Divine Majesty and Human Dignity

1For the leader; “upon the gittith.”* A psalm of David.

2O LORD, our Lord,

how awesome is your name through all the earth!

I will sing of your majesty above the heavens

3with the mouths of babesa and infants.*

You have established a bulwark* against your foes,

to silence enemy and avenger.*

4When 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,b

and a son of man that you care for him?c

6Yet you have made him little less than a god,*

crowned him with glory and honor.

7You have given him rule over the works of your hands,d

put all things at his feet:

8All sheep and oxen,

even the beasts of the field,

9The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,

and whatever swims the paths of the seas.

10O LORD, our Lord,

how awesome is your name through all the earth!

* [Psalm 8] While marvelling at the limitless grandeur of God (Ps 8:23), the psalmist is struck first by the smallness of human beings in creation (Ps 8:45), and then by the royal dignity and power that God has graciously bestowed upon them (Ps 8:69).

* [8:1] Upon the gittith: probably the title of the melody to which the Psalm was to be sung or a musical instrument.

* [8:3] With the mouths of babes and infants: the psalmist realizes that his attempts to praise such an awesome God are hopelessly inadequate and amount to little more than the sounds made by infants. Established a bulwark: an allusion to lost myth telling how God built a fortress for himself in the heavens in primordial times in his battle with the powers of chaos. This “bulwark” is the firmament. Enemy and avenger: probably cosmic enemies. The primeval powers of watery chaos are often personified in poetic texts (Ps 74:1314; 89:11; Jb 9:13; 26:1213; Is 51:9).

* [8:5] Man…a son of man: the emphasis is on the fragility and mortality of human beings to whom God has given great dignity.

* [8:6] Little less than a god: Hebrew ‘elohim, the ordinary word for “God” or “the gods” or members of the heavenly court. The Greek version translated ‘elohim by “angel, messenger”; several ancient and modern versions so translate. The meaning seems to be that God created human beings almost at the level of the beings in the heavenly world. Heb 2:9, translating “for a little while,” finds the eminent fulfillment of this verse in Jesus Christ, who was humbled before being glorified, cf. also 1 Cor 15:27 where St. Paul applies to Christ the closing words of Ps 8:7.

a. [8:3] Mt 21:16; Wis 10:21.

b. [8:5] Ps 144:3; Jb 7:17.

c. [8:5] Heb 2:6ff.

d. [8:7ff] Gn 1:26, 28; Wis 9:2; 1 Cor 15:27.

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