Psalm 8 – Hymn of Hierarchy

Hebrew-English Text
I. Summary
The psalmist proclaims God’s dominion over man and man’s dominion over the world.

II. Photo
The psalmist is in awe: “When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You set in place, what is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him?” (vv. 4-5)

III. Select Verses    
4-9: When I behold Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and stars that You set in place, what is man that You have been mindful of him, mortal man that You have taken note of him, that You have made him little less than divine, and adorned him with glory and majesty; You have made him master over Your handiwork, laying the world at his feet, sheep and oxen, all of them, and wild beasts, too; the birds of the heavens, the fish of the sea, whatever travels the paths of the seas.

IV. Outline
1. Superscription
2a. Invocation
2b. Hymnic praise: God’s name abounds
3. Hymnic imprecation
4-5. Proclamation of hierarchy: God is above man
6-9. Proclamation of hierarchy: Man rules God’s world
10. Hymnic praise: God’s name abounds

V. Comment
Psalm 8 has many elements of the hymn genre. As Craigie writes, the hymn proper (vv. 4-9) has the following message: “Though the universe is vast and imparts to mankind a sense of smallness and insignificance (vv 4–5), nevertheless God has given to mankind a position of extraordinary strength within the universe (vv 6–9).”

VI. Works Used
(see “Commentaries” page)
Collins, John J. “Introduction to the Hebrew Bible,” (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2004).
Craigie, Peter C. “Psalms 1-50” Word Biblical Commentary vol. 19 (Waco, Texas: Wordbooks, 1983).
Gerstenberger, Erhard S. “Psalms Part 1 with an Introduction to Cultic Poetry” Forms of Old Testament Literature (Michigan: Eerdmans, 1988).
Photo copied from http://www.darkskyscotland.org.uk/schools/star-gazing.jpg

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