Psalms 8

PSALM VIII

The glory and excellence of God manifested by his works, 1, 2;

particularly in the starry heavens, 3;

in man, 4;

in his formation, 5;

and in the dominion which God has given him over the earth, the

air, the sea, and their inhabitants, 6-8:

in consequence of which God's name is celebrated over all the

earth, 9.

NOTES ON PSALM VIII

The inscription to this Psalm is the following: To the chief

Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David. This has been

metaphrased, "To the conqueror, concerning the wine-presses;" and

has been supposed to be a Psalm intended for the time of vintage:

and as that happened about the time of the year in which it is

supposed the world was created, hence there is a general

celebration of those works, and of the creation, and the high

privileges of man. The Chaldee gives it a different turn: "A Psalm

of David, to be sung upon the harp, which he brought out of Gath."

That the Psalm has respect to our Lord and the time of the Gospel,

is evident from the reference made to Ps 8:2, in Mt 11:25, the

express quotation of it in Mt 21:16, and another reference to it

in 1Co 1:27. The

fourth and sixth verses are quoted Heb 2:6-9. See also

1Co 15:27, and Eph 1:22. The

first and second ADAM are both referred to, and the first and

second creation also; and the glory which God has received, and is

to receive, through both. It relates simply to Christ and

redemption.

Verse 1. O Lord our Lord] Yehovah Adoneynu; O

Jehovah our Prop, our Stay, or Support. Adonai is

frequently used: sometimes, indeed often, for the word

Yehovah itself. The root dan signifies to direct, rule,

judge, support. So Adonai is the Director, Ruler, Judge, Supporter

of men. It is well joined with Jehovah; this showing what God is

in himself; that, what God is to man; and may here very properly

refer to our Lord Jesus.

How excellent is thy name in all the earth!] How illustrious is

the name of Jesus throughout the world! His incarnation, birth,

humble and obscure life, preaching, miracles, passion, death,

resurrection, and ascension, are celebrated through the whole

world. His religion, the gifts and graces of his Spirit, his

people-Christians-his Gospel and the preachers of it, are

everywhere spoken of. No name is so universal, no power and

influence so generally felt, as those of the Saviour of mankind.

Amen.

Thy glory above the heavens.] The heavens are glorious, the most

glorious of all the works of God which the eye of man can reach;

but the glory of God is infinitely above even these. The words

also seem to intimate that no power, earthly or diabolical, can

lessen or injure that glory. The glory and honour which God has

by the Gospel shall last through time, and through eternity; and

of that glory none shall be able to rob him, to whom majesty and

dominion are eternally due. This has been applied by some to the

resurrection of our Lord. He rose from the dead, and ascended

above all heavens; and by these his glory was sealed, his mission

accomplished, and the last proof given to his preceding miracles.

Verse 2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings] We have seen

how our Lord applied this passage to the Jewish children, who,

seeing his miracles, cried out in the temple, "Hosanna to the Son

of David!" Mt 21:16. And we have seen how the

enemy and the avenger-the chief priests and the scribes-were

offended because of these things; and as the Psalm wholly concerns

Jesus Christ, it is most probable that in this act of the Jewish

children the prophecy had its primary fulfilment; and was left to

the Jews as a witness and a sign of the Messiah, which they should

have acknowledged when our Lord directed their attention to it.

There is also a very obvious sense in which the mouths of babes

and sucklings show forth the praises of God; viz., the means by

which they derive their first nourishment. In order to extract the

milk from the breasts of their mothers, they are obliged to empty

their own mouths entirely of air, that the eternal air, pressing

on the breast, may force the milk through its proper canals into

the mouth of the child, where there is no resistance, the child

having extracted all air from its own mouth which in this case

resembles a perfectly exhausted receiver on the plate of an

airpump; and the action of sucking is performed on the same

principle that the receiver is exhausted by the working of the

airpump. Of this curious pneumatic action the child is capable the

moment it breathes; and, its strength considered, performs it as

perfectly the first hour as it does in any other period of its

childhood or infancy. What does all this argue? Why instinct. And

pray what is instinct? You cannot tell. But here is an operation

by which the pure Boylean vacuum is made; and this by an infant

without any previous teaching! Do you suppose that this is an

easy operation, and that it requires little skill? You are

mistaken. You have done this yourself while an infant, under the

sole guidance of God. Can you do it now? You are startled! Shall I

tell you what appears to you a secret? There is not one in ten

thousand adults, who have had their first nourishment from the

breasts of their mothers who can perform the same operation again!

And those who have had occasion to practise it have found great

difficulty to learn that art which, in the first moment of their

birth, they performed to perfection! Here is the finger of God;

and here, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, he has

ordained such a strength of evidence and argument in favour

of his being, his providence, and his goodness, as is sufficient

to still and confound every infidel and atheist in the universe,

all the enemies of righteousness, and all the vindicators of

desperate and hopeless causes and systems.

The words may also be applied to the apostles and primitive

preachers of the Gospel; to the simple and comparatively unlearned

followers of Christ, who, through his teaching, were able to

confound the wise among the Jews, and the mighty among the

heathens: and in this sense our Lord uses the term babes,

Mt 11:25: "I thank thee, O Father-because thou hast hid these

things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to

babes."

We may also witness, in the experience of multitudes of simple

people who have been, by the preaching of the Gospel, converted

from the error of their ways, such a strength of testimony in

favour of the work of God in the heart, and his effectual teaching

in the mind, as is calculated to still, or reduce to silence,

every thing but bigotry and prejudice, neither of which has either

eyes or ears. This teaching, and these changing or

converting influences, come from God. They are not acquired by

human learning; and those who put this in the place of the Divine

teaching never grow wise to salvation. To enter into the kingdom

of heaven, a MAN must become as a little child.

Verse 3. When I Consider thy heavens] ki ereh; because I

will see. He had often seen the heavens with astonishment, and he

purposes to make them frequent subjects of contemplation; and he

could not behold them without being affected with the skill,

contrivance, and power, manifested in their formation.

The work of thy fingers] What a view does this give of the

majesty of God! The earth is nearly eight thousand English miles

in diameter: but to form an adequate conception of its magnitude,

we must consider it in its superficial and solid contents. Upon

the supposition that the earth's polar diameter is seven thousand

nine hundred and forty miles, and its equatorial, seven thousand

nine hundred and seventy-seven, (estimates considered to very near

approximations to the truth,) the whole superficies of the

terraqueous globe will amount to about one hundred and

ninety-eight millions, nine hundred and eighty thousand, seven

hundred square miles; and its solid contents, in cubic miles will

be expressed by the following figures: 264,544,857,944, i.e., two

hundred and sixty-four thousand five hundred and forty-four

millions, eight hundred and fifty-seven thousand, nine hundred and

forty-four. Great as we have shown the bulk of the earth to be,

from the most accurate estimates of its diameter it is but small

when compared with the bulks of some of the other bodies in the

solar system. The planet Herschel, or Georgium Sidus, known on the

continent of Europe by the name of Uranus, is eighty times and a

half greater than the earth; Saturn, nine hundred and ninety-five

times greater; Jupiter, one thousand two hundred and eighty-one

times greater; and the sun, the most prodigious body in the

system, one million three hundred and eighty-four thousand, four

hundred and sixty-two times greater. The circumference of the sun

contains not fewer than two millions seven hundred and

seventy-seven thousand English miles; and a degree of latitude,

which on the earth amounts only to sixty-nine miles and a half,

will on the sun (the circle being supposed in both instances to be

divided into three hundred and sixty degrees) contain not less

than about seven thousand seven hundred and forty miles, a

quantity almost equal to the terrestrial axis. But the immense

volume (in cubic miles) which the solar surface includes amounts

to the following most inconceivable quantity:

366,252,303,118,866,128, i.e., three hundred and sixty-six

thousand two hundred and fifty-two billions, three hundred and

three thousand one hundred and eighteen millions, eight hundred

and sixty-six thousand, one hundred and twenty-eight.

Notwithstanding the amazing magnitude of the sun, we have abundant

reason to believe that some of the fixed stars are much larger;

and yet we are told they are the work of GOD'S FINGERS! What a

hand, to move, form, and launch these globes! This expression is

much more sublime than even that of the prophet: "Who hath

measured the waters in the hollow of his hand, and meted out the

heavens with a span, and comprehended the dust of the earth in a

measure; and weighed the mountains in scales, and the hills in a

balance!" Isa 40:12. This is

grand; but the heavens being the work OF GOD'S FINGERS is yet

more sublime.

The moon and the stars] The sun is not mentioned, because the

heavens-the moon, planets, and stars-could not have appeared, had

he been present. Those he wished to introduce because of their

immense variety, and astonishing splendour; and, therefore, he

skilfully leaves out the sun, which would have afforded him but

one object, and one idea. To have mentioned him with the others

would have been as ridiculous in astronomy, as the exhibition of

the top and bottom of a vessel would be in perspective. Various

critics have endeavoured to restore the sun to this place: and

even Bishop Horsley says, "It is certainly strange that the sun

should be omitted, when the moon and the stars are so particularly

mentioned." But with great deference to him, and to Dr. Kennicott,

who both show how the text may be mended, I say, it would be most

strange had the psalmist introduced the sun, for the reasons

already assigned. The Spirit of God is always right; our heads

sometimes, our hearts seldom so.

Which thou hast ordained] conantah, which thou hast

prepared and established. Made their respective spheres, and

fitted them for their places. Space to matter, and matter to

space; all adjusted in number, weight, and measure.

Verse 4. What is man] mah enosh, what is wretched,

miserable man; man in his fallen state, full of infirmity,

ignorance, and sin?

That thou art mindful of him?] That thou settest thy heart upon

him, keepest him continually in thy merciful view.

And the son of man] uben Adam, and the son of Adam,

the first great rebel; the fallen child of a fallen parent. See

the note on Job 7:17. Some think eminent men are here intended.

What is man in common; what the most eminent men; that thou

shouldst be mindful of them, or deign to visit them?

That thou visitest him?] By sending thy Holy Spirit to convince

him of sin, righteousness, and judgment. It is by these visits

that man is preserved in a salvable state. Were God to withhold

them, there would be nothing in the soul of man but sin, darkness,

hardness, corruption, and death.

Verse 5. Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels] The

original is certainly very emphatic:

vattechasserchu meat meelohim, Thou hast lessened him for a

little time from God. Or, Thou hast made him less than God for a

little time. See these passages explained at large in the notes on

Heb 2:6, &c., which I need not repeat here.

Verse 6. Thou madest him to have dominion] Jesus Christ, who,

being in the form of God, and equal with God, for a time emptied

himself, and made himself of no reputation; was afterwards highly

exalted, and had a name above every name. See the notes referred

to above, and those on Php 2:6-9.

Thou hast put all things under his feet] Though the whole of the

brute creation was made subject to Adam in his state of innocence;

yet it could never be literally said of him, that God had put all

things under his feet, or that he had dominion over the work of

God's hands; but all this is most literally true of our Lord

Jesus; and to him the apostle, Heb 2:6, &c., applies all these

passages.

Verse 7. All sheep and oxen] All domestic animals, and those to

be employed in agriculture.

Beasts of the field] All wild beasts, and inhabitants of the

forest.

Verse 8. The fowl of the air] All these were given to man in the

beginning; and he has still a general dominion over them; for thus

saith the Lord: "The fear of you, and the dread of you, shall be

upon every BEAST of the EARTH, and upon every FOWL of the AIR, and

upon all that MOVETH upon the EARTH, and upon all the FISHES of

the SEA; into your hand are they delivered;" Ge 9:2. To this

passage the psalmist most obviously refers.

Verse 9. O Lord our Lord] The psalmist concludes as he began.

Jehovah, our prop and support! his name is excellent in all the

earth. The name of JESUS is celebrated in almost every part of the

habitable globe; for his Gospel has been preached, or is in the

progress of being preached, through the whole world. Bibles and

missionaries are now carrying his name, and proclaiming his

fame, to the utmost nations of the earth.

The whole of this Psalm, and the seventh and eighth verses in

particular, have been the subject of much spiritualization in

ancient and modern times. I shall give two examples: one from the

pious Bishop Horne; the other from the ancient

Latino-Scotico-English Psalter, mentioned before.

That of Bishop Horne, on the 7th and 8th verses, is as follows:

"Adam, upon his creation, was invested with sovereign dominion

over the creatures, in words of the same import with these,

Ge 1:28, which are therefore here used, and the creatures

particularized, to inform us that what the first Adam lost by

transgression, the second Adam gained by obedience. That glory

which was set above the heavens could not but be over all things

on the earth; and accordingly we hear our Lord saying, after his

resurrection, 'All power is given unto me in heaven and earth,'

Mt 28:18. Nor is it a speculation unpleasing or unprofitable to

consider that he who rules over the material world is Lord also of

the intellectual or spiritual creation represented thereby.

"The souls of the faithful, lowly, and harmless, are the sheep

of his pasture; those who like oxen, are strong to labour in the

Church, and who by expounding the word of life tread out the corn

for the nourishment of the people, own him for their kind and

beneficent Master. Nay, tempers fierce and untractable as the wild

beasts of the desert, are yet subject to his will. Spirits of the

angelic kind, that, like the birds of the air, traverse freely the

superior region, move at his command; and these evil ones, whose

habitation is in the deep abyss, even to the great leviathan

himself, all, all are put under the feet of the King Messiah; who,

because he humbled himself, and became obedient to death, was

therefore highly exalted, and had a name given him above every

name; that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, whether of

things in heaven, or things on earth, or things under the earth;

and that every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord, to the

glory of God the Father; Php 2:8, &c." Thus far the pious bishop.

I shall now give, as a singular curiosity, the whole Psalm, with

its translation and paraphrase, from the ancient MS. already

mentioned; inserting first the Latin text; next, the translation;

and, thirdly, the paraphrase. The Latin text seems to be the old

Itala, or Antehieronymian; at least it has readings which have

been thought peculiar to that version.

PSALM VIII

Ver. 1. Domine Deus noster, quoniam admirabile est nomen tuum in

universa terra.

Trans. Lord our Lord, qwat thi name es wonderfull in al the

Erde.

Par. The prophete in louing, bygynnes and says: Lord of al, thow

ert specialy our Lord that dredes the, loves the. Thi name that es

the ioy and the fame of thi name Ihesu: for the creaturs that thu

hes made and bought qwat it es wonderful. Als so say withouten

end: for nane suffis for to knaw al creaturs: in qwilk wonder of

the, and that in al the Erd, nought in a party anely.

Quoniam elevata est magnificencia tua super Celos.

Trans. For lyfted es thi worchyp aboven hevens.

Par. That es at say, thu ert mare worthy to be loued and

wirchepyd than any Aungel or haly Saule may thynk.

Ver. 2. Ex ore infancium et lactencium perfecisti laudem,

propter inimicos tuos, ut destruas inimicum et ultorem.

Trans. Of the mouth of nought spekand, and sowkand, thou has

made louying, for thin enmys, that thou destroye the enmy and the

venger.

Par. Nought anely thow ert loued of perfite men, bot of the

mouthe of barnes that spekes nought: Zit there er tha that kan

nought speke the wisdom of this werld: and of soukand, the qwilk

gladdely resayves the lare of haly Kyrk theare moder. Thow has

made thi luf thug perfyte for thin enmys: fals cristen men, to

schame and to schende for thai er wer than er haythen men. That

thu destruy the enmy; that es, he that es wyse in his awen eghen;

and wil nought be underloute til thi wil: and the venger: that es

he that defends his Syn; and sais that he synnes nought; or that

his syn es les than other mennes.

Ver. 3. Quoniam videbo celos tuos, et opera digitorum tuorum,

lunam et stellas quas tu fundasti.

Trans. For I sal se thi hevens werkes of thi fyngers the mone

and the Sternys the quilk thow groundid.

Par. Thow destrues al that es contrariand til the; bot i in al

thying confourom me to do thi wil; for thi i sal se in lyf

withouten end. Thi hevens, that es Aungels and Apostels the qwilk

er werkes of thi fingers: that es, that er mode perfyte thurgh the

Haly Gost, of qwam es seven gyftes. Of he be bot a Spirit, als

mani fyngers er in a hand. And i sal see the Mone, that es haly

Kyrk: and the sternes that es ilk a ryghtwise man by hym selfe,

the qwilk thu groundid in charite.

Ver. 4. Quid est homo quod memor es ejus; aut filius hominis,

quoniam visitas eum?

Trans. Qhat es man that thu ert menand of hym: or son of man for

thou visites hym?

Par. Als it war with despyte, he sais man, erdely and synful,

qwat es he, that thu has mynd of hym. Als fer sett fra the; at the

lest gyfand hym hele and ese of body. Or son of man: that es, he

that es gastely, and beres the ymage of heven. Qwat es he, for

thou visits hym. Als present the qwilk es nere the for clennes of

lyf. Or son of man he calles Crist, thrugh qwam he visits mannes

kynd.

Ver. 5. Minuisti eum paullo minus ab angelis: gloria et honore

coronasti eum; et constituisti eum super opera manuum tuarum.

Trans. Thow lessed hym a littil fra aungels; with ioy and honour

thu coround hym: and thu sett him aboven the werkes of thi hend.

Par. Crist was lessed fra aungels, for he was dedely, and mught

suffer pyne; but a littel; for in other thyng, es he abouen

aungels, thair Kyng and Sychthu thou coround hym with ioy, that es

with brighthede of body, na mare sufferand pyne; and honour, for

he es honourable til al: and thou sett hym abouen aungels and al

creatures.

Ver. 6, 7. Omnia subjecisti sub pedibus ejus: oves et boves

insuper et pecora campi.

Trans. Al thynges thu underkest undyr his fete: schepe and oxen

al over that, and the bestes of the feld.

Par. That undyr hys Lordschyp and hys myght, in has cestyn al

thyng: tha er schepe that er innocentes, als well aungels als men.

And oxen, tha er, traveland men gastely, in haly Kyrk, over that;

and the bestes of the feld; thai er lufers of this werld, wonnand,

in the feld of fleschly lusts; noght in hillis of vertus; and so

be the brode way thai ga til hell.

Ver. 8. Volucres celi et pisces maris qui perambulant semitas

maris.

Trans. Fowls of heven and fysche of the see, that gas the wayes

of the see.

Par. Fowls of heven, er prowde men that wald hee thair setil

abouen al other. Fysches of the see, er covaytus men, the qwilk in

the ground of the werld, sekes erthdly gudes, that all stretes in

the see, sone wither oway. Al thir sal be underlout til Crist

onther herts in grace, or thare in pine.

Ver. 9. Domine Deus noster, quam admirabile est nomen tuum in

universa terra.

Trans. Lard our Lard qwat thi name is wonderful in al the erth.

Par. Als he bigan swa he endes, schewand that bygyning and

endyng of al gode, is of Gode; and til his louing agh i for to be

done.

The reader will no doubt be struck with the remarkable agreement

between the pious bishop of Norwich and this ancient translator

and paraphrast, particularly on the 7th and 8th verses. The

language also is in several respects singular. The participle of

the present tense, which we terminate with ing, is here almost

always terminated with and. So Spekand, sowkand, gyfand,

sufferand, traveland, for speaking, sucking, giving, suffering,

travelling, &c.

As the participle signifies the continuance of the action, the

termination and seems much more proper than ing; speak-and, i.e.,

continuing to speak; give-and, continuing to give; suffer-and,

suffer more; travel-and, travel on, &c. There are some words in

this ancient MS. which I have met nowhere else.

ANALYSIS OF THE EIGHTH PSALM

This Psalm begins and ends with a general proposition, figured

by an exclamation, which contains an admiration; for he admires

what he cannot perfectly comprehend. "O Lord our Lord, how

excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory

above the heavens." Such is the glory of thy divinity, power, and

goodness, that it fills not only the earth, but transcends the

very heavens, in which angels and blessed spirits, though they

know much more than we on earth, yet cannot comprehend thy

Majesty, which fills all and exceeds all.

This general proposition being premised, the prophet descends to

some particular instances, in which the excellence of God's name

particularly appears; and he mentions three: I. Infants. II. The

heavens, with the moon and stars. III. Man himself.

I. The excellence of God's power, divinity, and goodness,

appears in infants: "Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou

hast ordained strength." 1. The sucking of babes, and speaking of

young children, are evident demonstrations of God's excellent

name; for who taught the babe to suck, or the dumb infant to

speak, but the Lord our Governor? 2. The children that cried

"Hosanna!" in the temple, struck with the miracles of our Lord;

while the priests, through envy, were dumb. 3. Or by babes may

be meant such as the worldly-wise repute no better than children

and fools. By simple prophets, ignorant fishermen, humble

confessors, and faithful martyrs, hath he stilled the enemy and

the avenger; confounded the wisest philosophers, and stopped the

mouths of devils.

II. The next instance in which the glory and excellence of God's

name appears is the heavens, the moon and the stars: these are

the works of his fingers, and therefore called Thy heavens; whose

amplitude is great, order and orbs wonderful, beauty admirable,

matter durable, and motions various yet stable; together with the

stars, whose multitude is innumerable, magnitude vast and

various, order admirable, and influences secret and wonderful. The

varying, yet regular and constant course of the moon, her changes,

phases, and influences on the earth and the waters, on men and

other animals. All these have been ordained by the all-wise God;

and the earth and its inhabitants are receiving continual benefits

from them.

When I consider these things, then I say to myself:

III. "What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of

man, that thou visitest him?" This is the psalmist's third

instance to manifest the excellence of God's providence and

government of the world, in which he reflects upon man in his

baseness and in his dignity.

1. In his baseness, vileness, and misery, signified by the

question, What is man? As if he should say, What a poor creature?

how miserable! What except dust and ashes, as to his body, when he

was at the best; for he was taken from the dust of the ground,

even when his soul was formed in the image of God. But now

miserable dust while he lives, and to dust he shall return when he

dies. What then is this miserable creature, of what worth, that

thou, so great, and so glorious a Being, who art higher than the

heavens, shouldst visit and take care of him!

2. This is his dignity; he can know, love, serve, and enjoy thee

for ever; and thou settest thy love upon him above all other

creatures. This thou hast showed in the following ways:-

1. In visiting him, and in being mindful of him: 1. Thou

visitest him by conferring on him many temporal blessings. 2. In

illuminating his mind by thy Holy Spirit. 3. In sending him thy

law and thy Gospel, by prophets and apostles. 4. In giving

thy Son to take upon himself human nature, and to die, the just

for the unjust, that thou mightest bring him to thyself, through

whom he is to receive remission of sins, and an eternal

inheritance among the saints in light. 5. In making him, fallen

and wretched as he is, lord of thy creatures; giving him all sheep

and oxen, the beasts of the field, the fowls of heaven, and the

fish of the sea. 6. But this universal dominion belongs

principally to the Lord Jesus, through whom and by whom all good

comes to man, and to whom all glory should be given, world without

end. Let God's excellent name be exalted throughout all the earth!

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