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Psalm 8 – What Are Human Beings That You Are Mindful of Them?

Summary

God and God's creation are majestic and awesome, sometimes making humans feel puny and insignificant. Yet God thinks otherwise: God has created humans, too, with glory and honor.

Analysis

This short hymn is surrounded by an inclusio that praises the majesty of God's name. The "name" of God surrounds the pray-er in the psalm, just as God's presence surrounds the community in the temple as they sing this psalm.

"What are human beings that you are mindful of them?" wonders the poet at the heart of this psalm--a sentiment familiar to all as they contemplate the vast heavens. But the psalm offers hope and promise, because heavens and humans are made by the same loving Creator. Indeed, God has made humans "a little lower than God" (NRSV)--though the NIV's "a little lower than the heavenly beings" may be a better translation of the Hebrew.

Because of the "glory and honor" given them by God, humans "have dominion" over the works of God's creation (vv. 6-8). It does remain God's creation, however ("the works of your hands"), so "dominion" cannot mean the authority to do whatever humans want to do. In fact, in the Psalter we learn the best sense of "dominion"--not exploitation, but the kind of rule that "delivers the needy," "has pity on the weak," and ensures "abundance of grain in the land" for all (Psalm 72:8; see vv. 12-13, 16). Only exercising that kind of servant-dominion can qualify as God-pleasing.

Psalm 8

Divine Majesty and Human Dignity

To the leader: according to The Gittith. A Psalm of David.
1Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!


You have set your glory above the heavens.
2   Out of the mouths of babes and infants
you have founded a bulwark because of your foes,
   to silence the enemy and the avenger.


3 When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
   the moon and the stars that you have established;
4 what are human beings that you are mindful of them,
   mortals* that you care for them?


5 Yet you have made them a little lower than God,*
   and crowned them with glory and honour.
6 You have given them dominion over the works of your hands;
   you have put all things under their feet,
7 all sheep and oxen,
   and also the beasts of the field,
8 the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea,
   whatever passes along the paths of the seas.


9Lord, our Sovereign,
   how majestic is your name in all the earth!

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10 February 2011

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