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Psalms 8:4-8

Context

8:4 Of what importance is the human race, 1  that you should notice 2  them?

Of what importance is mankind, 3  that you should pay attention to them, 4 

8:5 and make them a little less than the heavenly beings? 5 

You grant mankind 6  honor and majesty; 7 

8:6 you appoint them to rule over your creation; 8 

you have placed 9  everything under their authority, 10 

8:7 including all the sheep and cattle,

as well as the wild animals, 11 

8:8 the birds in the sky, the fish in the sea

and everything that moves through the currents 12  of the seas.

1 tn Heb “What is man[kind]?” The singular noun אֱנוֹשׁ (’enosh, “man”) is used here in a collective sense and refers to the human race.

2 tn Heb “remember him.”

3 tn Heb “and the son of man.” The phrase “son of man” is used here in a collective sense and refers to human beings. For other uses of the phrase in a collective or representative manner, see Num 23:19; Ps 146:3; Isa 51:12.

4 tn The two imperfect verbal forms in v. 4 describe God’s characteristic activity.

5 tn Heb “and you make him lack a little from [the] gods [or “God”].” The Piel form of חָסַר (khasar, “to decrease, to be devoid”) is used only here and in Eccl 4:8, where it means “to deprive, to cause to be lacking.” The prefixed verbal form with vav (ו) consecutive either carries on the characteristic nuance of the imperfect in v. 5b or indicates a consequence (“so that you make him…”) of the preceding statement (see GKC 328 §111.m). Some prefer to make this an independent clause and translate it as a new sentence, “You made him….” In this case the statement might refer specifically to the creation of the first human couple, Adam and Eve (cf. Gen 1:26-27). The psalmist does appear to allude to Gen 1:26-27, where mankind is created in the image of God and his angelic assembly (note “let us make man in our image” in Gen 1:26). However, the psalmist’s statement need not be limited in its focus to that historical event, for all mankind shares the image imparted to the first human couple. Consequently the psalmist can speak in general terms of the exalted nature of mankind. The referent of אֱלֹהִים (’elohim, “God” or “the heavenly beings”) is unclear. Some understand this as a reference to God alone, but the allusion to Gen 1:26-27 suggests a broader referent, including God and the other heavenly beings (known in other texts as “angels”). The term אֱלֹהִים is also used in this way in Gen 3:5, where the serpent says to the woman, “you will be like the heavenly beings who know good and evil.” (Note Gen 3:22, where God says, “the man has become like one of us.”) Also אֱלֹהִים may refer to the members of the heavenly assembly in Ps 82:1, 6. The LXX (the ancient Greek translation of the OT) reads “angels” in Ps 8:5 (this is the source of the quotation of Ps 8:5 in Heb 2:7).

6 tn Heb “you crown him [with].” The imperfect verbal forms in this and the next line describe God’s characteristic activity.

7 sn Honor and majesty. These terms allude to mankind’s royal status as God’s vice-regents (cf. v. 6 and Gen 1:26-30).

8 tn Heb “you cause [i.e., “permit, allow”] him to rule over the works of your hands.”

9 tn The perfect verbal form probably has a present perfect nuance here. It refers to the continuing effects of God’s original mandate (see Gen 1:26-30).

10 tn Heb “under his feet.”

sn Placed everything under their authority. This verse affirms that mankind rules over God’s creation as his vice-regent. See Gen 1:26-30.

11 tn Heb “and also the beasts of the field.”

12 tn Heb “paths.”



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