moon, which David could only see, yet all the knowledge that has been gained about the universe in which we live only serves to deepen our impression of the tremendous wisdom and power of God. How vast is the universe in which we live! Incredible in its extent and outreach, these vast distances are spanned only by the measurement of the speed of light and even that is hardly adequate. These billions of galaxies whirl in their silent courses through the deepness of space. How tremendous is the power that sustains it all and keeps it operating as one harmonious unit! That is what impressed this psalmist."
What is man that thou art mindful of him, and the son of man that thou dost care for him?
In comparison with the vast universe, what is man? A speck, an infinitesimal bit of dust. Why should God pay any attention to him? Not only does God pay attention to man, but he even communes with him. He cares for him. He provides for him, causing the plants to grow in their seasons, providing color and beauty in the nature surrounding us, giving us comfort and help. He speaks to our mind with his word; he speaks to our soul with his Spirit, he speaks to our heart with his love. He guides us, he leads us, he has charted a plan for our lives. He works on our behalf.
Barnes explains, "What claim has one so weak, and frail, and short-lived, to be remembered by thee? What is there in man that entitles him to so much notice? Why has God conferred on him so signal honour? Why has he placed him over the works of his hands? Why has he made so many arrangements for his comfort? Why has he done so much to save him? He is so insignificant, his life is so much like a vapour, he so soon disappears, he is so sinful and polluted that the question may well be asked, why such honour has been conferred on him, and why such a dominion over the world has been given him."
Yet thou hast made him little less than God, and dost crown him with glory and honor.
In verse 3 as we examined the heavens, the stars, and the moon, we felt how truly insignificant man must be, and we have to agree with David in verse 4 What is man that God is mindful of him. Man is a speck, some small unimportant part of creation that God would scarcely remember.
But here in verse 5 David changes his tune. Man is important. He is just a little lower than the angels, and he is crowned with glory and honor. How is this possible? Certainly not through mans own efforts could he achieve this. It is God who has done this wondrous thing.
In the Hebrew of this verse it reads, "glory and honor you crowned him." David puts the emphasis on God doing the work. It is God who takes the glory and honor, and it is God who does the crowning. The least important word in this phrase is "him" man.
The best man can achieve is filthy rags. It is God who has elevated man, and this should cause our hearts to rejoice. In ourselves we may be weak, like babies and children, but in God we are just a little lower than the heavenly realm, and we are crowned with glory and honor. This should give us confidence. We are not inferior. We are important to God!
Thou hast given him dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet.
This is amazing. God has given us rule over all his creation. He did all the work for us. Now he has turned it over to us. It is true that man is one of the weaker creatures, and yet he is master over the most powerful creatures. He is also master over the earths natural resources. He has learned to harness the hidden energy lying deep inside the earth, and inside the atom. The chemicals in the earth are under his control. He uses them, changes them, transforms them to his use.
All sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the sea.
Mankind is also in control of the animal kingdom. Even the beasts of the field, he can tame and turn to his own use, as all of us have seen when the circus came to town. How can man do this? The animals are bigger and stronger. You would think they would fight ferociously for their independence. But God has given man dominion, and it is man who is the master.
Barnes writes, "Nothing is more remarkable than this, and nothing furnishes a better illustration of Scripture than the conformity of this with the declaration (Gen. 9:2), "And the fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air." ...It is to be remembered that no small number of what are now domestic animals were originally wild, and that they have been subdued and tamed by the power and skill of man. No animal has shown itself superior to this power and skill."
O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is thy name in all the earth!
David concludes this psalm with the same words which began it. The Hebrew in verse 9 is identical to that in verse 1. Inside these two bookends of praise to God, he has stated and presented his reasons for the excellency of Gods name in all the earth. He has made his case, he has won the argument. We are forced in agreement with his words and compelled to join him in praising. O Lord our Lord, how majestic is thy name.
Delitzsch remarks, "He has now demonstrated what he expressed in verse 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."
This study on Psalm 8 © 1997 by David Humpal.
All rights reserved.
Stedman: Psalms of Praise pg. 24 © 1988, Regal Books
MacDonald: Believers Bible Commentary, Old Testament volume, pg. 557 © 1990, Thomas Nelson Publishers
Matthew Henrys Commentary, vol. III, pg. 266, MacDonald Publishing Company
Stedman: Psalms of Praise pg. 32 © 1988, Regal Books
Barnes Notes on the Old Testament, Psalms, vol. I, pg. 70, Baker Book House
Barnes Notes on the Old Testament, Psalms, vol. I, pg. 72, Baker Book House
Keil and Delitzsch: Commentary on the Old Testament, vol. 5, pg. 156, Hendrickson Publishers