O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth! who have set your glory above the heavens.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)O Lord our Lord.—Jehovah our Lord. For the first time in the Book of Psalms the personal feeling is consciously lost sight of in a larger, a national, or possibly human feeling. The poet recognises God’s relation to the whole of mankind as to the whole material creation. Thus the hymn appropriately lent itself to the use of the congregation in public worship, though it does not follow that this was the object of its composition.
Excellent.—The LXX. and Vulg., “wonderful.” Better, great or exalted.
Who hast set . . .—The. translation of this clause is uncertain. It must be determined by the parallelism, and by the fact that the poet, in Psalm 8:4, merely expands the thought he had before expressed. There is plainly some error in the text since it is ungrammatical. The proposed emendations vary considerably. The ancient versions also disagree. The Authorised Version may be retained, since it meets all the requirements of the context, and is etymologically correct; though, grammatically, Ewald’s correction, which also agrees with the Vulg., is preferable, “Thou whose splendour is raised above the heavens.” The precise thought in the poet’s mind has also been the subject of contention. Some take the clause to refer to the praises raised in Jehovah’s honour higher than the heavens, a thought parallel to the preceding clause; others, to the visible glory spread over the sky. Others see an antithesis. God’s glory is displayed on earth in His name, His real glory is above the heavens. Probably only a general sense of the majesty of Him “that is higher than the highest” (Ecclesiastes 5:8), and “whom the heaven of heavens cannot contain” (1Kings 8:27), occupied the poet’s mind.Psalm 8:1. How excellent is thy name — That is, thy glory, as it is explained in the next clause; in all the earth — The works of creation and providence evince and proclaim to all the world that there is an infinite Being, the fountain of all being, power, and perfection; the sovereign Ruler, powerful Protector, and bountiful Benefactor of all creatures. How great, how illustrious, how magnificent is the glory of this Being in all the earth! The light of it shines in men’s faces everywhere, Romans 1:20; if they shut their eyes against it, that is their fault. There is no speech nor language, but the voice of God’s glory is heard, or may be heard in it. The psalmist, however, seems to look forward to the times of the gospel, when the name of God, which was before great in Israel only, should be made known by divine revelation to all the earth, the very ends of which are to see his great salvation. Who hast set thy glory above the heavens — Why 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, as it follows.Exodus 3:14. Compare the notes at Isaiah 1:2.
Our Lord - The word used here - אדני 'âdônay - means properly master, lord, ruler, owner, and is such a title as is given to an owner of land or of slaves, to kings, or to rulers, and is applied to God as being the ruler or governor of the universe. The meaning here is, that the psalmist acknowledged Yahweh to be the rightful ruler, king, or master of himself and of all others. He comes before him with the feeling that Yahweh is the universal ruler - the king and proprietor of all things.
How excellent is thy name - How excellent or exalted art thou - the name being often used to denote the person. The idea is," How glorious art thou in thy manifested excellence or character."
In all the earth - In all parts of the world. That is, the manifestation of his perfect character was not confined to any one country, but was seen in all lands, and among all people. In every place his true character was made known through His works; in every land there were evidences of his wisdom, his greatness, his goodness, his condescension.
Who hast set thy glory above the heavens - The word used here, and rendered "hast set," is in the imperative mood - תנה tenâh - give; and it should probably have been so rendered here, "which thy glory give thou;" that is, "which glory of thine, or implied in thy name, give or place above the heavens." In other words, let it he exalted in the highest degree, and to the highest place, even above the heavens on which he was gazing, and which were in themselves so grand, Psalm 8:3. It expresses the wish or prayer of the writer that the name or praise of God, so manifest in the earth, might be exalted in the highest possible degree - be more elevated than the moon and the stars - exalted and adored in all worlds. In His name there was such intrinsic grandeur that he desired that it might be regarded as the highest object in the universe, and might blaze forth above all worlds. On the grammatical construction of this word - תנה tenâh - see an article by Prof. Stuart, in the Bibliotheca Sacra, vol. ix. pp. 73-77. Prof. Stuart supposes that the word is not formed from נתן nâthan - to give, as is the common explanation, but from תנה tânâh - to give presents, to distribute gifts, Hosea 8:9-10, and that it should be rendered, Thou who diffusest abroad thy glory over the heavens.
Ps 8:1-9. Upon [or according to the] Gittith, probably means that the musical performance was directed to be according to a tune of that name; which, derived from Gath, a "wine-press," denotes a tune (used in connection with gathering the vintage) of a joyous character. All the Psalms to which this term is prefixed [Ps 8:1; 81:1; 84:1] are of such a character. The Psalmist gives vent to his admiration of God's manifested perfections, by celebrating His condescending and beneficent providence to man as evinced by the position of the race, as originally created and assigned a dominion over the works of His hands.
1. thy name—perfections (Ps 5:11; 7:17).
who hast set—literally, "which set Thou Thy glory," &c., or "which glory of Thine set Thou," &c., that is, make it more conspicuous as if earth were too small a theater for its display. A similar exposition suits the usual rendering.
Unable to express the glory of God, the Psalmist utters a note of exclamation. O Jehovah our Lord! We need not wonder at this, for no heart can measure, no tongue can utter, the half of the greatness of Jehovah. The whole creation is full of his glory and radiant with the excellency of his power; his goodness and his wisdom are manifested on every hand. The countless myriads of terrestrial beings, from man the head, to the creeping worm at the foot, are all supported and nourished by the Divine bounty. The solid fabric of the universe leans upon his eternal arm. Universally is he present, and everywhere is his name excellent. God worketh ever and everywhere. There is no place where God is not. The miracles of his power await us on all sides. Traverse the silent valleys where the rocks enclose you on either side, rising like the battlements of heaven till you can see but a strip of the blue sky far overhead; you may be the only traveller who has passed through that glen; the bird may start up affrighted, and the moss may tremble beneath the first tread of human foot; but God is there in a thousand wonders, upholding yon rocky barriers, filling the flowercups with their perfume, and refreshing the lonely pines with the breath of his mouth. Descend, if you will, into the lowest depths of the ocean, where undisturbed the water sleeps, and the very sand is motionless in unbroken quiet, but the glory of the Lord is there, revealing its excellence in the silent palace of the sea. Borrow the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost parts of the sea, but God is there. Mount to the highest heaven, or dive into the deepest hell, and God is in both hymned in everlasting song, or justified in terrible vengeance. Everywhere, and in every place, God dwells and is manifestly at work. Nor on earth alone is Jehovah extolled, for his brightness shines forth in the firmament above the earth. His glory exceeds the glory of the starry heavens; above the region of the stars he hath set fast his everlasting throne, and there he dwells in light ineffable. Let us adore him "who alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea; who maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south." (Job 9:8, Job 9:9.) We can scarcely find more fitting words than those of Nehemiah, "Thou even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their hosts, the earth, and all things that are therein, the seas, and all that is therein, and thou preservest them all; and the host of heaven worshippeth thee." Returning to the text we are led to observe that this Psalm is addressed to God, because none but the Lord himself can fully know his own glory. The believing heart is ravished with what it sees, but God only knows the glory of God. What a sweetness lies in the little word our, how much is God's glory endeared to us when we consider our interest in him as our Lord. How excellent is thy name! no words can express that excellency; and therefore it is left as a note of exclamation. The very name of Jehovah is excellent, what must his person be. Note the fact that even the heavens cannot contain his glory, it is set above the heavens, since it is and ever must be too great for the creature to express. When wandering amid the Alps, we felt that the Lord was infinitely greater than all his grandest works, and under that feeling we roughly wrote these few lines:-
Yet in all these how great soe'er they be,
We see not Him. The glass is all too dense
And dark, or else our earthborn eyes too dim.
Yon Alps; that lift their heads above the clouds
And hold familiar converse with the stars,
Are dust, at which the balance trembleth not,
Compared with His divine immensity.
The snow-crown'd summits fail to set Him forth,
"Who dwelleth in Eternity, and bears
Alone, the name of High and Lofty One.
Depths unfathomed are too shallow to express
The wisdom and the knowledge of the Lord.
continued...The same title is prefixed to Psalm 81:1 84:1.
how excellent is thy name in all the earth! by the "name" of God is not meant any particular name of his, by which he is called; but either himself, his nature and perfections; or rather that by which he is made known, and particularly his Gospel; see John 17:6; this is excellent in its nature, it being good news, and glad tidings of good things, which display the love, grace, mercy, and kindness of God to men, as well as his wisdom, power, truth, and faithfulness; and in the subject matter of it, Christ and his righteousness, and life and salvation by him, the spiritual blessings of grace it publishes, and the exceeding great and precious promises it contains; and in its usefulness for the enlightening, quickening, and converting sinners, and for the comforting and reviving of drooping saints. It is the glorious Gospel of the blessed God, and excels the law in glory. It cannot well be said how glorious it is; it is marvellously excellent; and that "in all the earth", being carried by the apostles, who were sent by Christ with it, into all the world; where it has shone out, and appeared gloriously to Gentiles as well as Jews. This clause shows that this is said by David prophetically of Gospel times; for not in his time, nor in any period under the Old Testament, was the name of the Lord glorious and excellent in all the earth. His name was great in Israel, but not in all the world. He showed his word, and gave his statutes and ordinances to Jacob; but as for the Gentiles, they were without them, and were strangers to the covenants of promise, Psalm 76:1; but this was true of the first times of the Gospel; and will be still more fully accomplished when the prophecies in Malachi 1:11; shall be fulfilled;
who hast set thy glory above the heavens: meaning his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, the brightness of his glory; in whom is all the fulness of the Godhead, the glory of all the divine perfections; so called Psalm 63:2; and the setting of him above the heavens designs the exaltation of him at the right hand of God; where angels, principalities, and powers, became subject to him, and he was made higher than the heavens, Hebrews 7:26. And it was in consequence, and by virtue of this, that the Gospel was spread throughout the earth; for upon Christ's exaltation the Spirit was poured down upon the apostles, and they were endowed with girls qualifying them to carry the Gospel into each of the parts of the world.O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)1. O Lord, our Lord] Jehovah, our Lord. Coverdale rightly felt the need of some audible distinction between Lord (= Jehovah) and Lord (= Adonai), when he rendered O Lorde oure Governoure. Cp. Jerome’s Domine dominator noster. How fitting is this acknowledgment of Jehovah’s sovereignty for the opening of a Psalm in which man’s delegated dominion over the world is brought into such prominence. Here, for the first time in the Psalter, the Psalmist associates others with himself in addressing Jehovah (“our Lord”). He speaks on behalf of the covenant people, hardly as yet (at any rate consciously) on behalf of all mankind. Cp. Nehemiah 10:29; Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 135:5; Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 26:13.
how excellent] Or, majestic. The word is related to that rendered honour in Psalm 8:5, and majesty in Psalm 104:1. It suggests the ideas of amplitude, splendour, magnificence. Cp. Psalm 76:4; Psalm 93:4 (A.V. mighty).
thy name] That expression of Thyself in the works of Creation and Providence by which Thy character may be recognised. Cp. Psalm 5:11.
Who hast set] “The Hebrew,” as the margin of the R.V. candidly notes, “is obscure.” The word, as vocalised in the Massoretic Text, is imperative, ‘set thou’: but the construction would be unparalleled, and a prayer for the manifestation of God’s glory in the heavens would be out of place, for it is already manifested there. No satisfactory explanation can be offered without some alteration of the text. Changing the vowels we may render, ‘Thou whose glory is spread over the heavens,’ (cp. Habakkuk 3:3): or, ‘Thou whose glory is celebrated above the heavens.’ Cp. the LXX, ‘Thy magnificence is exalted above the heavens’ (ἐπήρθη ἡ μεγαλοπρεπία σου ὑπεράνω τῶν οὐρανῶν). But it seems best to make the slight change of consonants required for the rendering of the A.V., which gives an excellent sense, and is supported by the Targum, Syriac, Symmachus, and Jerome, among the ancient versions. Jehovah has set His glory upon the heavens (so R.V. rightly, though retaining above in the marg.), clothed them with a glory which is the reflection and manifestation of His own (Psalm 104:1). Cp. the uses of the phrase in Numbers 27:20; 1 Chronicles 29:25; Daniel 11:21; and a similar phrase in Psalm 21:5.
The connexion of the clause has still to be considered. It may be joined with the preceding invocation, and a full stop placed at the end of the verse as in A.V.: or it may be taken in close connexion with Psalm 8:2 :
Thou who hast set thy glory upon the heavens,
Out of the mouth of children and sucklings hast thou founded strength.
This construction seems preferable; for it leaves the opening invocation to stand by itself as it does at the close of the Psalm (Psalm 8:9): it emphasises the contrast between Jehovah’s revelation of Himself in the splendour of the heavens, and His revelation of Himself in the weakest specimens of humanity, which, paradox as it may seem, is not less but more significant and convincing; and thus it brings out the parallelism between the last clause of Psalm 8:1 and Psalm 8:3, and between Psalm 8:2 and Psalm 8:4 ff. But however we punctuate, Psalm 8:2 must not be disconnected from Psalm 8:1.
1, 2. The fundamental thought and motive of the Psalm:—the revelation of Jehovah’s majesty on earth.Verse 1. - O Lord our Lord. In the original, Jehovah Adoneynu; i.e. "Jehovah, who art our sovereign Lord and Master." As David is here the mouthpiece of humanity, praising God for mercies common to all men, he uses the plural pronoun instead of the singular one. How excellent is thy Name in all the earth! or, "How glorious is thy Name!" (Kay, Cheyne). Who hast set thy glory above the heavens. It is difficult to obtain this sense from the present Hebrew text; but some corruption of the text is suspected. Isaiah 66:14; Malachi 1:4. He makes these feel His זעם beforehand in order to strike a wholesome terror into them. The subject of the conditional clause אם־לא ישׁוּב is any ungodly person whatever; and the subject of the principal clause, as its continuation in Psalm 7:14 shows, is God. If a man (any one) does not repent, then Jahve will whet His sword (cf. Deuteronomy 32:41). This sense of the words accords with the connection; whereas with the rendering: "forsooth He (Elohim) will again whet His sword" (Bttch., Ew., Hupf.) ישׁוּב, which would moreover stand close by ילטושׁ (cf. e.g., Genesis 30:31), is meaningless; and the אם־לא of asseveration is devoid of purpose. Judgment is being gradually prepared, as the fut. implies; but, as the perff. imply, it is also on the other hand like a bow that is already strung against the sinner with the arrow pointed towards him, so that it can be executed at any moment. כּונן of the making ready, and הכין of the aiming, are used alternately. לו, referring to the sinner, stands first by way of emphasis as in Genesis 49:10; 1 Samuel 2:3, and is equivalent to אליו, Ezekiel 4:3. "Burning" arrows are fire-arrows (זקּים, זיקות, malleoli); and God's fire-arrows are the lightnings sent forth by Him, Psalm 18:15; Zechariah 9:14. The fut. יפעל denotes the simultaneous charging of the arrows aimed at the sinner, with the fire of His wrath. The case illustrated by Cush is generalised: by the sword and arrows the manifold energy of the divine anger is symbolised, and it is only the divine forbearance that prevents it from immediately breaking forth. The conception is not coarsely material, but the vividness of the idea of itself suggests the form of its embodiment.
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