Matthew Poole's Commentary
To the chief Musician upon Gittith, A Psalm of David. O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.The same title is prefixed to Psalm 81:1 84:1.
Gittith also is supposed to be the name of a tune, or song, or instrument so called, because it was either invented or much used in Gath. Some render it for the wine-presses and say it was to be sung at the time of vintage.
It is a great question among interpreters, whether this Psalm speak of man in general, and of the honour which God put upon him in his creation; or only of the man Christ Jesus. Possibly both may be reconciled and put together, and the controversy, if rightly stated, may be ended. For the scope and business of this Psalm seems plainly to be this, to display and celebrate the great love and kindness of God to mankind, not only in his creation, but also and especially in his redemption by Jesus Christ; whom, as he was man, he advanced to the honour and dominion here mentioned, that he might carry on that great and glorious work. So Christ is the principal subject of this Psalm, of whom it is interpreted, both by Christ himself, Matthew 21:16, and by his holy apostle, 1 Corinthians 15:27 Hebrews 2:6,7.
David extolleth the majesty, power, and providence of God in the world, Psalm 8:1-3; and his love and kindness to mankind, Psalm 8:4,5, in giving him power over the earth, Psalm 8:6,7, the air, and the sea, Psalm 8:8,9.
Thy name, i.e. thy fame or glory, as it is explained in the next clause, and as the name commonly signifies, as Genesis 6:4 Ecclesiastes 7:1 Philippians 2:9. And this glory of God is most eminent in the gospel and the work of redemption.
In all the earth; not only in Israel, to which the name and knowledge of God was confined, Psalm 76:1 2 147:19, but among all nations; which shows that this Psalm speaks of the Messias, and the times of the New Testament. See Isaiah 40:5 Malachi 1:5, &c.
Who hast set thy glory above the heavens. What do I speak of the earth? thy glory or praise reacheth to the heavens, and indeed above all the visible heavens, even to the heaven of heavens; where thy throne of glory is established, where the blessed angels celebrate thy praises, where Christ sitteth at thy right hand in glorious majesty, from whence he poureth down excellent gifts upon babes, &c., as it followeth.
Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.Babes and sucklings; either,
1. Properly such; for there is much of God’s glory seen in infants, in their conception and strange progress from small and contemptible beginnings, in their preservation and nourishment in the dark cell of the womb, in their bringing forth and bringing up, in providing breasts and milk for them, and keeping them from innumerable dangers, from which they are utterly unable to keep themselves. But this, though it sets forth God’s praise, yet how it stills the enemy and avenger seems not clear. Or rather,
2. Metaphorically so called, babes not so much in age and years, as in disposition and condition; weak, and foolish, and contemptible, and harmless persons, who are very frequently called babes or children, as 2 Chronicles 13:7 Proverbs 1:4 Ecclesiastes 10:6 Isaiah 3:4 Matthew 18:3 Ephesians 4:14, &c. For such are very unfit to grapple with an enemy; and therefore when such persons conquer the most powerful and malicious enemies, it must needs exceedingly confound and silence them, and mightily advance the glory of God; as indeed it did, when such mean and obscure persons as the apostles, and ministers, and disciples of Christ were, did maintain and propagate the gospel in spite of all the wit, and power, and rage of their enemies. See 1 Corinthians 1:25,27-29. And of such babes as these Christ himself expounds this place, Matthew 21:16; of which more, God willing, upon that place.
Hast thou ordained strength; or, thou hast founded (or confirmed, or established, or firmly settled, or fitted, or perfected, as it is rendered by the LXX. and vulgar Latin here, and by St. Matthew, Matthew 21:16, i.e. perfectly or firmly settled) strength; by which he seems to understand either,
1. The celebration or praise of his strength or power, by comparing this with Matthew 21:16; where it is rendered praise. So it is only a metonymy of the adjunct, which is most frequent in Scripture and all authors. And so the word strength seems to be taken Psalm 29:1 96:7. Or,
2. A strong and mighty kingdom; the abstract being put for the concrete, than which nothing is more frequent; even the kingdom of Christ, or his gospel, which is oft called the arm or power of God, as Psalm 110:2 Isaiah 53:1 1 Corinthians 1:18,24. And this kingdom being an everlasting, and invincible, and all conquering kingdom, Daniel 2:44, it is no wonder it is here called strength. And this gospel or kingdom is here said to be founded or established, not by the hands or valiant actions of men of might, as other kingdoms are; but merely by the mouths of babes, &c., i.e. by the words and discourses of Christ’s apostles and disciples; which is justly observed and celebrated here as a wonderful work of God.
That thou mightest still, i.e. silence, and confound, and conquer, either by convincing and converting them, or by destroying them.
The enemy; the enemies of God and of his people, the devil, the head of them, whose kingdom and power is abolished by this means, and all men who fight under his banner against God and Christ and his members. The avenger; which title most truly and fitly agrees, first to the devil, who being sentenced by God to eternal flames, and conquered and tormented by Christ, maketh it his great business to revenge himself, which because he cannot do upon God and Christ, he endeavours to do it upon their servants and children; and next to all these men who are his vassals and espouse his quarrel; who also are provoked, and conceive, though falsely, that they are injured by the gospel, and by the preachers, professors, and practisers of it, and therefore seek to revenge themselves of them; whereof we have an eminent instance, Revelation 11:10. Compare Hebrews 11:37.
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;Thy heavens; thine by creation, as it follows.
Of thy fingers. i.e. of thy hand, as it is expressed, Psalm 102:25; a part being here put for the whole; God’s hand and finger being indifferently used to note his power, as Exodus 8:19 Luke 11:20, &c. Though some conceive that by this phrase he intended to signify both with what facility God made this glorious work, even with a touch of his finger; and with what curious and exquisite- artifice he framed it; the fingers being much used in such works.
The moon and the stars: either the sun is included under this general title, or he omitted it because he made this Psalm by night, when the sun did not fall within his contemplation.
Which thou hast ordained, or established, or directed, or disposed, or ordered, i.e. placed in that excellent and unalterable order, and directed to all their several courses or motions.
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?What, i.e. how mean and inconsiderable a thing is man, if compared with thy glorious Majesty, who art so infinite in power and wisdom, as thou hast showed in the frame of the heavens, &c. Man, Heb. infirm or miserable man; by which it is apparent that he speaks of man, not according to the state of his creation, but as fallen into a state of sin, and misery, and mortality.
Art mindful of him, i.e. carest for him, and conferrest such high favours upon him.
The son of man, Heb. the son of Adam, that great apostate from and rebel against God, the sinful son of a sinful father, his son by likeness of disposition and manners, no less than by procreation; all which tends to magnify the following mercy.
That thou visitest him; not in anger, as that word is sometimes used, but with thy grace and mercy, as it is taken, Genesis 21:1 Exodus 4:31 Psalm 65:9 106:4 144:3.
For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.Thou hast in and through Christ mercifully and wonderfully restored man to his primitive and happy estate, in which he was but one remove below the angels; from which he was fallen by sin.
Hast crowned him, i.e. man, fallen and lost man; who is indeed actually crowned and restored to the glory and dominion here following, not in his own person, but in Christ his Head and Representative, who received this crown and dominion, not so much for himself, who did not need it, as for man’s good and in his stead; which also he will in due time communicate unto all his members. And so the two differing expositions of this place concerning mankind and concerning Christ may be reconciled. For he speaks of that happy and honourable estate by God’s favour conferred first upon Christ, of whom therefore this place is rightly expounded, Hebrews 2:6-8; and then by his hands upon mankind, even upon all that believe in him. And so this whole place compared with that may be thus paraphrased: What is man, that thou shouldst mind or Visit him by thy Son, whom thou hast sent into the world! who, that he might restore man to that happy and glorious estate, which was but a little below that of the angels, was pleased to take upon him man’s miserable and mortal nature, and thereby to make himself (who was far above all angels, even their Lord and God) lower than the angels, mortal and miserable, for a little time; after which he was advanced to the highest honour, and to a universal dominion over all God’s works, the angels not excepted.
Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet:Thou didst give all power and all things into his hands, Matthew 28:18 John 13:3.
Thou hast put all things, both in heaven, where are the angels mentioned Psalm 8:5, and in the earth, air, and sea, as it follows; for nothing is excepted besides God, 1 Corinthians 15:25,27 Heb 2:8.
Under his feet, i.e. made them subject to him, as this phrase oft signifies. See Deu 33:3 Judges 5:27 Psalm 18:38 110:1.
All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;All sheep and oxen; here is no perfect enumeration, but under these are comprehended all other beasts, and much more men and angels.
The beasts of the field, i.e. the wild beasts; which together with divers fowls and fishes were subject to Christ, and are governed and employed as it pleaseth him; although many of them be without the reach and are not brought under the, power of any other man.
The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.No text from Poole on this verse.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!No text from Poole on this verse.