Psalm 8:3
When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
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(3) When I consider.—Literally, see, scan.

Ordained.—Or, as in margin, foundedi.e., created, formed; but the English word aptly introduces the idea of order in the kosmos. Comp.:—

“Know the cause why music was ordained?


In our humid climate we can hardly imagine the brilliance of an Eastern night. “There,” writes one of a night in Palestine, “it seems so, bearing down upon our heads with power are the steadfast splendours of that midnight sky;” but, on the other hand, the fuller revelations of astronomy do more than supply the place of this splendour, in filling us with amazement and admiration at the vast spaces the stars fill, and their mighty movements in their measured orbits.

Psalm 8:3-4. When I consider thy heavens — Thine by creation, as it follows; the work of thy fingers — Of thy hands, as it is expressed Psalm 102:25, a part being here put for the whole, and God’s hand and finger being indifferently used to denote his power, Exodus 8:19; Luke 11:20. The moon and stars which thou hast ordained — Hebrew כוננתה, chonantah, hast established, directed, or disposed; that is, placed in such admirable and unalterable order, and directed to their several motions, courses, and uses. At the time of enditing this Psalm, David seems to have had before his eyes the heavens, as they appear by night, and therefore does not notice the sun, but only mentions the moon and stars, which, though not altogether so serviceable to man as the sun, yet are no less demonstrations of the wisdom, power, and goodness of the Creator. What is man! — How mean and inconsiderable a thing is man if compared with these thy other works, and especially with thy own glorious majesty, whose infinite wisdom and power thus shine forth from the structure of the heavens! when we consider how the glory of God shines in the upper world, we may well wonder he should regard or take any notice of so mean a creature as man; that he who is resident in, and president over, that bright and blessed part of the creation, should so much humble himself as to behold the things done on earth, Psalm 113:5-6. Again, when we consider of what great use the heavens are to men on earth, and how the lights of heaven are divided unto all nations, we may well say, Lord, what is man, that thou shouldst settle the ordinances of heaven with an eye to him and to his benefit; and that his comfort and convenience should be so much consulted in the making of the lights of heaven, and directing their motions?

But the Hebrew מה אנושׁ, mah enosh, means, What is infirm, or miserable man! By which it is apparent that he speaks of man, not according to his condition when first created, but as fallen into a state of sin, and misery, and mortality. That thou art mindful of him — Takest cognizance of him and of his actions and affairs, and carest for him, and conferrest such favours upon him. And the son of man — Hebrew, אדם בן, ben Adam, the son of Adam, that great apostate from, and rebel against thee, 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 in and with thy grace and mercy? dost not only feed and clothe him, protect and provide for him, in common with other creatures, but even visitest him as one friend visits another, conversest with him, and showest thyself to be infinitely concerned for his salvation and happiness, and providest so richly and graciously for his attainment of these blessings. What is man, so mean a creature, that he should be thus honoured; so sinful a creature, that he should be thus countenanced and favoured? Thus the psalmist, having before his eyes “the awful magnificence of the wide extended firmament, adorned by the moon walking in brightness, and rendered brilliant by the vivid lustre of a multitude of shining orbs, differing from each other in magnitude and splendour;” and turning from the survey of this beauty of the heavens with their glorious show, “to take a view of the creature man, is still more affected by the mercy than he had before been by the majesty of the Lord; since far less wonderful it is that God should make such a world as this than that he who made such a world should be mindful of man in his fallen estate, and should visit human nature with his salvation.” — Horne.

8:3-9 We are to consider the heavens, that man thus may be directed to set his affections on things above. What is man, so mean a creature, that he should be thus honoured! so sinful a creature, that he should be thus favoured! Man has sovereign dominion over the inferior creatures, under God, and is appointed their lord. This refers to Christ. In Heb 2:6-8, the apostle, to prove the sovereign dominion of Christ, shows he is that Man, that Son of man, here spoken of, whom God has made to have dominion over the works of his hands. The greatest favour ever showed to the human race, and the greatest honour ever put upon human nature, were exemplified in the Lord Jesus. With good reason does the psalmist conclude as he began, Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth, which has been honoured with the presence of the Redeemer, and is still enlightened by his gospel, and governed by his wisdom and power! What words can reach his praises, who has a right to our obedience as our Redeemer?

Psalm 8:3When I consider thy heavens - When I contemplate or look upon. They are called his heavens because he made them - because he is the proprietor of them - perhaps because they are his abode.

The work of thy fingers - Which thy fingers have made. The fingers are the instruments by which we construct a piece of work - perhaps indicating skill rather than strength; and hence so used in respect to God, as it is by his skill that the heavens have been made.

The moon and the stars - Showing, as remarked above, that probably this psalm, was composed at night, or that the train of thought was suggested by the contemplation of the starry worlds. It is not improbable that the thoughts occurred to the psalmist when meditating on the signal honor which God had conferred on him, a feeble man (see the notes at Psalm 8:2), and when his thoughts were at the same time directed to the goodness of God as the heavens were contemplated in their silent grandeur.


3, 4. The allusion to the magnificence of the visible heavens is introduced for the purpose of illustrating God's condescension, who, though the mighty Creator of these glorious worlds of light, makes man the object of regard and recipient of favor.3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;

4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him.? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

At the close of that excellent little manual entitled "The Solar System," written by Dr. Dick, we find an eloquent passage which beautifully expounds the text: - A survey of the solar system has a tendency to moderate the pride of man and to promote humility. Pride is one of the distinguishing characteristics of puny man, and has been one of the chief causes of all the contentions, wars, devastations, systems of slavery, and ambitious projects which have desolated and demoralized our sinful world. Yet there is no disposition more incongruous to the character and circumstance of man. Perhaps there are no rational beings throughout the universe among whom pride would appear more unseemly or incompatible than in man, considering the situation in which he is placed, He is exposed to numerous degradations and calamities, to the rage of storms and tempests, the devastations of earthquakes and volcanoes, the fury of whirlwinds, and the tempestuous billows of the ocean, to the ravages of the sword, famine, pestilence, and numerous diseases; and at length he must sink into the grave, and his body must become the companion of worms! The most dignified and haughty of the sons of men are liable to these and similar degradations as well as the meanest of the human family. Yet, in such circumstances, man - that puny worm of the dust, whose knowledge is so limited, and whose follies are so numerous and glaring - has the effrontery to strut in all the haughtiness of pride, and to glory in his shame.

When other arguments and motives produce little effect on certain minds, no considerations seem likely to have a more powerful tendency to counteract this deplorable propensity in human beings, than those which are borrowed from the objects connected with astronomy. They show us what an insignificant being - what a mere atom, indeed, man appears amidst the immensity of creation! Though he is an object of the paternal care and mercy of the Most High, yet he is but as a grain of sand to the whole earth, when compared to the countless myriads of beings that people the amplitudes of creation. What is the whole of this globe on which we dwell compared with the solar system, which contains a mass of matter ten thousand times greater? What is it in comparison of the hundred millions of suns and worlds which by the telescope have been described throughout the starry regions? What, then, is a kingdom, a province, or a baronial territory, of which we are as proud as if we were the lords of the universe and for which we engage in so much devastation and carnage? What are they, when set in competition with the glories of the sky? Could we take our station on the lofty pinnacles of heaven, and look down on this scarcely distinguishable speck of earth, we should be ready to exclaim with Seneca, "Is it to this little spot that the great designs and vast desires of men are confined? Is it for this there is so much disturbance of nations, so much carnage, and so many ruinous wars? Oh, the folly of deceived men, to imagine great kingdoms in the compass of an atom, to raise armies to decide a point of earth with the sword!" Dr. Chalmers, in his Astronomical Discourses, very truthfully says, "We gave you but a feeble image of our comparative insignificance, when we said that the glories of an extended forest would suffer no more from the fall of a single leaf, than the glories of this extended universe would suffer though the globe we tread upon, 'and all that it inherits, should dissolve.'"

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.

When I consider thy heavens,.... Where God dwells, and which he has made; the airy and starry heavens, which are to be seen with the bodily eye; and the heaven of heavens, which is to be beheld and considered by faith:

the work of thy fingers; being curiously wrought by his power, and garnished by his Spirit: for the finger of God is the Spirit of God; see Matthew 12:28; compared with Luke 11:20;

the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained, or "prepared" (h), for various uses to the earth, and the inhabitants of it. The sun is not mentioned, because it cannot be looked upon, as the moon and the stars may, nor be seen when they are. And it is generally thought that David composed this psalm in the night, When these celestial bodies were in view; and, it may be, while he was keeping his father's sheep, since, in the enumeration of the creatures subject to man, sheep are mentioned first, as being in view, Psalm 8:7. The heavenly bodies are very glorious creatures, and are worthy of the consideration and contemplation of man, and even of a saint; whereby he may be led to observe the wisdom, power, goodness, and greatness of God.

(h) "praeparasti", Pagninus, Montanus; "parasti", Musculus, Piscator, Gejerus, Michaelis.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
3. thy heavens] The heavens as created by God and manifesting His glory. Cp. Psalm 89:11; Job 36:29; Job 38:33; Isaiah 40:26.

It is of the sky at night that the Psalmist is thinking, for he does not mention the sun; and unquestionably the star-lit sky, especially in the transparent clearness of an Eastern atmosphere, is more suggestive of the vastness and variety and mystery of the universe. See the eloquent passage from Whewell’s Astronomy, Book iii. ch. 3, quoted by Bp. Perowne.

the work of thy fingers] The deft workmanship of a skilful artificer supplies a figure for the creative operations of God. Cp. Psalm 19:1; Psalm 102:25.

3, 4. The contemplation of the heavens in all their splendour forces the Psalmist to wonder that God should choose so insignificant a thing as man for the object of His special regard.

Verse 3. - When I consider thy heavens (comp. Psalm 19:1; Psalm 33:6; Psalm 104:2). David, in his shepherd-life, had had abundant opportunity of "considering the heavens," and had evidently scanned them with the eye of a poet and an intense admirer of nature. It is probably in remembrance of the nights when he watched his father's flock, that he makes no mention of the sun, but only of "the moon and the stars." The work of thy fingers; and therefore "thy heavens." Often as the "hand of God" is mentioned in Scripture, it is but very rarely that we hear of his "finger" or "fingers." So far as I am aware, the only places are Exodus 8:19; Exodus 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10; and Luke 11:20. The moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained (comp. Genesis 1:16). Psalm 8:3(Heb.: 8:4-6) Stier wrongly translates: For I shall behold. The principal thought towards which the rest tends is Psalm 8:5 (parallel are Psalm 8:2 a, 3), and consequently Psalm 8:4 is the protasis (par., Psalm 8:2), and כּי accordingly is equals quum, quando, in the sense of quoties. As often as he gazes at the heavens which bear upon themselves the name of God in characters of light (wherefore he says שׁמיך), the heavens with their boundless spaces (an idea which lies in the plur. שׁמים) extending beyond the reach of mortal eye, the moon (ירח, dialectic ורח, perhaps, as Maurer derives it, from ירח equals ירק subflavum esse), and beyond this the innumerable stars which are lost in infinite space (כּוכבים equals כּבכּבים prop. round, ball-shaped, spherical bodies) to which Jahve appointed their fixed place on the vault of heaven which He has formed with all the skill of His creative wisdom (כּונן to place and set up, in the sense of existence and duration): so often does the thought "what is mortal man...?" increase in power and intensity. The most natural thought would be: frail, puny man is as nothing before all this; but this thought is passed over in order to celebrate, with grateful emotion and astonished adoration, the divine love which appears in all the more glorious light, - a love which condescends to poor man, the dust of earth. Even if אנושׁ does not come from אנשׁ to be fragile, nevertheless, according to the usage of the language, it describes man from the side of his impotence, frailty, and mortality (vid., Psalm 103:15; Isaiah 51:12, and on Genesis 4:26). בּן־אדם, also, is not without a similar collateral reference. With retrospective reference to עוללים וינקים, בּן־אדם is equivalent to ילוּד־אשּׁה in Job 14:1 : man, who is not, like the stars, God's directly creative work, but comes into being through human agency born of woman. From both designations it follows that it is the existing generation of man that is spoken of. Man, as we see him in ourselves and others, this weak and dependent being is, nevertheless, not forgotten by God, God remembers him and looks about after him (פּקד of observing attentively, especially visitation, and with the accus. it is generally used of lovingly provident visitation, e.g., Jeremiah 15:15). He does not leave him to himself, but enters into personal intercourse with him, he is the special and favoured object whither His eye turns (cf. Psalm 144:3, and the parody of the tempted one in Job 7:17.).

It is not until Psalm 8:6 that the writer glances back at creation. ותּחסּרהוּ (differing from the fut. consec. Job 7:18) describes that which happened formerly. חסּר מן signifies to cause to be short of, wanting in something, to deprive any one of something (cf. Ecclesiastes 4:8). מן is here neither comparative (paullo inferiorem eum fecisti Deo), nor negative (paullum derogasti ei, ne esset Deus), but partitive (paullum derogasti ei divinae naturae); and, without אלהים being on that account an abstract plural, paullum Deorum, equals Dei (vid., Genesis S. 66f.), is equivalent to paullum numinis Deorum. According to Genesis 1:27 man is created בּצלם אלהים, he is a being in the image of God, and, therefore, nearly a divine being. But when God says: "let us make man in our image after our likeness," He there connects Himself with the angels. The translation of the lxx ἠλάττωσας αὐτὸν βραχύ τι παρ ̓ ἀγγέλους, with which the Targum and the prevailing Jewish interpretations also harmonize, is, therefore, not unwarranted. Because in the biblical mode of conception the angels are so closely connected with God as the nearest creaturely effulgence of His nature, it is really possible that in מאלהים David may have thought of God including the angels. Since man is in the image of God, he is at the same time in the likeness of an angel, and since he is only a little less than divine, he is also only a little less than angelic. The position, somewhat exalted above the angels, which he occupies by being the bond between all created things, in so far as mind and matter are united in him, is here left out of consideration. The writer has only this one thing in his mind, that man is inferior to God, who is רוּח, and to the angels who are רוּחות (Isaiah 31:3; Hebrews 1:14) in this respect, that he is a material being, and on this very account a finite and mortal being; as Theodoret well and briefly observes: τῷ θνητῷ τῶν ἀγγέλων ἠλάττωται. This is the מעט in which whatever is wanting to him to make him a divine being is concentrated. But it is nothing more than מעט. The assertion in Psalm 8:6 refers to the fact of the nature of man being in the image of God, and especially to the spirit breathed into him from God; Psalm 8:6, to his godlike position as ruler in accordance with this his participation in the divine nature: honore ac decore coronasti eum. כּבוד is the manifestation of glory described from the side of its weightiness and fulness; הוד (cf. הד, הידד) from the side of its far resounding announcement of itself (vid., on Job 39:20); הדר from the side of its brilliancy, majesty, and beauty. הוד והדר, Psalm 96:6, or also הדר כּבור הוד ה, Psalm 145:5, is the appellation of the divine doxa, with the image of which man is adorned as with a regal crown. The preceding fut. consec. also stamps תּעטּרהוּ and תּמשׁילהוּ as historical retrospects. The next strophe unfolds the regal glory of man: he is the lord of all things, the lord of all earthly creatures.

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