When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have ordained;
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)When I consider.—Literally, see, scan.
Ordained.—Or, as in margin, founded—i.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.
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.
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.
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.When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)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). Job 15:35. The act, guilt, and punishment of sin appear in general as notions that run into one another. David sees in the sin of his enemies their self-destruction. It is singular, that travail is first spoken of, and then only afterwards pregnancy. For חבּל signifies, as in Sol 8:5, ὠδίνειν, not: to conceive (Hitz.). The Arab. ḥabila (synonym of ḥamala) is not to conceive in distinction from being pregnant, but it is both: to be and to become pregnant. The accentuation indicates the correct relationship of the three members of the sentence. First of all comes the general statement: Behold he shall travail with, i.e., bring forth with writhing as in the pains of labour, און, evil, as the result which proceeds from his wickedness. Then, by this thought being divided into its two factors (Hupf.) it goes on to say: that is, he shall conceive (concipere) עמל, and bear שׁקר. The former signifies trouble, molestia, just as πονηρία signifies that which makes πόνον; the latter falsehood, viz., self-deception, delusion, vanity, inasmuch as the burden prepared for others, returns as a heavy and oppressive burden upon the sinner himself, as is said in Psalm 7:17; cf. Isaiah 59:4, where און instead of שׁקר denotes the accursed wages of sin which consist in the unmasking of its nothingness, and in the undeceiving of its self-delusion. He diggeth a pit for himself, is another turn of the same thought, Psalm 57:7; Ecclesiastes 10:8. Psalm 7:16 mentions the digging, and Psalm 7:16 the subsequent falling into the pit; the aorist ויּפּל is, for instance, like Psalm 7:13, Psalm 16:9; Psalm 29:10. The attributive יפעל is virtually a genitive to שׁחת, and is rightly taken by Ges. 124, 3, a as present: in the midst of the execution of the work of destruction prepared for others it becomes his own. The trouble, עמל, prepared for others returns upon his own head (בּראשׁו, clinging to it, just as על־ראשׁו signifies descending and resting upon it), and the violence, חמס, done to others, being turned back by the Judge who dwells above (Micah 1:12), descends upon his own pate (קדקדו with o by q, as e.g., in Genesis 2:23). Thus is the righteousness of God revealed in wrath upon the oppressor and in mercy upon him who is innocently oppressed. Then will the rescued one, then will David, give thanks unto Jahve, as is due to Him after the revelation of His righteousness, and will sing of the name of Jahve the Most High (עליון as an appended name of God is always used without the art., e.g., Psalm 57:3). In the revelation of Himself He has made Himself a name. He has, however, revealed Himself as the almighty Judge and Deliverer, as the God of salvation, who rules over everything that takes place here below. It is this name, which He has made by His acts, that David will then echo back to Him in his song of thanksgiving.
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